The battle for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat is setting up to be a brutal boxing match between former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Sen. Luther Strange on the Republican side of the ticket.
In a crowded field of 10 candidates, the two emerged from the tussle to make the expected Sept. 26 runoff – Moore outpaced Strange by almost 6 percent in Tuesday’s elections.
Democratic candidate Doug Jones will sit in the wings and work to build support in anticipation of the general election on Dec. 12. For the first time in years, the underdog Democrats are sitting in a potentially strong position as Moore and Strange are likely to spar furiously for the chance to claim the Republican nomination.
Republicans are rightfully concerned that Moore and Strange will be locked in a struggle so bitter that it turns off voters and few find their ways to the polls. While the resentment may not reach the epic proportions of bitterness that derailed Democrats Bill Baxley and Charlie Graddick and cleared the way for Cullman County’s Guy Hunt to become the first Republican governor since Reconstruction, the seed of discontentment is planted.
Colorful politics can be entertaining, as long as there is pertinent message to voters, but when the tone descends into personal jabs and issues are secondary to the campaign, Alabama voters have a tendency to get disgusted and walk away from the candidates.
There is plenty for candidates to discuss. Health care, national security, immigration policy (more than building a wall), taxes, infrastructure and trade deals are on the table. But we have heard few thoughts about how the senatorial candidates stand on those issues. As the candidates ramp up their runoff campaigns, voters need less talk about who stands with President Donald Trump and more discussion on issues that actually impact citizens. Although Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Strange, the battle over who likes Trump the most during the primary was bizarre and offered no value to voters.
We urge voters to push these candidates to leave behind the tone of the primary’s first round. We hope we see who has leadership and substance, but something tells us that’s likely wishful thinking.