Alabama GOP Primary Runoff Set and Democratic Primary Brewing for Hawaii Governor

August 17, 2017

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.


As polling correctly predicted, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the special Alabama Senate Republican primary earlier this week. Scoring 39% of the statewide vote, Judge Moore finished ahead of appointed Sen. Luther Strange who attracted 33% support. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) ended as a distant third with 20 percent. The two remaining Republicans advance to a September 26th run-off election since no one secured majority support.

While the survey research correctly forecast the Republican outcome, it badly missed on the Democratic side. Marketing executive and retired Navy officer Robert Kennedy Jr. and ex-US Attorney Doug Jones were expected to move into a run-off, but the latter man easily won the nomination in the primary vote. Mr. Jones scored 66% among participating Democrats, meaning he earned a ballot position for the December 12th special general election. The eventual Republican nominee will be favored to capture the seat. Sen. Strange was appointed to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) when the latter was appointed US Attorney General. The December 12th winner will serve through the 2020 election cycle, at which point he will be eligible to seek a full six-year term.

Strong indications are mounting that three-term Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) will launch a challenge to Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Earlier, Ms. Sinema had said she planned on seeking re-election to a fourth term in the House, but now says she is "seriously considering" the Senate race. Sen. Flake has been embroiled in a national feud with President Trump, and the ramifications have made him politically weaker, particularly with the Republican base. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D), who was making moves to enter the Senate race, will reportedly run for Sinema's open House seat should the Congresswoman ultimately decide to jump into the statewide campaign


After announcing a campaign for Colorado Governor, and then withdrawing, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Golden) may again be changing his political course. When he made a public statement leaving the Governor's race, he also said he would not return to the US House and would leave elective politics. Now, he is apparently having second thoughts about leaving Congress, and may soon re-announce a congressional bid. Other prominent Democrats, including a former US Ambassador and three state legislators, are hinting that they would step aside if the Congressman decides to "un-retire."

Six-term Massachusetts Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) announced that she will retire at the end of the current congressional term. The Congresswoman's decision leaves open her 3rd CD, located in the north central/east portion of the state. Democrats will be favored to hold, but a Republican candidate has the potential of becoming viable. The 3rd is a district where Republican statewide candidates, such as Gov. Charlie Baker (R) who will be on the ballot in 2018, must carry to have any chance of winning the state. Therefore, more attention will be paid to this open seat next year.

Massachusetts holds a September primary, so the race will take more than a year to formulate. Crowded primaries in both parties are expected. Ms. Tsongas, the widow of former Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Paul Tsongas, was elected in a 2007 special election when then-Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Lowell) resigned to become a university president.

The Utah special election for the state's open 3rd District was held August 15th, and Republicans nominated Provo Mayor John Curtis for the November 7th special general election. Democrats previously chose Dr. Kathryn Allen in a March convention, so she automatically moved into the general.

Mr. Curtis defeated two other Republicans, including convention-endorsed former state Rep. Chris Herrod. He notched 31% of the vote, ten points behind Curtis, but three ahead of marketing executive Tanner Ainge. The latter two bypassed the state endorsement convention and petitioned their way onto the ballot. Mayor Curtis is now a heavy favorite to capture the seat in November. Hillary Clinton failed to even place second in this eastern Utah district during the 2016 election.


While the Alabama special Senate primary has dominated the state's political news, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) is reportedly informing key state legislators that she will seek election to a full term next year. Ms. Ivey, formerly the state's Lt. Governor, assumed the Governorship in April when then-Gov. Robert Bentley (R) was forced to resign as part of a plea bargain, has so far not publicly indicated whether she will run next year. Eight Republicans, however, including three statewide elected officials, a Mayor, and a local official, have announced their candidacies. Therefore, we will see a highly competitive gubernatorial primary here next year.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) may be headed for a serious Democratic primary fight. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Honolulu) is not denying that she is considering challenging him. The same is true for Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho. Earlier polling suggested Gov. Ige was falling into negative approval rating territory, and his fundraising is lacking. The latest disclosure reports reveal he has only $250,000 in his campaign account. This situation is worth monitoring.