June 7, 2023 - Dr. Wayne Flynt’s, Afternoons with Harper Lee

Renowned Alabama historian Dr. Wayne Flynt has chronicled and penned a marvelous book appropriately entitled Afternoons with Harper Lee.  This gem is published by New South Books with editing by Randall Williams.  It is receiving worldwide acclaim.  If you are a fan of Harper Lee and her novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, it is a great read.  Nelle Harper Lee was born in Monroeville in 1926 and died in Monroeville ninety years later in 2016.  It was fitting that Dr. Wayne Flynt would give her eulogy.  Her book, To Kill A Mockingbird, is one of the five most bought and read books in the history of the world.  It is second to only to the Bible in most countries.  In secular Great Britain, it surpasses the Bible and is number one.

Dr. Wayne Flynt is probably the most significant and accomplished historian on Alabama history in my lifetime.  He taught history to over 60,000 undergraduate and graduate students at Auburn University for over 28 years.  He was beloved, and he loves Auburn.  He is very proud of his 43 car tag, as he often told Nelle’s accomplished sister Alice.

Dr. Flynt taught history at Samford University for 12 years before beginning his 28 years at Auburn University.  During his illustrious career of 40 years, he authored 14 books, all centered around southern politics, history, and southern culture.  He is very proud of his heritage of being the son of a sharecropper and growing up in the Appalachian culture of rural Calhoun County.

It is so poetic that the most renowned southern Alabama historian of this century would write the most revealing and detailed history of Alabama’s and arguably the world’s most famous author of this century. He tells Nelle Harper Lee’s story explicitly and with authenticity.

Dr. Flynt and his beloved wife, Dorothy “Dartie,” of 60 years, became Harper Lee’s best friends in the twilight of her life.  Wayne and Dartie Flynt journeyed from Auburn to Monroeville and spent 64 afternoons over 12 years visiting and chronicling Harper Lee’s life story as she lived in a modest retirement home in Monroeville even though the royalties from the book were over a million dollars a year.

The book is part memoir and part biography.  It truly tells the intimate story of legendary author Harper Lee.  It encompasses her life and intertwines it with Alabama history.  It is like we Alabamians like to say, “they were sitting on a big front porch swapping life stories.”  Flynt and Lee were both southern storytellers.  They were often joined by Nelle Harper Lee’s two sisters, Alice Lee and Louise Lee Conner.

Alice Lee was ten years older than Nelle and was famous in her own right.  She was one of the first female lawyers in Alabama.  She was one of Monroeville’s most prominent lawyers for close to 80 years.  She practiced law until she was over 100 years old, and was a leader in the Alabama Methodist Church.

Louise Conner introduced the Flynt’s to Nelle Harper.  They met at a History and Heritage Festival in Eufaula in 1983.

Nelle Harper Lee was the classic recluse.  She was very private and very secretive; she liked to drink and curse and speak her mind.  She never married and never really dated.  She wore frumpy, dowdy, non-stylish clothing and disdained being around people and speaking in public.

She lived most of her life in her modest apartment in New York City.  She lived there mostly from ages 23-81, 58 years, with only brief journeys home to Monroeville, Alabama, by train as she did not fly.  New York City gave her the anonymity she desired.

The book tells of her celebrity and meeting other famous people who desired to meet her, including Presidents Lyndon Johnson, George Bush and Barack Obama. She especially liked Lady Bird Johnson who also had Alabama roots.

She adored Gregory Peck, who was the star of the movie To Kill A Mockingbird.  He won an Oscar and every award imaginable for his role as Atticus Finch in the movie.

Only after a stroke in 2007 at 81 did Nelle Harper Lee return home to Monroeville.

Dr. Flynt is also an accomplished ordained Baptist preacher.  He is a true kind-hearted gentleman, who speaks kindly of everyone in his book.  He and Dartie grew to love the foul tempered eccentric, cynical, opinionated, irascible, uninhibited, very private and reclusive author.  He discerns and captures her true humility.  She really felt and often said, modestly, “But all I did was write a book.”  She wrote a pretty good one, and so did Flynt.

See you next week.

May 31, 2023 - Girls State Has Had A Profound Effect on Current State Leaders

The Alabama Boys State and Girls State programs have been the spawning ground for Alabama political leaders for generations.  It is a marvelous civic contribution that the American Legion has sponsored for almost a century in our state.

The prominence that Boys State has played is immense. However, Girls State may very well be eclipsing the boys in this generation, given the amazing array of women who are currently leading our state.

Governor Kay Ivey was a young high school leader growing up in Wilcox County in the early 1960s.  Kay was selected for Girls State and had a week there that left an indelible impression on her.  She went on to Auburn where she was a student leader.  For over 40 years, Kay Ivey has come back to Girls State every year as a counselor, advisor, and speaker.  She is devoted to Girls State.

