Barring any last-minute surprises, the field appears set for the GOP Senate primary race next March to determine who will face incumbent Democrat Senator Doug Jones in November of 2020.
According to the most recent campaign finance reports, State Representative Arnold Mooney has raised $300,000. This is a decent showing, but in a race that includes a sitting congressman, a former head football coach and the infamous Roy Moore, the two-term state representative from Shelby County will never be more than a footnote.
Congressman Bradley Byrne was the first to announce his candidacy back in February and is considered a frontrunner. The former Democrat has proven that he will say anything to be elected, as he attempts to ride the coattails of Donald Trump. I don’t think Bradley believes half of what he spouts in campaign rhetoric, but like most candidates nowadays, if he thinks it will get him from the House to the Senate, he’ll say it.
Former Auburn Football Coach Tommy Tuberville is also all in for Trump. Unlike Byrne, I think Tuberville believes most of the right-wing Trump rhetoric that he blasts across social media. I had dinner with Coach at his home many years ago following an Arkansas State game. He was polite and genuine, but his Church of Christ faith and blind loyalty to Trump makes him far too conservative for my liking, but maybe not yours.
Former Chief Justice Roy Moore was the GOP nominee against Jones in the special election in 2017. He has strong name recognition and a solid voter base. What he doesn’t have is money. I predict he will struggle to make the runoff this go-around after several women accused him of sexual misconduct when Moore was an assistant district attorney in his 30s. Being removed from office twice as Chief Justice doesn’t help either.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced his candidacy for Senate recently, and then promptly garnered national attention for blaming homosexual activities and “wife swap shows” for what he calls the cultural decline of America. Upset that shows like “Gunsmoke” and “The Andy Griffith Show” are no longer produced, he said at a campaign event that Americans are “preoccupied with homosexual activities.” I’ll let someone else remind him of the sexual preference of actor and Alabamian Jim Nabors, who portrayed Gomer Pyle on the “Andy Griffith Show.”
I don’t know which TV shows he blames for this, but Merrill was once mentioned in a divorce deposition as having been in a sexual situation with someone other than his wife. There is no denying he is the strongest campaigner of all the candidates, and in the world of Donald Trump, voters might not care about any past indiscretions. If no other accusations come out and he is successful at fundraising, Merrill could be a contender.
All of the candidates appear to be running on divisiveness as they try to out-Trump each other for the opportunity to run against Sen. Jones, about whom Sen. Richard Shelby recently said, “He works well with me. We differ on a lot of issues. But he’s very civil, and he’s been helpful on a lot of issues that affect our state and the nation.”
Obviously, Jones faces an uphill battle to keep his Senate seat in a State that hasn’t elected a Democrat, other than him, to the Senate since Sen. Shelby, who served eight years as a Democrat before switching parties in 1994. But stranger things have happened, especially when secrets are exposed late in a campaign.
Speaking of Sen. Shelby, who has been in the Senate for 33 years and is Alabama’s longest serving U.S. Senator, he has told people very definitively that he will not seek another term. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise as he recently turned 85 and has three years remaining on his current term.
Shelby went so far as to tell a friend of mine that he hopes Katie Britt, his former Chief of Staff and the current President of the Business Council of Alabama, will run to succeed him, emphasizing that she would make a fine senator but acknowledging he didn’t know if it was something she would consider.
So maybe not all is lost for the candidates mentioned above if they were to lose next year. Another seat will soon become available and Mrs. Britt might not run for it. But if she does, I don’t believe the boys have a chance.