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Politicos discuss political scene post the legislative session

The primaries are over and now the 2024 Alabama Regular Legislative Session is finished. On Saturday, May 11, 2024, the Mid-Alabama Republican Club (MARC) heard from a panel of political commentators on the state of politics, post session, in Alabama.

Former State Rep. Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood) served as moderator.

The gambling topic overshadowed much of the other work done in the legislative session.

Alabama Today editor and radio personality Apryl Marie Fogel said, "The bill that they tried to pass at the very end was just awful."

"It is frustrating that they keep bringing this up," Fogel added.

"The bill fell on its own weight," said Former Alabama Republican Party Chairman and lobbyist Marty Connors.

"123 years and running and the anti-gambling bill forces won," said 1819 News and radio host Jeff Poor. "We are just on the verge. They came just one vote (in the Senate) away from it passing. It feels like it on the verge of happening."

"Gambling is still illegal in Alabama, but big gambling was able to hold the Legislature hostage through the last day of the session. "What is going to happen when it gets here?"

"ALFA is kind of the big dog in Montgomery now," said Connors. "The fear is that we will create a new big mule. The fear is that gambling will become the dominant power and everyone else will fall in line behind it."

"It was hard to keep up with the session early on things were moving so fast," Fogel said. "Then we kind of took two weeks to deal with the invitro fertilization issue. The passing of school choice was huge."

"Usually there are two or three major issues in a typical session," said former State Representative and noted political commentator Steve Flowers, "They handled a lot of legislation this time."

"The budgets were real well done," continued Flowers. "The new Republican Legislature since 2010 has been budgeting very prudently. They understand what comes up comes down. I have seen past legislatures spend every dime they had and then get in trouble."

Flowers said that the workforce package they passed would be big for the state.

"I would say the Legislature is reflective of the Republican Party," said Connors. "Alabamians tends to be very risk adverse; but with record budget I think they could do better than $150 to taxpayers."

The legislature's effort to rewrite the landmark 2010 state ethics laws ended in failure.

"When the Attorney Geneal came out against it that was pretty much the death sentence," said Poor.

Kay Ivey has entered her eighth year as governor and she remains one of the most popular governors in the country.

"She stayed out of trouble," said Poor. "She has not tried to pass a billion tax increase, she has not had an affair with a member of her staff, and she is not running around with Richard Scrushy to pass her lottery plan." (All were the failings of the previous three governors.)

"It is no secret that I am not a fan of Kay Ivey," said Fogel. "She played it safe in her first term."

Fogel says that Ivey has been better in her second term and applauded her for supporting school choice this session.

"I was really pleased with what she weighed in on school choice," said Fogel.

"I have grown old with Kay Ivey," said Flowers. "All Kay thinks about is her dog. I don't think she would know what issues you are talking about if you went to the mansion."

The panelists agreed that the biggest issue confronting the state politically is the upcoming presidential election. Trump is expected to carry Alabama handily, but what does a second Donald J. Trump presidency mean for Alabama.

"Does he take anyone with him?" asked Poor. "Does Tuberville go with him? I know it's a long shot but does Katie Britt become vice president?"

If either Senator Tuberville or Britt left the Senate to join the Trump administration there would be a special election to fill the vacancy.

"I believe if Trump wins Tuberville goes with him," Fogel said. "I am real tired of Senate races in Alabama. The only people that win with Senate races is media companies."

The biggest race on the Alabama ballot is in Congressional District 2 which is almost evenly divided, after court redistricting, between Republicans and Democrats as well as along racial lines.

"If you live in or near CD2 look out for out of state license plates because you are going to see a lot of out of state money coming into CD2," said Connors.

Caroleene Dobson is the Republican nominee in CD2. Shomari Figures is the Democratic nominee.

"She is a very formidable candidate," said Poor. "The Democratic Party in Alabama is in disarray; but that's going to be a problem for Figures. I think Dobson can pull it out this time; but loses it next time."

"There is going to be a lot of money," said Flowers of Democratic spending."

"She (Dobson) is a superstar," Flowers said. "Paul Shashy did a great job running her campaign."

"Figures had millions of dollars to use in his campaign because of the cryptocurrency market," Fogel said.

"There are still some hurt feelings there," Flowers said of Alabama Democrats."

"The ballot harvesting bill prevents them from doing a big absentee ballot program," Fogel added.

The Second Congressional District was redistricted by a federal appeals court in Atlanta, but that decision has been appealed by state to the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to the Court in Atlanta interfering in the redistricting CD2 was represented by Congressman Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) and CD1 was represented by Congressman Jerry Carl (R-Mobile). After the court interference, Moore defeated Carl in the redrawn CD1.

"I think the Supreme Court rules our way," Connors said.

"What happens then? Do we go back to Barry Moore and Jerry Carl," Fogel asked.

Poor said that Jerry Carl appears eager to return to Congress.

DeMarco asked if the Republican will be able to hold the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

"I don't think we do," said Fogel. "I just think Republicans this cycle we are not seeing the enthusiasm. I think we are in real trouble when you see Republicans leaving Congress early."

"Speaker (Mike) Johnson is just not as good as Kevin McCarthy at identifying vulnerable seats," Poore said.

"The key for Republican candidates is to define yourself," said Connors. "Don't let the Democrats define you."

DeMarco asked if the Republicans were going to take control of the Senate.

Connors predicted that the GOP would pick up three seats in Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia.

"I don't think we get Arizona," said Fogel. "Kari Lake isn't going to get it."

DeMarco asked if incumbent President Joseph R. Biden would be the Democratic nominee.

"If he is still breathing? Yes," answered Fogel.

"It is too late for them to change horses," said Flowers.

"If we (Republicans) lose this election it is our fault," said Connors.

"I am not a Trump person," said Fogel. "I have two boys, I don't want them to grow up and be like Trump. I don't want my daughter to marry someone like him."

Fogel said that even though she personally does not like Trump, she has gotten tired of the Democrats and the media narrative attacking Trump.

"They overplayed their hand," said Fogel. "All they are saying is that Trump is bad, and it is not playing anymore."

DeMarco asked if there will be debates.

"I think there will be at least one," Poor said. "I think the country is beaten down by Biden versus Trump."

There is a chapter in South Dakota Governor Kriti Noem's new book about her personally executing her 14-month-old dog, Cricket, for disobedience.

Poor said, "That made everybody forget about a Saturday Night Live spoof," (of Katie Britt).

"That was the dumbest thing I can ever recall," Flowers said of the Noem dog assassination.

"I think whoever is handling her communications hates her," Fogel said of that being in Noem's book.

With Noem effectively self-eliminated from contention," DeMarco asked who Trump will choose as his running mate.

Fogel suggested Marco Rubio or Tim Scott.

Flowers suggested North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, "Because Trump likes him."

Flowers announced that he is writing a book about Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) who served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1966 to 1984 and the Alabama Senate from 1990 to the present. That will soon be published.

The Mid-Alabama Republican Club meets in the Vestavia Hills public library at 9:00 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month.

Both Steve Flowers and Paul DeMarco are regularly published in the Alabama Gazette.

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