Tag Archives: Gov. Robert Bentley

Indictment Politics

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 26, 2018 — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) was indicted on one count of felony invasion of privacy late last week. The photograph of a partially nude woman with whom he was having an affair is the subject of the felony charge. Though the extramarital affair was consensual, being photographed in a compromising position was not, hence the invasion of privacy indictment. Transmitting the photo through use of a computer makes the charge a Class E felony under Missouri law, which could mean a prison sentence of up to four years.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' mug shot

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ mug shot

While the legal situation will be left to the courts to adjudicate, the political aftermath merits discussion. Though Gov. Greitens claims he will fight the charge, more often than not these situations end in reaching a legal agreement. In cases involving office holders, resigning from office is always part of any plea agreement. This was certainly the case for then-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) in Alabama, when he agreed to resign when the charges against him were reduced to misdemeanor campaign violations. Upon news of the indictment, Republican state legislative leaders said that they would assign a committee to investigate the charge, which opens the door to potential impeachment proceedings.

Should the governor reach a plea bargain, or be found guilty and thus forced to resign his position, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson would ascend to the governorship. As a Republican, Parson’s becoming governor would not result in a change of party leadership. Because Gov. Greitens was just elected in 2016, Parson, should he succeed a resigned or impeached state chief executive, would serve in the state’s top position through 2020 and be eligible to run in his own right in the ’20 election.

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More Filings Close

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.

2018-elections-open-seatsAlabama 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.

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Looking at the Governors’ Races

2018-gubernatorial-elections

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 25, 2018 — Earlier this month, we set the stage for the Senate and House campaigns. Today, we look at another important election platform, that of the nation’s governors. Though these races will elect people who will obviously determine future individual state policy, most of the 2018 gubernatorial winners will carry redistricting veto power in 2021. Therefore, these elections also carry national implications.

Of the 36 governors’ campaigns, 17 will be open races mostly due to state term limit laws. While the Democrats must protect the preponderance of US Senate seats this year, the opposite situation exists in the governors’ races. Here, Republicans must defend 26 state houses, 13 of which are open seats.

Of the 13 GOP incumbents seeking re-election, three are actually running for governor for the first time. Govs. Kay Ivey (R-Alabama), Kim Reynolds (R-Iowa), and Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) were all lieutenant governors who ascended to their current position because the person elected in 2014 is no longer in office.

Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign as part of a plea bargain arrangement over campaign finance violations. The other two state chief executives, Terry Branstad (IA) and Nikki Haley (SC), accepted positions in the Trump Administration. At this point in the election cycle, all three unelected governors are favored to win a full term.

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Alabama Stats;
Minnesota’s New Senator

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 15, 2017 — Predictably, Democrats and media commentators are promoting the premise that Doug Jones’ victory in Tuesday’s Alabama special Senate election is another sign that a Democratic wave is building to transform the minority party into one that wins control of at least one congressional chamber next year. But the actual numbers do not provide evidence for such an analysis.

In actuality, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) may have succinctly and correctly described what happened in the Alabama election, which caused Republicans to lose one of their safest seats in the nation. During an interview with NBC News, Sen. Johnson simply said, “Alabamians didn’t want somebody who dated 14-year-old girls.”

Looking at the actual figures, there is more supporting data for the supposition that Jones’ win is more likely due to Republican defections from former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, rather than a massive increase in Democratic turnout. While the Alabama special did feature a higher turnout than the last midterm election (2014), we also saw this phenomenon occur in two earlier special elections: the Montana at-large and GA-6 congressional contests. Republicans won both of those votes, proving that the GOP base was sufficiently energized in those two places to withstand increased Democratic turnout. But, Alabama doesn’t fit that same model either in the mode of Republican loyalty or an energized Democratic base.

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Strange vs. Brooks

By Jim Ellis

July 26, 2017 — Though nine Republicans are on the ballot for the Aug. 15 Alabama special Senate GOP primary, the ad war would suggest it’s a contest only between appointed Sen. Luther Strange and US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville).

Brooks is advertising heavily and going hard right, a reasonable strategy for an Alabama Republican primary, and his latest ad (above) features his role in helping the shooting victims during the June 14 morning congressional baseball practice at an Alexandria, Virginia park. After Brooks risked his life to help those who had been wounded, a reporter attempted to bring the gun control debate into focus. Brooks’ answer to his question is the ad’s focal point, as well as identifying the shooter as a “Bernie Sanders supporter.”

Sen. Strange, on the other hand, is exclusively targeting Rep. Brooks with hard-hitting negative ads, attacking him for not supporting President Trump during the 2016 national campaign. (See below)

Strange’s tactics tell us that the few published polls suggesting the senator and Rep. Brooks are fighting for the second run-off position are most likely accurate. It also supports the idea that Strange’s own internal polling numbers are giving him similar reports, or he wouldn’t be focusing on just one opponent.

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Alabama Battle Lines Drawn

By Jim Ellis

July 14, 2017 — Now, just about a month away from the Alabama US Senate special primary election, we are seeing the first political patterns that begin to define the Republican primary race.

To review, the seat became vacant when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) was appointed US attorney general. In a controversial move, embattled Gov. Robert Bentley (R) tabbed state Attorney General Luther Strange (R) to replace Sessions. The appointment was controversial from the start because Bentley was reportedly under investigation by Strange’s office.

Gov. Bentley, who was facing impeachment from his own Republican base in the state legislature, saw the process grind to a halt when Strange asked the legislative leadership to allow him to complete his investigation to determine if the governor actually misused state funds when engaged in an extra-marital affair. Strange later said that he never confirmed such an investigation was actually underway, but he publicly asked the legislative leaders to halt, and that helped him earn him the appointment. Bentley was then in position to appoint the new attorney general who would decide whether to continue the stealth investigation into his own potential wrongdoing.

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Unelecteds and Opens

By Jim Ellis

June 12, 2017 — It was always known that a large number of 2017-18 cycle governors’ races would be open contests, but finding several unelected incumbents running to hold their new positions is an unforeseen nuance.

In three states, and possibly soon a fourth, governors have been appointed to Trump administration positions or forced from office, thus allowing the lieutenant governor to move into the state’s top position.

South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, now UN Ambassador; Terry Branstad of Iowa becoming US Ambassador to China and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley being forced from office for misappropriation of state funds have made Henry McMaster (SC), Kim Reynolds (IA), and Kay Ivey (AL) overnight governors. While on paper and in practice this is a big advantage for the former lieutenant governors in running for the state’s top position, none of them have easy campaign roads, and not even for their respective party nominations.

Last week’s announcement from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) that he will enter his state’s open gubernatorial contest next year may soon lead to him battling a new incumbent if on-again, off-again Washington, DC appointment rumors eventually prove true.

Speculation has abounded that President Trump will tap Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS) for an open United Nations position, or another associated with foreign policy. Though such talk has been a subject of discussion since February and he has yet to be appointed, it is unclear if such will ever happen. Should it, however, then Secretary Kobach, oil businessman Wink Hartman, and ex-state Rep. Ed O’Malley will have to face a new sitting Republican governor, Jeff Colyer, the current lieutenant governor.

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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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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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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.

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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