Handicapping the 2018 race for governor




We Alabamians love the governor’s race. When talk turns to politics in our beloved state, it usually leads to the race for governor. It does not matter if the governor’s race is four years away, political gossip starts early as to who will run for governor.

As each new race approaches it is talked about more than ever from Sand Mountain to the Wiregrass and from the Tennessee Valley to the Gulf Coast. It is comparable to college football being the king of all sports in Alabama.

The last governor’s race lacked some of the drama since a popular incumbent, Dr. Robert Bentley, was running for re-election. You couple that with the fact that popular Republican incumbents were running for second terms for attorney general, agriculture commissioner, lieutenant governor and treasurer and it made for a dull year in 2014.

That will not be the case in 2018 because Alabama’s constitution prohibits more than two consecutive four-year terms in our constitutional offices. Therefore, all of the aforementioned constitutional offices will be up for grabs. Those posts will be wide open, along with several state judgeships, all 140 members of the Legislature and all 67 sheriffs.

The same two-term limit applies to the brass ring of Alabama politics. The governor’s office will also be wide open and the 2018 race for governor will be a fun and exciting horserace to follow. It may be one for the record books.

Folks, I am going to follow it for you. Beginning this week and continuing for the next few weeks, I will handicap the 2018 race. Periodically, I will do a horserace check-up column where we will review the initial handicapping and keep you posted on their progress and placement. It will be a horserace with a wide open field of thoroughbreds and “also rans.”We will call it the 2018 Alabama Derby.

Before we begin the 2018 Alabama Derby handicapping, let me begin with two caveats. First, over the past three decades the governor’s office has lost some of its power and thus luster. The Legislature has finally taken its position of power designed for it by the constitution. In bygone days, powerful governors like George Wallace controlled the Legislature almost as though it was an appendage of the governor’s office. That day is gone. Today, the Legislature may be the most powerful and independent branch of government and legislators have rendered the governor irrelevant in the legislative process. This current administration is a prime example.

Secondly, Alabama has essentially become a one-party state when it comes to statewide politics. My belief is that the Republican Party is king in Alabama politics and the proof is in the pudding. A cursory look at our statewide elected officials reveals that there are 26 statewide elected officeholders, including all statewide elected judges, and all 26 of these posts are held by Republicans. We are indeed one of the most Republican states in America, if not the most Republican.

My observation is that this Republican dominance of the Heart of Dixie politics will not change in my lifetime. Therefore, winning the GOP primary in Alabama gubernatorial politics is tantamount to election in the Heart of Dixie, so the winner of the June 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary will be your next governor and will probably hold that post for eight years.

Over the next three weeks I will handicap the horses in the 2018 Alabama Derby. I will begin in reverse or descending order with the last place horse first and end with the favorite or first place horse discussed last. We will go in descending order.

I have begun the Derby with 18 potential horses. In alphabetical order they are: Tommy Battle, Young Boozer, Bradley Byrne, Mike Hubbard, Kay Ivey, Tim James, Walt Maddox, Del Marsh, John McMillan, John Merrill, Jim Main, Roy Moore, Arthur Orr, Greg Reed, Vaughn Stewart, Sandy Stimpson and Luther Strange. We will begin handicapping these potential horses next week.

See you next week.

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