By Steve Flowers
In my observations of Alabama politics, every election year brings an underlying election year surprise or two. The underlying prevailing theme emerging from the Alabama political arena this year is that women have arrived politically in the Heart of Dixie.
Gov. Kay Ivey is only the second female elected governor of Alabama, Lurleen Wallace being the first in 1966. Ivey won a decisive second-term nomination as the Republican nominee in May. She will face another female Democratic nominee, Yolanda Flowers, in the November general election. This is the first time two women will face each other for governor.
In fact, the first and second place finishers in both the Republican and Democratic primaries were women. Ivey was followed by Lindy Blanchard, who finished second in the GOP primary. Flowers, a retired Birmingham educator, was in a runoff with second place Democratic female State Sen. Malika Sanders Fortier in the Democratic primary.
Katie Britt emerged victoriously from the Republican U.S. Senate contest and if elected in November, as is expected, she will be the first female elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama. Britt is the brightest young star in Alabama politics. She is the new rock star of the state. Not only will she be the first female senator, but she is also the headliner for the second theme of 2022. That is, we have a pair of new youthful stars arriving on the scene as the dust settles from the June 21 runoffs. Wes Allen and Andrew Sorrell have become the new stars on the scene.
Allen defeated veteran politico, Jim Ziegler, in the secretary of state race. Andrew Sorrell bested Stan Cooke and Rusty Glover to become state auditor. Both Sorrell and Allen were about to become freshmen members of the Alabama House this time four years ago. Now, they are the new stars on the statewide political block. They will be joining Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth as young constitutional officeholders with a future.
You have four young stars on the horizon in the state. The rockstar Britt is 40, superstar Ainsworth is 41, Allen is 46 and Sorrell is 36.
Another young superstar has arrived on the behind-the-scenes political consulting arena in Alabama politics. Twenty-seven-year-old Sean Ross ran the Britt campaign masterfully. He is absolutely brilliant. He ran one of Twinkle Cavanaugh’s campaigns four years ago, when he was just graduating from the University of Alabama. Britt did a good day’s work when she acquired his services with a recommendation from Cavanaugh. He is the hottest item in Alabama political consulting.
There were four vacancies in the Alabama State Senate. State Rep. Merika Coleman, a Bessemer attorney, won a very impressive victory for the seat of retiring Priscilla Dunn. She is young and brilliant and is going to be a star in the Alabama State Senate.
Lance Bell won the seat of retiring state Sen. Jim McClendon. Bell beat his opponent 73% to 27% in this Republican seat.
Keith Kelley emerged victorious over Wendy Ghee Draper in the Anniston-based Republican seat of retiring veteran state Sen. Del Marsh.
In probably the biggest upset surprise of the 2022 primary season was the victory of Josh Carnley to fill the Republican Southeast Alabama senate seat held for decades by the powerful and popular Jimmy Holley. This district is comprised of Coffee, Covington, Pike and part of Dale counties. Twelve-year veteran, State House member, Mike Jones of Andalusia was expected to waltz to victory having every business group’s endorsement. Carnley carried his home county of Coffee, overwhelmingly, and veteran political consultant David Mowery did a masterful job with Carnley’s ads.
Popular first-term state Sen., Dan Roberts, was challenged by a self-financed urologist in Roberts’ silk stocking Jefferson/Shelby district, but Roberts won handily.
For the first time in 40 years, there will not be a Sanders representing the Black Belt in the Alabama Senate. Veteran Sen. Hank Sanders failed in his bid to take back his seat he loaned to his daughter, the aforementioned Malika Sanders Fortier. Hank had served nine terms as the Black Belt’s senator. He was defeated by Robert Stewart of Selma.
Jay Hovey won the coveted Lee/Tallapoosa/Russell County state senate seat, prevailing over incumbent Tom Whatley by one vote.
For the most part, the powerful 35-member state senate will return intact with only a few new faces.
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.