Alabama GOP Senate Primary Runoff Preview

Brandon Finnigan contributed to this post and Miles Coleman prepared the maps. 

 

Today, Alabama Republicans head to the polls to determine their nominee for U.S. Senate in a special election to fill the remainder of former Senator Jeff Sessions’ term.

Incumbent Senator , Luther Strange, was appointed by former Governor Bob Bentley, just weeks before Bentley resigned. Governor Bentley had been dogged by a scandal involving state resources and an apparent affair. Luther Strange was the Attorney General at the time, and his office was investigating the Governor.

Bentley originally called for a special election in November of 2018. Upon replacing Bentley, new Governor Kay Ivey moved the special election up to December of this year. Nine other Republicans decided to challenge Strange,

Senator Strange managed to advance, but came in second place in the first round of primary voting former Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

 

Moore has been removed from his position on the state Supreme Court twice. The first time was in the early 2000s when he refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building.

He ran for the Chief Justice seat again in 2012, and despite being an underdog for the Republican primary, won that outright, and the general election that November.

Moore was suspended and removed a second time for failing to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in 2015.

Moore has received far more endorsements than Senator Strange, though one could argue that Strange’s endorsements, including President Donald Trump who hosted a rally for Strange, carry more weight.

Strange has raised and spent far, far more money than Moore

And has had more money spent on his behalf

Despite this, Moore has lead Strange in polling all through the runoff:

And seems to have a geographically diverse bastion of votes. Moore won Montgomery, Mobile, and fifty-nine more counties, and earned double digit shares everywhere:

Strange performed strongest in his native Birmingham, winning Jefferson and Shelby Counties, and carried three more counties in central and southern Alabama.

Brooks, who again endorsed Strange, had his strongest support in his Congressional district, which runs the length of northern Alabama.

Brooks’ voters will matter in the runoff, and President Donald Trump held his rally for Strange in the heart of Brook’s support, Huntsville.

Most of the primary votes are cast by just a few counties. The ten largest counties by Republican primary vote accounted for 53% of the total votes cast. These include Jefferson, won by Strange, Madison, won by Brooks, and Mobile, won by Moore. Moore won a majority of them in the first round.

So, how can Strange, who trails Moore in polling, pull out a win tonight?

The map tells the tale.

Strange needs to hold and expand his margins in Jefferson and Shelby counties, and at least win Madison County or Mobile County to stay in the game.

Moore dominated the rural pockets of the state, but fortunately for Strange, there aren’t a lot of votes there.

Moore has an easier path to victory, if the first round is any indicator. He can lose Jefferson, Shelby, Baldwin, and even Madison, and still win, so long as he remains ahead in the Mobile area, remains competitive in greater Birmingham, and his evangelical base shows up strongly in the rural quarters.

Polls close tonight at 8pm eastern. We’ll have live results throughout the night here at Decision Desk HQ.