From the State House
The Franklin County Times
Last week's discussion about the looming 2010 governor's race spurred interest in the other statewide races next year.
The lieutenant governor's race hinges on which major players answer the bell in the governor's race.
The scenario, as it sits right now, is that Bob Riley cannot run again.
Therefore the office is wide open. There are probably six serious GOP aspirants who enter the race and give their all to win. Whoever emerges from this family brawl will be broke and beaten up.
On the Democratic side, if Artur Davis opts out of the race and Jim Folsom Jr. is left alone, he waltzes through the Democratic primary with all his campaign money in tact and emerges as the prohibitive favorite. Thus, Artur Davis is the wild card in the governor's race. His decision further dictates a domino effect on the lieutenant governor's race.
If Davis runs, and it appears he is determined to make this quixotic journey, he thwarts his fellow Democrat Folsom's chances and guarantees that a Republican wins the governor's race.
Artur Davis' odds of being elected governor of Alabama are about the same as the percentage of votes Barack Obama received in Alabama.
Davis would be hard pressed to get more than the 39 percent Obama garnered in the state. However, the Democratic primary is another story. It is estimated that at least 50 percent of the votes cast in the state's Democratic primary are African American. Therefore, Folsom would find it difficult to best Davis in the primary.
However, it would be foolish for Davis to make this kamikaze mission and throw away a safe lifetime Congressional seat with power and prestige awaiting him in a Congressional career.
He would kill two birds with one stone, his political career and the Democratic Party's chance to win the governor's race.
Ironically, this Davis torpedo might not disappoint Folsom. He is very laid back and is somewhat ambivalent about being governor again.
He tells close friends that he enjoys the leisurely, less stressful life of being lieutenant governor much more than being in the spotlight as governor.
My guess is that if Davis makes the governor's race, Folsom runs for lieutenant governor again.
This leaves Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks with nowhere to go. He cannot run for re-election again, so he probably runs for governor against Davis.
If Davis does not run, Sparks acquiesces to Folsom and runs for lieutenant governor.
The attorney general's race will be a good one. This job historically has been a much better stepping stone to governor than the lieutenant governor's office.
Incumbent Troy King is in trouble. A rumor or serious accusation left unanswered or undefended in today's political world is assumed to be factual. His stonewalling and ostrich like approach to his alleged 2008 debacle may have allowed him to keep his job for two years but it is not good for any political future.
He will receive a strong GOP challenge, probably from Luther Strange. Mobile District Attorney John Tyson Jr. will also be poised to make a serious run. Tyson hopes his opponent will be King because Strange would be tougher to beat.
Sec. of State Beth Chapman also had a bad year in 2008. She fought off an ethics complaint filed against her by fellow Republican Mark Montiel. Chapman allegedly has a career as a consultant while serving in the fulltime post of secretary of state. She also is vulnerable on whether she is actually living in Montgomery as required by the Constitution.
However, people pay so little attention to this irrelevant office that it probably does not matter. Kay Ivey leaves the treasurer's post open. This will give us a good race to watch. Surprisingly, there have been no names mentioned for this office.
The commissioner of agriculture post will also be open. Conservation Commissioner John McMillan says he is planning to run as a Republican. Dorman Grace, a 52 year old, third generation farmer from Jasper also plans to run as a Republican. Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Glen Zorn, who is also a third generation farmer from Florala, plans to run as a Democrat.
Our Senior Senator Richard Shelby is up for re-election in 2010. He has given every indication that he plans to run for his fifth six-year term. Shelby is a power in Washington.
At 73 he is young by Senate standards. He also may very well be the most popular politician in Alabama.If Shelby were to surprise everyone and opt out you could probably bet that our popular Gov. Bob Riley would want that seat. However, unless Shelby retires Riley has nowhere to go but back to his farm in Clay County.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be contacted at www.steveflowers.us.