8 months ago

Who’s running? Previewing Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate Election

Alabama has been stuck in what seems like one endless election cycle since 2015. And it’s not going to end anytime soon.

As signaled by the start of Governor Ivey’s first television buy ahead of the November 6 General Election, the summer political lull –  a seeming oasis of respite from wall-to-wall political advertising that turned out to be a mirage – lasted a mere 16 days after the July 17 Primary Runoff. That’s 1.6 Scaramuccis for those keeping track at home.

This respite, however temporary, still might be one of the longer political advertising breaks Alabama experiences before December 2020. Besides the upcoming local, statewide and Congressional midterm races that are now gearing up ahead of November, the 2020 U.S. Senate Election looms large on the horizon. Potential Republican candidates and savvy power brokers have already started the behind-the-scenes jockeying that will set the table for defeating incumbent Sen. Doug Jones 27 months from now.

We still have a long way to go before knowing who will go on to defeat Sen. Jones, but serious and wannabee contenders are already emerging from the pack.


Mayor Tommy Battle

Advantages: Battle proved that he has a stronghold of votes in and around Madison County. For both fundraising and turnout, Huntsville’s reliance on federal dollars and policies will be a big boost for him. By staying positive in his television advertising this year, Battle fostered good-will amongst some of the Republican Party faithful and built a base of statewide name identification and favorability for this future run.

Challenges: It’s unclear how Battle will fare in a statewide race in which multiple candidates will be throwing jabs at him, probably all from the right. His social conservative bona fides will come under attack, and pivoting to economic development talking points will not work with the vast majority of Republican primary voters.

Things to consider: Battle’s run for governor became an expensive trial balloon for a future campaign once Governor Ivey assumed office and righted the ship of state. His team was and still is playing the long game.

Rep. Bradley Byrne

Advantages: In what is sure to be a crowded primary field, candidates with strong geographic bases like Byrne’s in vote-rich Baldwin and Mobile counties will have a leg-up as they seek to make a primary runoff. Byrne also has experience running statewide, a resulting name I.D. advantage over Alabama’s other seven members of the U.S. House, economic development success stories to tell, and proven big-league fundraising ability.

Challenges: Byrne will have to prove that he has learned from his 2010 upset defeat and better message to base Republican primary voters.

Things to consider: If Byrne does indeed run for the Senate, this will leave his First Congressional District seat wide open. Expect outgoing state Sen. Rusty Glover, state Rep. Chris Pringle and outgoing state Sen. Bill Hightower to lead a lengthy list of hopefuls for this would-be opening.

Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh

Advantages: This will be a free shot for Marsh, as his sixth term in the State Senate will not end until 2022. His prolific fundraising ability is well-known, but he also has the means to self-finance his campaign, which could give him a significant cash-on-hand head-start on the other elected officials on this list. Marsh’s entrepreneurial successes and experience will also sell well on the campaign trail.

Challenges: Members of the state legislature simply do not have much, if any, name recognition outside of their relatively small districts. Marsh does get some statewide press as Sen. Pro Tem and ran television advertising in the Birmingham television market this primary cycle, but he still has a long way to go in building the necessary name I.D. The silver lining – money and time, two things Marsh has on his side, can accomplish this.

Things to consider: Expect to see Marsh continue advertising on Birmingham television, Alabama’s largest media market, this cycle as he plans a possible 2020 run. Jockeying in the State Senate and the upcoming legislative session will unfold with the future in mind.

Secretary of State John Merrill

Advantages: As a statewide elected official, Merrill has broader geographic name recognition than U.S. Reps. and members of the state legislature. He is also quite possibly the best retail politician in the state and will outwork just about anyone on the campaign trail.

Challenges: While his name recognition is relatively broad in terms of geography, it still isn’t very high. The lesson here is that television and television only can get your name identification up past a certain point. Merrill will need to find a large amount of money to spend on advertising to build on his solid name identification in order to be competitive against better-funded opponents. He does not yet have the type of ready-built fundraising machine necessary to win a big-league statewide race.

Things to consider: This would be a free shot for Merrill, as his second term serving as Secretary of State will last until January 2023. He could use this opportunity to build towards a 2022 run for Governor or another opening a couple years down the road.

