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 not Strange, whom Brooks recently referred to as a “place-holder” until the special election. “Mo’s problem is Judge Roy Moore,” says Marty Connors, former state GOP chair; “They will share the same votes.” Moore appeals to a segment of the conservative electorate who applaud his defiance of the federal government on such issues as a Ten Commandments monument in the state Supreme Court and the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Says Connors, “Mo’s trick is to get in the runoff with Luther Strange,” where he might be able to unite the GOP’s “righter” wing and win. Connor says it is “important [to note] that Luther Strange is not some moderate,” but has a conservative record himself as a prosecutor. “But Mo would be considered more conservative.”
As for a runoff between Strange and Moore, “Roy has a ceiling; what he gets in the first primary is as much as he gets,” contends Connors. “It’s too soon to say how a runoff between Luther and Mo would turn out; it’s a crap shoot,” opines Connors. “In a runoff, Luther has run statewide and would have boots on the ground in every county.”
In the money chase, Strange raised $674,000 in the 1st Quarter, and had $764,000 cash-on-hand as of March 31. In addition, the Senate Majority Fund, associated with Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has contributed a $2.6 million television buy on Strange’s behalf. Brooks raised $16,000 in the 1st Quarter, and had $1,182,000 on hand.
Besides Strange, Brooks and Moore, other contenders include former Christian Coalition executive Randy Brinson; Huntsville businessman Dominic “Dom” Gentile; Birmingham executive Bryan Peeples; state Sen. Troy Pittman; physician James Beretta; attorney Karen Haiden Jackson; Mary Maxwell; and Joseph Breault.
State Rep. Ed Henry, who led the impeachment drive against Bentley, withdrew from the race. There was also speculation that state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) would run, but he announced last week that he would not run. He also said he would probably support Gov. Kay Ivey (R) should she see reelection next year, but if she declined to run, he might run for governor.
Democrats who filed for the Senate race include former US Attorney Doug Jones; environmental activist Michael Hanson; Robert Kennedy Jr. of Mobile; marketing consultant Jason Fisher, as well as Will Boyd, Vann Caldwell, Brian McGee and Nana Tchienkou.,
The party primaries will be held on August 15 and runoffs, if needed, will be on Sept. 26. The General Election will be on Dec. 12.