By Steve Flowers
Happy New Year. It is election year in the good ole Heart of Dixie.
Alabama, like a good many southern states, has our monumental political year in what the nation refers to as the off-year or midterm election year cycle. This reference is, of course, to the presidential election being the main political event. Thus, the last presidential race being 2020 and the next main presidential race being 2024.
Most states have their gubernatorial election year at the same time as the presidential contest. We are different, we have our big year in off-years.
This new year of 2022 will see our constitutional offices up for election, including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner, state treasurer, secretary of state and state auditor. Not only does the governor and all constitutional offices run this year, but so do all 67 sheriffs and all 140 legislative and state senate seats.
The governor’s race has historically been the premier political race in Alabama politics. It is the pinnacle or brass ring of our political world. Therefore, we old time political folks refer to this year as the gubernatorial year.
Qualifying began Jan. 4 and ends Jan. 28. The GOP and Democratic Primary elections will be May 24. The runoff election is set for June 21. The winner of the Republican Primary will be elected governor. Winning the GOP nomination for statewide office in Alabama is tantamount to election. No serious candidate would run as a Democrat.
It was thought that Gov. Kay Ivey would coast to reelection with only token opposition. After all, polling reveals that she is one of the most popular incumbent governors in the country. She has done a good job as governor and will be tough to beat. However, in recent weeks two viable candidates have announced that they are running for governor. Lynda “Lyndy” Blanchard and Tim James are attempting to outflank her on the right. These two are viable candidates for one reason – they have individual wealth, which allows them the ability to acquire name identification and voter approval.
Lyndy Blanchard launched a campaign for our open senate seat in early 2021. However, by year’s end she flipped a switch and moved to the governor’s race. Her only claim to being qualified to run for governor is that she bought an ambassadorship to Slovenia in the administration of former president, Donald Trump. Her only hope for the governor’s race is that she can wish for Trump to endorse her. Although this would probably not be enough. As a lame duck, who has been out of the White House for over a year and who’s popularity is waning, his nod may not be as important as once thought. Blanchard’s only calling card is that she flashed $5 million on her senate campaign filing reports. It remains to be seen if indeed she spends that much of her own money on an uphill race for governor.
Tim James is making his third race for governor. He is the son of two time governor Fob James. Tim is a likeable fellow, is extremely conservative and harps on fringe social issues like outlawing Yoga in schools. He like Blanchard possesses the main ingredient to make himself a viable candidate. He has some personal wealth and if he indeed spends some of his money, he can garner a certain segment of the vote.
If Ivey sticks to her knitting, stays home and governs and looks gubernatorial and does not beat herself, she will more than likely prevail.
The big question is can this full field of candidates, including James, Blanchard, Stacy George and Dean Odle, force Kay Ivey into a runoff or will she defeat the field without a runoff like she did in 2018? That question will be answered on May 24.
The power of incumbency will be omnipotent in the other statewide constitutional offices. Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth will be reelected with no or token opposition. The same applies for Attorney General Steve Marshall. He will be reelected to another four-year term unscathed. Interestingly, Ainsworth and Marshall are from the same North Alabama County of Marshall.
Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate will escape opposition and will be reelected to that important state post for another four-years. State Treasurer Young Boozer will coast to reelection, probably unopposed.
The power of incumbency prevails in the Heart of Dixie in 2022. However, we will have a doozy of a contest for our open United States Senate Seat, which we will discuss next week.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.