Rep. Gary Palmer

Advantages: If no other serious candidate from the Birmingham metropolitan area enters the race, Palmer would have the potential to collect a sizable vote from his district. As a member of the House Freedom Caucus and given his tenure at the Alabama Policy Institute, he will have significant grassroots and Republican base appeal. Palmer not only knows conservative issues, he knows how to message conservative issues. He will be able to raise money competitively from the Birmingham business community and as a sitting Member of Congress.

Challenges: Palmer’s low name identification outside of his district could hurt him.

Things to consider: This would be a risky play for Palmer. He’s in a safe House seat, and the odds of him winning the Senate race might not be high enough to leave a sure thing. If Palmer does try to make the leap to the Senate in 2020, this opens up his House Seat to another 2014-like scrum. Expect former state Rep. Paul DeMarco and former state Sen. Scott Beason to be in the mix again, along with the likes of outgoing state Sen. Slade Blackwell, state Sen. Cam Ward and Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington.

Rep. Martha Roby

Advantages: Roby is likely to be the only woman with name recognition in the race, and would do well to capitalize on her natural lead with female voters. Alabamians also tend to elect candidates who have the potential of acquiring and leveraging seniority in the Senate. Having just turned 42 last week, Roby could serve for forty years if elected.

Challenges: Even though the runoff was a landslide victory, do not forget that Roby’s support in the Second Congressional District has diminished since 2016. Her triumphant runoff showing, against a Democrat and after being endorsed by President Trump, still only amounted to 48,000 votes – which would’ve amounted to a 51 percent razor-thin victory if turnout from the primary held. What should be a major advantage for Roby has turned into a liability – she has the weakest foothold with her geographic base out of all of Alabama’s Representatives. If Roby is interested in running for the Senate, or even keeping her seat in 2020, she needs to spend much more time in her district repairing her image in the coming year.

Things to consider: If Roby runs for the Senate, there are plenty of viable contenders in Montgomery and the Wiregrass who would be interested in running for her open seat. Outgoing State Treasurer Young Boozer, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and state Rep. Paul Lee immediately come to mind.

Jeff Coleman

President and CEO of Coleman World Group, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, and former Chairman of the Business Council of Alabama, Coleman has the background and authentic charisma that would make for an ideal U.S. Senate candidate. He would have a steep name recognition hill to climb, but he has all the tools to do it.

State Rep. Bill Poole

A practicing attorney in Tuscaloosa, Poole will be serving his third term in the Alabama House of Representatives when the 2020 race for Doug Jones’ seat unfolds. He has chaired the House Ways and Means Education Committee since 2013 and is widely respected for his fiscally conservative policy expertise. Poole is the state’s preeminent rising young political star and has the potential to serve Alabama on the national level in a major way, in the mold of Sen. Richard Shelby.

Jimmy Rane

Better known as “the Yella Fella,” Rane is the richest man in Alabama and a gregarious one to boot.  He has long considered a run for office and has the perfect self-financed-outsider credentials to mount a competitive bid. His close friendship with Gov. Ivey would be an interesting factor, too.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Never say never. Out of all the crazy Alabama political storylines, even just recent ones, this would not even rank as a surprise. If Sessions did run, he would immediately become the frontrunner and clear out most of the field.

Former Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Glenn Murdock

And a bunch of not-gunna-happen state legislators. A free shot is always appealing, though.

Rep. Robert Aderholt

If Aderholt does run, he will be a serious contender. However, he is in line to be Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and will not leave the House if this holds true. There are two factors that need to be resolved first:

If Republicans lose the House in November, Aderholt is stuck being the ranking minority member on the committee. He would have to decide whether he wants to play the long game by waiting until the Republicans win back the majority again or take a gamble by running for the Senate.

If the Republicans maintain control of the House in November, Aderholt still has some political maneuvering ahead of him. The Texas Congressional Delegation has promised their votes to Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid in exchange for control of the appropriations committee. For what it is worth, I expect that the vice president will be working behind the scenes to deliver the chairmanship to Aderholt. However, if Aderholt loses this battle, he may very well decide to leave the House and take a shot at the Senate seat.

Former Rep. Jo Bonner

If Rep. Byrne does not run, that opens up a lane for Bonner to be a serious contender.

Rep. Mo Brooks

Likewise, if Mayor Battle for some reason doesn’t run, Brooks has a serious foothold in the Fifth Congressional District to run from. The likelihood of Alabama losing a Congressional seat also factors in here, because Brooks could be drawn out of his current job and on the hunt for a new one.

