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Post election analysis of a Republican win

Brandon Moseley

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While nationally Republicans lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate seats in Nevada and Arizona, and Florida is still too close to call; the election was a resounding victory for the Alabama Republican Party.

Kay Ivey (R) was the third most popular governor in the country and as expected she won an easy victory over the badly outmatched Walter “Walt” Maddox (D), the Mayor of Tuscaloosa. Maddox had never run a statewide campaign before and had poor name recognition statewide.  Maddox only won 13 counties and even narrowly lost his own home county.

1,014,821 people voted for Kay Ivey for governor. That is the biggest voter turnout for a candidate in a governor’s race since Guy Hunt (R) in 1986.

The Democrats got their vote out as well. Maddox received 686,774 votes. That would have beaten Gov. Bob Riley (R) in 2002 and 2006. Maddox had more votes than any Democratic gubernatorial candidate since Don Siegelman’s (D) landslide victory over incumbent Governor Fob James (R) in 1998.

It was not just Ivey; but Republican popularity was across the board. Ivey, Will Ainsworth, John Merrill, Jay Mitchell and Jim Zeigler all received over one million votes. 65 percent of Alabama voters voted straight ticket, 661,898 of those votes were for Republicans. 460,408 Democrats voted a straight ticket ballot.

Ainsworth was the top vote getter in the election with 1,037,170 votes and 61.4 percent of the vote over his badly outmatched opponent, Muscle Shoals area pastor Dr. Will Boyd (D).

Boyd only raised $48,934 and was heavily outspent by Ainsworth in this election by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance Jr. (D) however outspent Associate Justice Tom Parker (R) for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Vance spent $1,165,840 blasting Parker for politicizing the state’s highest court and for his collaboration with former Chief Justice Roy Moore. Vance finished with just 42.5 percent of the vote, 5.73 percentage points less than his 2012 campaign against Roy Moore and less than four points better than Boyd despite spending who over $1.1 million more.

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Perhaps reflecting the straight ticket voting of the electorate, negative attacks did not work anywhere they were tried. Maddox accused Ivey of being sick for four days on a state trip to Colorado and covering up the nature of this illness. Attorney General candidate Joseph Siegelman accused AG Steve Marshall (R) of illegally accepting PAC to PAC transfers through the Republican Attorney General’s Association. Secretary of State candidate Heather Milam accused Sec. John Merrill (R) of voter suppression. Independent Senate candidate Craig Ford accused Andrew Jones (R) of having a low income and not being a successful businessman. Incumbent Senator Larry Stutts (R-Sheffield) was even accused of medical malpractice by the families of former patients. None of the attacks, no matter how over the top worked and Republicans emerged triumphant in every statewide race .and every competitive legislative race.

Some Democrats, most notably congressional candidates Mallory Hagan and Tabitha Isner have blamed the Alabama Democratic Party and specifically Chair Nancy Worley and Joe Reed for the defeat. Recent reporting revealed that the Alabama Democratic Party had over $508,000 in its federal account and $284,000 in its federal account, most of which was never spent.  Not only did the party do very little to help Democratic candidates in this election, it demanded that congressional candidates pay Reed $25,000 each for get out the vote efforts. Reed dismissed the criticism and blamed the candidates themselves for their failure to connect with Alabama voters.

In the state Senate, Republicans won 27 of the 35 seats. In the Alabama House of Representatives, Republicans won 77 of the 105 seats. In 1982 Joe Reed famously sued the state successfully claiming that 8 Senate seats and 27 House seats should be majority minority. When the legislature convenes in 2019 majority minority districts will be the only seats held by the Alabama Democratic Party. Incumbent Senator Billy Beasley (D) and newcomer state Representative Neil Rafferty (D) will be the only White Democrats in the Alabama legislature. The other 34 Democrats in the legislature will be Blacks, where Republicans have failed to make any inroads.

That failure to connect with Black voters hurt the GOP in Jefferson County where incumbent Sheriff Mike Hale (R) and incumbent District Attorney Mike Anderton (R) both lost to their Democratic, and Black, opponents. Jefferson County has become increasingly hostile to GOP candidates since 2008. Every countywide office is now in Democratic Party hands as well as every Jefferson County Judgeship, the one exception being Judge John Amari who was elected as a Democrat and switched parties before this election. His term has not come up yet.
All four statewide constitutional amendments also passed.

The most popular amendment, was number one dealing with the Ten Commandments. It got more votes than any candidate on the ballot with 72 percent of the voters voting for passing the amendment, which guaranteed that Alabamians have a legal right to display the Ten Commandments on the wall of a classroom or other public building.

With the Democratic Party in retreat and much distrust of the leadership is will be challenging to unify behind defending Doug Jones (D) reelection campaign in 2020.

(Original reporting by the Montgomery Advertiser, Alabama Media Group, and Ballotpedia contributed to this report.)

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