Alabama Senate race ready to roll

Alabama Senate race ready to roll

By Hastings Wyman – Last week when the filing date had passed for this year’s special US Senate election in Alabama, the late entry of US Rep. Mo Brooks (R) created a new race. Incumbent Luther Strange (R), appointed by disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley (R), is under fire, or at least suspicion, that his appointment was designed to interrupt the investigation of Bentley by Strange as the state’s attorney general. The vacancy was created when Jeff Sessions (R) resigned to become Attorney General in President Trump’s administration. Brooks’ bailiwick since his election to Congress in 2010 is Alabama’s 5th District (Huntsville, etc.), which is tied economically to the Redstone Arsenal military base. Its voters include many engineers, technicians and military personnel, active and retired. Brooks’ committee assignments in the US House – Armed Services; Science, Space and Technology; and Foreign Affairs – reflect his constituents’ interests. He was reelected in 2016 with 65% of the vote. He is considered a staunch conservative. In addition to opposing sequestration of federal funding for defense, he has a conservative record on most social issues, including opposing abortion, funding for Planned Parenthood, and illegal immigration. He has, however, said that legalization of marijuana is a state issue and voted to allow the Veterans Health Administration to discuss medical marijuana with its patients. In 2014, he was criticized for saying in a radio interview that the Democratic Party’s racial strategy amounted to “a war on whites,” but he did not back down. He was recently named the 75th most conservative of the 435-member House. Brooks’ main problem in the Republican Primary, however, is...
Dixie’s Senate incumbents bringing in the dough

Dixie’s Senate incumbents bringing in the dough

By Hastings Wyman – Republicans presently control the Senate by a narrow margin of 52 seats to 46 Democrats plus two independents who vote with the Democrats. But in 2018, 25 Democratic seats will be up for election, including the two independents; only eight Republican seats will be up. Thus, the math favors, but does not guarantee, the GOP keeping control. Five of the Senate seats up next year are in the South; a sixth, in Alabama, will be decided in a special election late this year. Four of these Senate seats are held by Republicans (AL, MS, TN & TX), none of which look likely to flip to the Democrats at this point. Two are held by Democrats (FL & VA). Florida is likely to be competitive; Virginia will have a spirited race, but incumbent Tim Kaine is the early favorite. The 1st Quarter Federal Election Commission (FEC) financial reports show that Southern incumbents across the board are beginning to build significant war chests for these important elections. Alabama: US Sen. Luther Strange (R) was appointed to the office by then-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) to fill the remainder of Jeff Sessions (R) term, which ends in December 2018. Strange is facing four opponents so far in the August 15 Republican Primary: Former state Chief Justice Roy Moore, a long-time force in the state’s conservative politics; state Rep. Ed Henry, who led the drive to impeach Bentley; Dr. Randy Brinson, former president of Alabama’s Christian Coalition; and Huntsville businessman Dominic “Dom” Gentile. All four have filed with the FEC, but only Strange has reported financial activity so far. He...
Money beginning to fill House campaign coffers

Money beginning to fill House campaign coffers

By Hastings Wyman – There are 435 US House members. 238 R – 193 D. There are four vacancies, two in the South: Georgia 6, which could go either way, and South Carolina 5, which will very likely stay Republican. To win control of the House next year, Democrats need to gain 25 seats. There are, at this point, ten districts in the South that look like they could be competitive in 2018. Eight are held by Republicans (including Georgia 6) and two by Democrats. One of the GOP seats, Florida 27, is open, giving Democrats a better than usual shot. Thus, Democrats have more opportunities than Republicans to gain seats in the South next year. The 1st Quarter FEC finance reports show the amount the candidate raised in the first three months of this year, including loans and transfers, and the amount of cash-on-hand as of March 31. A number of challengers who have announced did not officially enter the race in time to file a financial report. Florida 7 (Orlando, etc.) – Freshman Stephanie Murphy (D) raised $286,000 in the 1st Quarter and had $257,000 cash-on-hand. The first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, she defeated incumbent John Mica (R) last year with 51% of the vote. Florida 13 (St. Petersburg, etc.) – Charlie Crist (D) raised $720,000 in the 1st Quarter and had $672,000 on hand. He defeated US Rep. David Jolly (R) by 52% to 48% last year. Jolly is contemplating a rematch and has appeared frequently on television shows criticizing President Trump. Florida 18 (Palm Beach, etc.) – Freshman Brian Mast (R) raised $429,000, with...

Virginia: Will the center hold?

By Hastings Wyman – The campaigns for Virginia’s June 13 gubernatorial primary are in full swing. In each party, there is a centrist candidate – by the party’s standards – and a challenger who gravitates toward the party’s more ideological wing. For the Democrats, the centrist is Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a loyal Democrat who has the support of virtually the entire Democratic establishment in Virginia, including influential Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The leftist challenger is former US Rep. Tom Perriello, who entered the race late – in January – and has the support of national liberal leaders and donors. At their first debate Saturday night, in vote-rich Fairfax County, Northam and Perriello expressed similar views, but with Northam more modest in his calls for change, and Perriello more adventurous. Perriello is for free community college; Northam two free years, plus two years of community service. Perriello backs more generous policies for working parents, including eight weeks of leave at two-thirds pay to care for a new baby or a sick family member. Northam is for a tax credit to employers for eight weeks of paid leave. Perriello is against oil and natural gas pipelines under consideration, while Northam – like Gov. McAuliffe – supports them. The difference between the two is also delineated by the people and groups that support them. Northam, 57, has been endorsed by every Democratic member of the General Assembly, including every African-American lawmaker. He has also been endorsed by Gov. McAuliffe and US Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and state Attorney General Mark Herring. NARAL, the abortion rights group, as well as the...
Is an ill wind blowing for the GOP?

Is an ill wind blowing for the GOP?

By Hastings Wyman – Three special elections this month in which Democrats ran better than is normal beg the question, is there a trend away from the GOP as many voters express their displeasure with the Donald Trump presidency? In Kansas’s 4th District, voters went to the polls on April 11 in to fill the seat of US Rep. Mike Pompeo (R), who was named Trump’s CIA director. Democrat James Thompson, a civil-rights attorney and a newcomer to elective politics, held Republican state Treasurer Ron Estes to an 8 point victory. While it was a solid win for the GOP, Pompeo had a 31 point victory last fall; moreover, Trump had also won an overwhelming majority in the district. Then on April 18 in the election to fill the vacancy in Georgia’s 6th District as a result of Trump choosing US Rep. Tom Price (R) to be Health and Human Services Secretary, Democrat Jon Ossoff, a political newcomer, garnered 48% of the vote, just two points below the majority he needed to avoid a runoff and win the election. Eleven Republicans divided 51% of the vote. It was a jolt to the GOP, which had assumed Ossoff would hit a ceiling of 44% or less. Trump carried the district, composed of Atlanta suburbs, by a mere one point in 2016, but Price won reelection by 23 points, winning 61% of the vote. The surge in Democratic turnout was clear: In 2014, in the 6th District’s last comparable election, the Democratic nominee got 71,000 while Democrat Ossoff got 90,000 votes, a major turnout in this special election, when turnout is...