GOP candidate Arnold Mooney has first major ad blitz in U.S Senate race, analyst predicts pitched battle

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Alabama's primary election is March 3 and a number of Republicans are vying for a chance to challenge  Democratic U.S. Sen. Doug Jones for Jones' Senate seat.

And if you have a TV, odds are you've seen an Arnold Mooney ad recently. The campaign did a statewide ad buy that began on October 11 and was timed to run for two weeks.

Jordan Gehrke, a spokesman for the Mooney campaign, said they are strongly considering extending the ad run that introduced the Shelby County-area Alabama House member.

"We knew that once folks found out who he was, support for his campaign would grow, " Gehrke said. "It was time to introduce him and let conservatives know -- he is the one who can beat Doug Jones."

Political Analyst Jess Brown said Mooney is facing a field of candidates including Congressman Bradley Byrne, Secretary of State John Merrill, former Chief Justice Roy Moore and former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville -- who all have more name recognition. Stanley Adair of Haleyville has also qualified as a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

"And when you're in that situation, sometimes what you need to do is take risks by spending money early," Brown said.

The Mooney campaign said the ads have spurred enthusiasm around the state. Brown said building up a lesser-known candidate's perceived viability is essential.

"It will help him raise more money and it will help him recruit workers and develop an organization he`ll need for that kind of race in 67 counties," Brown said.

The vote is more than five months away, and Mooney is the only candidate running statewide ads so far, but things will heat up after the holidays, Brown said.

"If it viewed as a close three-way or four-way race, they'll all be scratching and clawing for a position," Brown said.

It could get tough on the candidates.

"It's in primary elections when politics gets more personal," Brown said. "More vicious and more personal in a party primary election, because they can't differ with their opponents on anything that's fundamentally philosophical. They're Republicans or they're all Democrats."

Brown predicts the candidates will start exchanging political fire in early 2020.

"I would say by the end of January, the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate could turn into the 'night of the long knives,'" Brown said.

Alabama U.S. Senator Doug Jones doesn't have a primary opponent, but the Alabama Democratic party remains sharply divided over the state party's leadership and bylaws.

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