Gov. Kay Ivey has had a very successful first year as governor. One of the coups she pulled off was getting the Legislature to pass a law that empowers the governor to appoint the director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Previously, the three-member board picked the director. Also, when a vacancy occurs on the parole board the governor retains the power to appoint a replacement from a pool of nominees submitted by a nominating commission, which includes the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House and the president pro tem of the Senate.
Ivey wasted no time selecting a new director of the parole board, naming longtime political figure Charlie Graddick, a former attorney general and former Mobile County circuit judge, to the position in July. His appointment — and the new law — took effect on Sept. 1.
Ivey also supported a measure during the legislative session that would make the state school board appointed rather than elected. This proposal may have tougher sledding. It will have to be approved by Alabama voters in next year’s election, and Alabamians are reluctant to give up their right to vote for their public officials.
Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate is continuing a great summer political tradition in Montgomery. Pate, who is Alabama’s 27th commissioner of agriculture, hosted the ninth annual Tomato Sandwich Luncheon. The menu included homegrown Wiregrass tomatoes and corn on the cob. It also includes lots of politics. Some of those in attendance were former Agriculture Commissioner and now State Treasurer John McMillan, Secretary of State John Merrill, State Auditor Jim Ziegler and State Sens. Will Barfoot and Tom Whatley.
Second District Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, made a surprise announcement in late July that she was not going to seek reelection to a sixth two-year term next year. Roby was considered safe in the seat after withstanding a challenging election year in 2018. She drew significant opposition in the GOP primary after her 2016 announcement that she was not supporting Donald Trump. Even though she received fewer votes than most of the other Republican members of the Alabama congressional delegation, she did survive and would have had smooth sailing and a long tenure in the House. She was on good committees and was one of only 13 female Republican congresswomen in the U.S. House. Therefore, she was a darling in the eyes of the House leadership and had a bright future in Congress.
My guess is that she simply burned out on the demanding life of Congress where you are constantly campaigning and raising money, flying back and forth to Washington and actually doing the job of voting your district’s wishes and handling constituents’ work. She also has two young children and a husband who has a successful law career. She made the right decision for herself. She will have a much more enjoyable and rewarding life, and, if she practices law or lobbies, a much more lucrative lifestyle.
This leaves two open Republican congressional seats and the party primaries are early next year, on March 3.
The 2nd District, which encompasses all of the Wiregrass, parts of Montgomery and the burgeoning counties of Elmore and Autauga, will feature a wide-open, interesting race. It is a Republican district and the early favorite to win the seat is Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman. He has been very involved civic-wise in the Wiregrass and statewide for years. He will have unlimited personal funds and will spend them.
Whoever wins the seat will be subject to an alteration in the district. Alabama is expected to lose one of its seven congressional seats after the 2020 census, and most observers expect the 2nd District to merge into a portion of the 3rd District. It will more than likely pick up the Auburn-Opelika-Lee County area.
The other open seat is the 1st District, which comprises the Mobile-Baldwin area. Bradley Byrne is vacating the seat to make a bid for the U.S. Senate and three stellar candidates are vying to replace him. It will be a battle royale, but will definitely remain a Republican seat. Vying for the GOP nomination are state Rep. Chris Pringle, former state senator Bill Hightower and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl.
Yes, 2020 is shaping up to be a good political year in the Heart of Dixie.
Steve Flowers served 16 years in the Alabama Legislature. Readers can email him at email@example.com.