This is an opinion column.
Last week we alerted you to the fact that next year will be a banner year in Alabama politics. The governor, lieutenant governor and all other statewide constitutional offices are up for election. All 140 members of the legislature are up for election and will be running under new lines. Our entire congressional delegation is up for reelection and they too will be running under new lines drawn by the legislature. All 67 sheriffs in the state are also on the ballot.
This slate in and of itself would make this a marquee year. However, what will render this upcoming 2022 election year momentous is that we will have a very important U.S. Senate Seat to fill. Richard Shelby will retire after 36 years in the United States Senate. It will be impossible to replace Senator Shelby. The amount of federal dollars he has secured for the Heart of Dixie is incomprehensible and irreplaceable. He will be remembered as the greatest senator in Alabama history.
Seniority is paramount in Washington. It is everything. It took Senator Shelby awaiting 20 years before he became one of the major players in Washington. Therefore, Senator Shelby would be the first to tell you that it is imperative for Alabama’s future that we elect someone young to be his successor. If you send someone over 60 to the U.S. Senate, they will never have any real power.
The political hierarchy of the senate will recognize that and place our senator on obscure committees. The best thing for us to do is to send a younger person to the Senate, and also one that is not an ideologue demagogue who is more interested in being on Fox News than bringing home the bacon.
First on most lists is Katie Boyd Britt. She served as Senator Shelby’s Chief of Staff and is now the CEO of the Business Council of Alabama. She is only 39 years old and she would have the potential to be a power in Washington. Shelby likes her.
Someone who will probably be in the race and will be one of the early frontrunners is Secretary of State John Merrill. He has served his two four-year terms as Secretary of State and is precluded from running for another term in that office. Therefore, he has to go somewhere. He is the best retail politician in the state and is the only statewide official with a real grassroots organization. Merrill will be a player and has the acumen and diligence to be an effective senator.
Congressman Robert Aderholt would be the logical favorite to take Senator Shelby’s seat. However, with 24 years seniority in the House, Congressman Aderholt is making the right decision for himself and our state by remaining in his House seat.
PSC President, Twinkle Cavanaugh, would be an excellent person to succeed Shelby. She is popular and still young, but she will probably not be in the race.
Former Trump Ambassador to Slovenia, Lynda Blanchard, has already announced that she will enter the race for Shelby’s U.S. Senate seat in 2022. She is from Montgomery and has come to the table with $5 million.
The person who might run but would not be an effective senator is Huntsville Congressman Mo Brooks. He would be an albatross for our state. During his 10 years in Congress, Brooks has been an obstacle for Senator Shelby and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle as they have worked to build Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal into the Science and Technology Capitol of Alabama and probably the nation.
Brooks’ only mission is to be thought of as a right-wing extremist, who cares more about being a demagogue than representing and helping his district. If Brooks were to replace Shelby, it could be devastating to Alabama’s efforts to attract federal dollars or future economic prospects. It will be hard enough for Shelby’s predecessor to simply maintain everything Shelby has brought to Alabama. However, with Brooks in Shelby’s seat, Alabama might actually lose ground – not only the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, but also UAB in Birmingham, Maxwell-Gunter in Montgomery, and Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass.
2022 is going to be a big year in Alabama politics.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.