It looks like our good doctor Gov. Robert Bentley will escape a serious challenge to his re-election bid this year. The GOP primary, which is tantamount to election in a statewide race in the Heart of Dixie, is less than five months away. If Gov. Bentley were going to get a significant opponent they would have surfaced by now. In fact, in order to mount a credible race, an opponent would have to have started at least six months ago and raised more than $1 million. Even then, that probably would not have been enough. Bentley’s favorability and re-election polling numbers are through the roof.
It appeared early on that legislative races, and more specifically intraparty GOP battles for those seats, would be the marquee matchup. There will be some but less than first expected. In addition, the legislative lines are drawn in a fashion to take advantage of the partisan proclivities in the state. Therefore, the state Legislature, both House and Senate, are poised to remain in GOP control, probably by a two-to-one super majority status.
Indeed, when the dust settles in November, Alabama will still have 31 out of 31 statewide offices held by Republicans along with a two-to-one super majority legislative grip on state government. Our delegates in Washington will also remain six to one in the House as well as both U.S. Senators. It has gone under the radar that Sen. Jeff Sessions is up for election. He will not have to break a sweat to garner another term. It looks like the Heart of Dixie is also the heart and soul of the Republican Party.
When the Legislature fell to Republican control in the 2010 elections, it was widely written and said that the Legislature was the last bastion of Democratic dominance in the state. To quote Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend.” There is one last corner of state politics that the GOP hierarchy wants to capture and that is the office of sheriff.
The sheriff’s offices are high on the GOP agenda for 2014. They are targeting 26 counties and 18 of those are staunchly Republican. Most of the key counties they are eyeing are in North Alabama. In 12 of the potential takeover counties, Gov. Bentley received more than 60 percent of the vote in 2010.
The top 10 focus counties that the GOP has on the takeover hit list are Cleburne, Marshall, Limestone, Lamar, Escambia, Marion, Randolph, Walker, Fayette and Clay. Calhoun County was on the GOP primary hit list. However, Calhoun Sheriff Larry Amerson decided it was better to switch parties than fight and he switched to the GOP late last year. He will seek re-election as a Republican.
In 2010 Bentley received more than 70 percent of the vote in Cleburne, Marshall and Fayette. The GOP gubernatorial nominee got more than 65 percent in Limestone, Lamar and Marion and more than 60 percent in Clay, Escambia, Randolph, Lauderdale and Walker. Also, on the radar screen for GOP sheriff takeover are Jackson, Washington, Monroe, and Franklin counties. These races for sheriff along with some high profile legislative contests may be the best shows in town this year.
If Robert Bentley remains as governor, as is expected, some might suggest that you may as well move the state capital to Tuscaloosa. The Druid City lays claim to having the governor, as well as our senior U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby. In addition, they have U.S. Congressman Robert Aderholt, who sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee and state Rep. Bill Poole who now chairs the House Education Budget Committee.
Both Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties claim Dr. Bentley as their own. He was born and raised in Columbiana in Shelby County but spent his entire adult life practicing medicine in Tuscaloosa. Therefore, when counting governors and their home counties, where do you place him? If it is Tuscaloosa, then that gives them three governors. If you give him to Shelby, he is their only one.
No county in the state compares to Barbour County. It is the Home of Governors. They can boast of being the home of eight Alabama governors. Their list includes John Gill Shorter, William Jelks, Braxton Bragg Comer, Charles McDowell, Chauncey Sparks, Jere Beasley, Lurleen Wallace, and Alabama’s most prolific governor, George Wallace. Ironically, the county is appropriately named for a governor, James Barbour, who was governor of Virginia.