Sessions Jumps Into Alabama Senate Race; Indiana Rep. Visclosky Is Out

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 8, 2019News Items: 1) Former senator and ex-US attorney general, Jeff Sessions (R), yesterday announced his candidacy to re-claim the US Senate seat he left in 2017.
2) On the 35th anniversary of his being elected to Congress, 18-term US Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Merrillville/Gary) announced via Twitter that he will be retiring from the House at the end of his current term.


Former Senator and US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions (R)

Rumors had abounded for weeks that Sessions was considering a return to elective politics, and he ran out of time to make a decision. The Alabama candidate filing deadline is today for the statewide primary scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 3. If no candidate receives majority support in the semi-closed primary election where only Republicans and non-affiliated voters can participate, the top two finishers advance to a secondary run-off vote that will occur on April 14.

The eventual Republican nominee will oppose first-term Sen. Doug Jones (D), who won the special election to replace Sessions when he resigned to assume his duties as attorney general. This seat may be the most important in the 2020 cycle as a determining factor for the next majority.

If the Republicans could convert Alabama, a state that will be one of President Trump’s strongest in next year’s election, the GOP conference will expand to 54 members. Considering the configuration of other competitive seats during the Senate election cycle, winning this race might be enough for the Republicans to hold at least a smaller majority.

It’s unclear at the outset exactly how Sessions’ entry will affect the GOP primary. Already in the race are Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County), and former Alabama state Supreme Chief Judge Roy Moore, the man who bungled the 2017 special election campaign that resulted in Sen. Jones’ victory.

Several surveys have been conducted of the GOP field, but none of the pollsters included Sessions in their ballot test. Therefore, we have little information as to the degree of residual strength he currently possesses as the campaign begins for real.

It is probable, however, that the emerging Sessions campaign effort polled the state before moving forward, and the fact that the former senator is announcing his candidacy suggests that the data reveals a path to victory.

Because of his public feud with President Trump, however, his standing with the Alabama Republican electorate is undoubtedly weaker than it was when he last ran for the Senate, an unopposed campaign in 2014, but it appears this 2020 Alabama GOP primary has become much more interesting and less predictable within the last 24 hours.

We will see new polls rapidly going into the field so we can expect to see new data very soon about how Sessions might fare as he returns to the political fray.


Longtime Rep. Visclosky becomes the tenth Democrat not to seek re-election and the 31st overall member to do so. Of this group, four are already out of the House meaning their seats will go to special election.

Indiana’s 1st District sits in the northwest corner of the state, hugging the southern point of Lake Michigan; it houses Lake and Porter counties, along with part of LaPorte. The largest population centers are the cities of Gary, Hammond, and the congressman’s hometown of Merrillville.

The 1st is heavily Democratic and Visclosky’s successor will almost assuredly emerge as the winner in the May 5 party primary. While the candidate filing deadline isn’t until Feb. 7, already one Democratic candidate has announced for the seat. On the heels of Visclosky’s announcement, Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott said Wednesday afternoon that he will run for Congress. Two weeks ago, he publicly indicated that he was considering launching a primary challenge against Congressman Visclosky.

Hillary Clinton carried the 1st District by a 54-41 percent margin in 2016, and President Obama broke 60 percent, winning 61-37 percent over 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney. In his 18 US House elections, Rep. Visclosky averaged 68.6 percent of the vote. He defeated Republican steel worker Mark Leyva in seven of those contests. Visclosky never ran unopposed and was challenged only twice in the Democratic primary after his initial election in 1984.

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