By Steve Flowers
Allow me to again open my political notebook for more summer political happenings in the Heart of Dixie.
As Labor Day approaches it looks as though the state constitutional officeholders, all Republicans, are going to escape serious or even any opposition. Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, Attorney General Steve Marshall and Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate are running unopposed. However, all three are running aggressive campaigns or, as the old saying goes, are running scared.
It looks as though State Treasurer John McMillan will not run for reelection and may opt to be head of the new State Cannabis Commission. Waiting in the wing to run for treasurer is former State Treasurer Young Boozer. He will be a prohibitive favorite. He did an excellent job as treasurer and remains very well thought of in Montgomery circles.
The secretary of state and auditors jobs are open with no incumbents able to run. Surprisingly, state representative Wes Allen is the only one running for secretary of state. He dodged a bullet when Birmingham businesswoman, Laura Johnston Clark, opted to not run.
The state auditor’s race has attracted several candidates. A recent entry is Mobilian Rusty Glover. He is a popular former state representative and state senator who ran statewide for lieutenant governor last time. He will be the favorite. I have never seen anyone who has ever met and visited with Rusty one-on-one who does not like him.
The big money in next year’s election will be on the state legislative races. All 105 State House seats and all 35 State Senate races will be on the ballot. All 140 seats will have new lines. They may all be similar, but all will have to deviate to some degree.
They will be drawing these new lines in a special reapportionment legislative session in late October or early November. The final census numbers just arrived within the last few days. This redistricting session is vitally important to all legislative incumbents. It is about political self-preservation.
Redistricting also impacts the impending race for speaker of the house, which will be determined shortly after the November 2022 General Election during the January 2023 organizational session.
Current House Speaker Mac McCutchen announced during the summer that he was not running for reelection. This immediately set in motion a jockeying for position to be the next speaker. The two candidates that are emerging are Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) and Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Dekalb County). The race will be decided within the Republican House caucus. The House currently has a super majority with 75% of the body being Republican. This GOP dominance will continue or may even be enhanced after reapportionment.
Clouse is a 27-year veteran of the House. He is the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. Ledbetter is a popular, folksy, keen, second-term representative, who is the House majority leader.
Both candidates start with a hard-core base of votes from legislators from their neck of the woods. Ledbetter has a rock-solid base from the northeastern corner of the state and Sand Mountain. Clouse has the steadfast support from southeast Alabama and the Wiregrass.
The race will probably be determined by the more populous delegation of legislators from the metropolitan areas of Jefferson/Shelby and Mobile/Baldwin.
Ledbetter has the backing of retiring Speaker McCutcheon of Huntsville and probably has an advantage in the Madison/Limestone delegation. However, Ledbetter’s ace-in-the-hole may be that as majority leader, he is helping raise campaign money not only for incumbents, but more importantly the 20 to 25 new members who are being elected next May. If it comes down to a straight, all north Alabama versus south Alabama race, that gives Ledbetter a leg up because there are more people and legislators from north Alabama because that is where the population is as the current census numbers reveal. However, if a geographic war develops, look for the Montgomery River Region Republican legislators to side with south Alabama and Clouse.
Again, the Jefferson/Shelby and Mobile/Baldwin delegations may very well be where the race is decided. The Jefferson/Shelby legislators from the upscale urbane districts will favor Clouse’s experience in a private vote. This same advantage will accrue to Clouse in the silk-stocking Mobile/Baldwin districts. Veteran Mobile legislator Victor Gaston, who is also speaker pro tem of the House, is running for reelection probably to help elect Clouse as speaker. They are very close and dedicated friends. Victor is very respected and may very well bring some Mobile legislators with him.
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.