This 2022 Election Year in Alabama has been monumental and memorable. Any gubernatorial year is big in the state. It is the brass ring of Alabama politics to be governor. However, the race to succeed our Senior Senator Richard Shelby has been the marquee contest.
This year will be the last hurrah for our two leading political figures in the state.
Senator Richard Shelby is retiring after 36 years in the U.S. Senate at age 88. Governor Kay Ivey will be elected to her final term as Governor at 78.
An observation that occurred to me during the year that many of you may not know or realize is the power that Jimmy Rane, the legendary successful businessman from Abbeville, possesses. He is known to many Alabamians as the famous friendly giant sitting atop a horse as the Yella Fella on the ads of yesteryear promoting his Great Southern Wood Company.
In my years of observing Alabama politics, I do not believe there has been an individual that has been the closest confidant and friend to the two most powerful political people in the state. Senator Shelby and Governor Ivey are unquestionably the two most powerful political people in the state, but they are arguably two of the most important political figures in modern Alabama political history. If you sat both Ivey and Shelby down and asked them to tell you their best friend and confidant, they both would probably say Jimmy Rane.
Governor Ivey and Rane have been friends and allies since their college days at Auburn University 60 years ago. Shelby and Rane have been bonded for at least 36 years. As busy as Senator Shelby has been as one of the most important leaders in Washington and world affairs, the last 10 years a week does not go by that Shelby and Rane do not talk. Rane knows when Shelby has a cold before his wife Annette knows.
Rane has been Ivey’s and Shelby’s benefactor and ally for not what they can do for him. He does not get anything out of his relationship with Shelby and Ivey. He is just their friend.
He is also loyal to his hometown of Abbeville and Henry County. The Great Southern Wood is the main thing in Abbeville and a mainstay for the entire Wiregrass. His benevolence to his hometown is unparalleled.
Another development I have watched this year is some good old fashioned hardnosed hard work on the campaign trail by some of the 2022 candidates. It is understandable that those running for office on this year’s ballot would be on the campaign trail.
However, one Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, the president of the Public Service Commission, has canvassed the rural counties of Alabama more extensively than most of the successful candidates running statewide this year. And, folks, her name was not even on the ballot this year. She runs for reelection to the PSC presidency in 2024. To say that she will be unbeatable for reelection to her post as head of the PSC would be an understatement.
Twinkle Cavanaugh is probably the best known political figure in the state going forward in the post Richard Shelby/Kay Ivey era. She has run statewide numerous times and has been successful in most of those races. When you run that many times, you build a grassroots organization. Then you add that she has been Chairman of the Republican Party and a loyal supporter of popular past Republican presidents. She has not let any grass grow under her feet this year. She has watered that grassroots organization during this off year with one-on-one visits, especially to the remote rural counties of the state. Her diligence will pay off in future years. She is still young and a good bet to be governor or U.S. Senator one day.
Folks in Montgomery and throughout the state are glad to see State Senator Billy Beasley run again, successfully, for another term. He is one of the most well-liked and respected members of the upper chamber in the State Capitol. Billy is the only white Democrat in the Alabama Senate. Do not bet on his not running again in 2026. He is the youngest looking 82 year old I have ever seen and his brother Jere is the youngest 85 year old I have ever seen. They must have pretty good genes.
See you next week.
— Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the Alabama legislature.