All 35 seats in the Alabama Senate are up for grabs this election year. But, as our Alabama readers know, for some reason there were relatively few candidates in these races on June 3. There were no contested races in 20 of the 35 districts in the June 3 primary, which will be over when you read this report. In fact, 14 senators – eight Republicans and six Democrats – will coast to new four-year terms with no opposition in either party. Fortunately, my brother Billy is one of them.
Dr. William Stewart, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alabama, says there are multiple reasons for the scarcity of candidates. He had this to say:
People are generally apathetic about government and politics today. They don’t expect much to be accomplished in a positive way. Running to win is pricey. I have often heard that the man or woman who really aspires to be successful will have to spend most of his or her time raising money–and lots of it.
Dr. Stewart, who is highly regarded and well respected, said Alabama is traditionally dominated by interest groups and that potential candidates who can’t get support from powerful groups might have been smart to simply opt out of running. Republicans took control of the Legislature in 2010 and hold 23 seats in the Senate. Democrats now hold only 11. Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb, a very good legislator, is the sole independent. The Republicans enjoy a “super majority” because it takes 21 votes to end filibusters and bring bills to a vote.
While Democrats have said their goal is to break the Republicans’ super majority, the party didn’t even have a candidate in 11 of the 23 districts now held by Republicans. It appears – based on early polling – that the GOP will continue its dominance of the Legislature. Democratic Party Chairman Nancy Worley believes that despite the lack of candidates in almost half the Republican-held districts, the Democrats could achieve their goal of breaking the super majority. While that appears to be wishful thinking, maybe Nancy knows something. But if she does, it’s certainly very well-hidden. Nancy explained the party’s strategy:
We tried to put people in seats that were winnable seats and I think we’ve done a good job of having really super candidates that qualified.
Dr. Stewart apparently believes Democrats may have a chance to break the super majority, partly because they would need a gain of only three seats. Things can happen between now and the general election that could change the outcome of races. For example, according to Dr. Stewart, the special grand jury investigating possible State House corruption could “come out with something that would be a game changer.” I am not sure what else will come from the grand jury, but I suspect there are some nervous folks waiting on the final results. So far, one Republican House member has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor ethics charge and resigned, while a second has been charged with perjury, but has denied any wrongdoing.
As far as the number of Senate candidates goes, Republicans have almost twice as many as the Democrats, 53 to 27. The following are some more primary numbers:
I predicted a very low turnout for June 3, but hope I was wrong. I will be greatly surprised if very many folks voted. Most of the folks I talked with before June 3 were turned off by the nasty television ads in the GOP primary. It will be interesting to see if that type campaigning affected their voting.
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