Analysis of Huntsville Mayor’s Announcement Not to Run

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Tuesday morning, after much pomp and circumstance, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle announced via his website he would not be seeking the state’s highest office.

His announcement coincided with the start of the 2014 Alabama legislative session.

Battle asserted that he, like many, is frustrated with what he’s seeing in Montgomery and Washington, D.C. but questioned whether or not he ‘could actually make an impact or affect change.’

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"Mayor Battle is smart like a fox."

WHNT News 19's political analyst Dr. Jess Brown pulled no punches with his interpretation of Battle's latest press venture.

"He knows how in the middle of his term to get a lot of free publicity from the media - he saw the opportunity and he's smart enough to have seized the moment," Dr. Brown said.

Brown calls Battle's social media and broadcast news teasers the functional equivalent of thousands of dollars worth of free advertising.

"Positive to neutral coverage," Brown says, "and he does it right after having promoted a tax increase."

So the governor's office is a no, but could Battle's political posturing have been intended to have him poised for another high-profile elected position - say, Congressional District 5 representative, for instance?  WHNT News 19 asked Battle earlier this month if he was considering running for any other office besides governor.  He said no.

"It was certainly an opportunity where he could raise his profile to people outside Huntsville and even outside of Madison County," Brown says. "Although admittedly his teaser strategy of Monday via social media did not get as much statewide publicity as I would have guessed it would have, given that at the present time the governor faces what's viewed as no serious challenger."

Brown points out, were that not the case, the mayor of Huntsville would have been viewed as a more credible gubernatorial challenger.

Governor Bentley and his proverbial 'open road' to re-election, of course, is another issue entirely. When will, in fact, we see that person or persons who will challenge the governor emerge?

"I'm not sure is going to take place," Brown says matter-of-factly. "The opportunity to qualify as a candidate has been curtailed 60 days because of the arrangement that state has with the federal government and so the legal deadline for qualifying as a candidate is rapidly approaching."

The deadline is 5 p.m. on February 7 to be exact -- and Governor Bentley has already raised millions in campaign finance dollars. So with no viable challengers on the horizon yet, is Bentley a shoo-in for re-election?

"While this governor arguably," says Brown, "I don't think he has any huge victories - he has no big mistakes and he's personally likable."

Of course, as politics go, often if you have likability, policy successes are not necessarily a requirement - especially if all you need is the majority of Alabamians to vote for a highly recognizable Republican incumbent.

The only other Republican to throw his hat in the ring so far is Stacy Lee George, a former Morgan County Commissioner.

What about a Democratic challenger?  The state party is largely in shambles, said Dr. Brown.

"They've had a state chairman to quit, they're broke, they have no effective message in Alabama and no effective messengers," Brown says bluntly.

"Their stable is largely empty."

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