Nov. 20, 2017 — Currently, the near-term and long-range Senate outlook seems to fluctuate by the hour. Last week we repeatedly detailed the Republicans’ problem with Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore and the effect the Dec. 12 special election will have upon the 2018 Senate cycle. But, yesterday became a day for the Democrats’ to receive similar bad news, albeit along with some good news.
While the Republicans languish in Alabama, Democrats were becoming increasingly concerned about Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) corruption trial when a verdict appeared imminent, and what might happen should he be convicted. Last week, seeing the trial judge declare a mistrial, may mean that the senator’s legal hurdles have been cleared since it seems unlikely that the government would again pursue the case when prosecutors obviously had too little evidence to completely convince a jury that any crime had been committed.
But the positive Menendez result for the Dems was negated by the unfolding sexual harassment debacle involving Sen. Al Franken. Interestingly, though seemingly unrelated to the Alabama situation, both of these Democratic developments could influence the campaign’s course and help determine whether Judge Moore will be allowed to serve in the Senate if he rebounds to win the special election.
Oct. 4, 2017 — The Opinion Savvy research firm went into the field to test the Alabama electorate immediately after last week’s special Republican run-off election, and found the winner of that special primary election, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, holding only a tenuous lead over his Democrat opponent, ex-US Attorney Doug Jones.
Left: Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) Right: Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D)
The survey results, which other pollsters will probably soon confirm, should lead to the Democratic leadership launching a major offensive campaign here with the long shot goal of stealing the Republican stronghold seat. They have the resources but are hamstrung in this cycle because few offensive Senate opportunities exist; hence, they must make a serious play for this seat that would not normally be in play.
The Opinion Savvy poll (Sept. 27-28; 590 registered Alabama voters; 514 “definite” Dec. 12 special general election voters; 76 “considering” whether they will vote) finds Judge Moore leading Jones, 50-45 percent. Among the definite voters, Moore’s margin expands slightly to 51-44 percent. Within the lesser-motivated voting group, the Republican’s edge slides to just one point, 46-45 percent.
As we saw during the Republican run-off, a huge split – with diametrically opposite totals – exists between self-described evangelicals and non-evangelicals. Considering that the Census Bureau classifies 49 percent of the entire state population as evangelical, and 55.6 percent of this polling universe, this demographic segment was obviously a crucial block in determining the outcome of the Republican run-off and will have an equally large say in the upcoming special general.
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.
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.
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.