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Scott Beason won’t seek re-election, speculation on his future begins

By Scott Buttram

TRUSSVILLE — With Friday’s announcement by Scott Beason that he will not seek re-election for his District 17 state Senate seat, the speculation and questions have run rampant.

Who will run for his seat with new district lines reaching well into Trussville? What is next for Beason? With qualifying deadlines fast approaching, both questions must be answered quickly.

Add to those another question. Will Beason run for another office as a Republican or a Democrat? Given his history, it may be the biggest question of all.

While Beason has been big on some Republican ideals like illegal immigration control, he has flashed signs of being more Alabama Democrat-like on issues of fiscal responsibility, ethics reform and smaller government.

When the Democrats still controlled the majority in Montgomery, Beason was one of only a handful of Republicans who broke ranks and joined the Democrat majority in voting themselves a 61 percent pay raise. That was just a sign of things to come.

In 2010, the Republican Party gained the majority in both the state House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction. Then-Gov. Bob Riley hastily called the newly elected representatives into a special session to pass a list of ethics bills designed to take the state from one of the weakest in the land on ethics to one of the strongest.

Ethics reform had been Riley’s calling card for eight years, but he had absolutely no success with a Democrat majority killing his effort every session. Even as Riley was enjoying his newfound success in passing the reform measures with the new Republican majority, it was Beason who tried to slip in a loophole allowing companies that hired lobbyists to spend without limit on elected officials.

Just two weeks ago, Beason again joined with Democrats to vote against a bill to reduce and streamline state government. He was one of only three Republicans opposing the bill, which ultimately passed.

Even moments that appeared to be Beason’s greatest accomplishments went south in a hurry.

As the arrests on charges of bribery of Milton McGregor and several elected officials made headlines, Beason said he had worn a wire for government investigators and recorded some of the bribe offers. Beason would be one of the star witnesses in the corruption trial.

But Beason had recorded more than alleged bribes. When he forgot to turn off the recorder, he was caught on tape calling Greene County voters “aborigines.” Greene County is a majority African American county. Defense attorneys turned the focus of the trial on Beason’s comments and McGregor, along with all of the others on trial, walked on not guilty verdicts. 

He later apologized for the inappropriate comments, but state Republicans were so embarrassed by Beason’s comments that they removed him as chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, a plum appointment.

Beason was the Senate sponsor of HB56 on illegal immigration reform, hailed by supporters at the toughest immigration law in the nation. But by the time the federal courts finished shredding the law to ribbons, it was rendered essentially useless.

Speculation on Beason’s future is running the gamut. Will he focus on private business, become a lobbyist or seek another elected office? That remains to be seen, but the rumor mill has been spinning wildly.

Some are whispering that he may run for the U.S. Congress seat being vacated by Spencer Bachus.

Beason challenged Bachus for that very seat in the last election and was beaten badly, even in his hometown of Gardendale where he failed to win a single box. He would also face a staunch group of candidates who are well into the fundraising stage of the campaign. Some early polls have shown state Rep. Paul DeMarco as a favorite in that race.

One of the more bizarre scenarios being tossed around has Beason challenging Joe Knight of Trussville for his Jefferson County Commission seat.

This may be the strangest suggestion of all because when the county had one last shot to avoid bankruptcy through a limited home rule bill — which would have allowed the county to negotiate its way out of debt — it was Beason who singlehandedly killed the bill.

The move assured that the county would be forced to file for bankruptcy and the legal fees alone have cost the county almost $40 million.

Meanwhile, Knight and the other commissioners have led the county out of bankruptcy, re-opened satellite courthouses, significantly downsized Cooper Green Hospital and are purchasing new software to further reduce car tag lines.

With the heavy lifting done and Jefferson County poised for growth for the first time in two decades, Knight would have to be considered the prohibitive favorite to retain his seat.

Another possibility mentioned is that Beason may seek a seat on the Public Service Commission, where all three positions are currently held by Republicans.

We’ll know soon if Beason has more political ambitions in the immediate future and that will be just the first question of many to be answered.

 

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