A lot has happened politically in the first quarter of 2019. The governor and all of our constitutional officials have been sworn in and have begun their four-year terms in office with Kay Ivey as Governor, Will Ainsworth as Lt. 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 State Legislature has organized and the Regular Session begins next week. They 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 who the Governor is in state government. The reason being is they appropriate 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 Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Senator Jabo Waggonner (R-Vestavia), Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Senator Greg Albritton (R-Escambia). Orr and Albritton chair the Finance and Taxation Committees.
The leadership of the House consists of Speaker Mac McCutchen (R-Madison), Representative Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), Representative Mike Jones (R-Covington), Representative Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), and Representative Steve Clouse (R-Ozark). Poole and Clouse chair the Budget Committees in the House.
All of the above lawmakers are Republicans. There is a super majority Republican domination in both Chambers. There are 77 Republicans in the House and only 28 Democrats. The State Senate is comprised of 28 Republicans with only 7 Democrats. There is only one white Democrat in the Senate. Senator Billy Beasley of Barbour, George Wallace’s home county.
As predicted the 2020 campaigns have begun. We have a presidential campaign next year. It should be interesting. We also have a U.S. Senate race. Our anomaly, Democratic Junior U.S. Senator Doug “the California Kid” Jones will be running for a full term as a U.S. Senator. His philosophy and voting record more closely reflects a California senator than his Alabama counterpart, Senator Richard Shelby. He 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, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.
It is more of a parody than anomaly that one of the most, if not the most conservative states in America would have a Liberal Democrat representing them in the U. S. Senate. Indeed Jones is the only Democrat in any Deep South state in the Senate.
It would be safe to say that Jones will be the underdog next year. Unfortunately, for him, he more than likely will not have Roy Moore to run against. Although my guess is that Roy Moore might run. All of the early Republican entrees or prospects are up in age, which is not conducive to building seniority or power in the Senate. Roy Moore is over 70. State Auditor, Jim Zeigler is 70, Congressman Bradley Byrne is 63, and State Senator Del Marsh is 62.
Byrne and Zeigler have significant name identification having run statewide and built a statewide organization. They would be the early favorites. Marsh can be a player if he is willing to spend his personal money. It would take $2 to 3 million to put him in the game.
Lt. Governor, Will Ainsworth, would be the perfect choice to take the Jeff Sessions/Jones seat. He is 37 years old and could build power for the state in Washington.
The Republican to watch, if he enters the Senate race, is Secretary of State John Merrill. He 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. There are a host of Liberal Democratic Senators lining up. Liberal is the optimum word, but most would prefer to be labeled Socialists. Their states will give you an indication of their philosophical tint. Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Kamala Harris of California are seeking the Democratic nomination. A true Socialist Senator, Bernie Sanders, will more than likely join the fray. Also in is Julian Castro, who was Housing Director in the Obama Administration. His philosophy is akin to Fidel Castro.
Doug Jones should run for president. 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 nomination for President than being elected to a full term as a Democratic Senator from the Heart of Dixie.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.