Senate race, referendum only a month away

Ed Howell
Posted 7/13/17

Let’s clean out the notebook, political edition ...

• It seems amazing, but we are now a month out from the Aug. 15 primaries for the U.S. Senate race, as well as the countywide referendum on the proposed 1-cent sales tax. I would have …

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Senate race, referendum only a month away


Let’s clean out the notebook, political edition ...

• It seems amazing, but we are now a month out from the Aug. 15 primaries for the U.S. Senate race, as well as the countywide referendum on the proposed 1-cent sales tax. I would have thought there would be more discussion by this point, but one does have to figure vacations, particularly with the Fourth of July holiday (which seems more and more like a one-week event for those with the money to do it).

The tax issue has been surprisingly quiet. Even the group put together to push for the tax, Walker County at a Crossroads, has been slower than expected to get started, although it did not have much time, to be fair, and is already promoting it on Facebook, the first line of attack now in American politics (along with Twitter). No opposition group has been found yet, and you see public officials gradually acknowledge the need for the tax, as no one wants to see bankruptcy and scaled back services. Using the bulk of the revenue for long-underfunded needs such as roads, fire departments and such was a great idea as well, but the real drama would come with bankruptcy as the county’s bond debt principal is now due in February 2018. (The fact specific figures and dates in play are bringing home a sense of reality this could happen, not to mention the low-key discussions already held by county officials with bankruptcy attorneys, to see what they were facing.) If the tax failed, TV crews from Birmingham would swoop down and make us look like illiterate hicks, which would ruin economic development for sure.

Surprisingly, the big noise is coming from the Senate race, as straw polling is showing Sen. Luther Strange running at the bottom of the pack many times, despite the ton of money that GOP Senate leadership is giving him to keep someone they trust as stable. In fact, Strange hurt himself in the Bentley debacle, asking for the Legislature’s investigation to be put on the back burner for his own, and then taking the Senate appointment from Bentley soon afterward. Now the man once considered to be a moderate sounds so much like Trump that I think people are skeptical. After years of being the consummate politician, political watchers are stunned to admit he is in trouble.

The word is that U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, who got a bump in polling after the shooting on that baseball field in the Washington area, and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore are considered now to be more the favorites. On paper they would go with Trump, but reports indicate some (like the Senate leaders) consider them gadfly types who could break off to do their own thing and not fall in line with key votes. Brooks also got press when he said he wouldn’t just filibuster until President Trump’s wall is built along Mexico, but that he would read the King James Bible until it is passed. Moore, of course, many times refers to Christian heritage and promoted the Ten Commandments in the courtroom. (For his part, Strange said Trump was “the greatest thing that’s happened to this country,” adding, “I consider it a biblical miracle that he’s there.”)

No question Moore will do well in northwest Alabama, as he always does, but he was also removed from office twice, which might hurt him overall in the state. Brooks is already in Washington, which might help. I doubt campaign signs will help much — at this late date, I just saw my first Senate yard sign, for Moore, just the other day. Democrats are not likely to get it together this year, due to organizational problems at the state level, so I would expect in Trump country the Republican nominee will likely win. The only four Republicans with major name recognition, to me, are Brooks, Moore, state Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Daphne, and Strange, so one of those is likely to be your next senator — although stranger things have happened in politics.

•Continuing on the Senate campaign, I understand Pittman, a Birmingham native, will be in Jasper on Friday afternoon, and I’ll get a chance to talk to him. His website had an interesting statistic: “If elected, Trip will be the first non-lawyer in over 100 years to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate.” It is interesting to think how the legal profession has dominated the state’s U.S. Senate seats — although what he says is not true. Some of you will recall Jeremiah Denton was the first and only retired Navy admiral elected to the Senate, representing Alabama. Maryon Pittman Allen, now 91, according to Wikipedia, is a Mississippi native and American journalist who served as U.S. senator from Alabama for five months in 1978, after her husband, Sen. James B. Allen, died in office.

•Speaking of politics, the administrative election calendar is on the Secretary of State’s Office’s website; as of last month, primary candidates for 2018 could already start accepting donations. Qualifying will run until Feb. 9 for the June 5, 2018, primary, although it is not certain yet when qualifying begins, except it will be months from now. (Next year, the runoff is July 17 and the General Election is Nov. 6.)

Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s news editor.