Come Wednesday morning the state GOP hopes to find itself with a Senate majority for the first time in 136 years. I’ve listened carefully enough in the right corners that I can tell you how the GOP believes that can happen.
In the 35 seat Senate, a caucus needs 18 votes to have a majority.
Five Republican incumbents are unopposed: Arthur Orr in SD 3, Jabo Waggoner in SD 16, Jimmy Holley in SD 31, Tripp Pittman in SD 32, and Rusty Glover in SD 34. Two more Republicans will be entering the Senate without any opposition: state Rep. Cam Ward in SD 14 (in the seat Hank Erwin vacated to run for Lt. Gov) and Slade Blackwell in SD 15 (in the seat last held by Republican Steven French).
The GOP feels quite good about its chances in six other races:
- Paul Bussman in SD 4 (against incumbent Zeb Little),
- Greg Reed in SD 5 (against Brett Wadsworth for the seat vacated by Republican Charles Bishop),
- Clay Scofield in SD 9 (against Tim Mitchell for the seat vacated by retiring Democrat Hinton Mitchem),
- Del Marsh in SD 12 (against Wallace Wyatt),
- Scott Beason in SD 17 (against Tommy Hudson),
- Dick Brewbaker in SD 25 (against Doug Smith for the open seat vacated by retiring Republican Larry Dixon).
Only two of those are GOP incumbents (Beason and Marsh) but Republicans have felt quite good about their chances in these elections.
The Republicans believe with only some less confidence than they have in the above races that they are likely to win two more races:
- Bill Holtzclaw who is challenging Dem Tom Butler in SD 2, and
- Incumbent Ben Brooks in SD 35 (against Scott Buzbee)
If you are keeping up, you know that these total 15 seats. If they win those 15, then the keys to winning the Senate lie in three district races that the GOP believes are clearly leaning their way:
- SD 21 where state Rep. Gerald Allen is challenging Democratic incumbent Phil Poole,
- SD 27 where former Dem Tom Whatley is challenging Democratic incumbent Ted Little, and
- SD 30 where Bryan Taylor is challenging Democratic incumbent Walking Wendell Mitchell
Those three Democratic Senators have served a combined 76 years or nineteen terms in the state Senate, and the GOP believes they are poised to send them packing.
Victories in all of the above races would give the GOP 18 votes necessary to claim a Senate majority.
In addition, four other Republicans could provide either a larger majority or a cushion in case the Dems pull surprises in any of the above races. Incumbent Paul Sanford in SD 7 (fighting off a challenge from Jeff Enfinger), Phil Williams in SD 10 (against Dem incumbent Larry Means), Gerald Dial in SD 13 (against Greg Varner for Democrat Kim Benefield‘s old seat), and Danny Joyner in SD 22 (against incumbent Marc Keahey) are in races that the GOP believes are leaning their way.
Other races could go their way as well, but here is the path that the GOP sees to a Senate majority.
Good helpers from across the spectrum have helped the Parlor update our rankings of the state Senate races. Let’s jump in and look at ten races that we are moving from the last time we updated the races.
- SD 4 moves from Toss Up to Lean GOP – Senate Majority Leader and three term incumbent Zeb Little (D) has a fight on his hands with Republican challenger Paul Bussman (R). Will Little’s new ad addressing his DUI help him in the stretch run?
- SD 6 from Safe DEM to Likely DEM – In a year where the markers are lining up the Republicans’ way, few seats are safe – to the point that Republican Jim Bonner’s chances look some more promising than before in his challenge against six-term Democratic Senator Roger Bedford.
- SD 7 from Toss Up to Lean GOP – Dems expected former legislator Jeff Enfinger to mount a strong challenge against freshman Republican Senator Paul Sanford. With Enfinger’s campaign facing tough questions about years-old financial irregularity, his odds looks longer. (Kudos to Flashpointblog who was sniffing out this issue from the get-go.)
