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Alabama U.S. House scramble: Roby retirement opens 2nd seat as reapportionment loss looms

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby’s surprise decision to leave Congress further upsets the state’s congressional apple cart

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

MONTGOMERY (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby surprised the political world Friday by announcing that she won’t seek re-election in 2020, leaving two of the Yellowhammer State’s seven House seats open during next year’s election.

And as large fields of Republicans scramble in primaries for those seats, they’ll do so with the expectation that one of them could have but a brief stay in Congress, depending on how the political cards fall following the 2020 U.S. Census.

Based on current population projections, Alabama is set to lose one of its seven seats during the next reapportionment. Because of the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, the lost seat is almost sure to be one of the six Republicans now hold, rather than the lone Democratic seat held by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell in the majority black 7th District.

That will leave six Republicans competing for five seats, which means two of them will have to run against each other if none of them step aside. State legislators will draw new district lines in 2021, which will go into effect for the 2022 election.

In 2020, the 1st District seat, which includes Mobile and Lower Alabama, is open because U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is running for the U.S. Senate. Roby’s departure now opens the 2nd District seat, which includes Montgomery and the southeastern corner of the state.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

Roby, just 43 and in her fourth term in Congress, was elected in the GOP sweep in 2010. Her decision to leave Congress came just two days after she questioned special counsel Robert Mueller on national television during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

She is one of just 13 Republican women in Congress, the party’s lowest level of female representation in 25 years.

In a statement announcing her retirement, Roby thanked her constituents for the “tremendous privilege and honor” of representing them in Washington but did not offer an explanation for her decision to leave.

“Throughout my five terms in Congress, I have cast every vote with the guiding principle that Alabama always comes first,” she said. “While my name will not be on the ballot in 2020, I remain committed to continuing the fight for Alabama and the people I represent until I cast my last vote on the floor of the United States House of Representatives.“

Roby has faced unexpected competition in her last two re-election bids after she called on Donald Trump to drop out of the 2016 presidential race when the infamous Access Hollywood tape — in which he can be heard bragging about groping women — came to light

In the 2016 general election, Roby was held to less than 50 percent of the vote in her strongly Republican district after nearly 30,000 angry Trump fans wrote in someone else. In 2018, she was challenged in the GOP primary and forced into a runoff, which she won after getting Trump’s support.

Had she run in 2020, Roby would have been on the ballot with Trump — which would have prompted uncomfortable questions about her current and evolving views on the commander-in-chief.

Republicans will be heavily favored to keep both of the open seats in 2020. But after reapportionment, those two freshmen may need legislators to draw a favorable map and then defeat another incumbent in order to survive.

State legislators are required to draw districts that have equal populations. However, because there will be six seats instead of seven, the population of those districts will need to be larger, which could force a wholesale redrawing of the map statewide.

The Voting Rights Act requires the drawing of majority-minority districts whenever possible, which should protect much of Sewell’s district, although it will need to expand.

Federal law does not require a House candidate to actually live in the district where he or she runs. However, running in new territory is much more difficult and counteracts the benefits of incumbency.

Currently, there are four GOP districts centered on the state’s major population centers — Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville. Two other districts cover more rural areas in eastern and western Alabama.

Given that urban areas of the state, particularly Huntsville, are growing faster than rural areas, the rural districts would seem to be more at risk. However, the two men who represent them — Mike Rogers in the 3rd District and Robert Aderholt in the 4th District — have been in Congress much longer than the other incumbents and could have more pull with state legislators when it comes time to draw new maps.

Aderholt was elected in 1996; Rogers, in 2002.

The 5th District Huntsville seat is held by Mo Brooks, elected in 2010. The 6th District seat metro Birmingham seat is held by Gary Palmer, elected in 2014.

Alabama is one of two Southern states expected to lose seats during the 2020 reapportionment, along with West Virginia. Texas is expected to pick up three seats; Florida, 2; and North Carolina, 1. The other Southern states will retain their current represenation.

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U.S. Rep. Martha Roby survives GOP primary runoff in Alabama

Trump endorsement helps Roby overcome backlash for her criticism of him during 2016 campaign

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoitics.com editor

MONTGOMERY (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby has easily survived a Republican runoff in her southeast Alabama district, overcoming a backlash over her critical comments of then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 that threatened to bounce her out of Washington.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

Roby took 68 percent in the July 17 runoff to 32 percent for Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor who held the 2nd District seat as a Democrat before losing it to Roby in 2010. He switched to the GOP earlier this year to challenge her in the primary.

Roby will now face Democrat Tabitha Isner, a business analyst and pastor’s wife from Montgomery. Roby will be a prohibitive favorite in the heavily Republican district, which takes in much of Montgomery and its northern suburbs, along with the Wiregrass Country in the southeastern corner of the state.

