IN THE STATEHOUSE

President? Expect a close race

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.

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.

As we enter the dog days of summer, the race for President presses onward at a steady pace. It will be a close contest in the fall. Barack Obama won four years ago because of the economy and if he loses in November it will be due to the economy.

It will not be a contest here in the Heart of Dixie. Obama heading the ticket will drive the final nail in the coffin of the Democratic Party in Alabama.

We actually became a GOP stronghold in presidential politics 48 years ago in 1964. Since the Goldwater sweep of the Deep South that year, the Republican nominee has carried Alabama 9 out of 11 times. One of these non-GOP victories was in 1968 when George Wallace carried the state as an Independent. A Democrat has only won once in 48 years. Georgia neighbor Jimmy Carter won the State as a Democrat in 1976. That was 36 years ago. We have been eight for eight for the Republican candidate since that year and you can bet your bottom dollar that we will be nine of nine this November.

Our Washington congressional delegation is also overwhelmingly Republican. We have six Republican congresspeople and one lone Democrat. Both of our U.S. Senators are Republican. Therefore, our total delegation on the Potomac is eight to one Republican.

Spencer Bachus and Robert Aderholt are our two most prominent and promising congressmen. Our senior Sen. Richard Shelby has reached a pinnacle of power and prestige in the U.S. Senate maybe unparalleled in Alabama history. He can easily be called one of our greatest U.S. Senators. His longevity and seniority place him in the league with Lister Hill and John Sparkman.

The presidential race will be very close. It will hinge on about six pivotal swing states. However, what we in Alabama need to be watching closely on Nov. 6 will be the U.S. Senate contests around the nation. The Republicans need to only pick up a handful of seats to become the majority party. If that occurs, we in Alabama are big winners. If the GOP becomes the majority party our own Richard Shelby is in line to be Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. If you think Shelby has brought home the bacon the past 25 years, then you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Our state legislature became dominantly Republican after the 2010 elections. There has been minimal reshuffling and party changing in the past year. There has been a tit for tat in northwest Alabama. Rep. Daniel Bowman of Sulligent went against the tide and changed from Republican to Democrat. Then Rep. Alan Harper of Aliceville switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party. This gives the Republicans a 66 to 39 super majority in the House of Representatives.

A super majority also exists in the Alabama State Senate. In the upper chamber there are 22 Republicans and 12 Democrats. Only 5 of the 12 Democrats are white Democrats and this number may dwindle after 2014. However, do not bet against one of them surviving. State Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville will be hard to take out no matter how hard the Republicans may try.

Bedford went to the Senate in his mid 20s. He is now in his mid 50s and has served three decades in the State Senate. He has reached iconic status both as a senator and a benefactor for his sprawling northwest Alabama district. Much like Shelby, Bedford has brought home the bacon. Also like Shelby, Bedford is a prolific fundraiser and campaigner. His area of the state is the hardest for the GOP to put to bed. These folks are struggling with their party allegiance.

This northwest Alabama tug of war is reflective in the two party switches in the House. Both occurred in that northwest Alabama corridor that is also known as Tornado Alley. These folks are okay being presidential Republicans but they still mostly vote for Democrats on the local level. They have not quite settled in or come to grips with the belief that they are really Republicans. Some of these good folks remember and revere their old grandpappy who admonished them from his death bed, “Boy, don’t ever sell the family farm and don’t ever vote for a Republican.”

See you next week.