Dr. Cathy Johnson Randall has been one of the states most respected leaders for 50 years.  She was the most outstanding student at the University of Alabama when I arrived in 1970.  She graduated undergraduate and got her doctorate from the Capstone.  

In her early career years, she was an administrator at the University of Alabama.  She has been a premier businesswoman and philanthropist and Tuscaloosa Civic leader in her adult life.  As a teenager, Cathy was a Girls Stater to say the least.  She was elected Governor of Girls State.  She then went on to Washington and was elected President of Girls Nation.  Furthermore, her daughter Kate was elected Governor of Girls State like her mother and – get this – Kate was also President of Girls Nation.  Cathy’s late husband and Kate’s father, Pettus Randall, was Governor of Alabama Boys State.  It is doubtful any family in America much less Alabama, will ever match that family lineage.

Cathy Randall and Kay Ivey took a young lady from Enterprise under their wings when she arrived at Girls State.  That student leader was one Katie Boyd.  Katie became Governor of Girls State.  She then went on to the University of Alabama and pledged Cathy Randall’s sorority, Chi Omega. Katie was elected Student Government President at Alabama, then married Crimson Tide Football star, Wesley Britt.  Last year Katie Boyd Britt was elected as our United States Senator at the ripe old age of 40.

The list of Girls Staters that are current state leaders does not end with Governor Ivey, Senator Britt and Dr. Randall.  Supreme Court Justice Kelli Wise was a Girls Stater, as well as past Justice Lyn Stuart. Federal District Judge Anna Manasco is a Girls State alumnus from around the same era as Kelli Wise. Mary Margaret Carroll from Ozark, who is one of the state’s top lobbyist, was a Girls Stater with Katie Britt and a Chi Omega with Katie at Alabama.  She was also President of the SGA at the University of Alabama.  Liz Filmore, Kay Ivey’s Chief of Staff, got her start at Girls State.

Many of these women have bonded through the Girls State program.  Especially Kay Ivey, Cathy Randall and Katie Britt.  They are like sisters. The fourth sister in this close knit group is Lee Sellers of Montgomery.  Lee grew up in Montgomery and has lived there all of her life.  She was a prominent Girls State leader as a teenager.  She became Executive Director of Alabama Girls State 21 years ago.  She and her husband, Supreme Court Justice Will Sellers, are some of Kay Ivey’s closest friends. Lee is the glue that keeps this band of Girls State Alumni together.  

Lee will more than likely bring this group of state leaders back to welcome this year’s group of teenage Girls State leaders when they arrive next week to Troy University for the 81st meeting of Alabama Girls State.  There will probably be a future senator or governor in attendance.

Our current governor, Kay Ivey, is the first elected female Republican governor of Alabama. She will not be the last female to be elected governor of our state. In the future, my prediction is that there will be mostly female governors and presidents in future years. It is a fact that the majority of college enrollees and graduates are female.

The reason most future governors and presidents, and probably Supreme Court justices, will be women is because currently 60% of law school graduates are females and this is expected to grow to 70% in the next decade.

See You next week.

May 24, 2023 - Women in Alabama Politics

It is hard to imagine that it was only a little over 100 years ago that women were given the right to vote in the United States.  The 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women full suffrage was finally ratified in 1920.

In recent decades, many folks have lamented that there are very few women in elected office in Alabama, especially in the legislature.  We do indeed have a low percentage of female legislators, most particularly in the Republican ranks.  We have some high-profile female statewide officeholders.  Governor Kay Ivey, PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh and Supreme Court Justices Kelli Wise and Sarah Stewart, to name a few.

Some of the more progressive states have ridiculed our lack of female political participants.  However, history will reveal that we in Alabama were electing women to statewide offices many years before other so-called progressive states.  In fact, women dominated the offices of Secretary of State, State Treasurer and State Auditor for several decades during the 1960s and 1970s. My first observations of Alabama politics were watching women swap out the State Treasurer and Secretary of State posts every four years. In fact, these constitutional offices were considered women offices.

In 1944, Governor Chauncey Sparks appointed Sybil Pool as Secretary of State.  Two years later, in 1946, Pool won the office, overwhelmingly, and became the first woman in Alabama history to be elected to a statewide office.  In that 1946 race, Pool carried 63 out of 67 counties.  Four years later, in her victorious run for State Treasurer, she received the largest vote in state history.  In 1954, she was elected to the first of four terms on the Public Service Commission.

