Tag Archives: Alabama

An Alabama Surprise

By Jim Ellis

May 19, 2017 — Filing closed yesterday for the Alabama special Senate election, and events didn’t unfold as expected. Instead of having more candidates opposing appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the special Republican primary, we actually see fewer.

Three individuals expected to file formal candidate declaration statements, including an announced candidate and one who had filed an exploratory committee — and both of those were viewed as active candidates until yesterday — chose not to run.

State Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston) was an Alabama politico thought to be a sure US Senate candidate. About 10 days ago he said a decision had been reached about the statewide special election, but wouldn’t be announced until later. As filing closed, Sen. Marsh chose to remain on the political sidelines. He still expresses interest in the governor’s race, but says he would “probably” support Gov. Kay Ivey (R) if she decides to run.

State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Decatur), who led the drive in the state House to impeach resigned Gov. Robert Bentley (R) and was one of the first individuals to announce his Senate candidacy, also decided not to formally file.

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Alabama Senate

By Jim Ellis

May 17, 2017
— Candidate filing closes today for the special US Senate election, as the Republican field grew in stature. US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) entered the race, the first House member to do so even though none have to risk their current position to join this particular statewide contest.

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville)

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville)

All the action is on the Republican side for the Aug. 15 special primary. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) will face Rep. Brooks, former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, state Rep. Ed Henry (R-Decatur), former state Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr. (R-Montgomery), and ex-Alabama Christian Coalition president Randy Brinson. State Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston) is also expected to announce his candidacy.

The lone major Democrat is former US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, which includes the major population centers of Birmingham and Huntsville, Doug Jones who announced his candidacy last week. He will likely advance to the Dec. 12 special general election without going through a run-off.

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Another Says No

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

April 28, 2017 — Democrats face a major problem in the 2018 Senate races that they have no ability to solve. Forced to defend 25 of the 33 in-cycle seats, not counting the new 2017 Alabama special election, there simply aren’t enough viable Republican conversion targets to yield a legitimate run for the majority.

Even in what should be their top conversion target, the Nevada race where GOP Sen. Dean Heller is seeking his second term, the Democrats do not yet have a viable candidate. This week, businessman Steve Cloobeck, who has the ability to self-fund a Silver State campaign, announced that he would not run.

And then, in a move that perplexed the Democratic leadership, Cloobeck went a step further and publicly endorsed Sen. Heller for re-election. While professing not to agree with Heller on core issues, Cloobeck says he appreciates “his (Heller’s) businesslike approach to politics and legislation.”

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More Alabama Drama

By Jim Ellis

April 14, 2017 — In office now just a few days, new Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is reportedly contemplating a major electoral decision that will add to Alabama’s considerable political intrigue. According to a spokesperson for Ivey, the governor is considering changing the special election schedule as it relates to appointed US Sen. Luther Strange’s (R) situation.

In a controversial decision, former Gov. Robert Bentley (R) appointed then-Attorney General Strange to replace Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) immediately after the latter was confirmed as US attorney general. The move was controversial since Strange was reportedly investigating the governor regarding the situation for which he resigned earlier this week, but during the appointment process said that no such inquiry was underway. After the Senate appointment was made and a new state attorney general installed, it was confirmed that a Bentley investigation was in fact quickly progressing.

In addition to choosing Strange to replace Sen. Sessions, Gov. Bentley scheduled the special election to fill the balance of the current Senate term to run concurrently with the regular 2018 election schedule. Some argued that Bentley exceeded his authority because the state’s special election law indicates the vote should be called “forthwith.” Bentley and his legal team argued that the “forthwith” reference in the Alabama statute referred to officially calling the election, but not necessarily to conducting the vote. Bentley also argued it is more cost effective to hold the special concurrently with the regular general election rather than incur the expense of running a stand-alone statewide vote.

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Alabama Governor

By Jim Ellis

April 12, 2017 — Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) resignation from office Monday, and his reported plea bargain agreement relating to charges that he squandered public and campaign funds in connection with maintaining and then covering up an extra-marital affair with a state employee changes the current Alabama political picture.

Bentley was ineligible to seek a third term, and his resignation comes ahead of what looked to be a sure impeachment. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) ascended to the governor’s office immediately upon Bentley’s resignation becoming official. Though she had not announced a campaign for governor next year, it was widely believed that Ivey would become a candidate.

