Alabama voters mostly favor non-traditional candidates

On Super Tuesday, Alabama Republicans certainly had little use for the more establishment friendly candidates.

Donald Trump took 36 of the state’s Republican delegates, and the firebrand first-term Sen. Ted Cruz took all but one of the remainder.

On the down ballot however, Republican voters were far more sympathetic toward incumbents, some of whom have been in Washington too long to make an easy case that they are not establishment figures themselves.

Every single Republican incumbent won re-nomination, which due to Alabama’s conservative streak, is tantamount to re-election in most cases.

This disconnect is far from surprising. It is not uncommon to hear it said that when an incumbent is beaten, it is usually their own fault.

In recent years, politicians on both sides of the aisle in Alabama have pulled off successful primaries from the right.

Parker Griffith, who represented Alabama’s 5th Congressional District, was defeated in 2010 by the district’s current representative, Mo Brooks, after he tried to switch parties and rebrand himself as a Tea Party Republican. However, it seems 2016 was not destined to have any such upsets.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, won by almost 300,000 votes, despite his leading challenger, Jonathan McConnell, managing to create a bit of a stir with his provocative ads against Shelby.

Congresswoman Martha Roby, whose challenger was a minor Tea Party star, was also re-elected by a wide margin. In fact, only Congressman Bradley Byrne suffered a slight scare, winning by a margin of about 20 percent.

It seems that, despite Alabama Republicans backing outsiders like Trump and Cruz this year, these voters were either relatively happy with their own representatives, or the primary challengers were unable to attract the money and media to become viable.

The state’s Democratic Primary was something of the reverse. Alabama Democrats backed Hillary Clinton by a margin of nearly 60 percent over the more progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders.

However, these voters seemed to have been in a more rebellious mood when it came to their nominees for Senate, since Ron Crumpton pulled off a modest victory over the more moderate Charles Nanna.

While Crumpton’s odds of beating Shelby in November are long, it is noteworthy that he emerged victorious, running a much more liberal and colorful campaign than Alabama Democrats are used to. Crumpton, who has identified both former President Bill Clinton and libertarian Republican Ron Paul as political influences, ran to the left of Nanna on both women’s reproductive issues and the issue of marijuana reform.

In contrast to Nanna, who took a much more skeptical view toward reform, Crumpton has made a name for himself, lobbying for the state legislature to seriously consider medical marijuana.

Perhaps Alabama Democrats want more liberal candidates, along with significant changes to the state’s status quo on several controversial issues.

Kevin Spann
Political Columnist

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