Handicapping the special Senate election

Jeff Martin

Eighteen candidates consisting of ten Republicans and eight Democrats have qualified to run for the United States Senate seat currently held by Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat by former Governor Robert Bentley after Jeff Sessions was confirmed U.S. Attorney General.

The primary is set for August 15, 2017, the runoff is on September 26, 2017, and the general election is set for December 12, 2017.

Republicans who have qualified include the current seat holder Senator Luther Strange.  Strange has received the endorsement of political heavyweights ALFA and the NRA and is expected to lead the field in fundraising.

Strange holds solid polling numbers until his name is attached to Gov. Bentley and the scandal surrounding his appointment. Expect Strange to be hit hard by his opponents in the race.

Because they wouldn’t have to give up their seat, several Alabama Congressmen were expected to enter the special Senate election, but all with the exception of one, heeded the warnings from the National Republican Senatorial Committee that Strange was to be considered an incumbent and should not be challenged.

Three–term Congressman Mo Brooks of Huntsville enters the race with a campaign war chest of $1.8 million. Brooks finished third in the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor in 2006.  Brooks brought national attention to himself a few years ago by accusing Democrats of waging a “war on whites.”

Roy Moore, the former chief justice, leads in most polling and is an odds on favorite to be in a runoff, but it is hard to imagine Moore being able to reach the 50 percent threshold to become the nominee.

Dr. Randy Brinson, the former head of the Christian Coalition of Alabama and founder of the conservative advocacy group “Redeem the Vote,” entry into the race probably hurts Moore as an alternative choice for the religious vote.

Sen. Trip Pittman has represented Baldwin County since being elected in a special election in 2007. Pittman, a tractor dealer, is the only Republican candidate from the southern portion of the state. Pittman would be considered an alternative to Strange. Both are fiscal conservatives who should enjoy the support of banking, insurance, and big business. Pittman has also chaired both budget committees in the state Senate.

The remaining five Republican candidates are Dominic Gentile, a Hoover resident who owns a commercial cleaning business management firm. Bryan Peeples of Birmingham, a territory manager for Heartland Payment Systems and President and CEO of Peeples Consulting. James Beretta, an Indian Springs physician. Mary Maxwell and Joseph F. Breault.

Of the eight Democrats who have qualified to run, only one, Doug Jones would be considered a viable candidate. Jones is a former U.S. Attorney, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997. He currently practices law in Birmingham.  During his tenure as U.S. Attorney Jones led the prosecution in the re-opened case of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and successfully prosecuted two men for the murder of the four young girls in the blast.

If Roy Moore was to surprise the pollsters and win the Republican nomination, the General election could actually become competitive and a strong Democratic candidate could emerge victorious. Moore was almost defeated by Democrat Robert Vance in the 2012 race for Chief Justice, winning by less than two-percentage points over Vance, who entered the race less than three-months before the election.

The other Democrats to qualify are Robert Kennedy Jr. from Mobile, little else is known about Kennedy, but it is doubtful he is related to the Kennedy political dynasty. Michael Hansen, who is openly gay and executive director of Alabama environmental advocacy group Gasp. Jason Fisher of Orange Beach, Will Boyd of Lauderdale County, Vann Caldwell of Talladega County, Brian McGee of Lee County and Nana Tchienkou of Jefferson County.

I predict that Roy Moore and Luther Strange will go head to head in the September runoff, but look for Pittman or Brooks to be factors, especially if they are both able to raise the needed campaign dollars to wage a serious campaign.

And the Democratic nominee’s only hope is the long shot possibility of facing Moore in December.

We all come to the table of democracy as equals

At the same time the Alabama Legislature was voting to forever protect confederate monuments, New Orleans was removing them.

At the time same-sex marriage becomes legalized the Alabama Legislature passes a law denying such couples the right to adopt children from some adoption agencies.

At the same time the U.S. Supreme Court ruled North Carolina’s Republican controlled legislature improperly redrew Congressional districts based on race, the Alabama Legislature was redrawing legislative districts for the same reason.

At the same time my 10-year old daughter sat in her classroom studying Alabama history, the Alabama Legislature was dealing with a racist email forwarded by a white lawmaker to his colleagues.

The same Alabama Legislature that pride themselves on passing every ‘economic incentive’ known to lure companies to locate in Alabama, somehow always still manages to screw it up with their racist ways, passing laws glorifying the ugly side of our state’s history and protecting what I like to refer to as ‘participation monuments’, because the fact is, most controversial monuments portray losers not winners, which is odd in itself.

There appears to be a pattern here and it is because racism remains alive and well.

And when I refer to the ugly side of history, I’m not referring to just the Civil War, but to the war on civil rights and the continued divide between black and white America.

Because let us not kid ourselves, most confederate monuments and the like, appeared during the 20th Century, long after the Confederacy was defeated. And it wasn’t done to remember the fallen, but in support of segregation and a push against the civil rights movement.

History should be taught and preserved, but there is a difference in preserving and teaching history and glorifying it by building monuments and naming buildings for those who fought against the United States and for slavery.

Last week, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu publicly addressed the removal of four confederate monuments in his city.

And to the naysayers who want to argue the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, I say go sit in a corner and argue with the wall.

In his address Mayor Landrieu says, “A friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it?

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too?

We all know the answer to these very simple questions.

When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.”

Landrieu goes on to say, “We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations.

And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people.

In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals…

Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all, not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America.”

So if you still believe it’s all about history and not hate next time you see someone waving the confederate flag or defending a confederate monument, ask them why. It’s doubtful they could even tell you when the Civil War took place or who Jefferson Davis was. It’s just hate and ignorance.