Spotlight shines on elections

Published 11:19 am Wednesday, September 6, 2006

By Staff
While the governor's race along with legislative and local races are center stage in Alabama, this is also a national election year with all 435 members of Congress up for election and 33 Senate seats up for grabs. We do not have either of our two U.S. Senate seats up this year, which makes the Governor's race even more of a marquee show. However, all seven of our congressmen run this year, as they do every two years, but they all will be reelected.
Almost all congressmen nationwide win reelection. In fact 98 percent of all incumbent members of Congress are reelected. It is virtually impossible to unseat a sitting congressman whether they do a good job or not. It would take a monumental scandal to put one in jeopardy. The power of incumbency, with the money raising advantage, makes the challenge insurmountable. Members of the Communist Party in their heyday were more likely to lose than a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Our delegation is made up of five Republicans and two Democrats. The five Republicans work hard at being among the most conservative in the country and they are proud of it. In data which analyzes conservative versus liberal voting by members of Congress they rank very high.
Interestingly 80 years ago, from 1926-1946, we had nine Congressmen, all nine of which were white male Democrats. The Americans for Democratic Action at that time ranked our delegation as one of the most liberal in the country. They were all supporters of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs. They were pillars in Washington and Alabama reaped the benefits of their seniority.
Our Senate tandem of Lister Hill and John Sparkman will never be matched for power and prestige as a duo. Our congressional delegation was made up of giants who all had over 20 years in Congress.
Today's congressmen do not have the power they had then because Congress was not as partisan. In today's partisan driven House you simply vote the party line and you are more of a member than an individual.
Spencer Bachus has more seniority and is in position to move into a powerful banking post next term. Robert Aderholt who got to the House at an extremely young age has the potential to be a power. He is on the right committee and in time could wield the kind of influence that his predecessor Tom Bevill possessed. Jo Bonner, Mobile's new congressman, has only been in office a few years but will be hard pressed to match the power of his predecessor and mentor, Sonny Callahan. Callahan, through 20 years of climbing the seniority ladder, had become a cardinal thus wielding inordinate power on his infrastructure committee perch.
Senior U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby after 20 years in the Senate has become one of the most influential senators in America. He wields more power and influence than all of our seven congressmen and junior U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions combined. He will go down in history with Hill and Sparkman as one of our most powerful Senators.
Steve Flowers' column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Flowers served 16 years in the state Legislature. He may be reached at

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