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Scandal, blue dogs and the fickle public could change the 2018 election, maybe

Bill Britt

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Campaign season is about to enter a critical phase with Republican and Democrat primaries less than 75 days away.

In this off-year election, only the governor’s race and the battle for attorney general are drawing any particular attention. Neither seat is held by an individual elected to the office by a vote of the people. Gov. Kay Ivey ascended to her position after the fall of Gov. Robert Bentley, and Attorney General Steve Marshall owes his job to the same deviant governor who was forced from office due to moral and legal failings.

As the 2018 Legislative Session hurries to a close, politicos are focusing their attention on primary election day, June 5, when many races are decided because of carefully drawn districts that favor either a Republican or Democrat candidate.

All political contests are consequential, but few have the potential to be transformative. If the status quo holds, little will change in the Heart of Dixie, but as with all things politics, the mercurial temperament of the electorate can change in interesting ways.

Take for instance Judge Roy Moore’s recent defeat in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election where scandal coupled with weak resolve among state Republican leadership gave a motivated youth and minority voter movement an opportunity to capture a seat held by Republicans for more than a generation.

There is little reason to believe that Gov. Ivey will not win the Republican primary. Most recent polls show her with high favorables among Republican voters. But that doesn’t mean her path to victory is assured, as she faces three primary challengers and an enlivened Democratic base.

Having raised nearly three million dollars, Ivey is besting her closest competitor by over one million.

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Secretary of State records show Ivey raising $2,833,064.91, Mayor Tommy Battle $1,692,632.00 (loan $4,000), State Sen. Bill Hightower $806,528.66 (loan $30,100) and Scott Dawson $638,967.00.

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Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls former State Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox are, for now, only a distraction in terms of fundraising — but so was Doug Jones before he upset the state’s political equilibrium with his U.S. Senate win just a few months ago.

As for the attorney general’s race in the Republican primary, Marshall faces a field that includes former U.S. Attorney and recent AG chief deputy Alice Martin, former Attorney General Troy King and President Donald Trump’s Alabama finance director Chess Bedsole.

“That an attorney general is accepting donations from those who aided Hubbard is seen as troubling.”

Marshall is handily outpacing his rivals in fundraising having received $961,505.28 total with $18,021.40 in loans. Marshall contributions from in-state PACs has dropped precipitously since revelation surfaced about his actions to protect a molester on his staff.

But that hasn’t deterred out-of-state donors, many of whom seem to have no affiliation with Alabama. Marshall’s campaign is heavily funded by groups and individuals who are tied to the felony acts of former Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. That an attorney general is accepting donations from those who aided Hubbard is seen a troubling.

Among Republican voters, the most recent survey shows Marshall running behind King and slightly ahead of Martin.

Many high-profile politicos speaking on background believe if Marshall wins, he will move to fire public corruption fighter Matt Hart and his team. They also express concern that he will join forces with those who will weaken and dismantle state ethics laws.

Given Republican gerrymandering and the state’s right-leaning political bent, little is expected to change.

However, as blue dog Democrats are gaining ground across the nation, it is not inconceivable that Ivey could face a challenge from the left and given that Marshall was an Obama Democrat until 2012, it seems likely that he will be sent home by one of his three Republican challengers.

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