Shelby’s seniority important to state

Published 1:00 am Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We are only a few weeks away from our March 1st primary. We have an early primary date this year due to the fact that we are in the SEC Presidential Primary. Therefore, we will have some say in who will be the GOP and Democratic nominees.

Indeed, the presidential fray, especially on the Republican side, has been the center of attention. However, we do have some statewide races on the ballot this year. Albeit they are not very interesting or competitive.

Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh should waltz to reelection to her post. She has served six years on the PSC, the last four as president of the utility regulatory panel.

Only one member of our super Republican State Supreme Court is up for election and has opposition. Justice Tom Parker should coast to reelection.

In the second congressional district, Rep. Martha Roby is running for her fourth term. She is facing a challenge from Becky Gerritson, the founder of the Wetumpka Tea Party, as well as Bob Rogers. The winner will face Nathan Mathis of Houston County in the fall. However, this is a Republican seat. The primary could offer a challenge for Roby but probably not.

In the third district, Rep. Mike Rogers is being challenged by former Phenix City School Superintendent Larry DiChiara. The winner of the Republican primary will have a Democratic challenger, Jesse Smith, also of Phenix City.

Alabama’s lone Democratic U.S. Representative, Terri Sewell, has no Democratic challenger. She has a token Republican opponent, David Williams.

In the South Alabama Mobile/Baldwin first district, Congressman Bradley Byrne will face a familiar primary opponent in Tea Party activist Dean Young.

Our senior U.S. Senator, Richard Shelby, is running for his unprecedented sixth six-year term in the Senate. He has been in the Senate for 30 years and the U.S. House for eight years prior to his election to the Senate in 1986.

Shelby’s seniority is invaluable to Alabama. Seniority equates to power in Washington. Sen. Shelby is Chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He is also Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, which includes NASA.

Shelby has been a stalwart appropriator for Alabama, showering the state with federal money to finance buildings and biomedical research centers on college campuses. He has been the primary advocate for the Marshall Space Flight Center and defense community around Huntsville. He still holds a public meeting in each of Alabama’s 67 counties each year.

Shelby has a campaign war chest of more than $18 million to ward off his unknown opponents. There are four folks brave enough to challenge him, ex-State Senator Shadrack McGill of Jackson County, along with Jonathan McConnell of Birmingham, John Martin of Dothan and Marcus Bowman of Fairhope.

Sen. Shelby and junior Sen. Jeff Sessions have teamed up with Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson to try to put a final resolution to the decade long battle with Georgia over the so-called water wars. These four senators, led by Shelby, have asked a senate panel to intervene in the Army Corps of Engineers mismanagement of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. They have asked the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to protect users of the River Basin in Florida and Alabama from disproportionate water use by Georgia.

This water war with Georgia has been ongoing since 1990. Since then, the three states have argued and battled over the river system as metro Atlanta’s need for drinking water has skyrocketed. The Corps of Engineers has the authority to control the flow in the tri-state river system. A 2011 federal appeals court ruled that Georgia has a legal right to water from Lake Lanier, at the top of the system near Atlanta. However, Florida political leaders see the united front and power play of our Senators Shelby and Sessions and their Senators Rubio and Nelson as a game changer. We will see.


Steve Flowers is a former state legislator and a political columnist. He may be reached at