On Tuesday, Alabamians voted in their Republican special primary runoff with a surprising outcome for Roy Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore’s past has been riddled with criticisms for denigrating same-sex marriage and violating the state’s canon of judicial ethics, resulting in his removal as chief justice twice. Unharmed by his past, Moore prevailed even after $10 million worth of political ads were run against his campaign and after President Trump’s heavy endorsement of the interim appointed senator, Luther Strange. Against all odds, Moore was still able to defeat Strange.
Senator Strange’s defeat came as a shock to many. Some blame the investigation into ethics and campaign finance violations of then Governor Robert Bentley, who was prosecuted by Strange, then the state attorney general. Just eight weeks prior to his resignation stemming from the corruption investigation, Bentley appointed Strange to fill the senator position that Attorney General Jeff Sessions vacated. Strange denied any wrongdoing on behalf of former Governor Bentley, but left a cloud of ambiguity over the senator’s appointment. Others blame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and other senators who supported Strange’s campaign, as well as the president himself, who was advised to not interfere with Alabama’s election. The blame could be on Strange himself, who did not rely on moderating his approach to draw voters away from Moore. This was a strategy Senator Thad Cochran used next door in Mississippi in 2014 during his primary challenge.
The Democratic nominee for Alabama’s special primary is Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor. Jones is running on a platform of “getting things done,” hinting at Senator McConnell’s performance, to change Alabama’s public reputation. Many voters are frustrated with the lack of movement in Congress, especially with Leader McConnell’s inability to pass significant healthcare reforms. McConnell, as seen with this race, is becoming more of a liability to other Republican incumbents. Following the outcome of the race, McConnell understood why Moore was dissatisfied with the progress in Congress and shared his frustration. Moore’s success is likely to influence other anti-establishment conservatives to run against Republican incumbents in next year’s midterm elections.
Intraparty challenges may weaken the Republicans’ position and allow for Democrats to gain seats, primarily in the House. To save face from the prospect of losing seats, the Republican agenda could change to accommodate President Trump’s nationalistic approach instead of the senate majority leader and House Speaker’s conventional and business-oriented agenda. Though the agenda may change, people are continuously and aggressively calling for action to change the inefficiencies of the Republican Congress.
Even with call for change, Republicans are expected to maintain control of the Senate since the party needs to defend eight seats in mostly strong conservative states. On the other hand, 25 seats are held by Democrats or independents that caucus with them, though the turmoil of the Republican Party gives way at the possibility of winning an upset election for the Democrats.
In the solid Republican state of Tennessee, several Democrats are considering a run after hearing Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker is retiring. He is the first senator to announce his retirement due to the lack of motivation to run another campaign and his frustration with the Senate gridlock. Corker received praise for his bipartisan leadership and many of his colleagues are reluctant to see him leave his position.
Next in line to take Corker’s position as chairman is Senator Jim Risch, though Senator Marco Rubio may be considered. The possible Republican candidates include Representative Marsha Blackburn, former Representative Steven Fincher and conservative advocate Andy Ogles, with other prospects still in the works. Democrats seeking to take his position include lawyer and Army veteran James Mackler, former state legislator Joe Carr and former governor Phil Bredesen.
Overall, the atmosphere of the upcoming elections is ripe for change: Incumbents are vulnerable, the leading agenda is susceptible to a redirection, upset elections may take place, and the frustrations of the people should not to be taken lightly. Republicans may need to readjust their party in order to be viable for the elections and Democrats, with a Congressional minority, would need a significant game changer to win a majority in either chamber.
Did you know...
HUPAC is only one tool for outreach to members of Congress. A HUPAC donation, while meaningful, can only go so far due to campaign finance laws. There are other tools NAHU provides that, in combination with a HUPAC contribution, can make significant difference in our legislative priorities. Some of those tools include Operation SHOUT, direct lobbying, town halls, media, NAHU coalition memberships and direct personal experience with an agent. This whole package can ensure that the priorities of agents and brokers are being heard in the halls of Congress. Remember, HUPAC works in conjunction with the Legislative Council and the HUPAC Board to implement the most effective legislative strategy possible.
Consider joining the 365 club at $30 a month. That will guarantee you a shiny pin and ribbon in time for Capitol Conference 2018! Click here to become a contributing member now.