In the first round of primary voting in June, Roby took just 39 percent of the vote, which was seen as a rebuke to Roby by Trump voters, who have been furious over her decision in October 2016 to rescind her endorsement of him after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women.

At the time, Roby said she would not vote for Trump because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

However, she has since tempered her criticism of the president, and he gave her a coveted tweeted presidential endorsement ahead of the runoff, in which he pointedly noted that Bright was “a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat.”

Roby’s survival contrasts with the fate of another House member critical of Trump — U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina — who lost his primary in June. In that race, Trump endorsed his opponent, State Rep. Katie Arrington, on election day.

Roby, 41, is seeking her fifth term in Congress.

President Trump endorses U.S. Rep. Martha Roby in Alabama primary runoff

Roby has faced backlash for her criticism of Trump during 2016 campaign

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoitics.com editor

MONTGOMERY (CFP) — With three weeks to go before voters in Alabama’s 2nd District decide a contentious runoff for the U.S. House, President Donald Trump has weighed in with an endorsement of U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, who has faced a backlash for her decision to unendorse Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda,” Trump said in a June 22 tweet. “She is in a Republican Primary run-off against a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat. I fully endorse Martha for Alabama 2nd Congressional District!”

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

Roby is in the July 17 runoff against Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor who held the seat as a Democrat before losing it to Roby in 2010. He switched to the GOP earlier this year to challenge her.

In the first round of voting, Roby took 39 percent to 28 percent for Bright, beating out three other candidates for the two runoff spots.

The result was seen as a rebuke to Roby by Trump voters, who have been furious over her decision in October 2016 to rescind her endorsement of him after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women.

At the time, Roby said she would not vote for Trump because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

A month later, almost 30,000 people cast write-in votes against Roby, reducing her vote total to just 49 percent of the vote in a strongly Republican district and virtually ensuring she would face a primary fight in 2018. She has since toned down her criticisms of Trump and has highlighted her support for Trump’s agenda in Congress.

House candidate Bobby Bright, R-Alabama

During his time in the House, Bright, far from being a Nancy Pelosi Democrat, was considered to be one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, opposing legal abortion and restrictions on firearms.

During this campaign, he has also cast himself as a supporter of Trump’s trade policies and his call to “drain the swamp” in Washington. He has also run a TV ad criticizing Roby for “turning her back on President Trump when he needed her the most.”

The 2nd District, which is strongly Republican, takes in much of Montgomery and its northern suburbs, along with the Wiregrass Country in the southeastern corner of the state.

The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Tabitha Isner, a business analyst and pastor’s wife from Montgomery.

Alabama Primary: Governor Kay Ivey avoids runoff; U.S. Rep. Martha Roby doesn’t

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox wins Democratic nomination for governor

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

BIRMINGHAM (CFP) — Governor Kay Ivey cruised to an easy win in Alabama’s June 5 Republican primary, defeating three opponents without a runoff and clearing a major hurdle in her quest to win in her own right a job she inherited after her disgraced predecessor resigned.

However, in another closely watched race, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby will face a July 17 runoff for her seat in southeast Alabama’s 2nd District, after facing a backlash from her pointed criticism of President Donald Trump during last year’s presidential race.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey

In the GOP governor’s primary, Ivey took 56 percent of the vote to defeat Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who won 25 percent, and Scott Dawson, an evangelist from Birmingham, with 14 percent.

Her Democratic opponent in November will Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who took 55 percent in the Democratic primary to defeat Sue Bell Cobb, former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court,

Ivey, 73, became governor in April 2017 after her predecessor, Robert Bentley, resigned amid allegations that he used state resources to try to hide an extramarital affair with a female aide, a scandal complete with salacious audio recordings that roiled state politics for months.

Ivey decided to seek the governorship in her own right after winning plaudits for her handling of the Bentley debacle and its aftermath. A Morning Consult poll earlier this year  put her approval rating at 67 percent, making her one of the most popular governors in the country.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

In the 2nd District GOP race, Roby took 39 percent, to 28 percent for Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor who held the seat as a Democrat before losing it to Roby in 2010

State Rep. Barry Moore from Enterprise came in third at 19 percent, while Rich Hobson, the campaign manager for failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, managed just 8 percent.

Roby faced criticism from her opponents for being insufficiently supportive of Trump, stemming from her decision in October 2016 to rescind her endorsement of him after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women, Roby said she would not vote for Trump because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

But in November, almost 30,000 people cast write-in votes against Roby, reducing her vote total to  just 49 percent of the vote in a strongly Republican district and virtually ensuring she would face a primary fight in 2018.

Roby, who has toned down her criticisms of Trump since the election, opened up a huge fundraising advantage, taking in $1.4 million — more than twice as much as all of her GOP opponents combined, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

The winner of the runoff will be heavy favorite against Democrat Tabitha Isner from Montgomery, a pastor’s wife and business analyst for a software company who easily won the 2nd District Democratic primary.