Now that she is governor, it remains to be seen if the long line of potential gubernatorial candidates will move forward with their own campaigns, remain on the sidelines if it looks like she will become a strong incumbent, or look toward appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) who must stand for election in 2018 to serve the balance of the current term.

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 17, 2017 — As we approach the end of first quarter 2017, we see political maneuvering beginning to occur in many in-cycle US Senate states. Despite what columnists and news reporters are already saying about the Republicans potentially sustaining big mid-term losses in 2018, the Democrats have only one legitimate Senate target: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

Unfortunately for them, Democrats must defend 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (the latter number includes the Alabama special election), and this political fundamental is likely the key reason Republicans will hold the majority irrespective of what the political climate may be like at election time. Arguably, seven of the nine in-cycle GOP seats are located in some of the strongest Republican states in the nation. Today we take a look at the states alphabetically from Alabama through Maryland.

• Alabama: Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) has over a year to solidify himself politically before standing for election. He may well receive a Republican primary challenge because of the circumstances under which he was appointed to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Strange, while the Alabama attorney general, was conducting an investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley (R), which was obviously stalled when the appointment was made. So far, no one has announced against Sen. Strange, but state Senate President Del Marsh (R) is a possible candidate.

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Polarized, or Not?

By Jim Ellis

March 1, 2017 — Much is being made about President Trump’s early job approval ratings. Almost across the board, they are low, and particularly so for a new national chief executive, which has naturally attracted media attention.

In their late February report about political polarization, the Gallup polling organization, which began testing presidential job approval back in the Truman Administration and has regularly continued the practice ever since, argues that polarization among the self-identified Republicans and Democrats is a major obstacle for President Trump to overcome. They further make the point that this is not a new phenomenon, as partisan approval polling detected similar numbers for presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

The Gallup analysis, on and around the Feb. 20 time frame, found President Trump’s job approval rating to be 42 percent. When they looked at the two previous presidents, also hitting 42 percent approval rating at certain points in their own presidencies, Gallup found the level of partisan support and opposition among Democrats and Republicans for the president of their own party was virtually identical.

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New Wisconsin Senate Data

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 24, 2017 — The 2018 Senate Democrats have the same problem as last year’s Senate Republicans. That is, the Dems must protect too many seats in the coming election, which obviously diminishes opportunities for gains.

The Dems current situation is worse than the Republicans’ in the previous cycle. In 2018, the party candidates must win 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (now including the Alabama special election for purposes of completing the current term that Attorney General Jeff Sessions began) just to break even. The 2016 Republicans were forced to defend 24 states to the Democrats’ 10, and ended the campaign cycle dropping a net two seats.

Adding further vulnerability to the Democrats’ potential quagmire is seeing 10 of their 25 incumbents hailing from states that President Trump carried last November. In nine of those 10 – Michigan is the lone exception – the state’s other senator is a Republican.

One of the top Republican conversion targets is the Badger State of Wisconsin. Here, first-term Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) seeks re-election in what should be a highly competitive general election campaign.

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Alabama Senate – Strange

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 10, 2017 — Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) named state Attorney General Luther Strange (R) to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R). Sessions resigned from the Senate after being confirmed as US Attorney General.

Strange will serve through the 2018 regular election. He has already announced that he will run in the concurrent special election. If successful, he will then serve the balance of the current term, meaning through 2020. He would be eligible to seek a full six-year term in the 2020 election.

America’s Ideology

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2016 — The Gallup organization conducted a month long poll (Jan. 20-30) of almost 200,000 respondents (177,788 US adults) to determine where America stands ideologically. They find that the country still leans decidedly to the right, but not as strongly as in past years.

The three most conservative states are Wyoming (35-point difference between those self-identifying as conservative as opposed to liberal: 49 percent conservative – 14 percent liberal), Mississippi (31-point difference; 46-15 percent), and North Dakota (31-point difference; 43-12 percent).

The three most liberal states are all in the New England region: Vermont (14-point difference; 40 percent liberal – 26 percent conservative), Massachusetts (8-point differential; 33 percent liberal – 25 percent conservative), and Connecticut (4-point difference; 31 percent liberal – 27 percent conservative).

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Senate Plans

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 31, 2017
— Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), two of the Senate’s most elderly members, were at the top of the potential retirement list in 2018. But, as we mentioned in our updates during the preceding 10 days, both are now sending re-election signals.

