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Alabama Elections Directory 2006

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

3 State Senate Races to Watch

There looks to be several interesting state senate races developing. There will be at least three retirements as well as incumbents seriously challenged in both the primary and general elections. Democrats should hold on to their majority, but the Lowell Barron-led controlling faction could easily be ousted if only a couple of elections break the other way.

There will be several races I'll discuss in the coming months, but here are three which look likely to be among the most closely watched.

District 3: When three-term incumbent Tommy Ed Roberts announced his retirement, Alabama Republicans were jubilant. Roberts' district (and Roberts himself ) is widely seen as GOP leaning. With GOP friendly Morgan county as its base, the GOP needs to start winning seats like District 3 to narrow the 25-10 Dem majority in the state senate.

The GOP quickly unified around Decatur attorney Arthur Orr. Orr looks to be a solid candidate as he announced that he'd raised $100,000 just several weeks into his campaign. The Democrats, however, received good news when retiring Morgan County Probate Judge Bobby Day signaled his interest in the race. Day has served as probate judge for 36 years and is only "retiring" from that position because judge's can't run for re-election if they are over the age of 70. Day might have to square off against former State Rep. Angelo Mancuso in the Democratic primary, but Day's long record of political success should give Democrats hope that they can hold onto this vulnerable district.

Indeed an early poll by the AEA shows Day well positioned, but the GOP can argue that Day hasn't had to run a high profile partisan race in a long time. Also, voters might be a little leery of sending the 70 something Day to Montgomery as a freshman senator.

Day starts off as the favorite here, but the GOP certainly has a candidate and environment that could lead to a Republican takeover.

District 5: GOP incumbent Curt Lee is probably not leaving the state senate the way he would have preferred. Though he's said he'd already decided to forgo a re-election bid, his public announcement of his retirement only came after a security camera caught his late-night escape with a co-ed at the Capitol. Lee's announcement was certainly good news for Democrats. District 5 is probably the most Democratic seat that is currently held by a Republican.

However, in an almost mirror image of the circumstances in District 3, a veteran politician came out of nowhere to give the incumbent party a good shot at keeping the district out of the opponent's hands. In this case, the cagy veteran is Charles Bishop. There is one wrinkle though as Bishop's long political career as a state senator, ag commissioner, and gov candidate all took place as a Democrat. However, sometime after his 2002 primary loss to Don Siegelman, Bishop joined the GOP. He briefly served in the Riley administration before resigning in protest to Amendment One. Now Bishop is trying to cap off his political career with a second stint in the state senate, this time as a Republican.

Bishop's political resume' speaks for itself, but it is worth noting this will be his first race as a Republican. And as with Bobby Day in District 3, I am curious to see exactly how enthusiastic voters are about electing a politician clearly in the twilight of his career as a freshman state senator.

The district is centered around Walker county and Democrats are counting on its Democratic nature to help them pick up this seat. The only Democratic candidate I've seen mentioned is attorney Jonathan Sapp. State House Minority Leader Ken Guin could probably waltz into the senate seat, but he is not inclined to give up his influence in the lower chamber. Perhaps Democratic State Rep Tommy Sherer of Jasper would be another ideal candidate to snatch the seat for the Democrats.

Charles Bishop has to be favored to win back his old senate seat, but a strong Democratic candidate could take advantage of the nature of the district and end Bishop's career on a sour note.

District 20: Though this Birmingham district is solidly Democratic, it should host one of the more entertaining primaries of the cycle. This race will pit two Democratic legislators against each other in the primary as incumbent Sundra Escott is being challenged by State Rep Oliver Robinson. Escott has had a rocky term as she's been accused of ethics violations and came very close to resigning. Assuming she does run for re-election, Oliver Robinson will be a tough challenger. Robinson, a former NBA player, is serving his second term in the State House and is now looking to move up. In fact, I was told by a Democratic insider a couple of years ago that Robinson is a Democratic up-and-comer to keep an eye on.

Escott has been in the legislature for 25 years, but given her current problems and an opponent with Robinson's strengths, I think she will be fighting uphill to win again.
There are of course other compelling story lines in other districts. Hap Myers is retiring in District 34 and Hari Anne Smith's run for governor should yield another open seat. Also, I am told there will be a GOP State Rep challenging an incumbent in the primary. Republicans will surely target Pat Lindsay and Gary Tanner, who both won by narrow margins in 2002. And we'll see if the Republicans field strong challengers against entrenched Democratic incumbents as they've threatened.

2006 has the potential to be a watershed year as the state senate looks on the verge of a leadership shakeup. Though I've only looked at 3 races here, there will most certainly be more to come.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff.

11:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are you hearing Zac on the Zeb Little race in Cullman? He is the leader in the senate.

7:38:00 PM  
Blogger PoliSciZac said...

I expect Little to win without fairly easily. That district is fundamentally a competitive one, so no incumbent can ever be safe. But Little's initial election over Roy Hale, then his easy win over Guy Hunt show him to be in a pretty strong position.

Zeb wanted to run statwide, probably as LG, but a combination of Folsom looming over the race and the imposing specter of Wallace, Jr. made him go for the safer bet and seek re-election. It is only a matter of time before he runs statewide, in fact I'd be suprised if he doesn't run in 2010 or before.

Harlod Sachs, the Winston County GOP chair, is the likely GOP nominee. He's not a bad candidate, but I don't see him as the type to oust an incumbent like Zeb.

1:02:00 AM  
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