Inside the Statehouse: Conclusion of 2018 Gubernatorial Derby

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This week we will conclude our analysis of the potential horses in the 2018 Alabama Gubernatorial Derby. First, let me briefly recap the horses we have already handicapped.  The list includes, in descending order, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (18), Supreme Court Justice Jim Main (17), Sen. Greg Reed (16), Sen. Arthur Orr (15), Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart (14), Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox (13), Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson (12), Congressman Bradley Byrne (11), Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (10), Sen. Del Marsh (9), State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan (8), Attorney General Luther Strange (7), Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle (6), State Treasurer Young Boozer (5), and Secretary of State John Merrill (4). The final three horses will be revealed today.
Our Number 3 horse is Tim James.  James could have easily won the 2010 Governor’s Race. In fact, if the primary had been two weeks earlier polling reveals he would have won. However, the last ten days leading up to the primary unveiled a volley of negative ads hurled between Tim James and Bradley Byrne, which propelled Bentley into the runoff and ultimate victory. Being within an eyelash of victory has got to stick in James’ craw. He may have the itch to run again. He is young and has some personal money to get the ball rolling again. Having run a successful get acquainted race makes him a viable candidate. That is why I have Tim James at number 3.
The Number 2 horse may be the best known horse in the Alabama political stable. Chief Justice Roy Moore is by far the best known potential horse out of the 18 predicted to make the 2018 Alabama Gubernatorial Derby. You cannot run for a judgeship in Alabama after age 70. Moore will be 72 in 2018, so he has nowhere else to go but governor.
Moore is in vibrant health and looks young. He is not ready to go back to Etowah County and ride his horses. Therefore, he will run for governor and he will be a major player. Moore will be the religious right evangelical candidate. In a large field this guarantees him a spot in the runoff. However, my opinion is that whoever has the other spot in the June 2018 GOP Primary runoff beats him. Folks in Alabama seem to think of Moore as a judge, not a governor. In Alabama State Supreme Court races Moore is 3-0. In governor’s races he is 0-3.
The Number 1 horse is a phantom dark horse. This candidate is not on the scene today but they are already the favorite. Alabama political history reveals that an unknown candidate who has never been elected statewide almost always wins the governor’s race. The list of past dark horse candidates is long and it includes Big Jim Folsom, George Wallace, Guy Hunt, Bob Riley, Robert Bentley and Fob James.
The Fob James like candidate, a successful businessman who sells their business for millions and decides to buy the governor’s office as a pastime, is the favorite. That “Mr. Unknown” is my favorite to win the 2018 Gubernatorial Derby.
As I mentioned at the onset of my series on potential horses, in what I have dubbed the 2018 Alabama Derby, it is early in the game. In fact, it is only the second quarter. A handful of these horses have already made the decision to pull the trigger or should I say enter the gate. They are already running but a good many of the names I have dropped are probably not interested in running or may run for a lesser spot than governor or take themselves out to pasture.
We Alabamians love a good governor’s race and it will be a good one because the office is wide open. This time next year I will repost my analysis of the 2018 gubernatorial derby. In the meantime we have an entertaining race for president percolating. Stay tuned.
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.

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