Who could be the Democrats’ gubernatorial candidate?
By Steve Flowers
Last week we handicapped some of the potential horses in the upcoming 2018 Governor’s Race. We mentioned Judge Roy Moore, PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh, Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan, Secretary of State John Merrill, State Treasurer Young Boozer, State Senator Del Marsh and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. Some others that may be considering pursuing the brass ring of Alabama politics are Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, Supreme Court Justice Jim Main, Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington, Trump’s Trumpeter in the State Perry Hooper, Jr., Huntsville State Representative Jim Patterson and ADECA Director and former Prattville Mayor Jim Byard. You can also add former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville to the mix of possible gubernatorial candidates.
All of these aforementioned horses would run as Republicans in the 2018 Gubernatorial Derby. It is assumed that only a Republican can win statewide office in Alabama and that next year’s June 2018 GOP primary is tantamount to election. Therefore, it is only a 15 month race to election for governor.
The late Lucy Baxley was the last Democrat to hold statewide office in Alabama. She lost reelection to the PSC in 2012. It has been almost two decades since a Democrat has captured the Governor’s office. Donald Trump carried Alabama with almost 63 percent of the vote. It is thought by most political prognosticators that a Democratic candidate can at best get 40% of the vote in the Heart of Dixie. However, there are several brave souls who are diehard Democrats and may be bold enough to test that theory.
One of these emboldened is Parker Griffith, who ran as the Democratic nominee against Robert Bentley four years ago in 2014 and received 36% of the vote. Griffith is a personable, former oncologist, State Senator, and Congressman from Huntsville. He seems dedicated to making the plunge.
The most mentioned Democratic candidate is former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. She was elected to the State Supreme Court in 2012, which was the last time a Democrat won statewide in Alabama. She is seriously considering the race for governor. She could be handicapped by the fact that she quit in the middle of her term on the Court and a Republican was appointed by the Governor.
State Representative Craig Ford who has served as House Minority Leader is considering a run for governor. Like Griffith, Ford is likeable. He is one of the few remaining white Democrats left in the Alabama House of Representatives. In fact, if Ford vacated his seat to run for Governor a Republican would probably take it.
The wildcard in a potential Democratic field might be the popular young Mayor of Tuscaloosa, Walt Maddox. He considers himself a Democrat. Maddox is well thought of in the Druid City, which is a more populous and vote rich area of the state than most folks realize. If he got a strong support from Tuscaloosa coupled with the ADC and New South endorsements, it could propel him to the Democratic nomination. He would bring to the dance a sterling record of achievement as Mayor of Tuscaloosa. However, if he has to go through a bruising primary he may come to the prom beat up and broke. Not to mention that the Prom King/Queen is highly favored to be a Republican. He would be hard-pressed to raise campaign money in the fall campaign. Most of the bets would be placed on the Republican.
This brings us to another chapter in the governor’s race. The folks who wrote our 1901 Constitution intended for the power in state government to be rested in the hands of the legislature. During the Wallace years, George Wallace had immense power over the legislature. This usurpation of power has incrementally declined over the years. It has culminated with a decimation of gubernatorial power.
The last two governors, Bob Riley and Robert Bentley, have been rendered irrelevant by the legislature. Special interests have taken note of this transfer of power and their money has followed. Campaign money that use to go to the governor’s race now flows to legislative races. It is not unusual to see House seats cost $300,000 and State Senate races rise to $1 million.
It is going to be a great election year.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.