Limited powers put Lucy in briar patch
When the State Senate stripped Lt. Gov. Steve Windom of the traditional powers of his office in the 1999 organizational session, a good many observers predicted that those powers were gone forever. The belief was that once the Senate garnered the trappings of committee appointments and control over legislation they would never relinquish it. They seem to be right. It was thought by some that the dethroning had occurred because Windom was a Republican and the Senate overwhelmingly Democratic, and this was probably true at the time. It probably would not have occurred if the lieutenant governor had not been a Tepublican, but the proof of the pudding came in 2003 when Democrat Lucy Baxley took the gavel. The Senate kept the power and control. Baxley became a figurehead much like Windom. The difference is that Baxley made lemonade out of lemons. She turned the other cheek and did not whine at the rebuke and loss of power. She was sort of like Brer Rabbit in the brier patch.
She softly said, "Please don't take my power away," but when they did take her power away she laughed gently to herself and took off campaigning around the state. Because with the power gone, the fighting, bitterness, enemy making and resentments incurred was avoided. That is why lieutenant governor has been a poor stepping stone in the past. Baxley is free to travel all over the state making happy speeches, avoiding issues and making new friends.
Speaking of making friends, her biggest conquest is Lowell Barron, the powerful senate president. They have become each others' biggest cheerleaders. No conversation goes by without one patting the other on the back. Barron likes the power and Baxley likes the glory. Barron is on board to support Baxley for governor, and he is very content to stay in his Senate seat and seek another term as the Senate's most powerful member. He could probably be a player in the lieutenant governor's race, but the race is a 50/50 gamble. If he loses he is out, while he has a slam-dunk for reelection to the Senate and the inside track to staying in power as president of the Senate. However, the new lieutenant governor best not think that the job will have much power.
That is not keeping a busload of potential candidates from lining up to run for the job. It has a longer list of aspirants than all of the other constitutional races put together. With Barron out of the fray the interested democrats are former State Auditor Susan Parker and Montgomer attorney Julian McPhillips who fought it out in 2002 for the U.S. Senate Democratic nomination. Parker bested McPhillips, but later lost to incumbent Sen. Jeff Sessions. Huntsville State Sen. Jeff Enfinger may jump in, as well as Ag. Commissioner Ron Sparks. However, most expect when all is said and done Sparks runs for reelection to his agricultural post.
The list of Republicans mentioned as potential lieutenant governor candidates is very long. State Treasurer Kay Ivey is seriously considering it. She thinks that if Baxley can move from treasurer to lieutenant governor, she can, too. Another female candidate, Beth Chapman, may make the plunge but she would more likely move to either the treasurer or secretary of state race. Former Democratic Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts, a recent GOP convert and Roy Moore ally, will run for either attorney general or lieutenant governor. He is leaning to lieutenant governor at this time. PSC member George Wallace Jr. may be eyeing another run for lieutenant governor. His name identification, inherited from his father, makes him a player. Another junior who could parlay his father's name into success could be Perry Hooper Jr. The Hooper name is well known in GOP circles. He is said to be committed to running, and if he raises enough money he could be a factor. Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks is an announced candidate and former Secretary of State Jim Bennett will make the race if the money can be raised. If not, Bennett will probably run for his old post as secretary of state. Democratic incumbent Nancy Worley is very vulnerable. The democrats may even replace her in the primary.
The 2006 Lieutenant Governor's race should be a donnybrook.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives who writes a weekly syndicated column on Alabama politics. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.