Prior to Pool’s first statewide victory, she had served in the legislature for two terms from her native Marengo County.  She was only the second woman elected to the Alabama Legislature, in addition to being the first woman elected statewide.  All-in-all her political career included eight years as Secretary of State, four years as State Treasurer and 16 years on the State Public Service Commission. Sibyl Pool was way ahead of her time, and she opened the political door for women to walk through in Alabama.

Mary Texas Hurt Garner of Scottsboro was a lawyer by profession and an Assistant Attorney General before being elected Secretary of State in 1954.  She then went on to become State Auditor in 1958.  She was elected State Treasurer in 1962.

Annie Laura Gunter held several prominent cabinet positions in the Wallace Administration. Afterwards, Gunter was elected State Treasurer of Alabama in 1978 and served eight years in that important state office.

Melba Till Allen was one of 10 children, who grew up modestly on an Alabama farm. She rose to be elected as State Auditor and then was elected State Treasurer for two terms.

Mabel Amos and Agnes Baggett were household names in Alabama for decades. Agnes Baggett was probably the most prominent and profiled female officeholder in state history after Sybil Pool. She served as Secretary of State from 1951-1955.  She was then elected State Auditor in 1955, State Treasurer in 1959, and returned to Secretary of State in 1963.  In 1967, she was elected again as State Treasurer and served eight years in this post.  She finished out her career as Secretary of State, thus capping a career that made history.  She served 28 consecutive years as an elected statewide officeholder, making her one of the most celebrated elected officials in Alabama history.

Mabel Amos was one of the most beloved and revered women in state politics. She had an amazing career as the recording secretary for six governors, including Frank Dixon, Chauncey Sparks, James Folsom, Gordon Persons, John Patterson, and George Wallace. There is no telling what secrets and political deals Ms. Mabel knew of during this unbelievable 30-year reign inside the governor’s office. She was elected Secretary of State in 1966, and served eight years in that office.  She was a native of Conecuh County and never married. Therefore, she had no direct heirs. When she died, she had a sizeable estate, primarily of family land. Because she had no children, the beloved lady left her estate with instructions that her money should be used for deserving Alabama female students, who otherwise would not be able to attend Alabama colleges. 

See you next week.

May 17, 2023 - Lurleen Wallace

Kay Ivey is Alabama’s second female governor. Lurleen Wallace was the first. Appropriately, Kay Ivey’s idol and impetus for striving to be governor was Lurleen Wallace.  Kay’s first involvement in state politics was as a campaign worker for Governor Lurleen’s 1966 race for governor when Kay Ivey was a student at Auburn.

It was 55 years ago in May 1968 that our first female governor, Lurleen Wallace, passed away. She was a genuinely humble person. Lurleen Wallace was very popular. The state fell in love with her.  She was not only beloved, she was also a good governor for the 18 months she served before she succumbed to cancer.

Her husband, George Wallace, was first elected governor in 1962.  He had ridden the race issue to the governorship and had made segregation the hallmark issue of his first four years.  He had become the paramount king of segregation in the nation.  He was very popular.  However, he was forbidden by the Alabama Constitution from seeking a second, consecutive term. At that time, the governor could not succeed themself.  

The idea of George Wallace running his wife Lurleen as his proxy had been tossed out by a few of his cronies as a joke.  After a few weeks, the idea grew on Wallace.  He made calls around the state and began to realize that dog might hunt.

George and Lurleen met when he was a 22-year-old law student at the University of Alabama.  He met her at a dime store in Tuscaloosa where she was a 16-year-old clerk.  She was born and raised in Northport.  They soon thereafter got married.

Wallace’s life and devotion was to politics and being governor of Alabama.  Lurleen was content to be a behind the scenes mother.  George’s passion was politics.  Lurleen’s passion was being a mother and going fishing.

Lurleen was a genuinely sweet lady. Her humble background as a dime store clerk in Northport endeared her to Alabamians.  She was gracious and sincere, and people fell in love with her.  Lurleen had been diagnosed with cancer two years prior to the 1966 election.  Although it seemed to be in remission, her health was not excellent.  The campaigning was a challenge to her.  She did not cherish the spotlight like George.  Instead, she preferred her quiet time.  She had been mother and father to four children.

However, after Lurleen agreed to run it seemed to grow on her.  She was a quick study.  She got better day after day.  As the crowds grew, you could feel the momentum and surge in popularity.  She seemed to thrill to it.

Lurleen’s landslide victory in May of 1966 was astonishing.  She set records for vote getting, some of which still stand today.  She defeated nine male opponents without a runoff.  Left in the carnage was an illustrious field of proven veteran political men. Included in the field she demolished were sitting Alabama General Richmond Flowers, Jasper Congressman Carl Elliott, State Senator Bob Gilchrist, Dothan businessman Charles Woods, two former governors John Patterson and Big Jim Folsom, popular state Agriculture Commissioner A.W. Todd, and of course Shorty Price. She then went on to trounce the most popular Republican in the state, Republican Congressman Jim Martin, by a two to one margin.

