So, the “most important election of our lives” is now less than a week away, which means it’s only a week and two years away from the next “most important election of our lives.” Put that on the calendar.
Clearly most of the superlatives attached to elections come from people out on the edges who think the folks on the other side of the political spectrum want to take away our rights to shoot aborted fetuses with bumpstocked semiautomatic rifles. Or something along those lines.
The tension is thick enough to cut with with a knife, as each side stares into the abyss of either controlling Congress or not. There is earnest talk of impeachment, although no one is quite certain what for yet. People will be fired, indicted or resign. Nancy Pelosi will once again wrap her bony fingers around the Speaker’s gavel while Trump has journalists rounded up and thrown into active volcanoes. To quote Elmer Fudd, “North winds blow! South winds blow! Typhoons! Hurricanes! SMOG!!!!” There’s a lot on the line, folks.
Not that you’d necessarily know it here in Lower Alabama. We’re sliding into home in a bizarrely boring gubernatorial race that had no right to ever be this dull. Maybe our neighboring states have provided Alabama its fill of political intrigue. Just the spillover advertising from Florida’s gubernatorial and senate fights alone have created enough electricity to put Alabama Power out of business, as each man relentlessly trashes the other. If the commercials are to be believed, the four men running for these two offices ought to be locked up in Hannibal Lector’s old cell and buried in 12 feet of cement.
But in the Alabama races we actually should be paying attention to, the TV spots have taught us that Kay Ivey’s dog is named Bear and Walt Maddox is 45, among other pieces of useless information. I will give Maddox credit for trying to get Alabamians to care about his many detailed plans for improving this second-to-last state, but he’s been hollering down an empty hole the entire time as Ivey has rope-a-doped and tried to convince us we’re doing OK while saying absolutely nothing.
It feels like Kay secretly thinks we’re an unattractive child who has managed to date someone slightly out of his or her league, despite the fact that person actually has a heroin problem and doesn’t bathe regularly. I can just imagine Kay saying, “Now Alabama, you’re doing real, real good, honey. Don’t you remember when you were 50th in a lot of things? Now you’re 48th! I’m just so proud! There’s no reason to go puttin’ on airs and gettin’ big ideas.”
If the polls are to be believed, Ivey will roll to victory next week by a huge margin over a very qualified challenger. A surprising number of Republicans have told me they will vote for Maddox because he is the far better choice and Ivey will be just another puppet governor with a shadow government running the show. But she makes an awful lot of people feel warm — kind of the way Robert Bentley did before he became the Luv Guv.
The lack of excitement in the governor’s race has bled down the ballot some. The lieutenant governor’s race was all fire and fury in the primary, but seems like a cakewalk for Republican Will Ainsworth over Democrat Will “Who?” Boyd. Most of the political intelligentsia think Ainsworth is just prepping to take over as governor if Ivey isn’t physically strong enough to make it through her term, but I’m guessing her handlers will have her embalmed and move her arms and legs like a puppet before they let that happen.
Attorney General Steve Marshall is having a little tougher race primarily because of his slimy ties to the Luv Guv and Luther Strange. In a meeting with our editorial board, Marshall made it amply clear he has no intention to further investigate the dark money sources that paid Bentley’s girlfriend and chief of staff, or to look into whether Strange was bribed by the governor to help derail the investigation. He told us that essentially there are some things we just may never know about what happened. Spoken like a true investigator.
Marshall’s opponent, Joe Siegelman, at least seems to have an earnest interest in getting to the bottom of the Luv Guv scandal, and I personally think neither Strange nor Bentley should skip out on what they’ve done. Adding to that, Marshall also told us he didn’t think it would really be the AG’s job to open up an investigation into the Catholic Church’s cover-up of molestation charges against priests in Alabama. AGs in several other states are doing this, but Marshall has already blown it off.
Adding to that is his acceptance of more than $700,000 worth of PAC-to-PAC campaign money, despite a state law banning such transfers. Marshall provides more than a few reasons to doubt him as the state’s top law enforcement official.
Down the ballot, perhaps the most interesting race will be House 97 featuring incumbent Adline Clarke and challenger Stephen McNair.
While McNair is pretty fresh to the political game, he has campaigned hard. Clarke has a good deal of personal popularity too, but even since her first election in 2013 she has faced criticism associated with her work at the Mobile Housing Board. In addition to incorrectly claiming the nonprofit she worked for was a separate entity, Clarke’s involvement there led HUD’s Office of Inspector General to fine MHB $1.2 million for masonry contracts handed out to her half-brother’s company.
Now retired from MHB and Mobile Development Enterprises, Clarke has tried to deny any involvement in this, but the OIG report says clearly, “the senior vice president of Mobile Development Enterprises [Clarke] signed the Mobile Development Enterprises contract with the Housing Board that agrees to all construction management activities, including those related to vacancy reduction, which were subsequently carried out by Superior Masonry. The senior vice president’s [Clarke’s] relationship with the owner of Superior Masonry, and the relationship of the Housing Board and Mobile Development Enterprises create the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Her first run for office against Karlos Finley was also a bit odd in that the two candidates split votes cast at the polls 50:50, but Clarke took a rather miraculous 96 percent — 153 of 160 — absentee ballots cast in that race. As the Housing Board has traditionally been accused of being a center of voter fraud in the county, it’ll be interesting to see if Clarke is able to have the same success with absentees this go ‘round.