Inside the Statehouse: Things change the more they remain the same
By Steve Flowers
There’s an old adage that says the more things change the more they remain the same. This is certainly apropos for this year’s primary elections.
On election night, I kept looking for some upset or surprise. It was not forthcoming. Essentially every incumbent won re-election, especially when it came to State Senate and House races.
The Legislature is where the power is in state government. There is a valid political maxim that says the governor proposes but the Legislature disposes. The Legislature is where the rubber meets the road.
Despite the low voter turnout June 3, the polling was right on the money. The polling going into Election Day revealed that the incumbents were going to be re-elected and that’s what happened. Therefore, the status quo will prevail. You will have a very conservative pro business super majority Republican Senate. There will more than likely be a 24 to 10 Republican majority in the upper chamber.
The pro business groups snuffed out every challenge brought by the Alabama Education Association. The AEA will not only find itself in an even more tenuous position, but it will have a bevy of senators with their sights set on strident retribution toward the teachers’ union.
President Pro Tem Del Marsh of Anniston easily defeated a challenger financed by AEA. A ton of money was lost making the pro tem angry. Marsh won 60-40.
Popular veteran Wiregrass Sen. Jimmy Holley also crushed his AEA opponent by the same 60-40 margin.
AEA bet heavily on State Rep. Todd Greeson to win an open State Senate seat in northwest Alabama. However, businessman Steve Livingston won 56-44.
Two east Alabama incumbent senators were targeted but prevailed. Tom Whatley turned back Andy Carter 53-47 and Gerald Dial survived a close call 51-49.
State Rep. Jim McClendon trounced incumbent Jerry Fielding 63-37 in a redrawn Senate seat in St. Clair and Talladega counties. McClendon carved the seat out in reapportionment to enhance his chances to move to the Senate and also to give a Senate seat to growing St. Clair County.
All the aforementioned Senate races were decided within the Republican primary. Three new Republican senators will be chosen July 15. There will be runoffs in three open Senate seats. Shay Shelnutt and Brett King will square off in a runoff in Senate District 17. They led a seven-person field to take Scott Beason’s place in the Senate.
The southwest Alabama Senate District 22 being vacated by Marc Keahey will be picked up by a Republican. Harry D’Olive and Greg Albritton will face off in a runoff after emerging from a five-person field.
Clyde Chambliss of Autauga County and Harris Garner of Elmore County are headed for a runoff in the open Senate District 30 north of Montgomery, one of the most Republican districts in the state.
The AEA tried to knock off Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard in his Lee County House seat. Hubbard won his district by a 60-40 margin even with more than $300,000 spent against him. However, the AEA can claim some solace in the House. It defeated six of Hubbard’s allies in the House of Representatives. This should give it some traction in that body.
There was also a victory for those of you who lament negative advertising. In the Sixth District Congressional race, two of the six well-financed candidates saw polling that indicated that Paul DeMarco was going to make the runoff and that they needed to attack each other in order to finish second and secure a spot in the runoff. Will Brooke and Chad Mathis trashed each other with fervor. Their fight allowed positive campaigner Gary Palmer to make the runoff. Mathis and Brooke finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.