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4 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

20 mins ago

7 Things: Controversial deputy AG is out, Walt Maddox gets a participation trophy from himself, the SPLC demands no penalties for unpaid speeding tickets and more …

7. Ivanka Trump has a Hillary Clinton problem

— In what will surely be viewed as hypocritical and foolish behavior, President Donald Trump’s daughter and White House official, Ivanka Trump reportedly had been using a personal email account to conduct government business including interactions from a private email account with cabinet secretaries and forwards of her schedule to her assistant.

— There are no serious allegations that Trump used the email for anything that would be considered classified, but with the Democrats taking over the House of Representatives, they will surely be looking to exact revenge for the issues raised in the 2016 campaign. The fact that Jared Kushner set up a series of ijkfamily.com email accounts will also be scrutinized.

6. Alabama native and Yellowhammer founder Cliff Sims has written “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House” about his time in the White House

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— While going from Trump’s campaign to the West Wing, Sims kept pages of notes from his time as one of Trump’s trusted confidants.

— Sims summed the book up with a twist on one of Trump’s famous quotes, “Lincoln famously had his Team of Rivals. Trump had his Team of Vipers. We served. We fought. We brought our egos. We brought our personal agendas and vendettas. We were ruthless. And some of us, I assume, were good people.”

5. The dumb fight with the Trump administration and CNN may be over

— After suggesting the White House would still revoke the press pass from CNN’s Jim Acosta, it appears they are prepared to give him back his pass permanently and issue a series of rules that all reporters must follow.

— The rules state that reporters may only ask one question, follow-ups are given “at the discretion of the president or other White House officials” and reporters must “physically surrender” the microphone when asked to, but these have not been agreed to by the press so this could enter another contentious phase.

4. Another federal judge has decided he is in charge of immigration enforcement and stops President Trump from enforcing new asylum rules while the border patrol had to close a border entry point yesterday

— A federal judge says the Trump administration can no longer deny asylum to migrants who illegally cross the southern border. The judge added, “[H]e may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden” while the previous president’s DACA decision still stands.

Democrats are also raising concerns about an email conversation between Trump administration officials wondering if the administration will share census information with other agencies, making it less likely that illegals will fill out the census.

3. The Southern Poverty Law Center thinks Alabama shouldn’t be able to use unpaid traffic tickets to suspend licenses — They already want bail ended 

— The SPLC wants to block Alabama Law Enforcement Agency from suspending driver’s licenses of drivers with unpaid parking tickets, leaving the tickets unpaid and without penalty for not paying them.

— The lawless argument the SPLC is making here is basically that people shouldn’t have to pay the penalties for the offenses they commit, which is similar to their argument that bail is illegal.

2. Failed gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox gifts himself a participation trophy for getting 20,000 more votes than Senator Doug Jones and still losing

— In what millennials would call a “weird flex,” Tuscaloosa’s mayor decided to take to Twitter and post an infographic laying out how his loss to Governor Kay Ivey in early November was a really some symbolic victory.

— Maddox cited his 20,000 more votes than Sen, Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) got in 2017, claimed he had enough votes to win any other gubernatorial election since 2018 and surpassed his expected vote total and his number of donors. But he still lost by 300,000+ vote.

1. Alabama’s Attorney General fires/accepts the resignation of controversial prosecutor Matt Hart

— Matt Hart, the deputy attorney general of Alabama who led the Special Prosecutions Division, left his position on Monday. Hart has a series of high-profile government corruption convictions under his belt.

— Hart oversaw the convictions of former Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, the deal that saw Governor Robert Bentley resign and numerous other high-profile cases, but his tactics have been questioned repeatedly and many have alleged there is something more to this move than meets the eye.

1 hour ago

Doug Jones at Mobile U.S. Senate trade roundtable: Pentagon could play role in national security tariffs

MOBILE – Although President Donald Trump remains very popular in Alabama, his trade policies among the state’s business leaders appear to be mixed.

For the steel industry, which has been a fixture in Alabama for generations, the Trump administration’s handling of trade is a resounding success. Yet, for those in agriculture and auto manufacturing, there is much room for improvement.

That seemed to be the takeaway from a roundtable convened by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) at the University of South Alabama on Monday.

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The roundtable, an event sanctioned by the U.S. Senate under the body’s Homeland Security Committee, will be part of the permanent record of the Senate and that will be considered for legislation.

“I have a couple of bills pending involving automobile tariffs and national security tariffs,” Jones said. “So, it will be part of that record in the legislative history should those come to the floor or come to a vote.”

A statutory change under consideration according to Alabama’s junior senator regarding trade has to do with which cabinet department handles tariffs levied on a national security basis.

Jones says that could be best handled by the Department of Defense and not the Commerce Department.

“Under the national security threat, it bifurcates the process and moves the initial determination about national security – for instance, automobile – whether or not automobiles are a national security threat – that would move that to the Defense Department, who is better equipped to address national security concerns rather than the Commerce Department.”

Jones told Yellowhammer News the roundtable provided insights into how current trade policy directly impacted Alabama and influenced decision-making by business executives.

“It confirms what we’ve been saying – that the uncertainty of this policy is creating some problems,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “People are holding off. They’re not sure whether or not to expand their business, whether it is a small business or whether it is a big business. It shows there can be some serious consequences if certain tariffs are imposed. At the same time, it shows you where there can be successes – with the steel industry to stabilize markets.”

“One of the purposes of the hearing is to make sure the public is aware, people are aware,” he continued. “I think one of the takeaways that people will understand is that this policy and the retaliatory tariffs right now are having a devastating impact on farmers. We stand to lose a lot of overseas markets if this is not resolved. That’s the whole point of this. Let’s get it resolved one way or another, so we know where we stand. It’s gone on long enough.”