Mayor Sandy Stimpson

Same situation as Bonner. If Rep. Byrne doesn’t run, that opens up a pathway for Stimpson.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 hours ago

GE Aviation to expand 3-D printing facility in Auburn

Governor Kay Ivey announced Wednesday that GE Aviation has plans to invest $50 million into expanding the additive manufacturing operation at its facility in Auburn, which is the first site to mass produce a jet component using 3-D printing technology for the aerospace industry.

“GE Aviation is at the leading edge of advanced aerospace additive manufacturing, and the company’s expansion plans at the Auburn facility will strengthen its technology leadership position,” Ivey stated, via Made in Alabama. “We look forward to seeing where the great partnership between Alabama and GE Aviation will take us both in an exciting future.”

302

As a part of the project, GE Aviation will reportedly create 60 jobs and place new additive production machines in Auburn, which will allow the factory to begin greater production of a second engine part by implementing the additive process.

The expansion will allow the Auburn facility to mass produce a 3-D printed bracket for the GEnx-2B engine program.

“We’re very excited for this new investment in our additive manufacturing operation here in Auburn,” said GE Aviation’s Auburn plant leader, Ricardo Acevedo.

He added, “Our success thus far is a testament to all the hard-working folks at this facility who are leading the way in advanced manufacturing. The future here is bright, and we’re glad to have such great support from the Auburn community and the state of Alabama.”

Instead of taking the more traditional route to produce a part, additive manufacturing uses a CAD file to grow parts by using layers of metal powder and an electron beam. It is a much quicker process and allows for more product with less waste.

“Additive manufacturing technologies are revolutionizing how products are being made in many industries, and GE Aviation is helping to drive that revolution in aerospace,” said Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield.

He added, “We welcome GE’s decision to expand AM activities in Auburn because this will solidify the Alabama facility’s position as a hub for next-generation manufacturing techniques.”

Before today’s expansion announcement, the Auburn facility was set to employ an estimated 300 people in 2019.

“We’re grateful for GE’s continued investment in our community, and we are proud to be the home of GE Aviation’s leading additive manufacturing facility,” said Auburn Mayor Ron Anders. “For years, Auburn has sought after technology-based industries, and this expansion is evidence of the value in that.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

7 hours ago

Marsh’s bill to help build Trump’s wall filibustered by Dem Senate minority leader

MONTGOMERY — A bill authored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) that would voluntarily allow a taxpayer to divert a portion or all of their own state income tax refund to We Build the Wall, Inc. was filibustered by Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) Wednesday afternoon.

The bill, SB 22, has been carried over to a later legislative date yet to be decided.

334

Singleton conducted several “small” filibusters, as he called them, leading up to debate on SB 22 when the chamber was confirming some of the governor’s various nominations.

Singleton said he wanted to slow down the bill’s passage and has managed to do so by at least one day.

When SB 22 came up as the first item on Wednesday’s special order calendar, Singleton launched into a mini-filibuster of just a few minutes before the Senate adopted a budget isolation resolution (BIR) on the bill, but in doing so, he threatened to filibuster for four hours on consideration of passage of the bill itself. He then began to appear to do just that after the BIR was adopted.

During his speech, Singleton claimed more “drugs and crime” come into the United States from Canada than Mexico. He also proposed that the federal government simply print more money to build the wall if it is needed and that walls should be built on both the southern and northern borders, rather than just the southern one.

After about 20 minutes of Singleton speaking passionately against SB 22, Marsh offered to carry the bill over to a later date so the rest of Wednesday’s legislation would not be adversely affected.

He emphasized that his bill does not divert tax money to help build the wall, but instead deals with money that taxpayers would be getting back anyway from the state. Individuals would voluntarily be able to send money already owed back to them by the state to a nonprofit named We Build The Wall, Inc.

Marsh also said SB 22 allows Alabamians to easily and directly send a message (through their monetary contribution) to the federal government and people around the nation – and world – that they support border security and President Donald Trump’s efforts. Marsh himself has made such a contribution previously, but his bill would make it easier for citizens to do the same.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Ivey on Common Core: ‘We should be deliberate in determining a course of study for our state’

Governor Kay Ivey has released a statement on Senator Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) bill to eliminate Common Core in the state of Alabama, saying, “I support Senator Marsh’s efforts to ensure that headlines about Alabama ranking last or close to last in education become things of the past.”

