These numbers may surprise you.
Walt Maddox got 20,000 more votes than Doug Jones.
Jones became Alabama’s junior Senator in 2017, beating Republican Roy Moore by less than 2 percent.
Maddox also earned more votes than Republican Bob Riley during his successful 2002 gubernatorial campaign.
Yet Maddox lost his gubernatorial bid this week by 20 points.
In raw numbers, Democratic Attorney General candidate Joseph Siegelman netted more votes than any statewide Democrat in 20 years. The last candidate to earn more votes was his father, Don Siegelman, who eked out a win over Fob James, becoming the state’s last Democratic governor.
Democrats had more legislative candidates on the ballot in 2018 than in 2014. The end result? Democrats lost five seats in the House and one seat in the Senate, continuing a steady downward decline that began in 1986 and accelerated in 2010.
Two things happened on Tuesday: Democratic voter turnout surged and, yet, Democrats were still beaten by incredibly wide margins. The closest result was Siegelman’s race against Republican Steve Marshall – and Siegelman still lost by 17 points.
So what went wrong for Alabama’s Democratic Party and where do they go from here?
In part, no Democratic wave can match the Republican surge that’s been building in Alabama since 2008. This week Kay Ivey became the first governor in state history to earn more than one million votes. Nearly as many people voted straight-ticket Republican as voted for Maddox.
But Democratic party leaders, campaign strategists and activists pointed to a few other pressing reasons for their Tuesday failures: conservative enthusiasm driven by ballot initiatives, a lack of party infrastructure and leadership, and national narratives and partisan gerrymandering.
The Red Sea
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, said it wasn’t the quality of Alabama’s Democratic candidates that led to their defeat at the polls. Instead, the party didn’t anticipate the enthusiastic turnout for two amendments on the ballot, one protecting the rights of the unborn and one authorizing schools and other public spaces to display the Ten Commandments.
“Those amendments were strategically done,” said Daniels in an interview with AL.com. “Think about Roy Moore’s politics and the people he brings out with him. Those voters have traditionally only come out for Roy Moore and while Roy Moore wasn’t on the ballot, he was there in the form of those two amendments. That brings an unexpected base of support.”
Nancy Worley, Chair of the Alabama Democratic Party, argues President Donald Trump may have also been a contributing factor.
“There were some controversial issues that preceded this election,” Worley told AL.com. “Trump coming into the South and frightening people over a ‘caravan of immigrants.’ You put all that together and it didn’t spell victory for the state.”
Beginning with President Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in the 1970s and the popularity of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Alabama has steadily transitioned from a one-party Democratic stronghold to a one-party Republican stronghold. Democrats have lost eight of the last nine gubernatorial elections.
But following the 2008 election of Barack Obama and the emergence of the Tea Party movement, Republican turnout in the state had a notable spike in 2010. That year, Robert Bentley received 140,000 more votes than Bob Riley had in 2006. That conservative surge was driven in part by a campaign strategy coordinated by Republican Mike Hubbard – who would become Speaker of the House before being convicted on felony ethics violation charges – to finally switch legislative control from Democrats to the Republicans.
Turnout has always been higher during presidential cycles, but Republican enthusiasm spiked again to new levels in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump, who received more Alabama votes than any candidate in history: 1,318,255.
Most of those voters showed up again for Kay Ivey. Despite a relative spike in Democratic enthusiasm, the state party had no answer for the steady surge in Republican voting and election infrastructure.
After dominating state politics for a century following Reconstruction, Alabama Democratic Party infrastructure is virtually nonexistent. There are now just eight Democrats in the State Senate and 28 in the House.
Last year, the Democrats scored their first statewide victory since 2006 when Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore, the state’s most polarizing politician in a special election to fill the senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.
Now, the state’s most prominent Democrat is holding his party leaders accountable. Earlier this year, he publicly clashed with Worley and Joe Reed, chair of the Alabama Democratic Conference, in an effort to instate new party leadership. And in the wake of Tuesday’s losses, he doubled down.
“We have to have new leadership in the Alabama Democratic Party. There is no support, no infrastructure and no leadership that has the vision to move the state forward. We know that change doesn’t happen overnight—and there’s a long road to the next election,” said Jones in a statement to AL.com.
It was a sentiment echoed by this year’s Democratic candidates for Congress. Each cycle, the Alabama Democratic Conference collects money from each Democratic candidate in exchange for get-out-the-vote efforts. Some candidates aren’t sure they’re getting their money’s worth.
Martha Gravlee is a campaign strategist who has worked for Republicans and Democrats. In 2018, she managed Lee Auman’s District 4 campaign. She said the state party lacks staff, a communications strategy, research capabilities and fundraising.
The state party has virtually no social media presence and Worley does not currently operate a personal Twitter account, in contrast to ALGOP Chair Terry Lathan who is very active. And, of course, President Trump has demonstrated the power of social media in election.
“Democrats in Alabama are eager and clearly able to build a bench, but until the state party starts to meet them halfway, it just isn’t enough,” said Gravlee.
In her concession speech, Mallory Hagan, the Democratic party’s candidate for the congressional seat in District 3, blasted her party’s leaders.
“There are people who are in control of the Democratic Party who say they are fighting for you, who say they are standing up for you, who say they care about you and your communities. And yet, they s— on Democratic candidates left and right,” said Hagan. “They take from us. They demean us. They condescend to us as we run.”
ALABAMA ELECTION 2018: #Must_Watch speech as candidate Malory Hagan describes her frustration with Alabama’s Democratic Party after her loss to Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Rogers for the U.S House District 3 seat. It’s obvious Hagan isn’t leaving the political world anytime soon as she promised her supporters at her watch party to continue to fight for them.