Jones elaborated on his personal views on trade when asked if a “free trade” or “fair trade” label could be applied to his views. He acknowledged there needed to be a balance of elements of free and fair trade. However, he also said his preference is trade alliances as opposed to trade wars.

“I don’t if you can really describe – I think fair trade is the most important aspect of that,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “There is always a strong element of free trade that’s included in that. You’ve got to balance trade with rogue countries like China has been over the years. And you got to make sure that countries that are subsidizing their trade do not have an unfair advantage because we want to protect our workers here in this country.”

“At the same time, we are much more of a global economy now and interconnected than we have ever been in the history of this earth,” he added. “And we got to recognize that – that what we can do, work together, is the way to try and manage this and help our country help other countries and help the global economy as well as our own. We want to make sure our workers are protected. We can do that better by forming alliances instead of doing trade wars.”

Monday’s roundtable participants included Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama vice president Robert Burns, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International general counsel Rick Clementz, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama assistant division manager Allyson Edwards, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama president David Fernandes, Aker Solutions project director Graham Jones, Baldwin County farmers Mark Kaiser and Daniel Perry, Nucor Steel Decatur vice president Mike Lee, Alabama State Port Authority Director & CEO Jimmy Lyons and Fairfield Works Tubular plant manager Brent Sansing.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

2 hours ago

Terri Sewell slams Kay Ivey — Claims ‘daughter of the Black Belt’ would not help save Camden hospital

SELMA – One of the primary themes at a town hall hosted by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) on Monday night was health care, which is also one on which that House Democrats campaigned in this year’s midterm elections.

Although Democrats nationally had success in the midterms, in Alabama they were unable to capitalize electorally on health care, especially given the emphasization Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox gave to expanding Medicaid in his failed gubernatorial bid.

Nonetheless, Sewell argued before a crowd assembled at the Selma Interpretive Center for her town hall event in downtown Selma that Medicaid expansion was a priority and she decried the unwillingness of Alabama policymakers to agree.

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“States like Alabama were not supposed to be able to opt out of expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “The last two governors have not done that. It’s horrible. The reality is the fact that we have not expanded Medicaid means rural hospitals are under threat. Alabama has a bare-bones Medicaid system. They pay less than 10 percent on a dollar for the services for Medicaid.”

According to Alabama’s lone Democratic member of Congress, the closure of rural hospitals was the result of not expanding Medicaid.

“We have missed out on millions – actually billions of dollars in the state of Alabama in not expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “We could use that money, and the fact that we don’t have that money means that so many of our rural hospitals are under threat of closing. I don’t have to tell the Black Belt.”

Sewell referenced the John Paul Jones Hospital in nearby Camden, which was on the verge of closing in 2017 but got a last-minute reprieve after an agreement was made with UAB earlier this year.

She took aim at Gov. Kay Ivey, a native of Camden, for not doing more to save the Wilcox County hospital.

“We saved [John] Paul Jones Hospital, but we did so with the help of UAB,” she said. “Now, that’s not a model that can be done to scale. What I did is I begged UAB because our own governor, who is from Wilcox [County], would not help us to save Wilcox County’s hospital. That’s unacceptable, by the way. And I’m not telling her anything that I wouldn’t tell her to her face and have told her because when you’re a daughter of the Black Belt, you have to understand that you have got to take care of home.”

Sewell told those in attendance she went to UAB Health System CEO William Ferniany and warned if Camden’s John Paul Jones Hospital closed, hospitals in Selma and Demopolis could be threatened, and that might result in everyone “bum-rushing” UAB for health care.

“Rural hospitals are on the chopping block and the number-one priority for me is keeping the doors open and making sure access is there, but also making sure quality is there,” she added.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

16 hours ago

Assistant U.S. attorney to replace Hart in leading Special Prosecutions Division

Multiple sources have told Yellowhammer News that Anna “Clark” Morris, the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, will take over the Special Prosecutions Division of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

The announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday. Attorney General Steve Marshall accepted the resignation of Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, who has led the division for years, on Monday morning.

Morris served as the acting U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s middle district last year, in between President Donald Trump firing former USA George Beck in March of 2017 and now-USA Louis Franklin being confirmed that September.

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Morris is an Alabama native and a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law.

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

17 hours ago

Blue Cross and Blue Shield adds Ted Hosp to its governmental affairs team

Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Alabama is adding one of the state’s top legal minds to its already first-class governmental affairs team.

On Monday, BCBS announced that Ted Hosp has been officially named as the company’s executive director of governmental affairs.

Hosp joins Blue Cross from Alabama-based Maynard, Cooper and Gale, where he most recently chaired the prominent law firm’s governmental and regulatory affairs practice group. Hosp is widely recognized as a leader in the areas of government ethics laws and the legislative process. He is a graduate of Brown University and received his law degree from Fordham University.

In a press release, Robin Stone, BCBS vice president of governmental affairs, lauded the impact that Hosp is expected to have.

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“Ted’s experience at Maynard working with our company on legislative and regulatory issues will enable him to bring immediate and long term value to our advocacy on behalf of our customers at the local, state and federal level,” Stone said.

Hosp currently chairs the Alabama Access to Justice Commission, established by the state Supreme Court in 2007. Additionally, he serves on the Alabama State Bar Committee on Volunteer Lawyers Programs and on the board of the Middle District of Alabama Federal Defender’s Program. Hosp has previously served on the boards of the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program and the Montgomery Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program.

He is married to Alison Wingate Hosp, who handles governmental affairs for the Alabama Retail Association as its vice president.

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