The lackluster voter turnout in this year’s primary election could be due in part to the field of competitors vying for the governor’s office, or rather, the lack thereof. Gov. Robert Bentley coasted with 93.48 percent (46,012 votes) of the votes to maintain the Republican bid for governor. The overall voter turnout for the state was 21.88 percent, or 88,984 ballots cast out of 403,984 registered voters in Alabama.
With the governor’s seat largely uncontested, the marquee matchup in the primary was for District 6 of the U.S. House of Representatives, a seat that Spencer Bachus has held since 1993 and which is largely touted as one of the most strongly held Republican districts in the country.
It is also worth noting that a slew of incumbents won reelection. In seven races featuring incumbents on the ballots (excluding the executive committee races and the runoff elections), six won reelection outright.
United States Representative, Congressional District 6
Paul DeMarco: 16,467 (36.9 percent)—runoff
Gary Palmer: 8,115 (18.18 percent)—runoff
Will Brooke: 6,846 (15.34 percent)
Scott Beason: 6,580 (14.74 percent)
Chad Mathis: 5,601 (12.55 percent)
Tom Vigneulle: 770 (1.73 percent)
Robert Shattuck: 253 (.57 percent)
With the field saturated with seven candidates, it comes as little surprise that there will be a runoff election on July 15. Early polls indicated DeMarco as being the odds-on favorite, but throughout election night the battle for second place saw several lead changes, with Palmer eventually edging out Brooke to win a berth in the runoff.
DeMarco, who has served as a Republican member of the House of Representatives District 46 since 2005, was able to raise $1,075,304 in campaign contributions, more than any other candidate in the primary. Aside from being a well-known figure in Jefferson County politics, DeMarco was able to stay relatively clear of the onslaught of negative ads that defined the Brooke and Mathis campaigns.
Palmer too was able to squeak by, which was perhaps one of the biggest surprises during last week’s election night. Palmer, who has served 24 years as chief development officer for the Alabama Policy Institute, received $633,605 in campaign contributions.
“Paul’s got several years’ experience in politics,” Palmer said on Wake Up Alabama the morning after the election. “I think that’s the biggest difference. I’m a newcomer to the political side, but I’m fairly well known on the policy side, having worked with legislators and the governor, so I feel pretty good about it.”
Palmer went on to say that what sets him apart from the pack is that he has “Worked on solving a lot of the problems that we’re talking about and I have a national network…in every state.” He added that he is not a career politician, a label that has been plastered on DeMarco during the campaign by several of his opponents.
“I’m going to try to hammer home to the voters that I’m a guy that they can send to Washington and that they can absolutely count on. I don’t need the job. It’s not a career for me. I will serve five terms and then come home. That is a promise written in stone,” Palmer said.
On Monday, Palmer’s former rival Will Brooke announced his endorsement for Palmer as he continues his bid for Congress. However, DeMarco still has money to spend and recently received an endorsement from the National Rifle Association, a huge contributor to the Republican Party.
Jefferson County Commission District 1
George Bowman: 5,520 votes (40.45 percent)–runoff
Earl Hilliard Jr.: 4,384 votes (32.12 percent)–runoff
Roderick Royal: 3,744 votes (27.43 percent)
Bowman is the incumbent seeking reelection in this race. Having served on the Jefferson County Commission for five years, Bowman’s focus has been on issues he believes are spurred on by discriminatory factors.
It should be noted that there has been controversy over the way Bowman has handled the closing of Cooper Green, as reported by Weld in 2012. Bowman reportedly misled the county commission and approved secret spending by diverting funds away from one of the hospital’s discretionary funds.
Some members of the county commission have been pushing for the implementation of a healthcare authority to oversee the operations of the indigent care hospital. However, no progress has been made.
“There is a public perception that the county is biased against doing business with African Americans and women. County financial records reveal how close this perception is to actual facts,” Bowman wrote in a column he penned for the Committee to Save Jefferson County newsletter, which was printed in May 2014.
He went on to say that “Jefferson County politics should be required reading for every Public Administration course in the country. It’s a case study of what non-cooperation, strife, bickering and greed can do to a community.”
His competitor, Hilliard, a former state lawmaker who served from 2006-2010, has based his campaign around his relationship to lawmakers and the need to “find common ground to solve problems plaguing our communities,” according to his website.
Hilliard pulled enough votes in the primary election to make the runoff election interesting and one worth paying attention to.
Jefferson County Commission District 2
Sandra Little Brown: 4,923 votes (33.03 percent)
Shelia Smoot: 3,901 votes (26.17 percent)
Sheila Tyson: 3,626 votes (24.33 percent)
Max Michael: 1,840 votes (12.35 percent)
Steve Small Jr.: 614 votes (4.12 percent)
The battle over Cooper Green has been a major talking point in both Jefferson County Commission races. Sandra Little Brown has been one of the main proponents for the need for accessible healthcare options for the indigent population in Jefferson County.
