With a special election to permanently fill Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat set for later this year, Alabamians need to get acquainted with the state politicians that could be running the show come Election Day. Below are some of the top contenders for the office and a bit of insight on each.
Luther Strange — Appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley to replace now-U.S. Attorney General Sessions, Strange is the seat’s incumbent. Although his tenure in the nation’s top legislative body has been marred by his dubious appointment to the office by a corrupt politician he was supposed to be investigating, Strange has already garnered significant electoral advantages from his incumbency. For example, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a powerful campaign group, has said they’ll protect Strange’s incumbency by any means necessary, even threatening GOP consultants considering working for other candidates.
Ed Henry — Alabama House Rep. Ed Henry is about as different a Republican from Luther Strange as you can get. Henry, instead of cuddling up with Bentley and his Montgomery minions, publicly attacked them and spearheaded the impeachment effort. Henry is also clearly a political beast, though, often sponsoring ultraconservative, and many times symbolic, legislation. He has spoken out against Strange and his perceived deal with Bentley to secure the Senate seat, saying Bentley himself had told Henry Strange was “corrupt” and “had to go.”
Roy Moore — Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is no new face in Alabama politics. Moore has twice been booted from his position as the state’s top judge. On the first occasion, Moore was removed from office after ignoring a federal court order to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from the state judicial building in Montgomery. After being elected again to the same office years later, Moore issued an order advising the state’s probate court judges they need not follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision affirming the right to marry regardless of sexual orientation. Moore was indefinitely suspended for that move, and eventually resigned his position formally in order to run for the U.S. Senate.
Randy Brinson — Brinson, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, has formally entered the race. A physician, Brinson has long been active in political circles, founding a religiously focused voter turnout group called “Redeem the Vote” in 2003. A member of the University of Mobile Board of Trustees, Brinson is one of the Senate race’s lesser-known candidates.
Del Marsh — If there’s a candidate with any measure of the establishment political and financial backing needed to beat Strange, it’s Del Marsh. An Anniston Republican, Marsh is the top Senate Republican in the state and a favorite of the business community. Although Marsh hasn’t formally announced his intention to run as of press time, he’s definitely sending strong signals. When he found out the NRSC would oppose any candidate not named Luther Strange, he flew to Washington, D.C., to confront them.
“It’s very clear that Washington wants to pick Alabama’s senator,” Marsh said of the race, “and I’ve said before it should be the people of Alabama who make that decision. I went up to Washington and talked with several people and told them the same thing. I just wish they could back off a little bit because it’s unfortunate.”
Mo Brooks — While not necessarily the best known among those running for the Senate seat, current U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks is certainly not unknown in political circles inside and outside the state. He has on several occasions garnered both local and national news coverage with his sometimes over-the-top comments. For example, Brooks has repeatedly said a “war on whites” exists in America, a comment he defended even at the press conferences announcing his run for the U.S. Senate. Brooks also recently made headlines when he said those without pre-existing conditions should reap the rewards of “living good lives,” while others should pay more.
“My understanding is that [the GOP health care law] will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool,” he said. “That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives … they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”
There are, of course, many people who have pre-existing conditions through no fault of their own. But who needs nuance? Not Mo Brooks, whose 10 p.m. press conference in Mobile announcing his Senate bid may not have been the best of PR moves.
Robert Kennedy Jr. — Confused? Me too, and so is Alabama Democratic Party Chairperson Nancy Worley, who oversees those filing for the Democratic primary. Worley says she’s unsure who Kennedy — who mailed in the requisite paperwork and $3,400 qualifying check — actually is.
“All I remember seeing is Mobile County at the top and I looked at the name and thought, ‘boy, is this a familiar name in politics,’” Worley told inquiring members of the press. “We don’t normally have this kind of mystery candidate filing with us.”
Doug Jones — The other Democrat in the race — the one we actually know about — is Doug Jones, a former U.S. Attorney most famous for his successful prosecution of the Ku Klux Klan members who perpetrated the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four young girls.
Alabama’s U.S. Senate primary election will be held Aug. 15, with a runoff on Sept. 26 if necessary. The general election to permanently replace now-AG Sessions in the U.S. Senate will be Dec. 12.