- SD 8 from Likely DEM to Lean DEM – When has the GOP had this good of a shot at the Senate Democratic veteran Lowell Barron? The seven term Senator faces Republican Shad McGill.
- SD 9 from Lean GOP to Likely GOP – Outgoing Democrat Hinton Mitchem was a prime example of how the Dems held the state legislature so long in a state moving right; he was a deep-rooted incumbent holding fast against shifting political winds. He’s gone, and Republican Clay Scofield looks primed to win the seat against Democrat Tim Mitchell.
- SD 10 from Likely DEM to Toss Up – Democrat Larry Means is strong in his district, but the recent indictment gives Republican Phil Williams an opening.
- SD 13 from Lean GOP to Toss Up – This is the only district moving in the Democrats’ direction in the estimation of our contributors. Democrat Greg Varner faces former Senator (and former Democrat) Gerald Dial in a race for the seat being vacated by Democrat Kim Benefield.
- SD 21 from Toss Up to Lean GOP – Republican state Rep. Gerald Allen is giving four term Democratic Senator Phil Poole a strong challenge.
- SD 27 from Toss Up to Lean GOP – Eight term (!) Democratic incumbent Ted Little has his hands full with former Dem Tom Whatley in a year when it’s good to have the R next to the name.
- SD 30 from Lean DEM to Toss Up – Democrat Wendell Mitchell is in his seventh term, but Republican Bryan Taylor hopes to make it Mitchell’s last.
Here’s what the chart looks like (red indicates a move to the right, blue to the left):
|Alabama State Senate Races
If this chart is our starting place, then the Republicans’ chances of ending the Democrats’ 136 year reign of controlling the Senate are looking better and better. The Democrats aren’t out of it by any means; if they win all the toss-ups and the ones on their side of the chart, that represents 17 of the 18 votes necessary to claim a majority. They certainly could get to 18 if they pick up one from the right side or perhaps get erstwhile Republican Harri Anne Smith to caucus with them if she wins re-election as an Independent.
But it sure is easier to see how it works out for the Republicans. For example if they win just two of the four listed here as toss-ups, they could even lose one from their side of the chart and still win the Senate.
With good help from residents of quite different parts of the political spectrum, the Senate Elections Directory has been updated with ratings for the races (“Lean DEM,” “Likely GOP,” etc.)
The five changes from the last time we updated this are:
- SD 1 from Lean DEM to Likely DEM – Democratic state Rep. Tammy Irons looks quite strong in her bid against Republican Gerald Freeman to replace Democrat Bobby Denton.
- SD 5 from Lean GOP to Likely GOP – Republican Greg Reed is looking like more of a favorite in the race with Democrat Brett Wadsworth to succeed Republican Charles Bishop.
- SD 11 from Lean GOP to Lean DEM – After switching parties, incumbent Jim Preuitt was headed toward his first race as a Republican until he abruptly withdrew from the race. Democrats were already hopeful about their chances with their nominee Jerry Fielding and are even more so with the incumbent out of the race, replaced by Ray Robbins.
- SD 27 from Lean DEM to Toss Up – Many are high on Tom Whatley’s chances of unseating Democrat incumbent Ted Little and would put this one in the Republican column. On the other hand, a lot of money is expected to drop in this race and Whatley is not without his own soft spots.
- SD 29 from Toss Up to Lean Independent – State Sen. Harri Anne Smith has polled well even after her switch from the Republican to the Independent column, and there is not yet any real indication that GOP nominee George Flowers is picking up any traction against the incumbent. Democrat Jennifer Adams dropping out of the race will only help Smith in that any Democrats who vote in the race are more likely to vote for Smith than the Republican Flowers.
Here is the chart. Colored numbers indicate that has district has moved left (blue), right (red), or independent (purple).
|Alabama State Senate Races
So which party will organize the leadership of the Senate for the next quadrennium?
