By Jim EllisFeb. 25, 2019 — One of the critical 2020 US Senate contests is beginning to take shape. Over the past few days, Alabama Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) formally announced his statewide candidacy with the goal of opposing Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who won the controversial 2017 special election that attracted national attention.
The Jones victory, defeating beleaguered Republican Roy Moore, a former state Supreme Court Chief Justice, represented the first time a Democrat won an Alabama statewide federal election since incumbent Sen. Howell Heflin secured his final term in 1990.
Prior to that, Richard Shelby, then a Democratic congressman, unseated Republican Sen. Jeremiah Denton in 1986. Shelby then switched to the Republican Party immediately after the 1994 election. Prior to the Denton victory on the same night that Ronald Reagan was first elected president, no Republican had won an Alabama seat for more than 100 years.
The Yellowhammer State Senate race could well be the lynchpin to determining which party will control the chamber after the 2020 election. With the electoral map favoring the Democrats because Republicans must defend 22 of the 34 in-cycle seats, including the Arizona special Senate election, Alabama becomes a virtual “must-win” for the GOP.