Lurleen Wallace became Governor in January of 1967.  She warmed to the job and made a very good governor.  She let George know that she was Governor.  However, she lived less than two years after she took office.  Soon after her Inauguration she visited the state’s mental hospital in her native Tuscaloosa County.  She was so moved by the deplorable conditions that she made it her mission to improve the mental health facilities in the state.  She gave one of the most moving speeches ever delivered before a legislature that resulted in passage of a major bond issue to support mental health.

Lurleen was also instrumental in the creation of a major cancer center at UAB.  It came to pass after her death.

She became beloved by Alabamians.  She showed amazing grace and courage as she battled against cancer. When she died, the outpouring of sympathy from people of the state was unparalleled.  Thousands of Alabamians filed by her casket in the Capitol Rotunda. Schools let out and school children came to Montgomery from all over the state to pay their respects for our Lady Governor.

See you next week.

May 10, 2023 - Dr. David Bronner Celebrates Fifty Years as CEO of RSA

The legendary head of the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), Dr. David Bronner, celebrates 50 years as CEO this month.  When the annals of Alabama history are written, there will never be an Alabamian as remarkable a public servant to our state than David Bronner.

Dr. David Bronner has marked his place in Alabama governmental history.  When Bronner took his present job with RSA, the Retirement Systems had approximately $500 million of funds.  Today, RSA has approximately $43.9 billion in funds under management and manages the pensions for 385,000 public teachers and public employees.

Alabama public employees will swear by, standup for, and place on a golden pedestal David Bronner.  They credit him with securing their retirement years with a solid foundation. Indeed, he has. The Employees’ Retirement System and the Teachers’ Retirement System are financially sound and the envy of most other states. Bronner is quick to credit the Alabama Legislature for their part in helping to ensure the systems are fully funded, which is something that has set RSA apart from pensions in other states.

Dr. Bronner is also the head of the insurance program for public educators, the Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Plan. This program covers over 300,000 educators, retirees, and dependents. This $1.4 billion a year program provides excellent benefits to members at a low cost to both the members and employers. In fact, RSA has managed the plan with level funding for the past seven years and plans to do the same in the coming year. 

Bronner was born in Iowa and received his elementary and high school education in Minnesota.  He came to Alabama to study law. He earned his Law Degree and PHD from the University of Alabama in 1972.  Shortly after graduation, he became Assistant Dean of the Law School at the University of Alabama. A year later, at the age of 28, he became head of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

Today, 50 years later, Bronner is a youthful looking 78 with plenty of vigor and probably no plans to retire. When you have a conversation with him it is an experience you will never forget. He is extremely quick witted. There is no mistaking that you are talking with someone very intelligent.  He has digested your words almost before they are out of your mouth and will reply immediately with a succinct response that appears as though he has given it 15 minutes of thought. Of course, that may be because we native Alabamians talk a little slower than he does.

The Retirement Systems of Alabama has contributed a great deal to the state’s economy over the last 50 years. One the greatest legacies that Dr. Bronner may enjoy is his creation of Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.  This idea generated a profit for RSA in the first years. The brilliance of the Golf Trail is not only the profits the Trail generates for the RSA, but the peripheral boost to our state’s economy.

The Golf Trail has enhanced the image of Alabama.  It has also benefitted the state’s attractiveness for corporate recruitment. The economic benefits and prestige that it brings to our state are exponential and helped increase tourism from a $1.8 billion industry to a yearly $24 plus billion industry.

The courses have made Alabama a tourist destination.  It brings well-heeled northern golfers to our state for week-long stays and they spend untold amounts of money in our hotels and restaurants.  Snowbird golf enthusiasts are locked out of their courses six to seven months of the year so they journey to warm climates of the Heart of Dixie to play these world class courses.  They might look at the adjoining hole and see Dr. Bronner playing, chomping on his ever-present cigar.

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s first seven sites were constructed in Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville, Opelika-Auburn, Dothan, and Greenville.  These seven were completed from 1990 to 1994. The Prattville site opened, and the Lakewood Club course in Point Clear joined the Trail in 1999. The premier Hoover site at Ross Bridge appeared in 2005.

The Ross Bridge course and Ross Bridge Renaissance Resort Hotel and Spa may be the crown jewel.  This Hoover location attracts national conventions and has spawned one of the premier residential neighborhoods in the state.  Ross Bridge is home to a good many of the young physicians and medical specialists from UAB.

