By STEVE FLOWERS
A lot has happened politically in the first quarter of 2019. The governor and all of our constitutional officials have been sworn in and begun their four-year terms in office with Kay Ivey as governor, Will Ainsworth as lieutenant governor, John Merrill as secretary of state, John McMillan as state treasurer, Rick Pate as agriculture commissioner and Jim Zeigler begins his second term as state auditor.
More importantly, the legislature has organized and the regular session begins next week. It will be dealing with a myriad of major issues, not the least of which are the two state budgets. The legislature is more important than the governor in state government because it appropriates the money. Those who have the gold make the rules. Another apropos adage is the governor proposes but the legislature disposes.
The powers in the 35-member Senate are Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia), Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Escambia). Orr and Albritton chair the finance and taxation committees.
The leadership of the House consists of Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Madison), Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), Rep. Mike Jones (R-Covington), Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark). Poole and Clouse chair the budget committees.
All of the above lawmakers are Republicans. There is a super majority Republican domination in both chambers; a 77-28 margin for Republicans over Democrats in the House and a 28-7 margin in the Senate. There is one white Democrat in the Senate, Sen. Billy Beasley of Barbour, which is George Wallace’s home county.
As predicted, the 2020 campaigns have begun. In Alabama, we’ll not only have a presidential race but one for the U.S. Senate. Our anomaly, Democratic junior Sen. Doug “the California Kid” Jones will be running for a full term. His philosophy and voting record more closely reflect a California senator than his Alabama counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby. Jones is truly, unashamedly a liberal national Democrat. He votes right down the line with the liberal Democratic leadership in Washington; his voting record is identical to Chuck Schumer’s, Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’.
It is more of a parody than anomaly that one of the most conservative states in America would have a liberal democrat representing it in the U.S. Senate. Indeed, Jones is the only Democrat in any Deep South state in the Senate.
It is safe to say Jones will be the underdog next year as, unfortunately for him, he more than likely will not have Roy Moore to run against, although my guess is Moore might run again. All of the early Republican entrees or prospects are up in age, which is not conducive to building seniority or power in the Senate. Moore is over 70, Zeigler is 70, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is 63 and Marsh is 62.
Byrne and Zeigler have significant name identification and both have built a statewide organization, so they would be the early favorites. Marsh can be a player if he is willing to spend his personal money; it would take $2 million to $3 million to put him in the game.
Ainsworth would be the perfect choice to take the Jeff Sessions/Jones seat. He is 37 and could build power for the state in Washington.
If he enters the Senate race, the Republican to watch is Merrill, who has a free shot. He has the best and broadest statewide grassroots political organization in modern Alabama political history. Nobody will come close to outworking him.
The presidential campaign caravan has begun and a host of liberal democratic senators are lining up. Liberal is the optimum word but most would prefer to be labeled socialists. Their states give you an indication of their philosophical tint. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Warren of Massachusetts, Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Kamala Harris of California are seeking the Democratic nomination. Also in is Julian Castro, who was housing director in the Obama administration and whose philosophy is akin to Fidel Castro’s.
Jones should run for president since his Senate voting record is just as liberal as the aforementioned other Democratic senators. He has a proven civil rights record and his fundraising base is built in California and New York. His odds are probably better for winning the Democratic presidential nomination than being elected to a full term as a Democratic senator from the Heart of Dixie.
Steve Flowers served 16 years in the Alabama Legislature and can be reached at www.steveflowers.us.