A quiet 2014 for state races
With each passing day it becomes less likely that Gov. Robert Bentley will get any serious opposition in his re-election bid. We are only five months away from the June 3 GOP primary and it would be very difficult for someone to mount a significant challenge to the popular incumbent in that time span.
It also appears that Sen. Jeff Sessions and Attorney General Luther Strange will have smooth sailing towards their re-elections. Young Boozer and John McMillan also appear to be headed towards re-election to second terms as Treasurer and Agriculture Commissioner.
Under our state constitution, the aforementioned statewide incumbents are term limited after two four-year terms. However, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions has no limitations on the number of six-year terms he serves. This lack of competition portends a quiet and dull 2014 election year. This is disappointing to those of us who thrive on following political races. Therefore, political pundits will begin their speculation of who will follow Gov. Bentley as governor in 2018.
Political junkies are already thinking about the 2018 races since the 2014 contests will be sleepers. All four of the major constitutional officeholders will have to move up or out. That means that speculation will obviously focus on Luther Strange, Kay Ivey, Young Boozer, and John McMillan as possible entrants into the 2018 horseraces.
None of the four could be called spring chickens. McMillan and Ivey will be over 70 and Strange and Boozer will be in their mid- 60s. However, by today’s standards that is not old. Therefore, if they have the fire in the belly for a chase at the brass ring, their age should not be a deterrent.
One major player, who has opted out of the 2014 races, is Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. Some Goat Hill observers say he would lose power moving from his position as Czar of the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, most of the action surrounding next year’s elections will center on Hubbard’s legislative election activities. It is expected that the legislative races will be the best contests in 2014. Hubbard has amassed his power and control of the House of Representatives by garnering the money doled out by lobbyists and special interest groups. He has corralled the lobbyists to give the money to him or his PACs and he doles it out to his friends and loyal subjects.
The state has become so divided when it comes to partisan allegiances and voting patterns that it is fairly predictable whether a Republican or Democrat will occupy a House or Senate seat in the legislature for the foreseeable future. The legislative lines were drawn two years ago for the upcoming 2014 elections. They will be in effect for the remainder of the decade. These district lines are designed to keep the GOP in control of both the State House and State Senate by abouta2to1majority.
There are only a handful of seats that will be in play on a partisan battle basis. The districts are drawn to provide for 65 safe Republican seats and 35 safe Democratic seats in the House. There are about five seats that could go either way. If they split, it remainsa2to1Republicanadvantage.The Senate is drawn about the same way. It is designed to be a 25 to 10 Republican advantage in the upper chamber. There are only three or four seats that are in play on a partisan basis.
Therefore, the liveliest challenges next year will probably be within the GOP ranks. There will be intraparty battles to see who sits in these solidly safe Republican seats. Hubbard may attempt to purge some districts that have not totally followed his reactionary orders.
This super majority Republican legislature has emasculated the only Democratic friendly organization, the Alabama Education Association, during this quadrennium. They have driven daggers into the heart and soul of this once vaunted union. In three short years, they rolled back 30 years of union accomplishments under the leadership of the legendary King of Goat Hill, Dr. Paul Hubbert.
It will be interesting to see whether the AEA will roll over and play dead or fight back. If Hubbert were still in charge, my guess is that he would fight back with a vengeance. His approach would be to strike strategically within the GOP primary.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in over 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.