The evangelical vote



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.

Throughout history, cities that sit on a coast have been perceived as sinful places. Perhaps it is because seafaring people land there and are in search of raucous recreation. Therefore, port cities give rise to transiency and a more whimsical and capricious environment than their inland neighbors.

Even in biblical times the Apostle Paul would decry or pray intensely prior to his journeys to the wicked, sinful and libertine coastal city of Corinth. He found it a difficult place to win souls and even precarious to his survival.

In southern politics the port cities have been thought of as foreign regions of the state. These cities did indeed lend themselves to a more cosmopolitan setting than their inland brethren. They were considered islands and political hinterlands. In fact, the inlanders or mainstream folks would run against them. They would ridicule them as sinners who drink alcohol, go to country clubs, and attend church only on Sunday and even then at an Episcopal church or maybe even worse. Some of them were Catholics and some were even Jewish.

This was indeed the case in the Deep South coastal states of South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The port cities of Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans, Biloxi, and Mobile were looked upon and demagogued as different places.

This was true in Alabama politics. Mobile was not only perceived as an island but if you look at a map of the state it is an island. Most of the people of the state were Protestants, primarily Baptist and Methodist.

Historically, Mobile has been more akin to New Orleans. This stems from the fact that French Catholics settled Mobile and New Orleans and, I might add, these two port cities are older than their states. Mobile has mystic societies that are older than many Alabama towns. The fact that Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras also flies in the face of upland Alabama Baptists and Church of Christ parishioners. They do not celebrate Mardi Gras in Boaz. In fact, the good folks who settled in North Alabama did not feel like they had a lot in common with Mobile.

The evangelical vote is powerful in a Republican primary in Alabama. This voting bloc becomes even more pronounced in a special election in a GOP primary where there is a low turnout. In an earlier column I suggested that the evangelical vote would be accentuated in the open seat special election in the 1st District, even though the district encompasses the coastal counties of Mobile and Baldwin.

Folks, Mobile ain’t that much different after all. The turnout of the fundamentalist vote was the story again. Dean Young was the religious right candidate. His longtime ally Chief Justice Roy Moore endorsed him. He has labored in the religious political vineyards for years and it paid off. Bradley Byrne garnered 35 percent of the vote to Dean Young’s 23 percent. They will face each other in a runoff on Nov. 5. It will be a classic example of the contrast within the Republican Party today.

Bradley Byrne is the mainstream pro-business conservative candidate. Dean Young is the champion of the religious right. Byrne has a formidable record as a lawyer, former state senator, and two-year college chancellor. Byrne also outspent Young 10 to 1.

This financial disadvantage scenario has played out in all of Roy Moore’s campaigns. In his recent election to the Supreme Court he was outspent by more than 5 to 1 by two substantial candidates in the GOP primary and won without a runoff. The evangelical vote in Alabama is an amazing contradiction in the fundamental political law, which adheres to the theory that money and name identification carry the day.

Logic says that Bradley Byrne will prevail over Dean Young in the Nov. 5 runoff. Byrne has the money, the name identification, and the organization. He should logically pick up the support of the third-, fourth-, and fifthplace finishers Chad Fincher, Quinn Hilyer, and Wells Griffith. In fact, Hilyer has endorsed Byrne. However, upsets do occur and the religious right has proven that money does not talk nor is it necessary to prevail, especially in a low turnout race because these folks are going to show up to vote come hell or high water. We will see.