ALFA begins to flex political muscle

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, December 19, 2013

When I went to the legislature in 1982 as a 30-year-old freshman, there were two powerful organizations. The Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) and the Alabama Education Association (AEA) were omnipotent. The Farmers Federation had prevailed as the King of Goat Hill for decades and probably going all the way back to when Alabama became a state in 1901.

You chose early which side you were on, either ALFA or AEA. It was almost like football in our state where you have to side either with Auburn or Alabama. My choice was easy. Being from a rural county and being a business person, I cast my allegiance with ALFA.

Most of us who were pro business chose ALFA. We became known as the conservatives. It may surprise some of you young folks to know that there were essentially no Republicans. We all ran under a Democratic banner even though we were really Republicans. Therefore, we were labeled as conservatives or liberals rather than Republicans or Democrats. The ALFA team and I quickly bonded because even though I was young, I was extremely conservative.

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In addition to being conservative, I had an insurance background. This they liked because there were very few legislators who were in the insurance business and understood that industry’s intricacies and nomenclature. Therefore, they leaned on the Speaker and orchestrated my fast track to the chairmanship of the Insurance Committee.

There is an old political saying that when a legislator or congressman is close to a group they are asked to carry a lot of water for them. Well, folks, I carried a lot of water for ALFA for close to two decades. We indeed had a special bond and I was their titular floor leader throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Around the time I left the legislature in 1998, AEA dethroned ALFA as the big kid on the block. The AEA’s Dr. Paul Hubbert was the new King of Goat Hill for the next two decades.

Even though Alabama is a conservative state, the AEA and liberal Democrats ruled the roost. The AEA was the big loser when the Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010. Their demise was to be expected with the GOP takeover. However, nobody knew to what extent the new herd of elephants would stampede and stomp on the once vaunted teachers’ union. In three short years, they have dismantled almost everything Dr. Hubbert garnered over his 24-year reign.

It appears that ALFA has regained their throne as the leading conservative voice in Alabama politics. Five generation Chilton County Farmer, Jimmy Parnell, has risen to head the Alabama Farmers Federation. Jimmy became a leader in the Federation as a young man. He was the state leader of the young farmers at a very early age. All of the older farm leaders in the state respected him and thought of him as their peer even though he was half their age. They expected him to eventually lead the organization one day. He is and has always been wise beyond his years. He comes from the old school and has paid his dues. He is adroit, tactful and understands politics. He will be a political force in the state for years to come.

Parnell showed his astuteness by choosing Beth Chapman to be his political general and confidant. Beth’s addition is a brilliant coup. She brings a wealth of knowledge as well as integrity to the table. She understands politics as well as anybody in the state. She also has rural roots. She grew up in Greenville and is a country girl at heart. She is a proven conservative and very popular. She has authored several books with a patriotic theme.

Beth Chapman would have been a formidable candidate for the open sixth district congressional seat being vacated by Spencer Bachus next year. She was also projected as one of the leading candidates for governor in 2018. Instead, due to the tragic and untimely death of her husband, she needed to enter the private sector to provide for her family as a single mother.

It should be noted that there have been four special elections in the state since Parnell and Chapman came to power. ALFA has been responsible for all four of their endorsed candidates winning. There is a new sheriff in town riding a white conservative horse. That horse is called ALFA.

See you next week.