Inside the Statehouse

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State capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama, at night

By Steve Flowers

As the first quarter of 2019 closes, a lot has happened. The governor and all of our constitutional officials have been sworn in and have begun their four-year terms in office with Kay Ivey as governor, Will Ainsworth as lt. gov., John Merrill as secretary of state, John McMillan as state treasurer, Rick Pate as agriculture commissioner and Jim Ziegler begins his second term as state auditor.
More importantly, the state Legislature has organized and the regular session begins next week.
They will be dealing with a myriad of major issues, not the least of which are the two state budgets. In state government, the legislature can be more important than the governor. The reason being is they appropriate the money. Those who have the gold make the rules. Another common saying is that the “governor proposes but the legislature disposes.”
The powers in the 35-member Senate are Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Sen. Jabo Waggonner (R-Vestavia), Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Escambia). Orr and Albritton chair the finance and taxation committees.
The leadership of the House consists of Speaker Mac McCutchen (R-Madison), Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), Rep. Mike Jones (R-Covington), Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark). Poole and Clouse chair the budget committees in the House.
All of the above lawmakers are Republicans. There is a super majority Republican domination in both chambers. There are 77 Republicans in the House and only 28 Democrats. The State Senate is comprised of 28 Republicans with only seven Democrats. There is only one white Democrat in the Senate, Sen. Billy Beasley of Barbour, formerGov. George Wallace’s home county.
As predicted, the 2020 campaigns have begun. We have a presidential campaign next year. It should be interesting. We also have a U.S. Senate race. Our anomaly, Democratic Junior U.S. Sen. Doug “the California Kid” Jones will be running for a full term as a U.S. senator. His philosophy and voting record more closely reflects a California senator than his Alabama counterpart, Sen. Richard Shelby. He is truly, unashamedly a liberal national Democrat. He votes right down the line with the liberal Democratic leadership in Washington. His voting record is identical to Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
It is more of a parody than anomaly that one of the most, if not the most conservative states in America would have a liberal Democrat representing them in the U. S. Senate. Indeed, Jones is the only Democrat from any Deep South state in the Senate.
It would be safe to say that Jones will be the underdog next year. Unfortunately, for him, he more than likely will not have Roy Moore to run against. Although my guess is that Roy Moore might run. All of the early Republican entrees or prospects are up in age, which is not conducive to building seniority or power in the Senate. Roy Moore over is more than 70 years old. Zeigler is also 70, Congressman Byrne is 63 and Marsh is 62.
Byrne and Ziegler have significant name identification having run statewide and built a statewide organization. They would be the early favorites. Marsh can be a player if he is willing to spend his personal money. It would take $2 to $3 million to put him in the game.
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth would be the perfect choice to take the seat currently held by Jones.
Ainsworth is 37 years old and could build power for the state in Washington.
The Republican to watch, if he enters the Senate race, is Merrill. He has a free shot. He has the best and broadest statewide grassroots political organization in modern Alabama political history. Nobody will come close to outworking him.
The presidential campaign caravan has begun. There are a host of liberal Democratic senators lining up.
Liberal is the optimum word, but most would prefer to be labeled socialists. Their states will give you an indication of their philosophical tint. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Kamala Harris are seeking the Democratic nomination. Also in is Julian Castro, who was housing director during the Obama administration. His philosophy is akin to Fidel Castro.
Jones should run for president. His Senate voting record is just as liberal as the aforementioned Democratic senators.
He has a proven Civil Rights record and his fundraising base is built in California and New York.
His odds are probably better for winning the Democratic nomination for President than being elected to a full term as a Democratic senator from Alabama.
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. Flowers may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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