By Jim Ellis
Feb. 14, 2018 — Two more states now have their official candidates for the 2018 election, bringing the national total to seven. Alabama and Indiana join the rank of early filing states that include Illinois, Texas, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Ohio.
Alabama sees a race for governor that includes new incumbent Kay Ivey (R), who ascended to the position when Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign last year. Ivey was elected lieutenant governor in 2010. She will face a Republican primary on June 5 that includes Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and state Sens. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) and Slade Blackwell (R-Birmingham), the latter man being a surprise filing. Two other minor candidates will also be on the ballot. If no one secures a majority in the primary, a secondary run-off election will be held July 17. Gov. Ivey is favored to win the nomination outright. The Democrats include former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.
In the House races, Reps. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) drew competitive primary challengers. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has a minor Republican opponent. Just one House member, Democrat Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), will run unopposed in both the primary and general election.
The surprise filing is former US Rep. Bobby Bright, who represented the Montgomery-anchored 2nd District for one term as a Democrat before Roby unseated him in 2010, switching parties to run as a Republican. State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) announced his campaign long ago, but has been slow to start. The former campaign manager for the Roy Moore for Senate campaign, Rich Hobson, is also in this race along with Army Iraq War veteran Tommy Amason. Democrats Audri Scott Williams, a former Community College dean, and Tabitha Isner, a business analyst, will compete for their party’s nomination. The GOP primary should be an interesting one, but the seat is a strong bet to remain Republican in the general election. Roby’s rather weak 49-41 percent re-election victory in 2016 questions her political strength, however.
Brooks solely faces businessman Clayton Hinshaw in the northern Alabama 5th District, after state Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) dropped his congressional challenge. Ex-Huntsville City Attorney Peter Joffrion is the lone Democrat who filed. Rep. Brooks is favored for re-election.
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) drew a familiar name candidate. Democrat Robert Kennedy Jr. filed in this race. He ran in the special US Senate primary, and though he polled well against now-Sen. Doug Jones (D), he was easily dismissed when voters went to the polls.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Anniston) will likely face former television news anchor and 2013 Miss America Mallory Hagen (D) in the general election. Reps. Aderholt and Gary Palmer (R-Hoover/Shelby County) drew only minor Democratic opposition.
In the Hoosier State, the competitive Indiana US Senate Republican primary is set. US Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/ Muncie) are focusing on each other in the early campaign, but former state Rep. and independent businessman Mike Braun (R-Jasper) is also a force. This race will be decided by plurality on May 8. The winner challenges Sen. Joe Donnelly who is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. This general election Senate race promises to become one of the most competitive in the country.
First District veteran Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Merrillville/Gary) sees six Republicans file against him, but none has the capacity to become a serious general election candidate in the safe northern Indiana district. Visclosky also faces one minor Democratic primary opponent.
Also receiving Democratic primary opposition is Rep. Andre Carson (D-Indianapolis). He faces four Democratic opponents, but none appears competitive. The situation is similar for him in the general election, as six minor Republicans will do battle in the primary to become a heavy underdog general election opponent to Rep. Carson who will be running for his sixth full term in office.
Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Elkhart) drew one minor Republican opponent, and six Democrats, the strongest of which is healthcare company executive Mel Hall who has already amassed over $430,000 for his budding campaign. The northern Indiana 2nd CD can become a competitive general election domain.
A similar situation faces freshman Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Jeffersonville). He faces one minor Republican opponent, but attorney Liz Watson (D) has already raised more than $300,000 and appears to be the strongest of the three Democrats who have filed against him in the southern Indiana 9th District.
Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Newburgh/Evansville), in the southwestern Indiana seat, faces two minor Republican primary opponents, and then will likely have a re-match in the general election against 2016 nominee Rob Drake, a former state representative. Rep. Buschon defeated Drake 64-32 percent in the last election.
Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) has drawn seven Democratic opponents, but none has ever run for office before, and the congresswoman will be a heavy favorite for re-election regardless of who becomes her general election opponent. A similar situation awaits 3rd District freshman Rep. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City/Ft. Wayne), who is unopposed for his party nomination and will face one of three minor Democratic opponents in November.
The open seats of Reps. Rokita and Messer will draw the most interest in the May 8 primary. In Rokita’s 4th CD, seven Republicans are vying for the party nomination including former state Rep. Steve Braun, brother of US Senate candidate Mike Braun. He faces state Rep. Jim Baird (R-Putnam County) and former gubernatorial aide Diego Morales in the May 8 primary along with three minor GOP candidates. Six first-time Democratic candidates filed, but the eventual Republican nominee becomes the overwhelming favorite in the fall election.
In the 6th CD, Vice President Mike Pence’s older brother, Greg Pence, leads a field of seven Republican candidates. Six first-time Democratic candidates also filed, but this campaign looks to be Pence’s to lose.