By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
GARDENDALE — State Sen. Scott Beason, the Gardendale Republican who's been a favorite of the conservative Tea Party wing of the party, has made a surprise announcement that he will not seek re-election to the 17th District.
Beason made the announcement in a press release sent from his campaign email account late Friday afternoon. He cited “personal convictions” as his reason for not running again.
“It is time for this chapter in my life to come to a close, and it is such a strange feeling,” Beason said in the prepared statement. “I have been in a hard-fought campaign every four years since 1994. When I first ran for the legislature I was 24 years old, and now 20 years later when I finally have the chance to run without opposition, I feel led to step away. It almost doesn’t seem real.”
When reached by The North Jefferson News on Friday evening, Beason confirmed the decision, but would only add to his reasons, “This is where God was leading us.”
On January 8, Beason told the NJN that he was “95 percent sure” he would be running for re-election to his Senate seat. That remark came at the Mt. Olive Community Center, after a forum sponsored by a group opposing efforts to annex Mt. Olive into Gardendale. It was in reply to a reporter's question about whether he was planning to run for the Sixth District seat in the U.S. Congress, which is being vacated by the retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills.
Beason did not address the Congressional race either directly or indirectly in his press statement Friday, and would not elaborate on that race further when asked later. “I really am in one-decision-at-a-time-mode here,” he said.
Beason ran against Bachus in the GOP primary two years ago, but was beaten easily by the incumbent. He was the top-finishing challenger; David Standridge, who now represents the 34th District in the Alabama House of Representatives, placed third.
Beason is in the last year of his second four-year term in the Senate. He has had a highly-public career in the State House, and is closely linked to two things there: his sponsorship of a controversial bill cracking down on illegal immigrants, part of which was struck down by U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals; and his cooperation with federal investigators in their probe of Alabama politicians and influence purchasing by legalized-gambling supporters. Beason wore a “wire,” or concealed recording device, and recorded conversations with fellow lawmakers about gambling legislation and bribery. During that investigation, Beason was heard referring to voters in a majority-black House district as “aborigines,” a term usually used for indigenous peoples in Australia. That remark led to his being removed as chair of the powerful Senate Rules Committee.
In the current session, Beason is again pursuing an effort to remove the use of Common Core, the federal education-standards program, from Alabama schools.
Beason, 44, was first elected to Alabama House Distrct 51 against Jim Townsend in 1998. He first ran for the Senate against Republican incumbent Jack Biddle in 1994, losing that race by a 3-to-2 margin. But he took Biddle on again in 2006, with the results nearly flip-flopped from 12 years prior.
So with 20 years after first running for office, and 16 years after being elected, Beason said it was time to move on.
“I don't believe people should stay in one place in office for years and years,” he said. “I just feel like this is where the Lord is leading me at this point.”
Beason had planned to make his intentions known first to the Republican Senate Caucus this week. But the winter storm that struck much of Alabama brought Senate business nearly to a halt. He only had a chance to tell Senate president pro tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, before sending his announcement to the media.
“We were stuck here, and I didn't want to wait until the last minute so that people would have to time to file [for the primary],” Beason said.
The filing deadline is next Friday, Feb. 7. That deadline also applies to Beason's decision on whether to throw his hat into the ring for the Congressional race, where he would face State Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, and three other contenders.
Beason said that his wife Lori was supportive of the decision. If he decides to drop out of politics for good, it will be quite a change for his three children.
“For my kids, this [being in office] is all they've known,” he said. “They've seen the ups and the downs, the protesters at church and the people who have come up to say how much they appreciate what we're doing.”
But the controversial lawmaker seemed to be at peace with the prospect that this may be the end of his political career.
“Right now, it's one decision at a time. And if God wants me out of politics entirely, that's fine with me.”