Well, if the above chart is our starting place, the Democrats have an advantage in 15 races, and the Republicans have an advantage in 14 races. Surprises are no doubt ahead of us somewhere on the chart, but for now we consider that the organizing control of the state Senate may be decided by the five toss-up races in districts 2, 4, 7, 21, and 27 – and by the not insignificant question of which party Harri Anne Smith would organize with if she is re-elected.
All five of these toss-up races have incumbents facing stiff challenges (incumbent is listed first):
SD 2: Tom Butler (D) v. Bill Holtzclaw (R)
SD 4: Zeb Little (D) v. Paul Bussman (R)
SD 7: Paul Sanford (R) v. Jeff Enfinger (D)
SD 21: Phil Poole (D) v. Gerald Allen (R)
SD 27: Ted Little (D) v. Tom Whatley (R)
On the Smith question… she has been elected to the state Senate three times as a Republican and proclaims herself a Republican in her latest campaign commercial. On the other hand, might her loyalty to the GOP caucus have slipped a bit after the state GOP kept her from running for re-election as a Republican this year? She is a former Democrat and even as a Republican endorsed Democrat Bobby Bright for Congress in 2008. Yet, she is quite close to Republican Scott Beason, arguably the most conservative state Senator in the statehouse. One Montgomery Republican tells the Parlor that Smith would vote for Beason to be Senate President pro tem but not Del Marsh (R – Anniston).
So who will control the Senate? Let’s say… a better than even chance that it’s the GOP.
Watch for an update on the House races.
Reader Brian sent over email Tuesday about a call he received, an automated survey, regarding the Ted Little ad that began airing the same day in SD 27. (See the ad here.)
He gave me permission to reprint his words here.
I just got a robo survey paid for by Election Research that asked a series of questions regarding the Little ad. By the time I could get to a pen, some had been asked… but below are my notes on many of the questions:
Did you vote for Barack Obama?
Did you know Ted Little has hired former Obama aides in his campaign?
Did you know Tom Whatley has been a successful businessman for 30 years?
Did you know Tom Whatley has been endorsed by Bob Riley and [many other organizations listed]?
Did you know that Ted Little is saying that he’s “Now the conservative in the race?”
Do you want Ted Little to stop running his negative ad against Tom Whatley and run a clean campaign?
Call him at [a 334 phone #]
Tom Whatley has been a successful businessman for 30 years and a soldier. He served in the [some branch and rank]. This call is paid for by Election Research.
This sounds like a classic push poll that appears to be more interested in pushing information out to (typically) a large number of people than in compiling information from a statistically significant smaller sample.
Who is behind the call? The smart money is on ALFA, i.e. the Alabama Farmers Federation.
FWIW, a valued Parlor source told the site right off the bat that this sounds like ALFA’s handiwork. But then…
AL Farmers Federation Expenditures - 2006 cycle
“Election Research,” the company identified in the call, appears to be an arm of ccAdvertising, an outfit with an established history with ALFA. According to the website of ccAdvertising
(with emphasis added):
Located in the Washington, D.C. metro area, ccAdvertising has built a customer base of prominent political, lobbying, commercial, and non-profit organizations. ccAdvertising is a division of the FreeEats.com companies and operates under several DBAs, including Election Research, Political Research and FEC Research.
ccAdvertising has a strong working relationship with ALFA’s Director of External Affairs John Pudner. In the 2006 election cycle, ALFA paid ccAdvertising at least $65,000 for election work. In 2007, John Pudner testified at a legislative hearing in Connecticut as ccAdvertising’s representative, saying there that ccAdvertising was his client. ccAdvertising even sports on its website a testimonial from Pudner (from back when he was at McGuire Woods Consulting), “You are worth 10 points to any campaign.”
ccAdvertising does not enjoy a spotless reputation. The Parlor had a post last year about ccAdvertising poll results reported on WorldNet Daily that “show [Roy] Moore is far ahead of most of the likely competition” in the race for governor in 2010. While you might want to read the entire post on the matter from the Parlor, here is a key excerpt about ccAdvertising:
Romney later complained that ccAdvertising, working for Common Sense Issues, was violating the law with its phone calls on behalf of Huckabee during the presidential campaign. ccAdvertising has been on the losing end of two federal court decisions and was once fined $20,000 for violations in North Dakota.
