2013: Year of the quitters

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The year 2013 could be called the year of the quitter in Alabama politics. We have seen some high profile and significant political resignations during the year.

The parade of departures began with 1st District Congressman Jo Bonner. He served 10 years as the coastal Mobile/Baldwin Counties’ representative in Washington. He left Congress and doubled his congressional pay to take a position with the University of Alabama system.

Next comes Secretary of State Beth Chapman. She resigned her post with 17 months remaining on her term. Her reason for leaving was to make more money being a political consultant to the Alabama Farmers Federation.

During the summer, two of the most powerful men in the Alabama House of Representatives left with a year remaining in their prestigious positions. Rep. Jay Love of Montgomery was Chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Budget Committee. His counterpart, Rep. Jim Barton of Mobile, chaired the House General Fund Budget Committee. In the State House of Representatives there are 105 members. However, only about five are major players by virtue of their positions. As budget chairmen, Love and Barton were among the five.

Bonner, Chapman and Barton left early to feather their own nests as lobbyists or consultants. Love always let it be known that he was more interested in being a businessman than a politician. These rash resignations in the midst of their reign are hard to contemplate. It seems like they could have waited another year and served out their terms and simply not run for reelection in 2014.

Sarah Palin is the classic case of the quitter. The good people of Alaska elected her their governor. John McCain’s think tank and polling data revealed that the best choice for a running mate in the 2008 election would be a female governor from the west. The computer spit out the name of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. McCain rolled the dice and picked her. Some believe his gamble hurt him. Most times the choice of vice president has no affect on the presidential race. However, exit polling revealed that Palin for the first time in history was a detriment to the GOP ticket that year. Nevertheless, she rose to prominence by McCain plucking her out of obscurity. She then chose to abandon Alaska and pursue fame and fortune as a commentator on Fox News and on the speaking circuit. As she so adroitly alluded to in her vice presidential race, you can see Russia from Alaska.

My observation is that voters tend to resent quitting the job you were elected to, especially when you leave to make money. However, the other obvious observation is that these folks have no intention of ever reentering the arena, otherwise they would not have left abruptly.

It is doubtful that you will ever see the names of Jay Love, Jim Barton, Jo Bonner or Beth Chapman on your ballot again.

The departure of Love as the House Budget chairman paved the way for Tuscaloosa to further enhance their power in Alabama politics. Speaker Mike Hubbard chose freshman Tuscaloosa Rep. Bill Poole to chair the House Education Budget Committee. This gives the Druid City the governor, the chairman of the House Education Budget Committee, as well as the most powerful member of our congressional delegation, Congressman Aderholt, who sits on Appropriations. Not to mention Alabama’s most prominent and powerful political figure, our senior U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby.

Speaking of Tuscaloosa, the Mercedes plant located in Tuscaloosa County stands out as the most important economic development coup for Alabama in the last three decades. Mercedes continues to expand exponentially. Its expansion buoys the state’s positive economic forecast.

The Mercedes plant was the crucible and impetus for the other two major auto manufacturing plants locating in the state. Mercedes along with the Honda plant in Talladega County and Hyundai in Montgomery have propelled Alabama into the number two state in the nation for automotive production.