“Those who have plenty want more and so lose all they have.”
Aesop’s “The Goose & the Golden Egg”
When the honking started, Will Ainsworth knew he was golden.
It was the day before the 2018 runoff election for Alabama’s lieutenant governor. The runoff was only for the GOP nomination, but as everyone knows, GOP primaries are the real elections in Alabama.
Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh had won a first-place plurality of votes in the original primary contest, but she needed to win an outright majority of the voters against Ainsworth in the runoff. So Cavanaugh went on offense, branding her opponent a “felon” for several fiberglass tigers stolen during a college prank, as well as a “boating without a government sticker” citation. Unfortunately for Cavanaugh, her attacks on Ainsworth's “criminal record” not only fell short — they backfired.
In response, Ainsworth defended his honor by traveling across Alabama on “The Truth Tellin’ Tour.'' The day before the runoff election, his campaign hit every major media market in the state. And it was quite a show.
With wife Kendall in tow, Ainsworth told his story with a flair for the dramatic, hauling a life-sized fiberglass tiger on a flatbed truck, a bass boat hitched to the back. I’m sure it was quite a sight.
Driving home after the day’s hullabaloo, Ainsworth discovered that Twinkle Cavanaugh’s goose was cooked.
“We were driving up the interstate with this, you know, it probably looks weird — flatbed, tiger — and all of a sudden people are honking, thumbs up,” Ainsworth recently told the "Alabama Unfiltered" podcast, “and I’m like ‘she’s toast.’”
Ainsworth defeated Cavanaugh by approximately 10,000 votes. The honking was true, and Ainsworth pulled off a remarkable feat as a first-term state House member. He now stood out from the crowd — the heir apparent to Gov. Kay Ivey — fit with a gavel, a statewide bully pulpit, and plenty of executive power at his discretion.
Fast forward five years and Ainsworth has yet to disappoint conservatives. From protecting the lives of the unborn to supporting robust school choice initiatives, to his advocacy for meaningful tax cuts and a general willingness to downsize state government, Ainsworth appears to have the correct instincts, the right contacts, and the courage of his convictions. He also has invaluable experience in private business and the upper echelons of state government. Add his calling as a Christian, his bona fides as an outdoorsman, his youth, his energy, his beautiful family — not to mention his money — and you have the makings of a conservative political leader Alabama hasn’t seen in a generation.
Deep red Alabama has long watched Republican governors rule the roost only to lay an egg when it comes to bold and visionary leadership. Obviously, Ivey is no Ron DeSantis. Neither was Gov. Robert Bentley during his tenure — and that’s even if one forgives and forgets all his goosing on the job.
Could Ainsworth break this unlucky streak and be the golden goose Alabama needs?
It’s possible. Ainsworth certainly has plenty going for him, but so does Attorney General Steve Marshall. Between those two, it’s anyone’s game.
Aside from losing to a worthy opponent, there is another risk that could kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. When those who have plenty want more, they always run the risk of losing everything, especially in a high-stakes, well-financed political contest.
Ainsworth has plenty of power. Does he really wish to risk wanting more?
To his credit, Ainsworth openly admits his political ambitions are to rise to the governor’s seat, then retire from politics after making his mark on the state. Ainsworth says he has no desire to go to Washington, D.C., nor make politics a lifelong career. This not only shows he knows what he wants but that he knows his limitations. This is wise, noble even.
But politics is hardly a noble affair this side of Eden.
“There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth,” Ecclesiastes 8:14 tells us, “righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve.”
The more you rise, the more some seek your downfall. The more success and friends you find, the more some will resent you and consider you their enemy. The more truths you hope to embody, the more some will use sin and lies to ensnare and destroy you. Politics is particularly riddled with the risks of such “necessary” evils.
I suspect, however, if Ainsworth did brave the political risks, striking out on another “Truth Tellin’ Tour” for governor, Alabamians would reward his courage and “Honk for Will Ainsworth!” again.
There’s his campaign bumper sticker right there.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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