Dr. Mark Fagan has authored a wonderful book on Alabama’s Golf Trail, Dr. Bronner and the RSA.  It is entitled, Alabama’s Public Pension Fund Growth and Economic Expansions Since 1972.

See you next week.

May 3, 2023 - Jabo Waggoner – An Alabama Political Icon

As I stroll down the halls of the Alabama Senate during this current Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature, I will stop and visit in the offices of my favorite legislative buddies. My favorite and first stop is with my longtime friend Jabo Waggoner.  Jabo, being the Dean of the legislature, has the first prime corner office.  He also chairs the agenda setting Rules Committee.  Therefore, there is a throng of high priced lobbyists camped outside the door trying to get Jabo to put their bills on the Special Order Calendar.  

Jabo and I will swap stories of bygone years and reminisce about past experiences.  Jabo is a big sports fan and was a great college basketball player .In fact, Jabo was one of the founders and remains on the Board of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, which is located in downtown Birmingham. Jabo, Gene Hallman, and Edgar Welden were the pillars and founders of this prestigious Institution.  One of Jabo’s and my favorite remembrances is going together to the Olympic Soccer Games held at Legion Field in Birmingham.

Recently while visiting Jabo, I thought, “I am with an Alabama political icon.” Jabo Waggoner has been in the Alabama Legislature for 50 years this year.  Folks, that is an Alabama record.  Jabo Waggoner is the longest serving legislator in Alabama history.  He served 17 years in the Alabama House of Representatives and is in his 33rd year in the Alabama Senate.

Jabo was first elected to the Alabama Senate in 1990.  The heart of his district has always been the entire city of Vestavia.  He also represents parts of Homewood and Hoover. This is a very Republican area and therefore, Jabo is an arch Republican.

Jabo is revered in Jefferson County, but his popularity extends beyond Jefferson and Shelby counties.  When Kay Ivey was running for Governor for the first time in 2018, she asked Jabo to be her titular campaign manager.  He introduced her as she announced her candidacy.

Jabo is adored by his Senate colleagues, especially the younger state senators.  They throng to him for tutoring and mentoring.  The Senate leaders, Greg Reed of Jasper and Clay Scofield of Arab, seek his guidance on tricky senate maneuverings.

Jabo was the Republican Minority Leader of the State Senate from 1999 until the Republicans gained a legislative majority in 2010.  He was the first Republican Majority Leader, then relinquished that role to be the Rules Chairman where he currently serves.

Jabo is married to his high school sweetheart Marilyn.  They have been married for over 60 years.  I have never met a more beautiful or sweeter lady than Marilyn Waggoner.  They had four children, three sons and a daughter.  One of their sons, Scott, died at an early age in an automobile accident.

Jabo and Marilyn are ardent members of the Homewood Church of Christ.  They attend almost every Sunday and sit with Jabo’s best friend Dr. Swaid Swaid and his wife, Christy.  Jabo’s and Marilyn’s children attend the same church.

Jabo Waggoner has done a lot for Jefferson County for over 50 years.  It would take a book to chronicle his legislative accomplishments and good deeds. In the 1970’s Waggoner sponsored legislation which spearheaded the purchase of 45 blocks in downtown Birmingham for UAB’s expansion.  UAB purchased this property, which was valued at $8.5 million at that time.  There is no telling what that land is worth today – probably well over $200 million to $300 million.

Jabo was first elected to the legislature in 1966.  It is no coincidence that UAB has grown into one of the premier medical and research institutions in America and the Crown Jewel of Alabama during that same period. Although Jabo is an arch conservative Republican, he has forged a close working relationship with his fellow Democratic Senate leader Roger Smitherman to work across the aisle for the good of Jefferson County.

In closing, in all my years of following Alabama politics, I have never seen a more modest or amicable leader than Jabo Waggoner, Jr.  I have never seen or heard of anyone who has ever met Jabo that did not like him.  Jabo Waggoner is an icon of Alabama political history.

See you next week.

April 26, 2023 - Alabama has a Host of Outstanding Political Leaders under 45

It may appear to you and most casual observers of Alabama politics that our Alabama elected officials are old. That observation is accurate when you observe our current leaders in the highest offices.

The governor’s office has been held by mature folks in recent years.  Our current Governor, Kay Ivey, is 78 and has been the object of national media humor for appearing to be a pistol toting great grandmother.  Dr. Robert Bentley, her predecessor, was in his 70’s, but he may have been sprier than he appeared.  Bob Riley was no spring chicken while governor at age 65, although he looked younger.  Our iconic senator, Richard Shelby, retired in January at 88 after a record breaking 36 years in the U.S. Senate.  Our new Senior Senator, Tommy Tuberville, is 68.

