Inside the Statehouse

By Steve Flowers

As the horse race for our open U.S. Senate seat heads down the stretch, let’s look at the lay of the land.

All indications are that Roy Moore and Luther Strange are headed for a one-two finish on August 15 and ultimately a runoff on September 26. The winner of that match will be our junior U. S. Senator for the next three years of the Jeff Sessions’ seat term.

The short window for the campaign helps Moore and Strange. They both have name identification and have run several successful campaigns for significant statewide offices.

Roy Moore has worked the rural areas of the state quietly without much money. Luther Strange has bought heavy TV time in the Birmingham media market hoping to turnout upscale suburban Republicans.

A combination of polls as we head around the curve and into the last leg of the race has Moore at 30, Strange at 28 and Brooks at 18.

The caveat to remember is that turnout is critical. Moore’s 30 percent will show up. Therefore, his final vote tally on August 15 could be higher than 30. A poll is a picture of the entire electorate. The poll that actually counts is the poll on August 15 and it is comprised of those that showed up to cast their ballot.

Congressman Mo Brooks has the best chance to upset one of the two frontrunners. He represents the vote-rich Tennessee Valley in Congress. He is the only viable candidate from that neck of the woods. He is a member of the Right Wing Freedom Caucus in Congress. If that ultraconservative group has a grassroots fundraising organization and they raise Mo some money, he could surprise and overcome Luther.

There are two descriptions I like to use when assessing a U.S. Senator and the script they seek as your senator. Senator Richard Shelby is the ultimate caretaker. He has proven to be the greatest U.S. Senator in Alabama history. Over the past 30 years, he has brought home the bacon. He has also voted conservatively.

In fact, if you compare the voting records of Shelby and Sessions they would be identical. However, Jeff Sessions would be categorized as an ideologue. He was an ultraconservative during his tenure in the Senate and was considered one of the upper body’s most arch right wing reactionaries. Therefore, would Roy Moore or Mo Brooks or Luther Strange be considered a caretaker or an ideologue?

Mo Brooks has already proven to be an ideologue as a Congressman. There is no question but that Roy Moore would be the ultimate ideologue. He would arrive in Washington and by national standards would be the caricature that the Democratic Party would use as the poster boy that depicts how far right the Republican Party is today. It would be Moore’s mission to be perceived as the most ideologically religious zealot on the scene. Alabama would be known for having the most religious right wing senator in the nation. The national Democrats would use Roy Moore’s picture in every ad in every California race the same way Obama was used Alabama.
Luther Strange would be in the mold of Senator Richard Shelby as a caretaker. Shelby would mentor Luther, who is more of a mainstream conservative.
Strange, Moore or Brooks would all vote conservatively right down the line. They would have the identical voting record as Jeff Sessions or Richard Shelby on all the litmus test GOP issues like abortion, immigration, balanced budget, pro-military, pro-gun, pro-agriculture and most importantly the appointment and confirmation of conservative Supreme Court Justices.
However, without question, Luther Strange would be a much more effective U.S. Senator for Alabama than Roy Moore or Mo Brooks. He would be more of the type Senator that we have in Richard Shelby. We have had some greats like Shelby, Lister Hill, John Sparkman, and John Bankhead.
Alabama would be better served to have a conservative caretaker in Washington than a reactionary right wing ideologue. However, Alabamians may prefer having a missionary in Washington rather than a visionary – at least those who show up to vote on August 15.
See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.