Alabama Senate Seat Moves to 2017 and GA 6th Hits a Runoff

April 19, 2017

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


New Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) issued an order changing the US Senate special election cycle. While resigned Gov. Robert Bentley (R) scheduled the special concurrently with the 2018 regular election, voters will now go to the polls in a three-tiered system in August, September, and December. With a lawsuit pending against Bentley's action, Gov. Ivey superseded the complaint in producing a new election schedule. 
The special primary is now scheduled for August 15th, with any necessary run-off occurring on September 26th. The special general is now December 12th. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) is expected to run for the seat, and he can expect robust competition.  In a benefit to the congressional delegation, members can now enter the special election without risking their current congressional position. This being the case, veteran Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) could well become one of the new candidates. 
The winner will serve the remainder of the current term, which ends in 2021. Former Sen. Jeff Sessions' (R) appointment and confirmation as US Attorney General led to the vacancy. Sen. Strange will serve until at least the special election concludes, and the remainder of the term should he win the electoral contest.
Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) raising over $675,000 in the first quarter of 2017, and banking over $2.8 million suggests that she is seriously looking to challenge Sen. Jeff Flake (R). Though Ms. Sinema has been quiet about her potential political future, her fundraising is speaking volumes.
Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Galena/Franklin County) is another House member who has greatly increased his fundraising. At the end of the first quarter, Rep. Tiberi has more than $6 million cash-on-hand, thus increasing speculation that he will enter the race to oppose Sen. Sherrod Brown (D).


The GA-6 special election was held last night, and with technical difficulties occurring in Fulton County, the largest in the district, the laborious count yielded a run-off between Democrat Jon Ossoff and former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R). 
Ossoff began with a major early lead, tallying 71% of the vote in the first released count, all from DeKalb County. His advantage naturally came down with every report, but still ended with 48.1%, which was stronger than expected. Mr. Ossoff now faces Ms. Handel in the secondary run-off election that will be decided on June 20th. 
Despite what appeared to be flawed methodology in many of the released polls for this special election race, the predictions approved accurate. Opinion Savvy, the polling group who were the only ones to test the entire 18-candidate ballot, came very close in their prediction. While everyone foresaw an Ossoff first place finish by a wide margin, OS was the only pollster who projected Handel finishing second by a comfortable margin. All other surveys saw a tight bunching among the four most competitive Republican candidates for the second run-off position.
Democrats will be pleased with this outcome since Handel has demonstrated weakness in her last few elections. In the 2010 race for Governor, she placed first in the primary, but lost the run-off to current Gov. Deal. In 2014, she came back to run for the Senate, but failed to even qualify for the run-off, as future Sen. David Purdue and then-Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Savannah) advanced to the secondary election. Now, she barely reaches 20% in a jungle primary in her home congressional district.


A series of candidates from both parties are lining up for a crack at succeeding retiring Gov. Dan Malloy (D). The week's biggest news surrounds the decision of two potentially serious candidates, state Comptroller Kevin Lembo (D) and former West Hartford Mayor Jonathan Harris (D), who both said they would defer to Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D) if she decides to enter the gubernatorial race. So far, Ms. Wyman has been noncommittal about becoming a candidate. The eventual Democratic nominee will be a heavy favorite to retain the seat for the party even though Gov. Malloy could only manage close election victories in the past two contests.
Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee and scheduled an announcement event for April 30th. Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is ineligible to seek a third term.
Maryland three-term US Rep. John Delaney (D-Potomac) says that he is "absolutely considering" challenging popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan next year.  Mr. Hogan enjoys the second-best job approval score in the country according to the Morning Consult national survey that monitored Governors' job performance. Maryland, being one of the strongest Democratic states in the country suggests that the 2018 campaign will remain highly competitive irrespective of Gov. Hogan's strong performance record.