Harold Swift of Common Sense Ohio was once asked if critics thought that the polling done for them by ccAdvertising was deceptive and replied, “I grant that they can reach that conclusion.”
FWIW, here’s a piece written elsewhere last week on ccAdvertising’s “intentionally bad data.” There’s more reading here about the group in a piece from Newsweek in January 2008.
Not to make too much of this, but sometimes it’s fun to peek behind the curtains a bit, this time on a group that will no doubt be ringing other Alabamians’ phones this election cycle.
Democratic state Senator Ted Little assails Ted Whatley, his Republican opponent in Senate District 27, as “just another political opportunist” in a spot that doesn’t look like any political ad I’ve seen.
According to the Little campaign, the ad began airing on TV today.
July’s REDMAP Political Report [.pdf] from the Republican State Leadership Committee contends that nationally in 2010 Republicans will pick up control of four legislative chambers, that Democrats will not pick up any, and that twelve chambers controlled by Democrats (including Alabama’s House and Senate) are “solidly in play.”
The report explains, “The REDistricting MAjority Project (REDMAP) is a program of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) dedicated to winning Republican control of state legislatures that will have the most impact on Congressional redistricting in 2011.”
According to the report, three open state Senate seats in Alabama are in play, one held by a Republican and two held by Democrats. In addition, seven Democratic incumbents and two Republican incumbents hold seats are in play. The GOP needs to pick up a net of three Senate seats to control the chamber.
Let’s see… There are more than three open Senate seats, so they must be keying on SD 5 (being vacated by Republican Charles Bishop), SD 9 (Democrat Hinton Mitchem), and SD 13 (Democrat Kim Benefield) as the ones in play.
The two Republican Senate incumbents whose seats are in play must be Paul Sanford (SD 7) and Jim Preuitt (SD 11).
Now the seven Democratic incumbents whose Senate seats are in play… they must be Tom Butler (SD 2), Zeb Little (SD 4), Phil Poole (SD 21), Ted Little (SD 27), Wendell Mitchell (SD 30), and… hmm… a Republican familiar with the situation confirms that the last two are Lowell Barron (SD 8) and Larry Means (SD 10). Those two and Marc Keahey in SD 22 were the threesome I was trying to choose among for the last two spots.
On the state House side… The GOP needs to pick up a net of 8 seats. The Report offers that four open seats held by Democrats are in play in Alabama. They must mean four of these five: HD 8 (being vacated by Bill Dukes), HD 9 (Ron Grantland), HD 26 (Frank McDaniel), HD 85 (Locy Baker) and HD 92 (Seth Hammett). I suppose HD 85 is the one not being included.
The Report also contends that seats held by nine Democratic incumbents are in play. I suppose they mean Mike Curtis (HD 2), Henry White (HD 5), James Fields (HD 12), Ken Guin (HD 14), Jeff McLaughlin (HD 27), Jimmy Martin (HD 42), Lesley Vance (HD 80), Betty Carol Graham (HD 81), and Terry Spicer (HD 91).
No House seats held by Republican incumbents are indicated to be in play though I believe the argument could be made that David Grimes (HD 73) or possibly DuWayne Bridges (HD 38) are as vulnerable as, say, James Fields.
The full report is here in .pdf form. The website for the Republican State Leadership Committee is here.
If you would like to play along with the home version of the game, the 2010 House Elections Directory and Senate Elections Directory may be helpful though the ratings of the districts found there (lean Dem, likely GOP, etc.) are overdue for review.
Republican Tom Whatley is challenging incumbent Ted Little in Senate District 27. He is on the air with this, his first TV commercial of the campaign.
Update: The ad has been updated. The first version posted here was not the one meant for release by the campaign.