Although she received an endorsement from Mayor William Bell, Brown only managed to pull 33 percent of the votes, which leaves the door open for Smoot to possibly edge out Brown in the runoff election.
Smoot has been able to put together solid campaigns, and served on the county commission from 2002-2010. During this time however, two of the commissioners she served with from 2002-2006 are now in jail and another pleaded guilty to obstruction charges. In spite of this, Smoot avoided prosecution and is now primed for an interesting runoff election to reclaim the seat she previously held.
Jefferson County Sheriff
Wallace Anger. Jr.: 18,124 votes (51.81 percent)
Charles “Todd” Henderson : 16, 861 (48.19 percent)
In one of the closest races of the primary, Anger won the Democratic nod for Jefferson County Sheriff by a mere 1,263 votes. Anger is a deputy sheriff from Bessemer, and if elected, he would be the first African-American sheriff for Jefferson County. He is facing stiff competition in the general election, however.
Mike Hale has served as the Jefferson County Sheriff since 2002, when he ran as a Republican, beating out Jim Woodward. In the 1998 general election Hale ran as a Democrat and defeated Jim Woodward by only 37 votes. However, after serving as sheriff for almost a year the Alabama Supreme court ruled that Woodward had in fact won by the incredibly small margin of 6 votes.
Public Service Commission, Place 2
Chris “Chip” Beeker Jr.: 19,157 votes (47.43 percent)–Runoff
Terry Dunn: 10,844 votes (26.85 percent)—Runoff
Johnathan Barbee: 7,013 votes (17.36 percent)
Phillip Brown: 3,377 (8.36 percent)
The incumbent, Terry Dunn, has been outspoken on environmental issues in Jefferson County. Now, he looks to be in trouble going into the runoff election. Other members of the PSC have chided Dunn for votes against the coal industry.
However, Dunn maintains that he is not “anti-coal.”
“The fear of environmentalists and all that. That was just a scare tactic to change the subject. They started saying I was RINO [Republican in Name Only] and that didn’t stick. So they started saying I was against coal. Coal is always going to stay in the mix,” he said in an article published by The Republic on May 18.
In February Dunn also spoke out against members of the PSC taking campaign contributions from coal companies, which brought him under further fire from coal industry supporters. This could explain why he had such a poor showing in the primary election.
His opponent, Beeker, has built his campaign around bringing in and maintaining Alabama coal mining jobs. There is no Democratic candidate running in the general election, so the winner of this runoff election will be unopposed in November.
On Monday, Beeker picked up endorsements from two of the other candidates who were on the primary ballot, Johnathan Barbee and Phillip Brown.
State Senator District 17 (Rep.)
Shay Shelnutt: 5,026 votes (44.18 percent)
Brett King: 2,168 votes (19.06 percent)
State Representative District 43 (Rep.)
Amie Beth Shaver: 14 votes (38.89 percent)
Arnold Mooney: 9 votes (25 percent)
State Representative District 46 (Rep.)
David Faulkner: 3,582 votes (45.31 percent)
Steve French: 2,081 votes (26.33 percent)
Secretary of State (Rep.)
John Merrill: 15,973 votes (40.15 percent)
Reese McKinney: 12,626 (31.74 percent)
State Auditor (Rep.)
Jim Zeigler: 18,094 votes (46.96 percent)
Dale Peterson: 9,612 votes (24.95 percent)
Circuit Court Judge Place 10 (Dem.)
Pat Ballard: 8,010 votes (30.46 percent)
Perryn Carrol: 6,535 votes (24.85 percent)
Primary Election Winners:
Kay Ivey: 27, 325 votes (57.49 percent)—Incumbent
State Representative District 14
Richard Baughn: 328 votes (56.94 percent)—Incumbent
State Representative District 16
Bobby Humphryes: 876 votes (68.07 percent)
State Representative District 44
Danny Garrett: 3,502 votes (52.47 percent)
Full disclosure, Danny Garrett is the brother of Weld office manager David Garrett.
State Representative District 47
Jack Williams: 2,623 votes (60.24 percent)
Parker Griffith: 26,202 votes (73.88 percent)
United States Representative Congressional District 7
Terri Sewell: 25,543 votes (86.25 percent)—Incumbent
State Representative District 52
John Rogers Jr.:2,638 votes (68.43 percent)—Incumbent
State Representative District 54
Patricia Todd: 2,226 (64.48 percent)—Incumbent
State Representative District 55
Roderick “Rod” Scott: 2,786 votes (64.09 percent)—Incumbent
State Representative District 56
Louise Alexander: 2,389 votes (51.15 percent)
State Representative District 59
Mary Moore: 2,154 votes (54.42 percent)
State Representative District 60
Juandalynn “Lele” Givan: 3,972 votes (75.66 percent)
Circuit Court Judge Place 3
Martin Weinberg: 14,778 (57.83 percent)