Southern Primaries: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey seeks full term; U.S. Rep Martha Roby tries to survive backlash over Trump criticism

6 Republicans also battle for open U.S. House seat in Mississippi

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

BIRMINGHAM (CFP) — Governor Kay Ivey, who became Alabama’s chief executive last year after her disgraced predecessor resigned amid a sex scandal, will take the first step toward winning a new term in her own right in Tuesday’s Republican primary against three challengers.

In another closely watched race in Alabama, Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is trying to survive the backlash from her pointed criticism of President Donald Trump during last year’s presidential race, facing four GOP challengers who have hit her hard for being insufficiently supportive of the president.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Mississippi, the marquee race in Tuesday’s primary is in the state’s 3rd U.S. House District, where six Republicans are vying for two runoff spots in a race likely to be decided in the GOP primary.

Six Democrats are also vying for their party’s nomination to take on Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker in November, a race in which Wicker will be heavily favored.

Polls in both states are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey

Ivey, 73, became governor in April 2017 after her predecessor, Robert Bentley, resigned amid allegations that he used state resources to try to hide an extramarital affair with a female aide, a scandal complete with salacious audio recordings that roiled state politics for months.

After five months in office, Ivey, who won plaudits for her handling of the Bentley debacle and its aftermath, announced that she would seek a full term as governor. A Morning Consult poll earlier this year  put her approval rating at 67 percent, making her one of the most popular governors in the country.

However, she still drew primary challengers from Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, State Senator Bill Hightower from Mobile and Scott Dawson, an evangelist from Birmingham. A fourth candidate, Michael McAllister, died in April, too late for his name to be removed from Tuesday’s ballot.

The governor’s campaign was thrown a curve ball in May when Alabama’s only openly gay legislator, Democratic State. Rep. Patricia Todd, posted on social media that Ivey was a closeted lesbian.

The governor’s campaign called the assertion “a disgusting lie.” Todd later said she has no evidence to back up the claim.

Pre-primary polling showed Ivey with a wide lead over her opponents; she will need a majority to avoid a July 17 runoff.

Six Democrats are competing in the primary to face the eventual Republican winner in the fall, including Sue Bell Cobb, former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court; four-term Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox; and former State Rep. James Fields from Hanceville.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

In the 2nd District U.S. House race in southeast Alabama, Roby is facing four Republican challengers motivated by the congresswoman’s decision to distance herself from Trump during the 2016 election.

In October 2016, after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women, Roby withdrew her endorsement and announced she would not vote for him because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

In November, almost 30,000 people cast write-in votes against Roby. Although she won in the end, she wound up with just 49 percent of the vote in a strongly Republican district, virtually ensuring she would face a primary fight in 2018.

Among those running against Roby are Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor whom Roby beat to win the seat in 2010 when Bright was a Democrat; Rich Hobson, the campaign manager for failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore; State Rep. Barry Moore from Enterprise; and Tommy Amason from Prattville, a military veteran making his first run for office.

Roby, who has toned down her criticisms of Trump since the election, opened up a huge fundraising advantage, taking in $1.4 million — more than twice as much as all of her GOP opponents combined, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

The Democratic race in the 2nd District is between Tabitha Isner from Montgomery, a pastor’s wife and business analyst for a software company, and Audri Scott Williams, a former college dean.

In Mississippi, six Republicans and two Democrats are running in the 3rd District, which stretches across the southern part of the state from Natchez to Meridian and also includes Jackson’s northern suburbs

The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, is retiring after five terms.

Republicans in the race include Michael Guest, the chief prosecutor for the judicial district that includes Madison and Rankin counties; Whit Hughes, a hospital executive and aide to former Governor Haley Barbour; Perry Parker, a farmer and investment executive from Seminary, near Hattiesburg; State Senator Sally Doty from Brookhaven; Morgan Dunn, a healthcare consultant from Magee; and Katherine “Bitzi” Tate, a former high school teacher.

If no candidate captures a majority Tuesday, the top two finishers will meet in a June 26 runoff.

The Democratic race is between State Rep. Michael Ted Evans of Preston and Michael Aycox, a police officer from Newton. The district is heavily Republican, making it a long shot for Democrats to flip a Mississippi seat.

In the Senate race, six Democrats are running to take on Wicker, including State House Minority Leader David Baria from Bay St. Louis; State Rep. Omeria Scott from Laurel; and Howard Sherman, a venture capitalist from Meridian who is married to actress Sela Ward, a Meridian native.

The Magnolia State’s other Senate seat is also open, after the retirement of Thad Cochran earlier this year. It will be filled in an all-party special election in November that features Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed as a temporary replacement for Cochran; GOP State Senator Chris McDaniel, who ran unsuccessfully to unseat Cochran in 2014; and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Espy, who served as agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration.

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