By Steve Flowers
Many of you have asked the question, “Have you ever seen anyone simply run a media-only campaign and avoid campaigning like Mike Durant has done in this year’s U.S. Senate campaign.” Surprisingly my answer for many of you is, “yes, I have.”
Ironically, the man that Richard Shelby beat for this U.S. Senate seat 36 years ago, Jeremiah Denton, was almost a carbon copy of Mike Durant. Denton was a POW/national war hero of the Vietnam era.
Like Durant, Denton had very distant ties to and knowledge of Alabama. They were both national war/POW celebrities who wanted to be a United States Senator from whichever state was convenient.
Alabama had an open seat for the Senate in 1980. Denton called Mobile home but had not lived there since he was a boy. His father was a Naval officer and Jeremiah followed suit and went to the Naval Academy and became a navy officer and rose to the rank of Rear Admiral.
When the race began, Denton was basically living in the Washington D.C. area. Alabama had not had a republican senator since Reconstruction over 100 years earlier. The republicans recruited Denton to break the barrier. Denton really did no personal campaigning in Alabama. He was a short-tempered military man whose personality had been even more exacerbated by seven years and seven months of captivity by barbaric Vietnamese.
Denton was swept into office in 1980 in the Ronald Reagan Republican landslide. He never aspired to go into politics. He only wanted to be a good soldier. After his release from captivity, he came back to a hero’s welcome. Denton became Alabama’s first republican and Catholic senator and never really campaigned.
Denton became Alabama’s least effective and insignificant senator in our state’s history. He only served one six-year term, 1980-86. During that one term, he never came to Alabama, never returned a phone call and never responded to any letters. He began his career by announcing he was a United States senator and not the junior senator from Alabama. He said his role was bigger than just taking care of mundane, senatorial duties and “kissing babies’ butts.” Thus, he immediately forewarned Alabamian’s that for the next six years, we would only have one U.S. Senator — the country would be blessed with our other senate seat.
Mike Durant is amazingly similar, almost a clone to Denton. Unlike Denton who was born in Mobile, Durant was born and spent his entire formulative years in New Hampshire. Like Denton, Durant’s father was a military man. Durant followed his father. As is well known, Durant was shot down and captured and made a prisoner of war for 11 days.
Durant’s life is really a mystery after that point. He calls Huntsville his home and he has had a military defense company in Huntsville, which made him very wealthy through federal defense dollars. Durant’s being an Alabamian or Huntsvillian has come into question. Nobody seems to know him in Huntsville, much less the rest of the state. Speculation is that he lives in Maryland, and he also has a very expensive home in Colorado. If he were to be elected to Alabama’s Senate seat, he would probably go home to Maryland. Durant would not only be a phantom senate candidate, but he would also be our phantom senator.
Durant has only voted in a republican primary in Alabama one time in his life and that was in 2008. That means one of three things about him: (1) he is not a republican, (2) he is not an Alabamian or (3) he is not a republican or an Alabamian. The only thing we do know about Durant is that he was born and raised in New Hampshire. Where I come from in Alabama, that would make him what we call a carpetbagger. A carpetbagger, who refuses to meet or ask any Alabamians for their vote. The only thing we know about him is that he can fly around in a helicopter and he can afford to buy a lot of television ads. Guess he thinks we are dumb enough to fall for that pig in a poke or he might find that after a while we will wake up and realize that Emperor has no clothes.
Durant makes no pretense about the fact that he will not personally campaign in Alabama or even do interviews. You can bet your bottom dollar that wherever you live in Alabama, Durant has not been to your town or city and probably could not even tell you where it is located. You can rest assured that he does not know the difference between the Wiregrass and Sand Mountain.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.