Even the best-laid plans of mice and giant men can run aground. At least that seems to be the lesson we can take from newly minted Gov. Kay Ivey’s decision to shorten the timeline on “Big Luther” Strange’s election for the senate seat he swiped.
The Luv Guv and Big Luther seem to have had it all worked out — Luther diddled around on investigating Gov. Bentley, then Bentley gave Luther the United States Senate seat he coveted and set an election date far enough away to theoretically give Strange a leg up on retaining the seat.
But Gov. Ivey threw a monkey wrench into the machinery when she announced Tuesday the law requires a special election this year for the seat formerly occupied by Jeff Sessions.
“I promised to steady our ship of state. This means following the law, which clearly states the people should vote for a replacement U.S. Senator a soon as possible. The new U.S. Senate special election dates this year are a victory for the rule of law,” Ivey said in a statement issued as the election change was announced.
So now things have moved up a whole year, with a primary set for Aug. 15, a runoff Sept. 26 and general election Dec. 12, all this year. Bentley had tried to claim he was doing taxpayers a favor by allowing Strange to squat in the seat for another year until the 2018 general elections take place because a special election will cost more money.
That’s a point Gov. Ivey made, but at this time the special election expense takes a back seat to possibly rectifying the clear injustice foisted upon Alabama by Robert Bentley and Luther Strange. If the leadership of this state had any credibility, we might say Ivey is trying to restore it. But with a governor who just resigned in disgrace, a chief justice removed from office for the second time and a speaker of the house convicted of felonies, Ivey is in the unenviable position of trying to establish at least a modicum of credibility. The “Politicos Gone Wild!” routine has worn all the way through.
There’s little doubt Ivey is at the very least letting voters know she doesn’t intend to get sucked into the Bentley-Strange vortex. In not so many words she told the state exactly what most of us already thought: Bentley’s appointment of Strange to the U.S. Senate smells like a week-old dead catfish lying on the banks of the filthiest bayou in Alabama. Strange got the appointment through deception and flatly unethical means, probably violating the law in the process. Making his road to keeping that ill-gotten position for six more years more difficult is exactly what Ivey should have done.
Of course Big Luther is putting on a brave face and acting like he couldn’t care less whether the election is today, tomorrow or 30 years from now. But, as the punditry goes, the longer he’s in office before an election, the more he digs in like a big, fat tick in a fancy suit. Of course Big Luther knows if he can weather that first election, chances are he’ll be senator for as long as his heart continues beating. Alabamians aren’t known for fickleness in re-electing their U.S. Senators.
And while I’m sure Big Luther has known this possibility existed, his preference has to be getting another year further away from the smoldering ashes of the Bentley regime meltdown. Right now things are still nuclear hot. When Luther stands up in front of the media he’s certainly going to be asked why he met with Bentley to ask for a job while his office was investigating the governor.
The scenario is only going to be run over again and again. Strange asked the House of Representatives to stop impeachment proceedings because his office was working on something related. Then he started playing coy about whether there was any investigation at all when it looked like Jeff Sessions might be appointed U.S. Attorney General. Next we were treated to the almost unimaginable spectacle of the state’s attorney general going to meet with the subject of an investigation in order to ask for an appointment to Sessions’ seat. That’s politics so raw it’ll give you E. coli.
It all broke the best possible way for the two men in the room that day. Bentley was super screwed already and heading for the slammer. But he ended up getting to cut a deal, pleaded some misdemeanors and walked a free man, even after using law enforcement as his personal thug crew and clearly misusing state funds to hide his affair. Meanwhile Big Luther gets the job he’s craved like nicotine for years with an election date that gives him time to really dig his heels into the position.
There are lots of variables at play here. Luther has to know the sense of outrage over what he did is real. Obviously he was playing the hunch that enough voters won’t really care or understand what he did, otherwise he would have just restrained himself and run for the position in the next election. So now Luther has to wonder if the outrage and a qualified opponent or two will put him out on his butt.
I’ve already been hearing radio ads by third-party groups that sound an awful lot like campaign ads for Luther’s election. The wheels are spinning for sure. Strange showed us just exactly what he is willing to do for this senate seat, so don’t expect anything less than a full-throttle effort to keep what he believes to be his.
Much will depend upon who else decides to run for Sessions’ stolen seat. The state’s highly embarrassed Republican hierarchy should really get behind a candidate with a little integrity and find a way to dislodge Luther Strange from the government teat. Big Luther has shown himself to have no ethics and already proven his own aggrandizement is job No. 1. He has rendered himself unworthy of holding public office, even in a state constantly setting new lows for ethical behavior in office.
Hopefully Gov. Kay Ivey’s efforts to undo the slimy Bentley-Strange alliance will be successful. A man who has already done the things Big Luther has just to get into office seems pretty likely to end up as just another embarrassment to the state down the line.