Marsh’s bill, SB 119, was advanced unanimously from committee Wednesday and will come before the full Senate on Thursday, with passage in that chamber expected. All 28 Republican state senators support the bill.

The legislature’s spring break is next week, and substantial discussion from the education community is expected to occur with Marsh over the break and heading into the House committee process.

143

“Alabama has some of the greatest teachers anywhere, they do a fantastic job each and every day laying a strong educational foundation for the children of Alabama,” Ivey said. “I have supported our teachers by proposing pay raises each of the last two years and expanding programs that have proven successful. As a former educator and president of the Alabama State Board of Education, I know how important it is to have good course materials to teach.”

The governor concluded, “Efforts like this should not be taken lightly, and I believe we should be deliberate in determining a course of study for our state. I support Senator Marsh’s efforts to ensure that headlines about Alabama ranking last or close to last in education become things of the past.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 hours ago

Dale Jackson: The ‘clean lottery bill’ is not clean, nor a lottery bill

There was hope that the Alabama legislature would be dealing with a simple and non-complex lottery bill this legislative session. This was false hope.

Alabama Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) touted his lottery bill as a bill that would simply give Alabama voters an opportunity to vote on a lottery. He wasn’t trying to solve the state’s economic ailments. He wasn’t hoping to appease every group in the state with some piece of the pie. He wasn’t creating a new spending obligation. All he allegedly wanted to do was give the average Alabamian an opportunity to buy lottery tickets in their home state and send the benefits to the state’s coffers.

427

Simple. Easy. “Clean.”

But it was not to actually be. Instead, this clean bill provides a quasi-monopoly for certain individuals who already have gambling interests in place. McClendon says this is to protect the jobs at these facilities by giving them the ability to have new “Virtual Lottery Terminals.” The terminals are really just slot machines with extra steps, and some of these folks already have experience running this type of business because they have been running these quasi-legal machines for years.

These entities want this legalized and they want to stop any competition from springing up. This is a completely reasonable position for them.

Guess who has a problem with this? The Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians released the following statement:

We appreciate Sen. McClendon’s efforts to bring the question of whether the state should have a lottery to the forefront of this legislative session. However, the bill introduced today does not fit the definition of a “clean bill.” It does not give citizens an opportunity to cast one vote on one issue — whether we should have a traditional lottery in our State. Instead, the bill is cluttered with provisions that will expand private gaming operations in a few parts of the state owned by a handful of individuals. It also demands that any vote on a lottery include a vote on video lottery terminals, which are also commonly known as “slot machines.”

They are not wrong, but no one should be sympathetic to this argument. They want their own monopoly on slot machines. This is a completely reasonable position for them.

Neither position is reasonable for the state of Alabama to take. The state of Alabama should either offer a legit clean bill with no expansion/codification of existing gambling or open the door for others to enter the free market.

If the legislature thinks these types of gambling are good for the state, then it needs to regulate it, limit it and give other parts of the state and other operators an opportunity to take part in the benefits. Let Huntsville, Birmingham, and Mobile enter a developer bidding for gambling facilities.

Alabama legislators clearly want to address this in this legislative session. McClendon’s bill is not the way to do it.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

 

9 hours ago

Ainsworth looks forward to Common Core repeal – ‘Damaging legacy of the disastrous Obama administration’

Count Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth as an adamant supporter of eliminating Common Core in the state of Alabama.

After Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) filed a bill to do just that, Ainsworth told Yellowhammer News that he “look[s] forward to dropping the gavel when the repeal of Common Core passes the State Senate.”

This is expected to occur Thursday after the bill unanimously was advanced from committee on Wednesday.

169

Ainsworth said in a statement, “I believe Alabamians should determine the curriculum and standards for our schoolchildren based upon our available resources, our needs, and our first-hand knowledge of what makes Alabama great. We should not rely upon some out-of-state entity or liberal, Washington, D.C. bureaucrats to determine our standards, and we certainly should not continue embracing this most damaging legacy of the disastrous Obama administration.”

“Sen. Marsh and the co-sponsors of his bill should be commended for working to end this unnecessary Obama-era relic, and I look forward to dropping the gavel when the repeal of Common Core passes the State Senate,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn