Senate races should be exciting
As the campaign season approaches much will be written and said about the Governor’s race. However, there will be a lot of other good races. There will be some very high profile and important State Senate races around the state. These are considered local races but they have statewide implications. Therefore, special interests will be involved in this year’s Senate and House races the same as always.
In fact, most of the large special interest contributions will go into Legislative races. The Legislature is where the power is and money gravitates to power.
In the Wallace days the Governor’s office controlled the Legislature and thus the power. However, in the past 30 years the Legislature has taken back the power inherently bestowed on it by the 1901 Constitution. The Senate has even taken the power of the Lt. Governor away, rendering that job powerless. The Governor has also lost power, especially under the scenario where a Governor is of one party and the Legislative majority is made up of the other party as has been the case this quadrennium. The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate have thwarted the Republican Governor and rendered Gov. Riley irrelevant in the Legislative and budgeting process. For this reason the Republicans will make an all out effort to take control of the Legislature. However, winning partisan control of the Senate will be an uphill battle. The Democrats have a 25 to 10 majority in the upper chamber. The GOP’s chances of capturing the House are better, but will still be difficult.
Furthermore, there is friction and a power struggle within the Republican ranks. There will be a titanic battle within the Party in the Governor’s race. This rift will filter down to the Legislative races. The right wing of the Party will be out to purge the moderate members. The Moore religious team will have a hit list. They will make it hard on some incumbent GOP lawmakers.
There is speculation that this year you will have some million dollar State Senate races. One looming might be a classic trial lawyer vs. big business race with incumbent Democratic trial lawyer Pat Lindsey being challenged by big business candidate John McMillan, a Republican. Lindsey’s district sprawls throughout southwest Alabama.
Another good Senate race may be a rematch between Democrat Gary Tanner and Republican George Callahan in Mobile. Tanner won four years ago in a close and expensive contest. This seat is the Senate’s purest swing district. It could go either way.
There will be two intra-party shootouts in Jefferson County. An inner city Birmingham Democratic Senate seat held by incumbent Sundra Escott will be a high profile contest. The race will feature Escott being challenged Rep. Linda Coleman. Escott has been embroiled in ethics controversy for years and came close to resigning last year.
Another battle is brewing within the Republican ranks in Jefferson County. Veteran incumbent Jack Biddle of Gardendale will be challenged by Rep. Scott Beason in the fast growing suburbs of north Jefferson and St. Clair counties. Biddle has been in the Legislature for about as many years as Beason has been alive, 36.
Two Republican Senators are not running for reelection. Hap Myers is retiring. His Mobile district is one of the most Republican in the state. Curt Lee is choosing not to run in his Jasper based district. Former Senator Charles Bishop is favored. He will run as a Republican. Longtime Montgomery Republican Senator Larry Dixon may get opposition from within his party. He should survive, but regardless the district will remain Republican.
The Republicans and anti Lowell Barron forces are working hard to get Barron, the Democratic Senate President, an opponent. They have urged Randy Owen of the famous band “Alabama” to run. By the same token the Democrats will keep the House Republican leader Mike Hubbard busy at home. Hubbard will have to stay home in Lee County and fight Carolyn Ellis, a Democrat and wife of former Auburn basketball coach Cliff Ellis.
It is going to be an interesting and fun year.
See you next week.
-Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 66 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.