By Jim Ellis
Aug. 17, 2017 — The pre-election polling proved accurate Tuesday, as Alabama former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the special Senate Republican primary, as predicted, and will advance to a Sept. 26 run-off election.
The Trafalgar Group released the last poll for the special primary cycle. The survey (Aug. 12-13; 870 likely GOP primary voters) found Judge Moore holding 38 percent support, followed by appointed Sen. Luther Strange with 24 percent, and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) dropping back to 17.5 percent. The results were almost precise for Moore, understated Sen. Strange’s support, and slightly missed Brooks’ finish.
With just over 417,000 individuals voting in the Republican primary Judge Moore captured 39 percent of the statewide Republican vote, enough to claim the first run-off position but a long way from securing a majority.
Sen. Strange easily took the second run-off slot with 33 percent finishing well ahead of the third place finisher, Congressman Brooks (20 percent).
Judge Moore fared best in the rural areas, particularly the southeast, showing major strength in the Montgomery and Dothan areas. He also topped the field in Mobile, but placed second to Strange in the state’s most populous metropolitan area, Birmingham. Rep. Brooks broke the 50 percent barrier in his home county of Madison.
While the polling was generally spot-on for the Republicans, it couldn’t have been more in error on the Democratic side. Several early surveys predicted that marketing executive and retired Navy officer Robert Kennedy Jr. would force ex-US Attorney Doug Jones into a run-off election. The end result proved diametrically opposite.
Last night, Jones secured the party nomination outright with a landslide 66-18 percent victory over Kennedy. The former Birmingham area federal prosecutor now automatically advances to the Dec. 12 general election, by-passing the Sept. 26 run-off vote.
Though Jones proved strong within his own party, the turnout factor gives the Democrats pause. Of the almost 579,000 people voting yesterday, 72.3 percent chose to vote in the Republican primary. Therefore, we can expect all eyes to be closely watching the Sept. 26 vote, which may very well decide who permanently replaces ex-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R). The winner of the Dec. 12 special general will serve through the 2020 election, and is eligible to seek re-election at that time.
The second special primary election of the night was in Utah and produced a winner in the person of Provo Mayor John Curtis. He will advance as the Republican nominee to the Nov. 7 special general election to face Democrat Kathryn Allen, a physician who became her party’s standard-bearer back in a March special convention.
From a turnout of what should be just over 70,000 Republican voters once all of the mailed ballots have been received and tabulated, Mayor Curtis received 41 percent of the vote topping the Republican Party endorsed candidate, former state Representative Chris Herrod, who posted 31 percent support. In third position was marketing executive Tanner Ainge with a respectable 28 percent, more than enough to deny Herrod victory and indirectly helped throw the nomination to Curtis.
Herrod won the March nominating convention, but both Curtis and Ainge achieved ballot access through the petition signature option. Curtis performed best in his hometown of Provo, the district’s largest population center, but his percentage was only one point greater than his district-wide standing.
Though Mayor Curtis will now be a heavy favorite to replace resigned Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) in November, from a district where Hillary Clinton failed to even place second, Dr. Allen is poised to run a strong campaign. Already sitting on close to $1 million, the Democratic nominee will make her presence felt in the special general, so this will be a campaign that draws some national attention.