Alabama & Arkansas: The Filings

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 15, 2019 — Candidate filing for the 2020 election cycle is now closed in two states, Alabama and Arkansas, and several individuals unexpectedly became candidates.

First, in the presidential race, not only did former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg file in Alabama, as was widely reported last week, but he also submitted papers for the Arkansas presidential primary. This doesn’t necessarily mean he will enter the national race, but it certainly gives him the option to become an active candidate.

Reports are now surfacing, however, that Bloomberg will not file for the New Hampshire presidential primary at today’s deadline. This move is even more surprising in light of his filing in Alabama and Arkansas. Polling must tell him he would be shut out in the Granite State and, with only a total of 24 first-ballot delegates, skipping the state would not greatly affect his potential delegate acquisition count.

Another surprise came in Arkansas where, at least for now, first-term Sen. Tom Cotton (R) has no Democratic opponent. When filing closed, Fayetteville Democrat and former congressional candidate Josh Mahony complied with the deadline requirements and said in his exit statement said he had been working the state for six months in order to lay groundwork for his statewide campaign. Before the day ended, however, he decided to rescind his candidacy.

Mahony said a family issue keeps him from running, but the Arkansas Republican Party had also just filed an ethics complaint against him, so it is possible that this development also had some influence on his decision to leave the race. In any event, Mahony is no longer a candidate even though he would have been unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

At this point, the Democrats have no Senate candidate, but state law will allow the party members to meet and choose a new nominee to oppose Sen. Cotton. Either way, Cotton’s re-election prospects appear completely sound.

Of course, the Alabama Senate race, now that former US attorney general and Alabama senator, Jeff Sessions, is returning in an attempt to re-capture his previous position, has drawn the most political attention. The entire Republican field for the office includes the aforementioned Sessions, Secretary of State John Merrill, US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, ex-state Supreme Court Chief Judge and 2017 special Senate nominee Roy Moore, state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County), and businessman Stanley Adair.

The other somewhat surprising filing came in Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District, where state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) will run to oppose three-term Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock). The 2nd District, which is comprised of the Little Rock metropolitan area, is the most politically marginal of Arkansas’ four congressional districts.

Sen. Elliott has run for Congress before, back in 2010 when she was the Democratic nominee against Republican Tim Griffin, now the state’s lieutenant governor, in an open-seat contest after then-Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Little Rock) chose not to seek re-election. In that election, Griffin defeated Elliott by a landslide 58-38 percent margin. She has served three terms in the state House and five two-year terms in the Senate. Sen. Elliott is second in seniority within her legislative chamber.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) will run unopposed in 2020 as no one from either party filed against him. Reps. Steve Womack (R-Rogers) and Bruce Westerman (R-Hot Springs) drew Democratic opponents and are favored to win re-election with strong victory percentages.

In Alabama, Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), and Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) have no major party general election opponent. Rep. Brooks has a Republican primary opponent. Rep. Palmer drew only an Independent opponent. At this point in both states, all House incumbents are favored for re-election.

Alabama also has two open seat contests, as Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) is leaving the 1st District to run for the Senate, and 2nd District Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) is retiring. Successors for both seats should be decided in the Republican primary.

In the 1st CD, former state Sen. Bill Hightower, state Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile), and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl appear to be the top candidates.

In District 2, former attorney general Troy King (R) faces six Republican opponents, only one of whom has served in elected office — ex-state Rep. Barry Moore who challenged Rep. Roby in the 2018 Republican primary and finished third in a field of five candidates with 19.3 percent of the vote.

In Alabama, if no candidate receives a majority vote in the March 3 primary, the top two finishers in each affected party would advance to a run-off election on April 14. In Arkansas, any race necessitating a run-off election will be held on March 31.

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