A special December 12 statewide election, primarily staged to fill one of two Alabama seats in the U.S. Senate, will provide political observers with a little excitement prior to the new year. But the three-man statewide senate race and a scattering of contests for other statewide seats will be little more than a warmup to what is almost guaranteed to be a 2018 season of heated and heavily contested state races.
The special election will allow voters to choose between former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a Republican, and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, a Democrat.
Moore is as well-known for his defiance of federal law in two highly publicized cases. The former chief justice was removed from the court after he refused to remove a carving of the Ten Commandments from the Supreme Court building. Later, back on the Supreme Court bench, he refused to order the state’s Probate Judges to perform same-sex marriages.
Jones is most well-known for his conviction in 2002 of two KKK members who were found responsible for the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, which killed four young girls.
According to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, overall turnout on Dec. 12 is expected to be around 25 percent, which would exceed that for the August 15 primaries and September 26 GOP runoff, which generated 14 and 18 percent respectively.
With just over six months to go until the June 5 Republican and Democratic primaries, and a full year until the 2018 General Election, 13 individuals — including the current governor, a former chief justice of the state’s highest court, the state’s current agriculture commissioner, a state senator and the mayors of two cities — have already declared their intention to seek the governor’s office.
Through November 1, the slate of candidates vying to become the state’s chief executive officer included seven Republicans and six Democrats, according to Ballotpedia.
The GOP office-seekers include Gov. Kay Ivey, who was appointed to the post earlier this year; Sue Bell Cobb, the first woman to serve as the state supreme court’s chief justice; Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture John McMillan; District 35 State Senator Bill Hightower; Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox; and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
The other Republican hopefuls who have already publicly announced their gubernatorial intentions are Scott Dawson, Stacy George and Josh Jones.
Cobb and Maddox are the two most-well known Democratic candidates among a group that also includes Jason Childs, Chris Countryman, James C. Fields and Anthony White.
There will be an Atmore connection (actually two) in next year’s primaries and/or General Election, as Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyn Stuart will both be on the ballot.
Marshall, a Republican who was appointed to the seat when Luther Strange received a senatorial appointment from former Gov. Robert Bentley this year, has already drawn opposition, from his own party and from Democrats.
Marshall’s GOP competition includes former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, Chris Bedsole and Sam McClure. Alabama trial lawyer Chris Christie has announced his intention to seek the spot as a Democrat.
Stuart, who was elected to the state’s high court in 2000 and re-elected in 2006 and 2012, became acting Chief Justice in 2016 and was appointed permanently to the position earlier this year by Gov. Kay Ivey. She is one of five justices whose terms end on January 13, 2019. No one has qualified yet to challenge her for her seat.