This was not always the case in the Heart of Dixie.  In the period from 1930 through 1970, we elected the youngest political leaders in the nation beginning with our legendary tandem of United States Senators, Lister Hill and John Sparkman, who served together close to 30 years.  Lister Hill was elected to Congress from Montgomery in 1923 at age 29 and was elected to the U.S. Senate at age 44. John Sparkman was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1946 at 46 after serving as the Congressman for the Tennessee Valley.

If you think Hill and Sparkman were young when they went to Washington, you have not seen anything like the governors we elected from 1946 -1966.  James E. “Big Jim” Folsom was 38 when he was elected in 1946.  John Patterson was 37 when he was elected in 1958.  Patterson was referred to as the “Boy Governor.”  When George Wallace was elected to his first term in 1962, he was only 43.  When his wife Lurleen Wallace was elected in 1966, she was 40.  She died in office of cancer less than two years later at 41.

Lurleen Wallace was succeeded by Lt. Governor Albert Brewer, who had been Speaker of the Alabama House at 34, Lt. Governor at 38, and was 39 when he became governor.

Bill Baxley was the youngest Attorney General in America when he was elected Attorney General of Alabama at 29 years old in 1970.  He had been a 25 year old District Attorney in Houston and Henry Counties.  Baxley still practices law in Birmingham at 81.

Well folks, a cursory look at our current top elected officials may appear old, however, we have a generation of young political leaders arriving on the scene in Alabama.  

We already have superstars on the horizon and already on the scene who are under 45.

Our new United States Senator, Katie Britt, is only 40 years old. She has the ability and youthfulness to be one of Alabama’s greatest senators.  She has gotten to the Senate at a younger age than Hill, Sparkman, or Shelby.  

Marshall County has become the hot bed and breeding ground for the next generations of Alabama political leaders.  This beautiful pristine lake area of North Alabama lays claim to Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth age 41, State Senate Majority leader, Clay Scofield age 42 and State Representative Wes Kitchens who is 35 and is Vice Chairman of the House Republican Caucus.

Andrew Sorrell, the newly elected State Auditor, is only 37.  He has a bright future.

The brightest star in the Democratic ranks is Huntsville State Representative Anthony Daniels.  At age 40, Daniels is a superstar.  He is in his third term in the House from Huntsville.  He is the Minority Leader in the House.  This gentleman is also a successful high tech businessman in the Rocket City.

There are several other stars under 45 in the Alabama House of Representatives beside Daniels and Kitchens, including Kyle South of Fayette, Matt Simpson of Daphne, Joe Lovvorn of Auburn, Ben Robbins of Sylacauga, Scott Stadthagen of Madison, Corey Harbison of Cullman, and very young newcomers James Lomax of Huntsville and Brock Colvin of Albertville.

Joining the affable and accomplished 42 year old Senate Majority Leader, Clay Scofield, in the powerful State Senate in the under 45 superstar group are Senator Chris Elliott 42 of Baldwin, Senator Andrew Jones 38 of Cherokee, and newly elected Senator Josh Carnley from Coffee County who is 44.

Alabama has a host of under 45 political leaders.

See you next week.

April 19, 2023 - Our National Debt is Unsustainable

As the first Regular Session of the Quadrennium evolves there are a myriad of complex issues arising. I am reminded of three simple truisms regarding the Alabama legislature and the governing of the State of Alabama. 

First of all, if anything significant or controversial or any major initiative is to be addressed, then it is dealt with in the first year of the four-year quadrennium. Thus, giving legislators three years before their constituents vote on them again. The political pragmatism and expectation is that voters will forget.  

Secondly, there may seem to be an urge to deal with all the hundreds of bills that have been thrown into the hopper and special interest groups or lobbyists are espousing that a particular piece of legislation has to be dealt with or it will be the downfall of the state.  Not so. The only definitive legislation that has to be dealt with are the state budgets.  That is the only constitutional mandate required of legislators in a session.  

The third truism surrounds the second.  In regard to passage of the budget, our Constitution wisely has a sacrosanct conservative mandate that there must be a balanced budget. The Alabama Legislature cannot deficit spend or overspend the projected revenues for the year.  Our current super Republican majority legislature is so conservative, they not only adhere to the Constitutional prohibition against deficit spending, they do not even spend 100% of the year’s budget.  For the past decade they have put state revenues away into a rainy day fund.  They are truly budgeting conservatively.

