Qualifying has ended and the players are in place for next year’s elections. It is a presidential year. It is up in the air as to who will be the Democratic presidential standard bearer. President Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee.
It is a foregone conclusion that Trump will carry Alabama next November. In fact, it would be safe to say that all statewide Republican candidates on the ballot will win next year. When it comes to national and statewide contests in the Heart of Dixie, we are a one-party state. If you want to win a state or U.S. Senate race in Alabama, you have to run as a Republican.
Therefore, winning next year’s March 3 primary is tantamount to election in the state. That means the election is less than four months away. There will be a little holiday lull between now and the first of the year. However, when January and the new year begin, campaigns will begin going full steam ahead.
The premier contest will be for the U.S. Senate and two open congressional seats. I will address those federal races in a column next week.
The most important positions, along with the federal races, will be for posts on our state Supreme Court and our Courts of Civil and Criminal Appeals. There are two seats on each of the three tribunals on the ballot. Most of the judges up for election are incumbents and either have no opposition or only token opponents.
Former Houston County Circuit Judge Brad Mendheim will win election to a full six-year term on the state Supreme Court without opposition. The very popular presiding judge of the Court of Civil Appeals, Bill Thompson, will be anointed without opposition for another six-year stint. Thompson has done an outstanding job on this court for decades. He even looks like a judge.
Judge Beth Kellum has done an exemplary job on the state Court of Criminal Appeals. She probably will be re-elected. She has two opponents — Jill Ganus and Will Smith. It does not hurt that she was born and reared in Tuscaloosa.
The Druid City seems to have an inordinate number of statewide officeholders. Tuscaloosa has a lot of voters, but it seems to be more than that. It is as though the Black Warrior River spawns them.
Judge Mary Windom of Mobile will more than likely win another six-year term on the Court of Criminal Appeals. She has an opponent, Melvin Hasting.
There will be a contested race for a place on the state Court of Civil Appeals. The very popular Scott Donaldson is retiring. By the way, Donaldson is from Tuscaloosa and served on the bench there before being elected to the state court. There will be a spirited race for his seat between Shelby County state Rep. Matt Fridy and Birmingham lawyer Phillip Bahakel.
The most hotly contested race on the March 3 primary ballot will be between state Sen. Cam Ward and incumbent Greg Shaw for Shaw’s seat on the state Supreme Court. Shaw has done a good job on the high tribunal and is considered a solid conservative, pro-business judge. Ward has been on a fast and successful track in the state Legislature. He hails from Shelby County and has been a high-profile state senator for several terms. He is 48 and a very gregarious and tenacious campaigner.
It is doubtful that the business groups that primarily fund these state Supreme Court races will abandon the solid-but-quiet Shaw. However, the groups may be reluctant to not cover their bets with Ward. In addition, the plaintiff trial lawyers have found a way to funnel money quietly to these races.
Popular Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh will be re-elected. Cavanaugh is known and respected as one of Alabama’s more conservative leaders. She has a token opponent, who is part of a left-wing, California-like liberal group.
Huntsville’s outstanding mayor, Tommy Battle, will be up for re-election in that city’s August 2020 mayoral race. Battle will be a prohibitive favorite to win re-election to a third term.
Battle ran a respectable second to Kay Ivey in the 2018 governor’s race. During that contest I asked him why in the world would he trade being mayor of Huntsville for being governor of Alabama? Huntsville is poised to be the fastest-growing and most-prosperous metropolitan area not only in Alabama and the South, but in the nation during the next decade.