By Steve Flowers
There are dramatic differences between our congressional delegation of the 1940s-1960s and our group on the Potomac today. Obviously, their partisan badges have changed, as have Alabamians. There is also a tremendous difference in power and seniority of that era versus today’s group. That bygone era of Alabama congressmen were very progressive New Deal Democrats; whereas, our delegation today is one of the most conservative in America.
Their paths to Congress were also very different. It was as though the earlier folks had been born to be in Congress. They all went to the University of Alabama for college and law school, went off to fight in the World War, came back to their hometown to practice law for a short while before going off to Congress for a 20-30 year tenure of “Going Along to Get Along.”
Today’s delegation seems to have gotten there by accident. Of the seven, two went to Duke, one to Harvard, one to New York University, one to Birmingham Southern, one to Jacksonville State, and one to the University of Alabama. Six of the seven have law degrees, which is the only similarity to the bygone era.
As we look toward next year’s election, let’s take a look at our current congressional delegates since all are on the ballot this year. Congressmen run every two years but seldom lose. Once you get to Washington the power of incumbency is tremendous. All of the Washington special interest money gravitates to incumbents.
First District Congressman Bradley Byrne is a Republican who was born and raised in Baldwin County in the heart of the traditional first district. This district is primarily a Baldwin and Mobile seat. Historically it has had great congressmen. Frank Boykin, Jack Edwards, Sonny Callahan, and Jo Bonner have more than aptly represented them over the past 80 years.
Byrne is a lawyer by profession. He graduated from Duke undergraduate and University of Alabama Law School. He served five years in the Alabama State Senate before becoming chancellor of the State Community College System where he served several years. He ran for governor in 2010 and led the first primary, but lost to Robert Bentley in the runoff. He won a Special Election to Congress in December of 2013. He has taken to Congress like a duck to water. He is 62 and serves on the Armed Services and Rules Committees. He will win reelection to a third term this year.
Second District Congresswoman Martha Roby is the only seat in play this year. She is vulnerable. Roby made a terrible mistake by saying that she was not going to vote for the Republican nominee Donald Trump last year. The backlash was dramatic.
She is being challenged by three significant GOP opponents. Former Montgomery Mayor and Congressman Bobby Bright will be tough. State Representative Barry Moore of Enterprise chose to challenge Roby rather than seek reelection to the Legislature. He has been running against Roby for over a year. Rich Hobson is Roy Moore’s chief ally. He will be the heir apparent to Judge Moore’s Wiregrass organization. Bright, Moore and Hobson were all born and raised in the Wiregrass.
Third District Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Anniston, is building some seniority and will be a safe bet for reelection. At the end of this term, he will have 16 years seniority. He serves on the Armed Services and Agriculture committees where he is building power.
The crown jewel of our congressional delegation is Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville. Aderholt got to Congress at 30 years old and has 22 years of seniority. He is only 52 and is a ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. He will be reelected to a 12th term next year.
Congressman Mo Brooks ran a very good race for the U.S. Senate last year. He will probably run again in 2020 against Democrat Doug Jones. He will be reelected to his Congressional seat this year, and get ready for another Senate run.
Sixth District Birmingham Congressman Gary Palmer will win reelection to his suburban Jefferson / Shelby Republican seat. He is unopposed for a third term.
Our only Democratic congressperson is a Harvard educated lady. Terri Sewell is a lawyer, who had a successful law practice in Birmingham before being elected to Congress from the Seventh District eight years ago. The Selma native is on a fast track in Washington. She will go back for another two-year term.
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.