If that were only true of our United States Congress. Our U.S. Congressmen and Senators are simply printing money in Washington.  They are recklessly spending our nation into an abysmal hole, one that we may never be able to get out of.  This tremendous federal deficit is our nation’s most acute problem.  The United States cannot survive and keep spending money that we do not have.  Our national debt is so high that we are basically nothing more than a third world country.  Communist China will not take us over militarily or by flying balloons over our country.  They will take us over without firing one bullet.  They will defeat us economically.  Again, it is a serious problem that must be addressed if we are to survive as a nation.

The national debt is so devastating that within the next year it will be higher than our Gross National Product (GNP).  In fiscal year 2022 alone, the deficit was $1.4 trillion.  The total national deficit is so high that it is difficult for the treasury or economic analysts to accurately assess.  It is between $400 trillion to $528 trillion.  Folks, that is trillion with a “t” not billions.  To put it closer to home, the federal debt per person for every man, woman, and child and yes, that includes you and your children and grandchildren, is $96,403 per person.  That is what your federal government legislators have done to you.  It is simply unsustainable.

The United States cannot continue down this path of spending ourselves into oblivion.  We cannot keep spending like drunken sailors.  Our great conservative President, Ronald Reagan, made a legendary statement when facing a free spending Democratic Congress, “You know people are saying that the Democratic Congress is spending money like drunken sailors.  That’s an insult to sailors, they don’t hold a candle to Congress.”

One of my wise readers wrote me this anecdote about the crisis.  She said, “Democrats are determined to bankrupt the country.  Just paying interest on the debt is going to wreck the economy and very soon.  What they are doing would be analogous to my going out and buying a luxurious ocean liner, a castle in Spain, and a Lamborghini and charging it all to my grandchildren and great grandchildren.”  She is not the only one of my readers that are concerned with this crisis.

Our United States Federal deficit and debt is our nation’s number one problem.  Hopefully, one of the GOP Presidential aspirants will make this their major political platform.  They may be surprised at how many conservative Americans will follow them.  We will see.

See you next week.

April 12, 2023 - Democrats give Trump a Lifeline

As mentioned last week, the Presidential race has begun. The first bomb or salvo dropped last week with the political indictment of Donald Trump by a Democratic New York Manhattan borough prosecutor.  It used to be off limits to use the courts to indict a person for political reasons. Make no mistake about it, this trumped up political ploy is just that – political theatrics.

There is an old saying that you can indict a potato. The legal threshold for getting a grand jury to offer a writ of indictment only requires there is a scintilla of evidence that there may be a crime or misdemeanor. Therefore, a prosecutor can orchestrate an indictment. There will never be a conviction of Trump in this ploy.  It would take six years of delaying and going through appellate courts before the case would ever be heard, and it would probably be thrown out by one of the appeals courts for lack of culpability.  

You may ascertain from the facts whether you think it was Democratic ploy or not.  You have a Democratic district attorney in an overwhelmingly Democratic state and local Democratic venue, who ran on a platform of garnering an indictment of former President Trump for some reason and he is running for reelection in a Democratic primary.

If indeed political prosecution has become the new partisan weapon in political skullduggery, then you could very easily see a Republican district attorney in rural Idaho get an indictment against Joe Biden for many reasons.  

The New York indictment and arraignment of Trump is as far as this case will go.  The purpose of the Democratic district attorney has been fulfilled and accomplished.  The sensationalism was met with glee by the liberal media.  However, it was met with glee by one Donald J. Trump, also.  It gave him a political lifeline. 

Make no mistake about it, the New York charade was politically motivated but not for the reason you would think. Most would assume the Democrats wanted to bloody Trump in order to beat him in the General Election next November against Biden.  Not so. That story is written. That boat has sailed.  Polling reveals Trump cannot be elected President.  He is detested by 75% of the American electorate.  Believe me, from years of observing politics, if you have a candidate who begins the race with 100% name identification and 50% negative, they should not run.  They will lose. There is no mistake about it, if Trump is the nominee of either party or any party. He will lose.  The only other candidate who has similar negative numbers like Trump is Joe Biden.  

If you have a race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the old political truism that more people vote against someone than vote for someone will definitely come into play.  Biden would beat Trump much worse than four years ago.  Biden’s negatives are 50%.  Trump’s negatives are 75%.  Therefore, Biden would out negative Trump again.  There are no independents or Democrats who will vote for Trump and only 30% of Republicans embrace him.  The bottom line is any Republican besides Trump will beat Joe Biden, and any Democrat will beat Trump including Joe Biden.  

So, you ask why are the Democrats attacking Trump?  The answer is they are trying to help him win the Republican nomination.  The act has worked.  Trump has a hard core 30% of Republican primary voters.  He had become so unpopular even among Republicans that he had dropped to 25% with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 40% without DeSantis being in the race.  This New York Democratic ploy has brought such an outcry of sympathy for Trump among Republicans that he has jumped from 25% to 45% in the polls.  He has also milked the Democratic scheme for over $10 million in campaign contributions.  

