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.
July 13, 2017 — Two major announcements occurred during the last few days resulted in one individual becoming an official statewide candidate and another withdrawing from a campaign that had already begun.
West Virginia Senate
As had been expected for some time, two-term West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) announced his campaign for the United States Senate. He will face two-term Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-Huntington) in the Republican primary, with the winner drawing a difficult political match with Sen. Joe Manchin (D).
With average win percentages of 62 percent over two elections as governor (2004, ’08) in addition to a pair of Senate campaigns (2010 special election; 2012), Sen. Manchin appears to be in strong shape as he approaches his 2018 re-election. But, there are some cracks in his armor, hence the presence of two strong GOP opponents.
Though Sen. Manchin has attempted to cross the partisan line in his public relationship with President Trump and the Republican leadership on several issues, it is still a net negative for the senator to campaign on the same political landscape that proved to be the former’s second strongest state (69 percent).
July 10, 2017 — The Missouri Senate race transformed itself earlier this week when Rep. Ann Wagner (R-St. Louis County) announced that she would not challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), and there is an update as to what may happen next.
The congresswoman had been expected to make a July campaign announcement, but her statement contained a twist that none had anticipated. With a political fire drill now underway to respond to a new campaign sans Wagner, the early spotlight focuses on at least two viable GOP options.
Attorney General Josh Hawley is the most talked about potential candidate. Several prominent Show Me State Republicans initiated a move, which former US Sen. John Danforth, ex-Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, and major campaign donor and former US Ambassador Sam Fox led, that openly encouraged Hawley to run even when it was thought that Wagner would become a candidate.
By Jim Ellis
July 7, 2017 — Considering Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-MO) surprise decision not to challenge Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) and last week’s Arizona maneuverings among Democrats vis-à-vis a challenge to Sen. Jeff Flake (R), it’s become a good time to examine the various competitive US Senate situations in order to review the campaigns most likely to be competitive.
The status listed below reflects the candidates and potential candidates who appear to be credible contenders at this time:
• Alabama: Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R)
Special election schedule: Aug. 15 primary; Sept. 26 run-off; Dec. 12 general
Sen. Strange (R) – Announced
Rep. Mo Brooks (R) – Announced
Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) – Announced
Dr. Randy Brinson (R) – Announced
Ex-US Attorney Doug Jones (D) – Announced
• Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R)
Sen. Flake (R) – Confirmed
Former State Sen. Kelli Ward (R) – Announced
State Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R) – Possible
State Rep. Randy Friese, MD (D) – Possible
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) – Possible
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) – Possible
• Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D)
Sen. Nelson (D) – Announced
Gov. Rick Scott (R) – Probable
July 6, 2017 — A July announcement regarding the coming Missouri US Senate race had been expected for weeks, but the actual content featured a much different declaration than anticipated.
Just before the July 4th holiday, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-St. Louis County), who was thought to be announcing a campaign for the Senate, instead made public her decision not to challenge Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. Rep. Wagner will seek a fourth term in the House, however. The congresswoman cited her desire to continue fully representing her home area as the driving force behind her ultimate political decision. In her statement, Wagner said that the 2nd District “ … is my home. It’s where I grew up, went to school, have worked and volunteered, raised my kids, and attend church every week—there is no greater honor than representing a place and people that I love.”
The Wagner turnabout was particularly surprising in that she had been raising money at a very strong clip, more than $800,000 in the first quarter with a projected similar amount for the quarter just ended but not yet publicly reported.
Democrats, of course, are saying that Wagner decided not to run statewide because she and another Republicans fear a bad political year. The Dems uniformly cite President Trump’s low approval ratings and what many perceive as a politically negative healthcare issue, things they believe will cause major electoral problems for GOP candidates.