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.