In short, Trump was going down the tubes in hopes of being the Republican nominee, but the Democrats gave him a lifeline. It also helps Trump by diffusing any other political indictments brought against him, which may have more merit than this one but will now be viewed as frivolous and political.

The Democratic effort to make Trump the Republican nominee may not succeed. Ultimately they were hoping Trump could at least get to 50% polling with the outrage of their ploy, but he has only jumped from 25% to 45%.  This 45% will probably drop back to 30 to 35% in about a month when DeSantis and others join the fray.

In the meantime, Democrats will do all they can to try to make Trump the GOP nominee.

The Presidential race is in full swing.  Machiavelli is not dead even if Donald Trump is.

See you next week.

April 5, 2023 - The Presidential Race Has Begun

The presidential race has begun, and rightly so because 2024 is just around the corner.  The early primaries are less than 10 months away.  We in Alabama have an early Presential Primary exactly 11 months from now on March 5, 2023.

Actually, the Republican challengers are slow getting out of the gate.  The obvious elephant in the room is the looming presence of one, Donald Trump.  He seems intent on running.  His ego will not allow him to read the tea leaves, as well as every scientific poll, which tells him that he is yesterday’s news and that over 75% of American voters detest him and he cannot defeat anyone in a presidential race.  In fact, polling reveals that any Democrat or foreign dictator would beat him by landslide proportions by a much larger margin than the overwhelming defeat he received from the listless, almost lifeless, Biden in 2020.

The problem for Republicans is that Trump is sitting there with a hard core 30% base of Republican voters.  Therefore, if six or more substantial Republican presidential entrants get into the battle for the nomination and they average getting 12% of the GOP Primary votes, then Trump could prevail with his 30% base.  Thus giving him the nomination and ultimate electoral disaster for Republicans.  They would lose the presidential contest so badly that it would take down a host of Republican congressional seats.  Republicans would suffer dramatically from the negative Trump coattail effect.  Republicans would most certainly lose their slim margin in the House of Representatives, but would also lose precious seats in the U.S. Senate

The Republican Party strategists and insiders are keenly aware of the Trump debacle scenario and are rallying around Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.  Rank and file GOP Primary voters are flocking to him in droves.  If the money is there to offset the Trump machine and gutter attacks that come with it, DeSantis will probably prevail.  The reluctance of other major GOP candidates getting into the fray is a sign that the conservatives in the country are working behind the scenes to orchestrate and discourage “also ran” candidates from getting into the race which would give DeSantis a clear undeterred victory to face Joe Biden in November.  Minor candidates like Mike Pence and Nikki Haley will run but polling shows them with a 3% threshold.  Haley is probably angling to be DeSantis’ Vice Presidential choice. Ron DeSantis will probably be the Republican nominee and face Joe Biden in Fall 2024.

Make no mistake about it, Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee. It is far too late in the nominating process for a Democratic challenger to get into the race against an incumbent President.  Therefore, Biden will skate to the nomination of his party without taxing his diminished stamina.  In fact, his handlers will probably keep him out of sight during the entire campaign, which is a tried and true effective campaign strategy to elect ole Joe Biden.

President Joe Biden’s age is his biggest albatross towards reelection.  Even Democratic voters who tend to be younger, are concerned by it.  His demeanor and gait accentuate his diminished capacity and advanced age.  Indeed, 82 is a pretty advanced age to be in the Oval Office.

However, if you watched his February State of the Union Address, his performance dispelled naysayers.  His delivery, appearance and lucidness were on par with any 60 year old President.  I have seen quite a few State of the Union speeches of sitting presidents and his performance was one of the most brilliant and well delivered I have seen.  It was shocking and amazing.

Forty million Americans were watching, not to hear what he had to say but how he said it.  Most Americans were looking for a stumbling, tongue wagging, incognizant old Uncle Joe.

Instead he was on script, lucid, and glib who came off script and handled heckling from right wing, back bench Republicans with aplomb.  He deviated from the teleprompter with candid, sincere comments.  He made a brilliant opening campaign appearance which will resonate with voters throughout the campaign when he is described as a doddering old fool who should be in a nursing home.

He has also been in politics long enough to know to trust his handlers and stay away from voters, and just parrot the old line, liberal Democratic talking points that say Republicans are against Social Security, which by the way is the most demagogic liberal lie ever espoused,  Republicans are not for cutting Social Security, most of their voters would starve to death.

If indeed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is the Republican nominee, it will be a close presential race in November 2024, which is not that far away.

See you next week.