Below is a re-cap of the 21 senators who have made public comments about their 2018 campaign status (a total of 33 are in-cycle):

California: Sen. Feinstein stated during a radio interview within the past few days that she is “leaning” toward seeking re-election, feeling that her age during the next campaign (85) will not be a particular detriment either to her political ability or in representing her constituents. She stopped short, however, of making a formal campaign announcement.

Delaware: Sen. Tom Carper (D) said in early December that he has not yet decided whether he will seek a fourth term in 2018. The senator has been in elective office for 40 consecutive years, and will be 72 at the time of the next election.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was also thought to be a retirement possibility, considering that he will be 76 years of age in 2018, and will complete 30 years of congressional service in that same year. Repeatedly, however, Sen. Nelson has said that he will seek a fourth term next year.

Indiana: In what promises to be a hotly contested campaign, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) announced his re-election intention in January, and is beginning to hire political staff.

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Special Elections Mounting – Senate

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 14, 2016 — Just as the 2016 election cycle ended with the Louisiana run-off elections last Saturday, a new round of voting is about to begin.

President-Elect Donald Trump’s selection of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT-AL) as Interior Secretary adds yet another future special election to the growing number of House and Senate odd-numbered year electoral contests.

In addition to what could well become a competitive Montana statewide election in approximately 100 days or so, as many as five other campaigns will be calendared within approximately the same time frame depending upon individual state election laws.

With Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) appointed as Trump’s Attorney General-designate, and with speculation being rampant that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) will become Agriculture Secretary, two new senators and a trio of US House members will be chosen.

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Alabama Strange

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 2, 2016 — Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is the US Attorney General-Designate as is common knowledge, and upon his confirmation to the position a situation filled with rather unique political intrigue will take center stage in Alabama’s capital city.

Gov. Robert Bentley (R) has the responsibility of filling any US Senate vacancy with at least an interim appointment, and then calling a special election to fill the remaining balance of the term. In this case, the special election for Sessions seat will likely be scheduled concurrently with the 2018 regular primary and general voting cycle. The winner then serves until the next in-cycle election, which will be 2020 for this particular Senate position.

Most of the time, the special election is run concurrently with the regular election cycle, but it doesn’t have to be scheduled in such a manner according to Alabama election law. Since the state is solidly Republican, the individual who Bentley appoints will have a major advantage in capturing the party nomination, and then the seat whenever the special is called.

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The State Picture

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 14, 2016 — While there were no significant weekend changes in the uncalled federal races — Michigan remains outstanding in the presidential race (Trump ahead 47.6 – 47.3 percent there), and and we still have two undecided California congressional campaigns (Rep. Ami Bera, D-CA-7, leads Sheriff Scott Jones 50.6 – 49.4 percent; Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA-49, has a 51.0 – 49.0 percent advantage over retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate) — we do have virtually complete state race results.

The legislatures and governors are an important influence at the federal level because in most instances these bodies and officials determine congressional redistricting. With live challenges in Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia, and a possible re-draw of central Texas this coming year, it is not too early to monitor party strength in the newly elected state legislatures.

As we covered in the post-election report series, Republicans earned at least a net gain of two gubernatorial chairs. They converted governors’ mansions in Missouri (Eric Greitens), New Hampshire (Chris Sununu), and Vermont (Phil Scott), while potentially losing North Carolina (Attorney General Roy Cooper-D leading Gov. Pat McCrory-R, but the race is not officially called).

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Early Voting: Definitive?

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 31, 2016 — Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have some form of what is commonly called “no excuse” early voting, and some of those release the number and type of ballots being returned well before Election Day. Can this provide us an insight into how the election is already unfolding?

There are many analytical pieces now in the public domain featuring many different conclusions. It doesn’t appear likely, however, that the early voting numbers are really telling us much. It appears that no matter what your electoral preference, you can find an early voting analysis that supports your individual political outlook.

Therefore, with so many more voters projected to take advantage of the early voting process, it’s difficult to make comparisons between this election and those from the past. It is likely that either a majority of 2016 voters, or close to one, will cast their ballots prior to the actual Nov. 8 Election Day, up from approximately 40 percent in the last presidential election.

Forty states have some type of no-excuse early voting procedure, including every individual entity west of the Mississippi River. Six states: Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, South Carolina, and Virginia, technically allow early voting, but one must indicate a coming absence from the home area during the Election Day period in order to cast an early ballot.

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