By Steve Flowers
In my book, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Alabama Political Stories,” I suggest that based on seniority, tenure, power and prestige that Alabama’s greatest senators have been Lister Hill, John Sparkman, and Richard Shelby.
Folks, Richard Shelby has probably forged to the front of that triumvirate with his elevation to the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee in April.
The Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee makes the ultimate decision about how every federal United States dollar is spent. Alabama has never had a U.S. Senate Appropriations Chairman in our 200-year history.
Shelby’s prowess at bringing home the bacon is legendary. You do not have to look very far to see the effects of Shelby’s power over his past 31 years as our U.S. Senator. There is an entire section of the University of Alabama where he placed buildings that are an integral part of the University’s academic success. All paid for with federal dollars.
The state-of-the-art biomedical research facility at UAB, all paid for with federal dollars, is there along with millions more in research grants because of Richard Shelby.
Huntsville and the Redstone Arsenal have been the benefactors of so much largesse from Shelby’s direct influence that it is not possible in the space of this column to enumerate the buildings and federal dollars that our crown jewel city has received over the years.
Huntsville/Madison County and the entire Tennessee Valley are poised to become the envy of the nation in economic growth over the next decade. There should be three gigantic monuments erected in Huntsville and put side by side of Werner Von Braun, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby.
If truth were known, one of the reasons the Mazda/Toyota plant, with more than 5,000 high-paying
jobs, chose Huntsville, was because of Richard Shelby.
Along with becoming Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he also took over the reins of the Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee.
I am here to tell you that is big news for Alabama. There is no state in America that is more reliant on federal dollars for defense installations, defense research and defense-related employees than the good old Heart of Dixie.
What facilities do you think will be protected and which bases will be guarded? The Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Maxwell/Gunter in Montgomery and Ft. Rucker in the Wiregrass will be first in line when it comes to federal defense spending. More importantly, those major economic engines of our state just received a gigantic umbrella protection policy from any military defense cutbacks.
Senator Shelby has chaired several extremely important U.S. Senate committees over his three decades as our senator, including Intelligence, Banking, and Rules. However, Appropriations is the crème-de la crème of committees. Why? Because it controls the gold. “Those who have the gold make the rules.”
Senator Shelby has brought home a lot of bacon to our state over the years, more than any U.S. Senator in Alabama history. However, you ain’t seen nothing yet. They have just given our senior U.S. Senator the key to the vault of the U.S. Treasury and he knows how to use it. And, guess what? He is just in his second year of his sixth 6-year term. He is in the best health of any 84-year-old I have ever seen. He has the soundness of mind and the physical stamina of a 60-year-old and he works out daily.
The governor’s race is getting down to the proverbial lick log. It looks as though Kay Ivey is in the catbird’s seat to win a full term of her own. There is no reason to fret over her perceived aging, looks can be deceiving. Besides when you have Richard Shelby as a senior U.S. Senator we really do not even need a governor.
Twinkle Cavanaugh is poised to win the Lt. Governor’s race. When the dust settles in November my prediction is that we will have a female governor and a female Lt. Governor, but more importantly we will have Richard Shelby as our senior U.S. Senator for at least four more years.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.