Alabama’s famous 1st Congressional District race is probably the best contest in the state in this year’s March 3 primary election. The winner of the March 31 GOP primary runoff will go to Congress. The district has been a Republican congressional seat since Jack Edwards won it in the Southern Goldwater landslide in 1964.
The bulk of the district’s population is in Baldwin and Mobile counties along the Gulf Coast. Being the only Gulf Coast district in the state, the district has some local issues like red snapper fishing and the infamous Bay 10 bridge and Bayway project. However, for the most part, the candidates are focusing on national issues like international affairs, gun control, health care, the environment, immigration and abortion. As is apropos for Republican congressional candidates, there are all trying to tie themselves to President Donald Trump.
There are three clear front-runners: Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, state Rep. Chris Pringle and former state Sen. Bill Hightower. Carl has been a county commissioner since 2012. Pringle is a state legislator from Mobile. Hightower served one term in the Alabama Senate, then made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 2018.
The three seem to be knotted in a close, three-man race. It will be interesting to see which two of them make the March 31 runoff.
The seat is open because incumbent Bradley Byrne is running for the U.S. Senate. He had the choice to either continue in his seat or go for the brass ring. Byrne is a very viable candidate in the Senate race. However, former Sen. Jeff Sessions is favored to lead the primary and win the runoff and then take back his Senate seat in the November general election.
Sessions will settle in for a six-year term, probably his last. He is 73 years old and will be a 74-year-old freshman senator. That is not the optimum age to become a senator again.
Seniority prevails in Washington; it is absolutely the king. Sessions does not portray the national image and stature that our senior senator, Richard Shelby, enjoys, much less the power, prestige and ability to bring home the bacon to the Heart of Dixie. Indeed, during their 20 years of service together in the Senate, Shelby has overshadowed Sessions in seniority, power and accomplishment.
But Sessions does not mind playing second fiddle to Shelby. Sessions actually prefers it. During his 20 years in the Senate, he enjoyed playing the role of being the ultimate conservative ideologue. He was and will once again become one of the more conservative members of the Senate and will spend his time on social matters like immigration, abortion or other right-wing noneconomic issues. Sessions will be the darling of Fox News and will ask for his seat back on the Judiciary Committee, which does absolutely nothing for Alabama. Sessions does not really want to be effective. He is the ultimate ideologue.
Even though Sessions will be 74 in January 2021, his chief rivals for the GOP nomination, Tommy Tuberville and Byrne, will be 66 and 65, respectively — not exactly spring chickens. Those are not the perfect ages to enter the Senate. By the same token, if by some remarkable miracle upset Doug Jones wins this year’s race, he would not be the perfect effective senator for Alabama as a 65-year-old Democrat.
Thank goodness, the Heart of Dixie has Shelby as its senior U.S. senator. When you have the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, you really do not need a second senator. Seniority is everything in Washington.