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Flowers: Follow money in political campaigns

Political commentator and former legislator Steve Flowers, who’s been saying for months a Republican is likely to be elected governor in 2011, told Kiwanis members Monday he’ll save any other predictions for now.

“I’ll handicap the race in two weeks,” Flowers said “They’re like lizards. They have to show their money on Jan. 31, and there’s a direct correlation between who’s raised the most money and who will win.”

Flowers opened his comments with anecdotes about former Gov. James E. “Big Jim” Folsom.

“Politicians aren’t as colorful as they used to be,” he said, adding that when Folsom was governor candidates couldn’t use television to influence voters in the way that they do now.

“Now it’s who can raise a lot of money and get on TV,” he said.

Alabamians have voted Republican in all presidential races since 1964, except in 1976 when the state supported Carter.

“We have a tendency to vote Republican on national races, but that doesn’t transcend down to local races,” he said. “Historically, most sheriffs and probate judges have been Democrats.

“The meeting ground is the governor’s race,” he said. “It’s not a foregone conclusion that the Republican will win. We have a tendency to vote for the person in that race.”

And “the person” for whom most Alabamians would have voted this year happens to be the son of the colorful “Big Jim,” Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom, Jr.

“The middle—of-the road Democrat was Folsom,” Flowers said “Folsom’s decision not to run affected the race.”

Folsom, who has been elected lieutenant governor three times and filled the unexpired term of then-Gov. Guy Hunt (R-Holley Pond) when Hunt was forced to resign, is seeking re-election for a fourth term.

Roy Moore, who currently leads Republican candidates for governor in statewide polling, “inherently gets 20 to 25 percent of the vote, not below that, but not up from that either,” Flowers said. “Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) will emerge as the big business candidate with big money.

“Tim James (R-Greenville) has spent a year and a half on this race and he’s got to have made inroads,” Flowers said. “He would have sold better in a bygone era because he sells better in person.”

Flowers said he’s not discounting Kay Ivey, the current state treasurer who’s also a Republican candidate for governor. But, he said, there’s an old “country” saying in politics, “They ain’t heavy enough.”

In the polls, people positively like her, Flowers said, but also say they won’t vote for her.

“It’s like that old country saying, ‘She ain’t heavy enough,’ ” Flowers said.

Turning to the Democratic primary for governor, Flowers said Congressman Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, has spent a whole year raising money for the race in Manhattan.

Flowers said pundits give Davis a good chance, but he personally believes current Ag Commissioner Ron Sparks’s popularity among Democrats in North Alabama will give him an edge in the governor’s race.

The primaries are on June 1, he said, adding that another game-changer this year will be the length of time between that day and primary run-offs, which will be held in mid-July.

Whoever emerges the winner in November, Flowers said, “will be walking aboard the deck of the Titanic” when he takes office next January.

He said Gov. Bob Riley’s proposed budget, based on the hope of receiving funds from yet-to-be approved national stimulus plan, will leave the state in serious shape by next January.

Turning to other elections, he said the Republican primary for attorney general, which will pit incumbent Troy King against Luther Strange, will be among the most interesting on the ballot.

And, he said, Republicans will do well in the national mid-term elections this year.

“The only one in trouble (in Alabama) is (Bobby) Bright,” Flowers said, despite the fact the Montgomery Democrat has voted with the Republicans on all issues except one.

“He’s been at every crossroads in the district,” Flowers said. “He’s done more one-on-one campaigning in a year than his predecessor did in 16 years.”