Posted by Elizabeth White WRBL on Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Worley said the state party has hired a new employee to focus on coordinating with county party leaders. She also suggested that young, inexperienced candidates may be partially responsible for the party’s defeat but expressed hope that they’d run again in future cycles.
Minority Leader Daniels also criticized the state party.
“There was no building. You don’t have the staff members in the off years to start building toward the election cycle. There’s not a great volunteer base in these areas to help support the different campaigns. Those structures are not in place in key areas. There is no presence,” said Daniels.
“When you don’t have that local infrastructure to help support it. It’s very difficult.”
Without party support, Daniels and others are taking mobilization efforts into their own hands. After becoming Minority Leader in 2017, Daniels launched the Alabama Democratic Victory Fund, a PAC designed to train and mobilize Democratic legislative candidates. Since February 2018, they’ve held weekly training sessions for legislators and candidates.
One of the state’s other more prominent Democrats, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodin, launched a similar PAC earlier this year. Next Generation Alabama provided resources like Woodfin’s voter files, text messaging services, and volunteers to Jefferson County Democratic candidates. By targeting voters who showed up to vote for Woodfin, local Democrats were able to turn out more straight ticket Democratic voters. Subsequently, the Party swept the countywide races in one of the few blue counties in Alabama.
Jarrod Loadholt, a political advisor to Woodfin’s PAC, pointed to Georgia for an example of the role these PACs can play in building out election infrastructure. Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee, is locked in a race that’s too close to call against Republican Brian Kemp. Ten years ago she launched the New Georgia Project and started building progressive voter rolls and volunteer databases statewide.
“There’s a reason they’re still counting votes in Georgia while we’re licking our wounds in Alabama,” said Loadholt. “Abrams spent a decade with the New Georgia Project for her candidacy to even be viable.”
“Democrats are looking for a star to come in and save the day and [assume] infrastructure will magically develop around them…The work of building the infrastructure to win elections in the South as Democrats, can’t just fall on the state party. It is a shared responsibility. If Woodfin wants to make a difference in Birmingham, he’s going to need to flip some legislative seats.”
He said there’s a coalition of young, diverse Democrats eager to knock on doors and turn out votes but that it will take time to build that base. Right now voter enthusiasm is not translating into electoral victories, though the gaps are narrowing in the state’s suburbs and metro areas.
There are also issue advocacy organizations that have played a role in mobilizing grassroots support. Woke Vote garnered attention for its role in mobilizing black voters for Doug Jones. Equality Alabama and the Human Rights Campaign mobilize the state’s LGBT voters. Another organization, Hometown Action is focusing on progressive causes in rural Alabama.
KC Vick, a community organizer for Hometown Action, said they aren’t deterred by Democratic losses on Tuesday.
“I’m optimistic about Hometown Action and other frontline groups building collective power to take back our state and build communities where we can all thrive. We do that work every day. Not only in an election year,” said Vick.
Advocacy groups and PACs will play a role in shaping the future of Democratic elections, but Gravlee is skeptical that they can replace the action of a viable party.
“We should welcome organizations that do that,” said Gravlee. “Having Democrats helping Democrats is wonderful but it’s a supplement to the work the state party needs to do. Only a state party has the fundraising capability that the Alabama Democratic Party has and refuses to use.”
Gravlee then outlined the consequences of the state party sitting on its hands.
“By refusing to engage in this election, minus a last-minute ad buy, the state party ensured that a Republican supermajority will draw the districts in 2021 and they’ll be signed into law by a Republican governor who campaigned on confederate monuments and not much else,” she said.
“By not doing anything, the Democratic Party has thrown up their hands and welcomed a generation of Republican supermajority in the state and that’s really unfortunate.”
- Amazon Alexa Not Working: 'Sorry Something Went Wrong' Problem Message, Status
- Report: Florida Democrats Urged Voters to Submit Absentee Ballots After Election Day Using Altered Forms
- Report says 20% of all 2018 web traffic came from bad bots
- What went wrong with Trump’s family-separation effort at the border?
- Windows 10 gets a pair of reissued updates, but Microsoft isn’t saying what went wrong
- Genoa bridge collapse – what went wrong and are other bridges at risk?
- Wow Air has shut down. Here’s what went wrong, according to the company’s CEO.
- What went wrong with the Apple's AirPower charging mat?
- We Were Promised Space Colonies. What Went Wrong?
- The Era of Cheap and Easy STD Treatment Is Over. What Went Wrong?
- Google Apologizes For Sporadic Outages In Gmail And Other Services, And Explains What Went Wrong
- Algorithms Should’ve Made Courts More Fair. What Went Wrong?
- Mansour: Manufacturing a Smear – How the Democrat-Media Complex Turned Brett Kavanaugh into a ‘Rapist’
- Windows 10 October 2018 Update common problems and fixes
- Election live blog: Democrats flip second Republican House seat, in Florida
- California Democrats Outraise Republicans by 5x in 7 Key House Raises
- Bloomberg to provide $80 million to help Democrats win House majority
- Democrats Are $18 Million in Debt After Winning the House
- Full Court Press: Nancy Pelosi Launches Complete Campaign to Lock in House Speakership While Divisions Rankle Democrats
- House Democrats to Meet 4 PM Tuesday to Talk Impeachment
Autopsy report: Alabama Democrats on what went wrong in 2018 have 2084 words, post on www.al.com at November 8, 2018. This is cached page on Law Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.