Analyst: U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne heads crowded field challenging U.S. Sen. Doug Jones in 2020

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- U.S. Sen. Doug Jones won an upset victory in the U.S. Senate special election in 2017, becoming for the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama in 25 years.

It looks like he'll have plenty of company in the race to retain the seat in 2020.

“I think it could potentially be a crowded field for the Republican nomination for the Jones seat,” says Jess Brown, WHNT News 19 political analyst.

Alabama is currently dominated by Republican politicians, but Jones managed to defeat GOP candidate Roy Moore. But Brown says Moore was by far the weakest candidate they could’ve chosen.

“Republicans would have held the seat if they had picked a name a random from the phone book,” Brown said. “Democrats didn’t win the seat, let’s be honest, did not win the seat, in a raw political sense Republicans lost the seat.”

Moore did win the GOP primary, in a field that included Huntsville-area U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, and the runoff, where he defeated then-Sen. Luther Strange.

Strange was thought be a shoo-in before the special election was announced. But instead of waiting to run, he accepted the Senate appointment to succeed Jeff Sessions from then-Gov. Robert Bentley.

But, Bentley was under investigation by the AG’s office at the time of the appointment. Brown said Bentley should have appointed a placeholder, someone not interested in running for the seat.

“A healthy caretaker put in the slot,” Brown said. “That would have maintained Luther Strange’s political health better than Luther Strange going to the interview and accepting the appointment.

“Luther Strange would be the United States Senator today, if he simply hadn’t gone to the appointment.”

Brown said it looks like the field is already forming for 2020, with a lot of behind the scenes jockeying.

Speculation from various media accounts includes North Alabama Congressmen Robert Aderholt and Mo Brooks, as well as Alabama Senate Pro tem Del Marsh.

Bradley Byrne

But Brown says Mobile-area Congressman Bradley Byrne, who was  defeated in his bid for governor in 2010 by Bentley,  may be the very early front-runner.

“I also think that one candidate, can potentially put together so much support and money that it would chase away a lot of opposition,” Brown said. “I think that candidate is Bradley Byrne.”

Brown said Byrne can appeal to a wide array of GOP voters.

“He is best positioned to put together credible levels of support with both of the major factions in a Republican primary – the business community and the religious right,” Brown said.

Byrne was in Huntsville two weeks ago, testing the waters, and it’s not even 2019.

Local residents have told WHNT News 19 they have been receiving a polling call, asking how they view potential candidates Byrne, Lt. Gov.-elect Will Ainsworth, Marsh and State Auditor Jim Zeigler. The poll also asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable view of former U.S. Senator and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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