When Alabama candidate filing closed on Friday, local political observers were surprised that state Sen. Slade Blackwell (R-Birmingham) did not file for re-election and instead hopped into the Governor’s primary at the last moment. Now, he’s had second thoughts. Yesterday, just four days after entering, Sen. Blackwell announced that his is ending his fledgling gubernatorial campaign. Therefore, the state legislator will be out of elective politics beginning next year.
One-term Democratic US Rep. Bobby Bright, also a former Mayor of Montgomery, announced yesterday that he will challenge the woman who unseated him eight years ago, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery). This time, however, the two will do battle in the Republican primary. Mr. Bright, who had been an Independent prior to becoming a Democratic congressional candidate in 2008, has now switched to the Republicans as he attempts to make a political comeback eight years since his defeat for re-election.
Also in the Republican primary are state Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), former state Courts Administrative Director and Roy Moore for Senate campaign manager Rich Hobson, and factory worker Tommy Amason. Democrats are fielding business analyst Tabitha Isner and former community college dean Audri Scott Williams. The Republican nominee becomes a heavy favorite in the general election. Candidate filing closes today. The state primary is June 5th. If no candidate secures a majority vote, the top two finishers will run-off on July 17th.
Kay Ivey (R), who ascended to the Governorship when incumbent Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign as part of a plea bargain arrangement, is coalescing her political strength as she seeks her first elected term. Following Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan’s lead from earlier this month, state Auditor Jim Ziegler (R) announced that he, too, would end his gubernatorial campaign. Mr. McMillan made public statements as early as last May that he would run for Governor, but reversed course in early January only now to re-surface in the state Treasurer’s race. Mr. Ziegler’s future plans are not clear, but the Governor’s campaign is coming down to a battle against an interim incumbent who is demonstrating political prowess.
But, Gov. Ivey is not yet home free for the Republican nomination. Still in the race is Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and state Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile). The Democrats are fielding Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb. The state primary is June 5th, with a run-off scheduled for July 17th if no candidate receives an absolute majority in their respective party nomination elections.
With Alabama’s candidate filing deadline fast approaching on February 9th, state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison), who months ago declared a challenge to Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), announced at the end of last week that he will discontinue his primary challenge campaign. This leaves businessman Clayton Hinchman as the only Republican candidate organizing to challenge the four-term Congressman. Sen. Holtzclaw had not performed well on the fundraising trail, which became a major factor in his decision not to move forward. Mr. Hinchman is a more well rounded candidate, but he, too, is a major underdog to the current incumbent.
AL-5 is a solidly Republican district (Trump ’16: 65-31%; Romney ’12: 64-35%), so the eventual GOP nominee will have little trouble holding the seat in November.
Rich Hobson, campaign manager to failed US Senate candidate Roy Moore (R), yesterday announced that he will enter the field to challenge four-term Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) in this year’s June Republican primary. Already in the race are state Rep. Barry Moore and Iraq War veteran Tommy Amason. Though Rep. Roby only won re-election in the 2016 general election by a 49-40% count, it does not appear at this time that any of the three Republican challengers will be strong enough to deny her re-nomination.
In a move that strengthens new Gov. Kay Ivey’s (R) position, state Agriculture & Industries Commissioner John McMillan (R), who had entered the Republican gubernatorial primary even before Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign, has changed his 2018 electoral plans. With Gov. Ivey running for a full term after ascending to the position from her Lt. Governor’s post after Mr. Bentley departed, Commissioner McMillan announced that he is withdrawing. Instead, he will run for the open state Treasurer’s position. The current Treasurer, Republican Young Boozer, is ineligible to seek a third term. Prior to being elected Ag & Industries commissioner, Mr. McMillan served in the state House of Representatives and as a Baldwin County Commissioner.
As we know, Alabama voters went to the polls on Tuesday to elect Democrat Doug Jones in the special US Senate race. Though several columnists are attempting to make this race a referendum on President Trump and the Republicans’ ability to hold the US House next year, the actual numbers, when comparing with past voting history, tend to show Republican defection to Mr. Jones as the principle reason for the win and not a massive increase in Democratic turnout.
Special election voter participation exceeded the last midterm turnout level by 13.9% when compared to the 2014 election. In the 13 base Democratic counties where the electorate favored gubernatorial challenger Parker Griffith over Republican incumbent Robert Bentley despite the latter man’s landslide statewide total, 2017 major party turnout was up 11.3%. But, this is 2½ points below the increased statewide turnout rate.
Additionally, in the four statewide races in the 2014 and ’16 elections, contested Republican candidates all recorded between 62-64% of the statewide vote. This contrasts with Republican nominee (Roy) Moore’s 48.4%, again suggesting that Republican defection to Jones is likely the more salient reason to best explain the Democratic victory.
Two new surveys were released over the weekend that produced split results. The Washington Post/Schnar poll (11/27-30; 1,304 adults; 1,110 self-identified AL registered voters; 739 self-identified AL likely voters) reverses the trend of the previous six polls and finds Democratic former US Attorney Doug Jones leading former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), 50-47%. But a further examination of the respondent universe suggests that this survey is likely within the same realm as the others. The Post/Schnar poll undercuts the number of Republicans in the sampling universe, thus likely providing Mr. Jones with a false margin.
Conversely, the CBS News/YouGov data (11/28-12/1; 1,067 AL registered voters, 68% of whom say they will “definitely” vote in the special Senate election) finds Moore leading 49-43%, which is more in line with the six polls published before the Post/Schnar effort. In this survey, the party division is 51R-36D, and better aligned with Alabama voting history. This state does not register voters by political party, so determining partisan division is relegated to estimation. The special election is scheduled for December 12th, and though Jones has a wide lead in fundraising and airing ads, it is widely presumed that the Republican former judge has legitimately rebounded to maintain a small advantage.
After three polls released this week projected former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) regaining the lead over Democratic former US Attorney Doug Jones in their special US Senate campaign, JMC Analytics & Polling distributed their own numbers that confirm the latest results. The new JMC data (11/27-28; 650 AL registered voters; 513 saying they will vote) finds Judge Moore topping Mr. Jones, 48-43%, with the four minor party and independent candidates receiving a combined 4 percent. The remaining respondents report themselves as undecided. The new results reverse the trends revealed in JMC’s 11/9-11 survey that found Jones to be ahead, 48-44%.
The latest numbers might even be better for Moore. The sample includes 56% female respondents, about five percentage points higher than the actual voting universe. Among women, Mr. Jones has a 50-44% lead. Judge Moore is way ahead among men, 54-37%.
The Change Research firm released their third poll of the special Alabama Senate race (11/26-27; 1,868 AL self-identified registered voters) and it confirms the latest two publicly released surveys finding former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) regaining the lead over Democratic former US Attorney Doug Jones. The CR spread gives Judge Moore a 49-44% edge, with the partisan divisions returning to more usual Alabama voting pattern.
Partisanship also appears to largely determine if the individual respondent believes the sexual impropriety charges against Moore. Republicans, particularly the hard core Moore supporters, say they don’t believe the accusations. Now, 71% of Republicans say the charges are untrue, including a 2:78% Yes/No ratio among Moore primary voters. By a virtual unanimous margin of 94:1%, Alabama Democrats believe the allegations, but they are badly outnumbered.
In what is clearly the best news for Moore coming from this poll, 88% of self-identified Trump voters now say they are “definitely planning to vote” up from 82% found in earlier CR polling.
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