Travels saw talk of politics

Published 4:03 am Wednesday, August 13, 2008

By Staff
During the summer I have been traveling around the state talking with civic clubs about Alabama politics. With it being a presidential year, an obvious topic of discussion is the presidential contest.
However, invariably the first question asked is who is going to make the Governor's race in two years. Alabamians love the gubernatorial year. The presidential years are simply spring training for the real marquee event.
At every stop the first name mentioned is Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins. At first I thought people were dropping his name because Hawkins and I are both from the same neck of the woods, but after a while I could tell that they were unaware of our regional association. When talking with political insiders and handicapping the race, they were not surprised by my revelation.
Usually when you hear a name reverberate so prominently it is orchestrated by self promotion, but Jack Hawkins is reticent to commit to the challenge and is not encouraging the attraction. In this case it is a genuine draft. This is largely due to the fact that Hawkins would indeed be a perfect candidate.
Jack Hawkins is tall, dark and handsome with Hollywood good looks and charisma. At 63 he has the maturity and gravitas to look gubernatorial. He has a proven track record of success as a leader in state government. Hawkins was President of the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind for a decade before taking the helm as Troy University Chancellor 20 years ago. In those 20 years he has transformed Troy University into a renowned worldwide system of higher education.
Hawkins, a native of Mobile, was educated in Alabama. He received his undergraduate degree from Montevallo and his doctorate from University of Alabama.  In addition, he is a decorated Marine veteran who served as an officer in the Vietnam combat.
As a University President in Alabama for 30 years Hawkins knows the ins and outs of state government and more importantly the budget process. He would be the most articulate, polished and erudite governor the state has seen in the past 60 years.  Therefore, the question is whether he makes the race.
There are a host of others looking at the race on the GOP side because the office will be wide open. Gov. Bob Riley will have completed his two-term constitutional limit. At least seven other names have been mentioned.  In addition to Jack Hawkins, the three other upper tier possibilities are Junior College Chancellor and former State Senator Bradley Byrne, and businessmen Jimmy Rane and Tim James. These four are considered players because they can get the money to run. Rane and James could self finance their campaigns and Hawkins and Byrne have the ability to raise the money. Others mentioned are State Treasurer Kay Ivey, Secretary of State Beth Chapman, Retirement Systems guru David Bronner and retiring Congressman Terry Everett.
Steve Flowers is a political columnist.