Inside the Statehouse
During the summer Alabama had a rash of major political figures step down from office in the middle of their elected terms. The first to go was 1st District Congressman Jo Bonner. Beth Chapman also quit her job as Secretary of State as did State Representative Jay Love of Montgomery, who chaired the powerful House Ways and Means Education Budget Committee. Love’s counterpart, Rep. Jim Barton of Mobile, who chaired the House General Fund Committee, quit his House seat. Elmore County Rep. Barry Mask also resigned. All five left in August for personal financial gain.
Bonner left his safe congressional seat to accept a position with the University of Alabama system. He doubled his $174,000 annual congressional salary with his move. Chapman accepted a position with Alfa, which she said was too good to pass up. Love left for business reasons. Barton quit midstream to lobby. Mask quit to head the Alabama Association of Realtors.
This trend of quitting office midstream for personal gain was epitomized by Sarah Palin. She quit her job as Governor of Alaska without fulfilling her term so that she could be close to mainland America in order to make money appearing on Fox News and making speeches. Traveling from Alaska to New York is like a trek from Russia.
Speaking of Fox News, the Gallup poll confirmed that a recent surveyrevealed the obvious, most Republicans watch Fox News for their news source. The poll unveiled numerous obvious trends. First of all, Americans are most likely to turn to their television for news. More than half called it their main source of news.
Television was the medium of choice for Americans of all ages. Gallup said the results showed what they called the “balkanization” of news, meaning thatAmericans have gravitated to a certain medium based on their political leanings.
Republicans were more likely to turn to television. Independents were slightly more likely to head to the Internet and Democrats were likely to turn to print media like newspapers or magazines.
If Democrats watch television, they like CNN. However, nothing compared to Republicans’ affinity for their news channel Fox. No other television, print or online news source generated as much loyalty from either Democrats or Independents as Fox News did from Republicans as their total news source.
This partisan divide is played out here in Alabama. If watching Fox News is a criteria for being a Republican, then their ratings are probably off the charts in the Heart of Dixie. Every statewide officeholder in Alabama is a Republican. At last count, there were 31 statewide elected positions in the state and all 31 are held by folks who have been elected as a Republican.
The last bastian that Democrats had any say over in Alabama was thelegislature. That ended abruptly and overwhelmingly in 2010. It is not likely to change any time soon. The legislative lines are drawn to pretty much keep the GOP in control of both the House and Senate. For the foreseeable future the GOP should continue to hold a two to one super majority in both chambers. Approximately one third of the legislative seats will belong to the minority Democratic Party. African American legislators hold most of the minority seats.
Earlier this year Mark Kennedy resigned as Chairman of the Democratic Party in a dispute with Democratic power broker Joe Reed, the longtime African American leader of the Party. Kennedy formed an organization he dubbed the Alabama Democratic Majority. He said their task would be to rebuild the Democratic Party in Alabama.
Kennedy, who is a former Supreme Court Justice, has a good name for a Democrat. The Kennedy name is symbolic and synonymous with the national Democratic Party. Therein lies the problem with a Democratic resurrection in Alabama.
Alabamians now link all Democrats, whether they are on the statewide or national level, to the liberal policies of the Democratic Party. When they see the name of Barack Obama that is who they identify as a Democrat. Obama is the face and
philosophy of the Democratic Party in the eyes of Alabama voters. You could safely say that Barack Obama has driven the final nail in the Democratic coffin in Alabama.
Believe it or not the 2014 state elections are only eight months away. This gubernatorial year, which usually portends a plethora of interesting and exciting races, is shaping up as a ho hum year.
Gov. Robert Bentley appears to be on a path to breeze toward reelection to a second four-year term. Bentley has done a good job as governor and folks seem satisfied with him. Bentley’s stratospheric approval ratings stem from his likeability and trustworthiness. When asked about those two traits his numbers shoot off the charts. Folks simply trust him the way people trusted their family doctor. To put it into layman terms or country jargon, he fits like an old shoe. Bentley is a plow horse, not a show horse.
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey will also have an easy course to reelection. This job does not have the power it once had. Therefore, very few special interest groups care who is lieutenant governor because the post has very little influence over public policy in the state. It would be difficult for any challenger to raise any money. For that matter, it is tough for the incumbent to raise campaign funds.
In contrast, the Attorney General’s office has immense and extensive power. It is the second most important job in state government. Luther Strange has done a good job. He should breeze to reelection. However, because he has faced a myriad of issues during his term he has stepped on some powerful toes. This race could get a surprise financially backed candidate but that is unlikely.
Young Boozer should win reelection to a second term as State Treasurer maybe without opposition. He has done a good job, especially having to deal with the beleaguered PACT program.
John McMillan should coast to another term as Agriculture Commissioner. He has done a good job despite having to deal with budget restraints.
Secretary of State Beth Chapman quit with 17 months left to go on her term. Gov. Bentley appointed former Secretary of State Jim Bennett to fill the remaining time of Chapman’s term. The Governor could not have picked a more appropriate person to serve through 2014. Many Goat Hill observers believe that Jim Bennett was Alabama’s best and most diligent Secretary of State in modern times.
There are three very qualified men seeking this post, a former probate judge, Reese McKinney of Montgomery, a sitting probate judge, Jim Perdue of Luverne, and State Representative John Merrill of Tuscaloosa. There may be other entrants. This is shaping up as the best state race thus far. Although, it will not be that interesting because the job is essentially a clerical post and it is difficult to raise any money for this race.
Most people are not aware that our Junior U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions is up for reelection next year. It has gone completely under the radar screen. Sessions is very conservative and that equates to him being very popular in Alabama. We in the Heart of Dixie are by most counts the most conservative state in the nation. Therefore, it is only fitting and proper that we have the most right wing Senator in the U.S. Senate representing us in Washington. Sessions may even escape opposition. It would be futile for a challenger to try him.
Our seven congressional seats are also up for election next year. All seven should be safe bets for reelection. Due to the advantage of incumbency most congressmen win reelection. The six incumbent Republicans have recorded solid conservative voting records. Little more is expected of them. The lone Democrat, Terri Sewell, has turned in a completely liberal record that should placate her constituency.