Alabama editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:
The Gadsden Times and Tuscaloosa News on Jeff Sessions running for his former U.S. Senate seat for Alabama:
It’s not quite a rewind to the wilder days of Alabama elections — like the Democratic gubernatorial primaries in 1958 and 1978 that drew 14 and 13 candidates, respectively.
However, Jeff Sessions’ non-surprising decision to try to regain the U.S. Senate seat he held for two decades before joining President Donald Trump’s cabinet as attorney general has certainly thrown a drop or two of acetylene on what already was poised to be a heated Republican primary race next year.
Eight GOP candidates are bidding to replace Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, who has no opposition.
With apologies to state Rep. Arnold Mooney of Shelby County, who’s run some television ads touting his conservative credentials, former businessman and evangelist Stanley Adair and community activist Ruth Page Nelson, there are five serious candidates: U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope; Secretary of State John Merrill; former Chief Justice Roy Moore; former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville — and Sessions.
That’s a high-powered field — so who’s going to win? Well, if we knew that with certainty, we’d be enriching ourselves in Las Vegas. (You can put down a bet on anything there).
Here’s a little analysis, though, four months ahead of the primary. (It’s actually going to be a short campaign compared to the never-ending race for the presidency.)
First, each of the top contenders is as conservative as you can get. Anyone who drops the epithet “RINO” in this campaign is just being silly.
Sessions’ time as attorney general didn’t go well, as he drew Trump’s enmity for recusing himself from the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race and eventually was forced out.
Trump has had nasty things to say about Sessions then and now, but indicated in an interview last week that he wouldn’t campaign against him. Perhaps Sessions’ first campaign ad — in which he expressed “full support” for the president — had something to do with that.
However, don’t be surprised if Sessions’ rivals start poking at the Trump-Sessions relationship. Byrne was pictured in Trump’s box during Saturday’s Alabama-LSU football game in Tuscaloosa, and said after Sessions entered the race that Alabama needs a senator “who will stand with the president and won’t run away and hide from the fight.”
Tuberville went on the attack like he was back on the sideline coaching, trying to put an opponent away. He accused Sessions in a tweet of failing Trump “at his point of highest need” and put out an ad highlighting some of the president’s most venomous remarks about the former senator.
Some observers believe Moore, who barely lost to Jones in the 2017 special election for the Senate seat in the wake of accusations of sexual assault dating back decades, may finally have worn out his welcome. Don’t bet on it. He has a devoted cadre of followers who see him as a paladin marching as to war, with the Cross of Jesus going on before (apologies to Sabine Baring-Gould and Arthur Sullivan). They will vote for him regardless of how many people — including Trump — say bad things about him or how many obstacles are placed in their path.
Merrill has been an effective secretary of state — we’ve praised his efforts multiple times in this space — and is touting his success as a “conservative reformer” in his campaign appearances. However, wonder how much staying power he’ll have, or if he’ll get drowned out, with the heat that the other top candidates are going to generate.
Prediction: Byrne, Sessions and Tuberville will play “can you top this” as far as who’s most closely tied to Trump, in a state where support for the president is arguably the most intense. If those three beat up on each other too badly, it could open the door for Moore with his solid bloc of support to earn a runoff spot, and create some consternation for a lot of Republicans in both Alabama and Washington, D.C. Merrill looks like a spoiler.
Tune in after March 3 to see if we’re on target or skittering through the ozone.
Opelika-Auburn News on Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for improvement and greater interest in the so-called STEM fields:
It’s the time of year when prospective college students graduating high school in 2020 are considering their options and choices for their next level of education.
College-shopping and the application process is an important and a life-defining time for these students, and so is their decision-making process on what career fields to consider.
That’s why Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s recent call for improvement and greater interest in the so-called STEM fields is timely.
Ivey was presented with a plan to improve STEM education across the state and create a workforce pipeline critical to filling the more than 850,000 STEM-related occupations that will be needed in the state by 2026, according to a statement from her office.
Alabama seeks to become a national leader in STEM fields such as aerospace, biotechnology, biomedicine, cybersecurity and advanced manufacturing. But companies struggle to fill those jobs with qualified candidates.
“Academically, Alabama’s students have fallen behind in math and science proficiency and significant educator shortages make it difficult to recruit, train and retain well qualified educators equipped in the methods of a modern STEM classroom,” Ivey said.
“This is why I am encouraged by the recommendations included in Alabama’s Roadmap to STEM Success, developed the Governor’s Advisory Council for Excellence in STEM (ACES),” she said.
The roadmap plan was developed by ACES, a group of 78 leaders from across the state representing a wide swath of STEM-related fields including science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Next steps for the roadmap involve sharing the recommendations with educational leaders and policy makers, with an eye toward implementation.
Ivey is correct in saying that the good job opportunities requiring STEM-related talent are available for the taking in Alabama, and state officials are correct in saying that to bring or create more of these jobs, we must have a qualified workforce.
It’s something worth a much closer look for these students about to make their big decisions about a college education.
Pursuing a STEM-related degree could be good for them, and good for the economy of Alabama.
The Decatur Daily and (Florence) TimesDaily on resistance to an election in the Alabama Democratic Party:
If there is a more dysfunctional political organization anywhere among the world’s developed democracies than the Alabama Democratic Party, we have not seen it. Nor would we want to see it. We don’t like gawking at traffic accidents.
This past Saturday (Nov. 2), Alabama Democrats met and elected state Rep. Christopher England, of Tuscaloosa, the party’s new chairman. He received 104 of 171 ballots cast at the meeting of the State Democratic Executive Committee, the state party’s governing body, The Montgomery Advertiser reported.
That vote came after the committee’s roughly 175 members voted 172 to 0 to remove Chairwoman Nancy Worley and Vice Chair Randy Kelley.
But Worley, a former Alabama Education Association official and teacher in Decatur City Schools, isn’t giving up yet. Having clung to power so long, she’s not about to give it up, even if it means burning the party down.
“The true (State Democratic Executive Committee) members did not elect two new officers in our places today,” Worley said in a statement. “Randy and I look forward to continuing our leadership roles.”
Like some state Democratic organizations during the civil rights era, when the party in the South was divided between integrationist and segregationist factions, the Alabama Democratic Party has two rival governing bodies. One is recognized by the national party and is now led by England and Vice Chair Patricia Todd, a former state representative from Birmingham.
It also has the backing of Alabama’s only Democratic statewide elected official, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones.
The other faction, the “government in exile,” if you will, is led by Worley.
Worley taught Latin in Decatur City Schools, so she ought to recognize a lost cause when she sees it. And hers is a lost cause.
The Democratic National Committee had already refused to ratify the delegate selection plan Worley submitted and had warned that the Alabama party was in danger of its delegates to next year’s Democratic National Convention being invalidated.
The Democrats’ national leadership has clearly had enough of Worley’s faction, which has presided over the Alabama Democratic Party’s slide into irrelevance and insolvency.
The state party’s woes have not been entirely the fault of its state leadership. The Democratic brand is as toxic in Alabama as the Republican brand was until just a few decades ago, and that is owing entirely to the national party.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is more popular in Alabama than in any other state.
No matter who is in charge of it, the Alabama Democratic Party has a herculean task ahead of it, starting with just helping to get Jones reelected to the Senate seat Republicans gifted him by nominating Roy Moore.
The only thing certain is the state party needs new blood, because the old guard sure isn’t getting it done.