Doug Jones Gets A Strong Republican Challenger For 2020
Congressman Bradley Byrne has entered the race to challenge Doug Jones for the Senate from Alabama in 2020. This seat is likely to be a Republican pick-up regardless of who the Republicans nominate.
Former Republican Congressman Bradley Byrne has become the first Republican to enter the race against Senator Doug Jones in Alabama:
Republicans landed a top-tier recruit Wednesday in a race critical to their hopes of holding the Senate in 2020, when GOP Rep. Bradley Byrne jumped into the campaign against the most vulnerable Democrat up for reelection, Alabama’s Doug Jones.
The Senate is clearly in play in two years: At least a half-dozen Republican incumbents are at risk, including two in states President Donald Trump lost in 2016, and Democrats have already begun to recruit challengers in several of those races. After his shocking special election win in 2017 in deeply conservative Alabama, defeating Jones is the GOP’s best opportunity to flip a Democratic-held seat — making the contest a vital insurance policy for the party to protect its majority, currently 53-47.
Jones narrowly won the Alabama seat after Republicans nominated Roy Moore, the controversial former state Supreme Court justice who faced accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior with teenage girls. Republicans in the state are desperate to avoid the mistakes of that race, when a fractious primary helped elevate Moore over the Senate GOP’s preferred candidate, appointed Sen. Luther Strange.
But another crowded, unpredictable primary could be on the way. Byrne, a third-term congressman who ran for governor in 2010 and lost in the primary, has been hinting for more than a year that he would challenge Jones. At his official launch in Mobile on Wednesday, he highlighted his support for Trump’s wall on the southern border, the Second Amendment, his anti-abortion stance and his support for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, whom Jones opposed.
“Look at Washington and tell me you don’t see a disconnect between your values and the values you see up there,” Byrne said in his launch, appearing with his family. “This is not going to be an easy race. The people that presently hold this seat intend to keep it and they will stop at nothing.”
In an interview following his announcement, Byrne cited the same four issues as ones he believed Jones was most vulnerable with Alabama voters.
“The other big difference between last time and this time is Doug Jones now has a record, and it’s not a good record to run on in Alabama,” Byrne said.
“He’s against President Trump and Alabama loves Donald Trump,” the congressman added.
Jones’ campaign cited Byrne’s loss in the 2010 gubernatorial primary and labeled him a “career politician” in a statement
“It doesn’t matter if Senator Jones has one opponent or 100,” said the statement from Jones’ campaign. “His focus is working for the people of Alabama whether it’s protecting our auto jobs and farmers against dangerous tariffs or building health care infrastructure in Alabama’s rural communities.”
Byrne presently represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District, a position he has held since being elected in a Special Election in 2013 and then again in 2014, 2016, and 2018. Prior to that, he served as a member of the state legislature and had run in a handful of statewide elections in the past, including a race for Governor in 2010 where he lost at the primary level to future Governor Robert Bentley. Byrne is likely to face a competitive primary given the fact that there are a number of strong candidates who could run for the nomination for the seat. Regardless of who the nominee is, though, it’s highly likely that they will be seen as a favorite given the fact that, for a wide variety of reasons, Jones’s victory in the 2017 Special Election for this seat was something of a fluke due largely to the fact that he was running against Roy Moore, a deeply flawed candidate who became even more flawed when allegations regarding his behavior toward young girls when he was in his 30s became public.
In this respect, it’s important to remember that Donald Trump won Alabama by nearly 600,000 votes and nearly 30 percentage points in 2016 and that he’s likely to win by a similar margin in 2020. This means that any Democrat running statewide, even Jones, is likely to face serious headwinds in a re-election bid, while almost any Republican would seem to have a natural advantage of winning. In that way, the likely outcome here isn’t at all different from what happened to Scott Brown, who narrowly won a Special Election to replace Ted Kennedy in 2010 only to be soundly defeated in 2012. This is why, at least for now I would rate the Alabama race as “Likely Republican,” meaning that Doug Jones’s days in the Senate have a finite number notwithstanding his efforts to distance himself at times from the Senate Democratic Caucus.