Handicapping begins for 2018 race for governor




Last week I gave you an alphabetical list of the 18 potential horses in the 2018 Alabama Gubernatorial Derby. We will begin this week handicapping them in descending order.

The No. 18 horse is current Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. We will know whether the beleaguered Speaker of the House will remain in the derby by next March – he is on trial in Lee County. A grand jury indicted him more than a year ago on 23 felony counts of ethics law violations. If he is convicted on any of the 23 charges, he becomes a felon and will not only be removed from my 2018 Alabama Derby, he will be removed from the House of Representatives and as Speaker of the House.

If Hubbard survives prosecution, he will definitely be in the governor’s race and he will be in with a vengeance. His followers assume that he will be the beneficiary of a tremendous sympathy vote. He will have the benefit of being able to raise a large amount of campaign dough by virtue of being Speaker of the House. This has been his most advantageous attribute all along and his fundraising ability will remain intact and might even be enhanced.

However, Hubbard’s name identification has been badly damaged. Even if he survives the trial, having been the subject of very negative publicity for nearly two years will be difficult to overcome. Regardless, if found innocent, Hubbard will most likely run for governor. He will remain on my list of viable gubernatorial candidates and probably move up significantly from No. 18. However, he will not make the top 10.

The No. 17 horse is Alabama Supreme Court Justice Jim Main. Under Alabama law, a judge cannot seek election after they turn 70. Therefore, Main will be age limited from seeking re-election in 2018, but he is a young looking, 70-ish fellow and not ready to go to the house.

Judge Main has been around Alabama politics all of his life. He grew up in Union Springs, went to Auburn and became a pharmacist like his father. He then went to law school and became a lawyer. He practiced law in Anniston for 20 years, and then moved to Montgomery to practice law with Jere Beasley.

In the late 90s, Main was Gov. Fob James’s chief of staff and legal advisor. Main then became a major player in Bob Riley’s administration as state finance director. He was appointed to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in 2009, and later to the Supreme Court. He won a full term in 2012.

The No. 16 horse is Greg Reed, a promising young state senator. Reed came to the Senate with the GOP takeover in 2010. He is a Jasper attorney and very popular in his home district. Most political observers predict a bright future for Reed. He is plain spoken and people trust him. That is why he has already risen to the rank of majority leader in the Senate.

However, in all reality, Reed will probably not be a candidate for governor. Some would assume that he might run for lieutenant governor and he could be a viable candidate for that post but it is going to be a crowded field. My guess is that Sen. Reed remains in the state Senate and becomes President Pro Tem of the Senate. The three GOP leaders ahead of him probably will not return to the upper chamber. Jabo Waggoner is expected to retire and Arthur Orr and Del Marsh more than likely will run for statewide office. Today, being President Pro Tem of the Senate is a lot more powerful than lieutenant governor, which is nothing more than a ceremonial position.

The No. 15 horse is State Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur. Senator Orr is chairman of the Finance and Taxation Committee. That position allows him to raise lots of campaign money, which he has already done. He was unopposed in his last race and stockpiled a lot of money. He is handsome and marketable for television. My belief is that Sen. Orr starts out running for governor, but drops back to the lieutenant governor’s race.

The No. 14 horse is Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart, a fourth generation Annistonian. Stewart wants to run for governor and some folks in Calhoun County say he has been running for governor all his life. He is a former University of Alabama SGA president and a lawyer by profession. It will be interesting to see if he pulls the trigger.

We will continue analyzing the potential horses in the 2018 Alabama Derby next week.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.