First-of-all it will be a sprint. The race is upon us with the primaries August 15 and the run-off six weeks later September 26. The Republican primary victor will be coronated December 12. We, in the Heart of Dixie, are a one-party state when it comes to major statewide offices. Winning the GOP primary is tantamount to election. Therefore, our new senator will probably be elected September 26.
With 10 Republicans in the race, it will be highly unlikely that anybody could win without a run-off, so the initial goal is to make the run-off. There are amazingly 19 total candidates who qualified. You can write the 8 Democrats off as irrelevant because a Democrat cannot win in Alabama. With 11 Republicans running, it appears to be a crowded race. However, 6 of the 11 are “run for the fun of it” qualifiers. Therefore, even though the field has a lot of horses, there are only 5 of the 19 who could be considered thoroughbreds and probably only 3 who have a viable chance to win.
Former Chief Justice Roy Moore and former State Attorney General and Robert Bentley appointee to the Senate, Luther Strange, are more than likely headed to a Republican run-off. Huntsville and Tennessee Valley Congressman Mo Brooks has the best chance to challenge for a run-off spot. Initial polling has Roy Moore at 30 percent, Luther Strange at 14 percent and Mo Brooks at 7 percent.
Roy Moore’s removal from his post as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by some vague Judicial Inquiry Commission for being against gay marriage has made him a hero and martyr among Alabama’s conservative and religious voters. There is a pent-up desire to right a wrong among the Alabama people. It is obviously showing up in the polling, but it could be illuminated and result in a higher than anticipated 30 percent.
Polls are a picture of the total pool of voters. However, the final poll and the one that really matters is who actually shows up to vote August 15. Roy Moore’s folks will be there, they are ardent and mad. They will not be at the lake or the beach. In fact, if there is an extremely low turnout, Moore could conceivably win without a run-off. It is unlikely that occurs. However, he more than likely finishes first and has a spot in the run-off.
Luther Strange will be fighting to hold on to the other spot in the Sept. 26 final dance. He will more than likely prevail in his quest to get into the run-off and keep the seat. Luther will have $10 million of Washington establishment super PAC ammunition at his disposal. It is hard to overcome that kind of money. It is the mother’s milk of politics. Luther is banking on the fact that most U.S. Senate seats are bought by special interest money. Folks, $10 million washes a lot of taint away from the Bentley to Luther deal.
It looks inevitable that Roy Moore and Luther Strange will be in a run-off and the prevailing opinion is that Moore cannot get over 50 percent. However, polling indicates that neither Moore nor Strange can get over 50 percent. They both have a large base of detractors.
This race was ripe to be won by an outside rich man who could spend $10 million of their own money. “Yella Fella” Jimmy Rane walked away from a U.S. Senate seat that was his for the taking.
Congressman Mo Brooks has the best chance to knock Strange out of the run-off. He starts off with a base of support in the Tennessee Valley and $1.2 million in his federal war chest. If he were to raise $3 million, he would probably beat Luther and ultimately would probably beat Moore.
Brooks is to the right of Attila the Hun and belongs to a right-wing congressional group known as the Freedom Caucus. There are some very rich right-wing zealots around the country who give to Freedom Caucus candidates. They may load ole’ Mo up and teach the Elitist Establishment Mitch McConnell crowd a lesson.
If state Sen. Trip Pittman, from Baldwin County, could raise $5 million he could sell. He is the only serious candidate from the vote-rich Baldwin/Mobile area.
Dr. Randy Brinson has the perfect background, narrative and family values story. However, like Pittman, he needs $5 million to tell his story.
We will see.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state Legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.