Sunday, July 29, 2018

Alabama Governor- Race of the Day

100 Days Until Election Day

Alabama Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Safe Republican

For the past several years, Alabama politics has resembled a soap opera. Politicians of both parties, in all branches of state government have faced ethical or criminal charges. Nonetheless, the race for Governor this year appears to not be much of a contest. The state is so dominated by Republicans that minus an extreme scandal in the political plot, the party is safe no matter how much the "Alabama GOP Turns", for Democrats are not even on the statewide channel lineup.

It was not long ago that Robert Bentley, as Governor of Alabama, was a respected and popular figure across party lines. After a landslide reelection though in 2014, his tenure ran into a crisis amid revelations and tawdry discoveries involving his extra-marital affair with a top staffer and the use of state government to carry on and conceal the relationship. The First Lady divorced the Republican Governor after 50 years of marriage and eventually Bentley became the subject both of a criminal investigation and a Republican led impeachment effort in Montgomery. While Bentley tried to hold on to office, he eventually agreed to resign as Governor in April of 2017 in a deal with the Office of Attorney General. in which he also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor chargers. Bentley was able to stay out of jail, but had to quickly leave the Governor's Mansion.

This elevated Republican Lt. Governor Kay Ivey, a longtime political figure, as the chief executive of Alabama. Considered an establishment Republican, well respected by many, Ivey was already in her 70s, and not considered a likely candidate for Governor in what would have otherwise been a wide open and crowded Republican primary. With incumbency though, the path was clearer for Ivey to try to win a full term in her own right in 2018, but first she had a bit of a mess to attend to.

That is where this story takes another twist. The election of Donald Trump as President had him nominating the state's longtime U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, the first Senator to endorse Trump, to be Attorney General of the United States. Of course, that might be one of Trump's biggest regrets at this point and perhaps he and Sessions both wish that the latter had never left the Senate. Nonetheless, a vacancy was there for the embattled Governor Bentley to fill. After considering many candidates for a period of time, he choose Attorney General Luther Strange to fill the seat. Strange, who was expected to run for Governor, just happened to be the person technically in charge of the investigation into Bentley and who was said to have asked the legislature to slow-walk impeachment proceedings, Republicans complained of a quid pro quo and while Strange was off to Washington D.C., people felt the appointment was tarnished.

Upon becoming Governor, Kay Ivey decided that a special election for the seat should be held in 2017 instead of what was a scheduled one coinciding with the November 2018 election. By this point, Strange had drawn credible Republican primary challengers, and Ivey's maneuver made his political situation more difficult. Eventually, despite having Trump' endorsement, Strange lost in a primary to the controversial former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who had twice had to resign from office for disobeying court orders. This immediately complicated matters, even in Alabama, for Republicans in easily holding this Senate seat in an off-year special election and as news developed publicly, which had been whispered about in Alabama for years, involving the staunchly conservative Moore's long-ago penchant for teenage girls, panic began to set in on all Republican sides.

It looked like Moore might even lose to a Democrat and throw away a Senate seat, or perhaps even worse from the perspective of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues, win and be an anchor around the necks of Republicans across the country. As it was increasingly clear that the allegations of misconduct against Moore were serious and that the nominee would not step down, many wanted Ivey to postpone  the election (which would have seemingly been legal) or to somehow direct the state party or state authorities to disqualify Moore, which may not have been legal.

Even though the Democrat nominee Doug Jones was a bit of a dull candidate, with views on issues like abortion well to the left of most Alabamians, Moore had become so toxic, that with a strong Democrat turnout, and enough Republicans either voting for Jones or writing another candidate in, the seat was lost for Republicans and picked up for Democrats. McConnell and national Republicans breathed a sigh of relief, even though Trump maintained support for the alleged child predator. The bottom line is that in her effort to show independence from the Bentley scandal, Ivey called an early election that wound up backfiring on her party. Had the election been scheduled for 2018, it is less likely that Moore would have won a primary or been able to hang in the race and the seat would have almost certainly stayed Republican. Now, they will have to wait until 2020 to try to get it back. For her part, Ivey generated some criticism for maintaining that in spite of everything, she would still be voting for Moore herself.

