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Inside the Statehouse with Steve Flowers – May 2, 2014

  |   By: Steve Flowers     |   Letters to the Editor

Early on it appeared that the best political races of the year would be for legislative seats. Indeed, with this being a lackluster year for statewide contests there are some good senate races throughout the state to watch. Most of these hotly contested battles will be intraparty GOP squabbles.

Senate District 11, which is composed primarily of St. Clair and Talladega Counties, may be the best race to watch. Incumbent State Sen. Jerry Fielding is being challenged by State Rep. Jim McClendon. Fielding is a former Talladega County Circuit Judge who retired from the bench after earning his judicial retirement and won this senate seat in 2010.

Dr. Jim McClendon is a retired optometrist from Springville in St. Clair County. Dr. McClendon is a veteran House member who chairs the House Health Committee. However, more importantly, he chaired the Reapportionment Committee last year. By having the pencil that drew Senate lines he enhanced St. Clair County’s opportunity to have a senator. Both men will have ample campaign funds.

There are several open Senate seats around the state that will attract a slew of aspirants. State Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale chose to run for the open 6th District Congressional seat of retiring 20-year veteran Spencer Bachus. Beason’s plunge into the congressional foray has left his seat available for a bevy of candidates.

There are seven candidates seeking Beason’s Republican Senate seat. They are Shay Shelnut, Gayle Gear, Brett King, Adam Ritch, Joe Cochran, Jim Roberts and Jim Murphree. Murphree may be the best known. He has served in the House from Blount County and run several times.

State Sen. Shad McGill opted to not run for reelection after one term. This Northeast Alabama seat is now Republican, primarily because it is probably the most religious region of the most religious state in America. Two men are vying for the seat. Businessman Steve Livingston is the owner of a local oil distributorship and a civic leader. He will be running against 15-year veteran House member Todd Greeson. Greeson should be favored because of a name identification advantage. However, he could be hampered by having ties to AEA. There could be a lot of pro-business and anti-AEA money shipped in from Montgomery to be beat Greeson in this brawl.

Another freshman, Sen. Bryan Taylor, chose to not run for a second term. His suburban Montgomery district comprises the burgeoning bedroom counties of Autauga and Elmore.

There are four folks vying for this open seat. Suzelle Josey of Deatsville is a former spokesperson for Chief Justice Roy Moore. She has run for the Senate before and built some name identification in the River Region. However her best calling card could be her tie to Roy Moore, just ask Dean Young in Baldwin County how potent that link can be in a crowded GOP primary.

Two businessmen will be in the race. Harris Garner of Millbrook and Bill Harris of Prattville. Prattville City Councilman, Clyde Chambliss, could be formidable in this open Senate contest.

The best chance for a GOP pickup will be in the northwest corner of the state. Senate District 1 encompasses Lauderdale and Limestone Counties. It is considered by some politicos as the last remaining bastian of white Democrats left in the State.

Sen. Tammy Irons, a Democrat, may have seen the writing on the wall when she chose late not to run for reelection. The Republicans believe they can pick this seat up, especially with Irons out of the race.

There are three Republicans hoping to take this seat for the GOP, small businessman Jonathan Berryhill, Dr. Tim Melson and Athens City Councilman Chris Seibert who is also a former University of Alabama football player.

In the Wiregrass, Independent State Senator Harri Ann Smith will be opposed by Republican Melinda McClendon. However, Sen. Smith’s reelectability numbers are stratospheric.

State Sen. Gerald Dial, who represents a sprawling East Alabama district, has a host of challengers but should prevail.

All these races will be worth following.

See you next week.

Follow Steve on Twitter at @SteveFlowersAL

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in more than 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.