Inside Alabama Politics – February 19, 2019
It may be early yet in the race for U.S. Senate in 2020, but look for things to heat up soon.
Multiple sources tell Inside Alabama Politics that Congressman Bradley Byrne is set to formally announce his candidacy this week. Though widely expected for months, Byrne’s formal entrance into the race signals a new phase of the campaign and puts other potential candidates “on the clock.”
Byrne is popular in the 1st congressional district and has been making his way around the state to reintroduce himself to voters outside South Alabama. Of course, many will remember Byrne from being on the verge of becoming governor in 2010 before narrowly losing the primary runoff to eventual winner Robert Bentley.
Byrne recently told Alabama Daily News that he learned several lessons from that campaign. Namely, don’t pick an unnecessary fight with a behemoth like the Alabama Education Association, avoid another situation with then-opponent Tim James in which “we’re just shooting holes in each other” and allowing a third candidate to rise, and, most importantly just be himself.
“I just gotta be me,” Byrne said. “Sometimes you get these political consultants, and they have this cookie cutter way of saying, ‘you need to be X.’ Well, no, I don’t need to be X. I need to be Bradley.”
One candidate you shouldn’t quite count out of the race is Congressman Gary Palmer. When Palmer ascended to a House GOP leadership position earlier this year, many assumed any Senate ambitions would yield to the new responsibility of being Republican Policy Committee Chairman. However, Palmer said has not ruled out a Senate run.
“I want to be where I can make a difference,” Palmer said. “Certainly there will be a time when I need to show my cards, one way or the other, in the next few weeks. I think it’s unfair to a lot of folks out there that do want to run not to say something with all the attention that I’ve gotten for that seat.”
Also, Lee Busby is considering a formal run for the U.S. Senate this time around, according to those familiar with this thinking. Busby, a retired Marine and former aide to General John Kelly, waged a write-in campaign during the Roy Moore – Doug Jones contest that resulted in a lot of media attention and 3,696 votes.
State Senate committee changes
The Alabama Legislature’s Regular Session begins in just two weeks, and those keeping track of the State Senate will notice some changes to the upper chamber’s organization.
Each Senator was asked to drop two committees from his or her assignments from last quadrenicm in an attempt to consolidate committee work and help the body function on time. Last term, some senators sat on as many as nine committees, leading to an almost unbearable workload and meeting schedules that forced the Senate to run late on committee days.
This year, the major committees that tend to meet every week – including Judiciary and Ways & Means Education and General Fund, will meet on Wednesday mornings and be asked to conclude their business before 1:00 p.m. Smaller committees that tend to meet every other week will be scheduled for the afternoons.
Sources tell IAP that committee chairmen will also play a more influential role in the flow of legislation in the Senate. With President Pro Tem Del Marsh preparing for a likely U.S. Senate run and Majority Leader Greg Reed needing to please GOP Caucus members in order to win the top job, look for committee chairmen to assume more control over the day-to-day business of the body.
A new Solicitor General
After recruiting Clark Morris away from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to replace Matt Hart as head of Special Prosecutions, Attorney General Steve Marshall has made another major hire.
Eddie LaCour has joined the Attorney General’s Office as Assistant Solicitor General and will take the reins as Solicitor General when current Solicitor General Andrew Brasher is confirmed to the federal bench. LaCour clerked for Judge Bill Pryor on the 11th Circuit and comes to the AG’s Office from Kirkland and Ellis in Washington, D.C. where he worked with Paul Clement, former United States Solicitor General. LaCour is a graduate of Birmingham Southern and Yale Law.
BCA adds to State House team
David Cole and Molly Cagle will soon be joining the staff of the Business Council of Alabama. Both are well-known and well-respected lobbyists with close ties inside the State House: Cole, from his time with the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) and Cagle from service in Senate President Pro Team Del Marsh’s office and most recently representing Manufacture Alabama.
In an email to board members, BCA President Katie Britt announced that that Cole would take over as Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs and that Cagle would become Vice President of Governmental Affairs.
Britt wrote that Cagle and Cole “position the BCA to serve our members and advocate effectively on behalf of the business community.”
It’s not just the reputations of Cole and Cagle that make the hires interesting, it’s where they’re coming from.
For BCA to get Cole from ALFA and Cagle from Manufacture Alabama could signal much closer working relationships between groups that historically have not always aligned. For Katie Britt, quietly consolidating alliances with other business groups could be her first big win at the helm of BCA.
With David Cole’s departure, ALFA has promoted Preston Roberts to Director of Agriculture Legislation. A Shelby County native and Auburn graduate, Roberts has paid his dues the last five years working as an Area Organization Director in East Alabama. Executive Director Paul Pinyan said Roberts “embraces the Federation’s grassroots policy process and has proven effective in facilitating relationships among members and lawmakers.”
Boozer, Ward to Banking Department
Superintendent of Banking Mike Hill is bringing on two new members to his team at the Department of Banking. Former State Treasurer Young Boozer has come on board as Deputy Superintendent of Banking. Lindsey Clements Ward, wife of State Sen. Cam Ward and former State House staffer, will soon start as Staff Attorney. She’ll take over for Anne Gunter, who is leaving Banking for the Alabama Securities Commission.
State Sen. David Burkette is now home from a rehabilitation facility and undergoing physical therapy to recover from a stroke he suffered in December.
Those familiar with Burkette’s condition say he is improving every day and has recovered much of his speech, but some paralysis on his left side remains. It remains to be seen if the Senator will be able to fully return to work when the Legislature’s Regular Session convenes in three weeks.
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