With a special election for Alabama’s “junior” United States Senate seat, as well as Mobile’s own municipal elections, both looming in August, the political jockeying is beginning in earnest.
Maybe that’s fitting as we’re in the middle of horse racing’s Triple Crown season and it’s a well-worn analogy to compare political races to those involving expensive, pampered equine ridden by tiny people in weird outfits. To carry the analogy one hooved step forward, politicians are often said to be full of the stuff horse owners get to shovel out of their stalls every day.
So we have some horse races and some people in those horse races are probably full of horse(bad word), right? Right.
The Senate race is making the most hay, especially since no one has officially made it official he is officially going to challenge Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s re-election. So let’s look at Senate first.
The first public poll numbers came out late last week, courtesy of potential candidate U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks. He told Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call his poll shows former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leading the field by a few lengths with roughly 30 percent of voters in his camp, followed by former State Attorney General Luther Strange at 20 percent and Brooks in “the low double digits.”
If we can assume the poll to be remotely accurate, it shows a couple of things. First, Moore is indeed likely to have a good-sized base — perhaps enough to get him into the runoff. But it also says he’s got a long way to go to win outright in the primary.
Moore is strong with the Christian Right, but his appeal fizzles after that. Still, he’s had the goods to be elected to the same statewide office twice and it would be foolish to discount him. My guess is he’s almost a certainty to land in any Republican runoff. But he has a long way to go to be declared a favorite.
The same can be said of Strange. If Brooks’ poll is right, Big Luther has big problems. He could be a lot like Thunder Snow coming out of the gates last Saturday at the Kentucky Derby and immediately deciding to try to throw his jockey and go enjoy a mint julep at the infield party. A lot of people picked that horse to win and he didn’t even make the first turn.
Strange continues to show the most sheer desire to land the position, though — even if he does so in a sleazy way. That may be his biggest problem now. After the way he unethically met with the Luv Guv to get an appointment to this seat at the same time his office was investigating the amorous chief executive in question, many voters realize the sludge factor with Strange is pretty high. Big Luther is definitely a mudder.
We saw more evidence of that the second Moore got in the race, as the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) issued a fatwa against any political firm that dares to work against Strange in this special election. In other words, the NRSC has decided Big Luther will be our senator and is threatening any firm that works with his opponents, saying they’ll be blackballed from other Republican work. Talk about going heavy on the riding crop! Ouch!
Despite both Moore and Strange’s obvious weaknesses, it may be a long shot to have anyone else but them neck-and-neck heading for the finish line. As is so often the case in Alabama, we could well be saddled with a hold-your-nose-and-vote senate election.
Locally a few more people have jumped into City Council races, but the main event remains shrouded in mystery. Even as we near mid-May, there’s been no “official” word as to whether former Mobile Mayor Sam Jones will actually run against Stimpson, although all signs indicate he will.
Around the beginning of the year, Jones told various media outlets he was seriously thinking about running or would have an announcement “soon,” but since then Silent Sam has, well, gone silent. But signs and bumper stickers have popped up and politicos around town believe he’s definitely going to run.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that Jones is planning a last-minute guerilla campaign that won’t cost much money and relies heavily upon the concept that Mobile’s black voters will come out in droves to vote for the man they didn’t vote for in droves four years ago.
My own straw polling has found little to no excitement about a Jones run, with most people saying, “What’s he think he’s doing?” One could argue if he is indeed running, this approach is definitely counter to the norm.
It’s understandable Jones wouldn’t want to spend much money because he doesn’t have any money. The former mayor’s biggest donors are now writing checks to Stimpson, as they did four years ago. So far Jones hasn’t filed anything showing money coming into his campaign, which would lead me to believe he’ll rely on out-of-town money.
But the main reason Jones would run as short a campaign as possible is because it leaves the least amount of time for media to talk about his miserable record as mayor. If he comes out and starts throwing bombs, most media will be too distracted with those issues to really focus on the poor financial shape Mobile was in when Sam Jones left office.
While Jones and some of his dwindling number of supporters still try to claim the city was doing fine fiscally when he was voted out four years ago, reams of documents and hours of public meetings have proved otherwise.
I’m also sure Jones would want to have zero discussion of the disaster he left at the Mobile Housing Board, which is being investigated by HUD. Jones not only reappointed as many of his people as possible to the board before leaving — when he hadn’t kept up with regular reappointments while in office — he also ended up going to work for former MHB chairman Clarence Ball. It’s a sweet little mess.
The pony race for council has heated up a bit as Councilmen John Williams, C.J. Small and Fred Richardson all face opposition. The other four councilors are currently unopposed.
With summer not far off, it’ll be a hard gallop for qualifying deadlines and a final list of those who want to run. Better stock up on mint juleps and shovels while you can.