Does anyone want Alabama’s new congressional seat?
That’s a bit of hyperbole, of course. There will likely be several candidates on both sides of the aisle who eventually qualify to run for the new 2nd Congressional District seat, but things aren’t exactly off to a roaring start.
Democrats, who fought hard to get the maps redrawn, opened qualifying on Sept. 29. Roughly three weeks later, no one has stepped forward.
Republicans opened their qualifying period on Monday, and while there were plenty of candidates who qualified for various races, there were none for the 2nd.
In fact, while there have been numerous Democrats who have stepped forward to express their desire to run for the seat, there has been very little talk on the GOP side. Pike Road Mayor Gordon Stone recently said he likely wouldn’t enter that race. Aside from Stone, few serious potential candidates have emerged.
That’s likely not from a lack of interest in the seat. Republicans will have to be extremely strategic in how they handle the primary for this district.
While the district is almost evenly split along racial lines, giving Black voters an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing, a number of white voters in and around Montgomery and Mobile also tend to lean more Democratic, or at least moderate. That is not the case in the Wiregrass, where Republican voters lean far-right. A primary fight between several GOP candidates will inevitably lead to candidates trying to out-conservative each other.
And that will lead to statements and positions on controversial issues that will make it difficult for Republican candidates to convince moderate voters that they’re not bat-guano insane, insurrection-supporting, Trump-loving extremist.
On the Democratic side, however, there are also issues.
Last week, I wrote that the perceived frontrunner, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, is possibly having second thoughts on running for the seat that pretty much everyone assumed he wanted. After all, Reed has made no secret of the fact that he has higher political aspirations, and his national name recognition would seem to make that more than possible.
Reed has since told a few news outlets that he’s considering a run for the seat, but he has remained extremely noncommittal. Speaking to a number of people in and around Montgomery, I have been told that Reed is genuinely torn on the decision.
If you think about it, it’s not hard to understand why.
Reed has a fairly safe position essentially for life, should he want it, as the mayor of Montgomery. It comes with a lot of perks, and it allows him the freedom and recognition to participate in a number of national groups and associations – all of which raise his political profile and form relationships that could lead to even loftier national positions.
At the same time, there are a few drawbacks to the congressional race.
First and foremost, who knows what’s going to happen to that seat? Remember, the current maps are only good until the 2030 census results are released, at which time Republicans will redraw all the maps. Between now and then, the U.S. Supreme Court will almost certainly take up a racial gerrymandering case – whether Alabama’s or another state’s – that has catastrophic implications on the Voting Rights Act, particularly Section 2.
If that decision ends up going the way Dobbs, Affirmative Action and Shelby v. Holder all went, the outcome will likely be Alabama Republicans redrawing the district in a far less favorable way. Now, sure, that’s eight years from now, and who the hell knows what will happen in all of that time, but it’s a factor that must be weighed if you’re currently holding a relatively safe political office, as Reed is.
In addition to that, running for the 2nd District seat is no sure thing, even for Reed. While he’s certainly going to be the favorite if he declares, the last Montgomery election showed that there are cracks in the financial foundation within the Capitol City which could be exploited by a better candidate than those Reed faced in his recent re-election campaign.
What if a business-friendly Democrat swooped in? If the business folks in Montgomery were willing to dump about a half-million into the campaign of an overmatched and under-prepared white guy, what would they give to a viable candidate in a race for Congress?
Yes, Reed would enter with name recognition and the Reed Machine behind him, but a couple of million in advertising introduces someone to a lot of people in a really short period of time.
And right now, as you’re reading this, several potential Democratic candidates are trying to figure out if there’s enough money out there to do just that – to take on Reed (or anyone else) and win. I’ve heard from the consultants and the fundraisers and the candidates themselves. They’re working.
But Reed’s decision remains a key for most of them. With him in the race, the fundraising and endorsement processes are completely different for them than if he chooses to remain the mayor in Montgomery.
I would expect a few announcements for candidates in the coming days, but the campaigning for the seat has already begun – whether it’s trying to line up financial backing or trying to convince party leadership that you’re the right fit.
There’s politicking going on. Even if you can’t see it.