Tag Archives: Sen. Richard Shelby

Alabama Senate:
Primary Now Competitive

Former Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 16, 2021 — For the most part, early polling has given Alabama US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) a big lead in his open Senate Republican primary race, but a series of later surveys reveal a major change on the ballot test.

According to the new McLaughlin & Associates survey of the Alabama Republican electorate, Rep. Brooks’ lead has dropped to single-digit points over former Business Council of Alabama CEO Katie Britt, with business owner and military veteran Michael Durant, a relative newcomer to the race, also making his presence felt. An earlier unrelated poll actually found Britt posting a slight edge over the field.

The McLaughlin study (Dec. 6-9; 500 likely Alabama Republican primary voters; 80 percent self-identified Republicans; 20 percent non-Republicans who say they will vote in the Republican primary, live interview) projects Rep. Brooks to be holding a 31-26-17 percent advantage over Britt, who is also a former chief of staff to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R), and Durant. In a troubling sign for Brooks, a hypothetical runoff contest between the congressman and Britt fell the latter candidate’s way on a 39-37 percent count.

Before November, Brooks held huge polling leads — from 23 to 43 points in surveys conducted during the August through October period. The McLaughlin poll seems to reinforce a developing trend that the Strategy Group and the Cygnal polling organization detected in November polling.

Cygnal (Nov. 3-4; 650 likely Alabama Republican primary voters, text, interactive voice response, email), polling for the Alabama Conservatives Fund, actually saw Britt, for the first time, taking a slight 24-22-9 percent lead over Rep. Brooks and Durant.

The Strategy Group (Nov. 1-4; 784 likely Alabama Republican primary voters; live interview and interactive voice response system) found the Brooks lead over Britt to be only 28-23 percent. The SG poll was conducted largely as an issue survey for the Alabama House Republican Caucus, but they asked one question to test a Brooks-Britt isolated Senate primary, which could be a precursor to a runoff contest.

The Alabama race is another where former President Donald Trump has come out early with an endorsement. His support helped Rep. Brooks build a large early lead, but the ex-president will have to come more to the forefront if his candidate is to reverse the latest trend.

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Sen. Patrick Leahy’s Retirement Could Create a Domino Effect of 0pen Seats

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D)

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 17, 2021 — Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), the Senate President Pro Tempore and fifth longest-serving senator in American history, announced Monday that he would not seek a ninth term next year.

The decision was a surprise in that few expected the senator to do anything but run despite some cryptic comments he made earlier in the year. Sen. Leahy will retire as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee after previously heading both the Agriculture and Judiciary Committees. He came to national prominence as the 10-year Judiciary Committee chairman.

As the Chittendon County State’s Attorney, Leahy first ran for the Senate as a little known underdog and was able to win a close general election in the Watergate year of 1974. In those days, Vermont was a Republican state. He was then re-elected in 1980, ’86, ’92, ’98, 2004, ’10, and ’16. Over his long electoral career, he averaged 60.6 percent of the vote over the eight elections.

During all of that time, he had one close call after his original victory, beating Republican Stewart Ledbetter by 2,755 votes in his first re-election during the 1980 campaign cycle. After that, in only one contest did he drop below 60 percent.

In his first election, with a combined vote on the Democratic and Independent Vermonters ballot lines, he was able to defeat Republican Richard Mallary and Bernie Sanders, the latter of whom drew 4.1 percent of the vote on the Liberty Union Party ticket.

After a string of Republican senators exiting, five in all with two more — Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and John Thune (R-SD) — not yet revealing their 2022 political plans, Sen. Leahy becomes the first in-cycle Democrat not to seek re-election. The five departing Republicans are Richard Shelby (AL), Roy Blunt (MO), Richard Burr (NC), Rob Portman (OH), and Pat Toomey (PA).

Vermont, however, is unlikely to become a competitive open seat. Eight-term at-large Rep. Peter Welch (D-Norwich), who has the same constituency as a senator, is well positioned to succeed Sen. Leahy and is expected to soon announce his candidacy.

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Ohio Sen. Portman to Retire

By Jim Ellis

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced his retirement Monday.

Jan. 27, 2021 — Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) surprisingly announced Monday that he will not seek a third term next year, opening the third Senate seat for the 2022 election cycle.

Addressing reporters at a news conference in Cincinnati yesterday, Sen. Portman said, “Our country’s polarized right now. It’s kind of shirts and skins. That makes it more difficult to find that common ground. Elected officials aren’t rewarded for that. What they’re rewarded for is throwing red meat to the talk show.”

The two-term senator indicated that the “partisan gridlock” is one of the reasons for his retirement. He further said in explaining his retirement decision, “we just keep pushing out to the right and to the left, there’s not going to be much left in the middle to solve the real problems we face.”

For the Republicans, they now have three big state open seats to defend as Sen. Portman joins Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr as incumbents who have already made their 2022 retirement plans public. Several others could be on the horizon.

Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will be 88 and 89 years of age, respectively, at the time of the next election, and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) originally took a two-term pledge when he was first elected in 2010. None of these three lawmakers have made their future political plans public to date, however.

Ohio, once a bedrock Republican state, developed a swing image beginning in 1992 when the state deserted GOP President George H.W. Bush and backed Democrat Bill Clinton. They did so again in 1996. In 2000 and 2004, Ohio returned to the Republican column awarding George W. Bush with its electoral votes. In 2008 and 2012, the Buckeye State ventured back to the Democratic side of the political ledger, supporting Barack Obama in both of his national elections.

Therefore, rather than being cast as a swing state during this 20 year period, Ohio may actually have been a microcosm of the national electorate since the state’s voters chose the winning candidate in each of the presidential elections during that time span, and had done likewise for the three previous decades.

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Sessions Looms Over Alabama Race

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

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 4, 2019 — We’re getting close to the Nov. 8 candidate filing deadline in Alabama for the March 3 Super Tuesday state primary, and more speculation is brewing that former senator and US attorney general, Jeff Sessions (R), will decide to enter the crowded GOP primary field in order to re-claim his former position.

Reporting has indicated that Sessions, who originally won the Senate seat in the 1996 election, saw his re-election percentage substantially grow in all of his subsequent campaigns from 58.6 percent in 2002 to 63.4 percent in 2008 to 97.3 percent in 2014 when he didn’t even draw a Democratic opponent, is making calls to members of the Alabama House delegation and political leaders around the state to assess his chances. Sessions, of course, relinquished the Senate seat to accept President Trump’s appointment as US attorney general, and then his political trouble began.

To set the current stage, already in the race and running are US Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), Secretary of State John Merrill, former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County), and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore who blew the 2017 special election when it became public that he dated under-age girls while in his 30s. Judge Moore won the special election nomination when he defeated appointed incumbent Luther Strange in the GOP run-off, which led to Doug Jones becoming the first Democrat to win an Alabama Senate seat since Howell Heflin was re-elected to his third and final term in 1990.

The 2020 Yellowhammer State race, however, may well be the most important contest in the nation to decide the next Senate majority. If the Republicans regain what is normally a safe seat for them, their chamber total increases to 54, which means the Democrats would have to sweep the top vulnerable GOP incumbent defense races in Arizona (Sen. Martha McSally vs. Mark Kelly), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner vs. presumably former governor and ex-presidential candidate John Hickenlooper), and North Carolina (Sen. Thom Tillis, assuming he wins the GOP nomination, against former state Sen. Cal Cunningham), and win the presidency.

This scenario would bring the 2021 US Senate into a tie but give the Democrats the majority because the new vice president, who also becomes the Senate president, would be a Democrat with the power to break a tie vote.

Most believe the Republicans would be in the political driver’s seat to defeat Sen. Jones should anyone but Moore win the GOP nomination. Alabama will be one of President Trump’s strongest states (62.1 percent in 2016), and the GOP tide should be strong enough to carry the party’s Senate nominee to victory over a Democratic incumbent who has held the party line on most controversial issues and will more than likely support President Trump’s removal from office.

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He’s Baaaaaack!

By Jim Ellis

                      Judge Roy Moore

June 24, 2019 — As expected and despite urgings from President Trump not to do so, former Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore announced his Senate 2020 candidacy late last week.

We will remember Judge Moore’s ill-fated 2017 special Senate election effort that resulted in Democrat Doug Jones becoming the first member of his party to win an Alabama Senate seat since Howell Heflin was last re-elected in 1990.

Even before the announcement, Moore and Sen. Richard Shelby (R) were again trading barbs. Judge Moore argued that Shelby’s involvement, which culminated in the senior senator saying he was placing “country before party,” led to Jones’ victory, while Shelby retorted that he still thinks “Alabama can do better,” in a reference about electing Judge Moore.

Arguably, Alabama is the most important Senate race on the 2020 election board. If the Republicans take back the seat, which is a must if they want to cement their hold on the majority, the Senate party division would increase to 54 Republicans. Looking at the remaining seats in play for the current election cycle it becomes increasingly difficult for the Democrats to reach majority status if they lose this race.

In 2017, Judge Moore, after defeating appointed incumbent Luther Strange 55-45 percent in a run-off election after placing first with 39 percent in the original special primary, was found to have attempted to date, or did date, between two and nine underage girls when he was a deputy district attorney in Etowah County some 40 years ago. The controversy likely cost Moore the election, a battle that he lost to Jones 50.0 to 48.3 percent.

The 2020 regular primary appears to feature a more difficult field of opponents for Moore than did the special election. Appointed Sen. Strange waded into his own batch of quicksand when allegations surfaced that he allegedly cut a deal with Gov. Robert Bentley (R) when the former man was Alabama’s attorney general and the state chief executive was being scrutinized for spending and utilizing state resources for his personal use.

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