By Steve Flowers
Alabama’s original 1901 Constitution had a law whereby the governor could only serve one four-year term and not succeed themselves. In 1968, the law was changed, and since then, the governor and all other constitutional offices in the state can now serve two consecutive terms.
This one term and you are done, made for a very interesting, anticipated, and competitive governor’s race every four years. They could begin four years in advance in earnest, and they would begin.
Since Kay Ivey will be serving her second elected term, she cannot run four years from now. Therefore, we have set up an ole timey open governor’s race in 2026, and it has already begun.
Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth has already been running for four years and has ramped up a reelection game plan for his next four years as Lt. Governor. He will be tough to beat.
Ainsworth was elected Lt. Governor in 2018 at the ripe old age of 36. He began running for governor the day after he won the GOP Primary that year – even before he was inaugurated in January 2019. I have never seen anyone in recent years as dedicated and focused on grabbing the brass ring of Alabama politics as young Will Ainsworth. He is almost as dedicated as George Wallace.
Wallace’s whole world and every part of his being was dedicated to being elected Governor of Alabama. He campaigned seven days a week, 12 hours a day, and hardly saw or cared for his family for four years. He campaigned relentlessly. His devotion paid off with a victory in 1962 and subsequent conquests later.
Young Will Ainsworth does not have this total devotion, nor should he or anyone else. Ainsworth is a devoted family man. His family and church come first. Being governor is not his God. He is the ultimate father to his twin sons, Hunter and Hays, and his daughter, Abbie. He and his wife, Kendall, are committed to loving and caring for their children. They go to all ball games and church and school-related events with them in Guntersville. At the State-of-the-State Address four years ago, he had his two sons with him. They have impeccable manners. They looked me right in the eye with a smile and firm handshake and said, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Flowers.” One of the boys was with Will when he spoke at the Trump rally in the summer of 2021. Will had been to his son’s ballgame in Cullman that morning, and he brought him to the rally.
When Will spoke at the Mid-Alabama Republican Club in Vestavia last July, his daughter was with him. Ainsworth is campaigning all over the state. He is at ribbon cuttings and Chambers of Commerce events from Dothan to Huntsville.
He hails from Sand Mountain in vote-rich North Alabama. His father has done well financially. However, his mama has instilled in Will the desire to serve in politics. She is very astute and active politically and more gregarious than Will’s father.
There are others lining up to run who do not fear Ainsworth nor his family’s money. Interestingly, the two major potential threats to Ainsworth in the four-year away governor’s race are from North Alabama. Attorney General Steve Marshall and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle would make a strong threat to Ainsworth’s perceived front-runner status.
Ironically, Steve Marshall and Will Ainsworth are both from Marshall County. If the Attorney General makes the move, he would be a viable candidate. He won his second term in this year’s GOP Primary, impressively. He has to move up or sideways or out. An intra-county race would be interesting. Marshall bears watching.
Tommy Battle, the Mayor of Huntsville, would be the most formidable candidate that Ainsworth could face. However, I do not think Battle is interested in running. Being the Mayor of Huntsville is probably a better job than being Governor of Alabama.
However, the biggest obstacle in Ainsworth’s run for governor may be someone you have never heard of. There are probably some rich folks sitting back privately contemplating a run for governor. That unknown rich person may be the one to watch. We will see.
Four years seems a long way off, but the 2026 Governor’s Race has begun.
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 state legislature. Steve may be reached at: www.steveflowers.us.