This entire state party mess had some wondering if Ivey would be vulnerable to a primary challenge. She faced several opponents in the June primary, but easily won with 56 percent of the Republican vote and avoided the necessity of a primary runoff. Her closest opponent was Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle who finished more than 30 points behind. A grandmotherly like soft-spoken figure, Ivey has been described in different bios as either having never been married or being twice divorced. A gay female Democrat state legislator made headlines earlier this year by accusing Ivey of secretly being a lesbian. The Governor vehemently denied that assertion.

Democrats in the Yellowhammer State were enthused by the surprise election of one of their own to the U.S. Senate and by a solid margin nominated Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox for Governor. His closest opponent was former State Supreme Court Sue Bell Cobb who ran to Maddox's left and lost by more than 25 points.

Considering all the tumult that Alabama Republicans, including Ivey had recently been through, it would seem to make sense that she could at least have a serious challenge on her hands against a credible Democrat opponent, nearly 30 years her junior. Polling data has not shown that though, as overall support for Maddox statewide is said to be quite low in those surveys. Perhaps surprisingly, especially in the wake of over 40 percent of Alabama Republicans voting for someone else, a very recent statewide survey shows Ivey with incredibly robust job approval numbers. About two-thirds of voters say they like the job she is doing, which puts her among the top three most popular Governors in the country.

As long as that is the case, this is not going to be much of a race. In theory, a strong Democrat wave nationally and a motivated turnout by African-American voters in Alabama could develop down the road, but Alabama is about as Republican as states get these days, and Ivey, who might have once been bemoaned as a "moderate" has expressed strong agreement with the Presidency of Donald Trump, and in a state like Alabama, that's considered a political positive.

I would not be surprised if this race tightens a bit down the stretch, but there should be no illusions that Ivey is anything but an overwhelming favorite. After a relatively low-profile career in statewide office before becoming Governor, she is poised to become the first ever Republican woman elected to the post, (or for that matter the first woman not married to a temporarily term limited Governor who everyone knew intended to run the state from behind the scenes).

Unless a Republican nominee is literally Roy Moore, the GOP is not going to be losing any elections in the Heart of Old Dixie for the foreseeable future.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

0 D, 1 R (1 Safe)

Total with predictions thus far:

7 D (7 holdovers), 8 R (7 holdovers, 1 Safe)


At 8:39 PM, Anonymous NYCmike said...

How many words does it take to say "Ivey will win."

That was like watching JEB!2016 campaign.

At 9:20 PM, Blogger Corey said...

Please clap

At 2:23 AM, Anonymous Democratic Socialist Dave said...

I'm not entirely sure, Corey, if I understand the second half of this comment:

“ Had the election been scheduled for 2018, it is less likely that Moore would have won a primary or been able to hang in the race and the seat would have almost certainly stayed Republican. ”

Are you saying that (1) it would have been less likely that Roy Moore could have hung in the primary race, (2) less likely that (had he won the primary) Roy Moore would have been able to hang on in the general election race (implying that by November 2018 someone else would ultimately have become the GOP candidate), or (3) both ?

At 7:52 AM, Anonymous bill said...

Would sure like to see any polling of AL. CD#5. Dems are making a big effort to u unseat Brooks.

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Corey said...

Sort of both in regards to Moore. In a more "traditional" primary, with a higher turnout, there might have been more time for the appointed incumbent or someone else to stop Moore and I have to at least assume that these stories about Moore would have surfaced before, thus dooming Moore's chances in a primary, instead of after the fact, as was the case in a special election.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Big question is whether Ivey runs for reelection in 2022 ?


Post a Comment

<< Home