Alabama Democrats are hoping to put at least a small dent in Republicans’ stronghold on all three branches of state government in the Nov. 6 general election.
With continuation of the GOP’s grip on the executive, legislative and judicial branches all but assured, the Democrats’ best hope to win a statewide office seems to lie in the race for chief justice, where Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Bob Vance faces Republican Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker. Vance began an aggressive ad campaign last week, attacking Parker’s close affiliation with twice-ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore.
“Other than that race, I don’t see anything happening for Democrats,” said Larry Powell, a longtime political consultant and professor of communication studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Democrats hoped Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox would put up a strong challenge to Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican who was elected lieutenant governor four years ago and became the state’s chief executive when Robert Bentley resigned as governor last year after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations.
Powell said he expected Maddox to try to ignite enthusiasm for a state lottery as the strong theme for his campaign. That’s what Don Siegelman did in 1998, when he became the last Democrat to be elected governor. But Powell said that never developed as a consistent theme.
While Ivey campaigned on her ability to bring new jobs to Alabama, Maddox criticized her refusal to agree to a debate.
Powell said the Maddox campaign has suffered from a lack of focus. “I thought they were going to hammer the lottery as the main issue, that they would jump all over the lottery as a focus,” he said.
The ballot includes 20 statewide races, with Democrats challenging Republicans in nine of them.
In addition, there are four constitutional amendments on the statewide ballot that would: authorize display of the Ten Commandments on state property and at schools and other public places; oppose abortion and state that “the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion;” alter membership of the board of trustees of the University of Alabama; and state that there will not be a special election to fill any seat in the Legislature that becomes vacant after Oct. 1 in the third year of a four-year term.
Jefferson County voters will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment that would lift the lid on property taxes in Homewood.
In Shelby County, a proposed constitutional amendment would make seats on the county Board of Education and the superintendent of education elected positions.
Across the state, there are scores of district-level contests, including:
- All 35 seats in the Alabama Senate. Republicans control 26 of the seats, Democrats have eight, and there is one independent. Among those districts, there are 17 contested races, 12 in which Republicans are uncontested and six in which Democrats have no opposition. The GOP is expected to retain control of the Senate.
- All 105 seats in the state House of Representatives, where the GOP holds a 72-32 advantage, with one seat vacant. There are 49 contested races, 32 with no Democratic opposition and 24 with no Republican opposition. Republicans are expected to keep their majority in the House.
- All seven of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Terri Sewell of Birmingham, the only Democrat in the delegation, is the only incumbent to escape opposition. With the delegation’s six Republicans all aligned with President Donald Trump, all are heavy favorites to win re-election.
- Dozens of races for circuit court and district court judgeships, circuit clerks and other county offices.
- Four seats on the Alabama Board of Education.
- In Shelby County, there is a contested race for a seat on the county Board of Education. Republican candidates have no opposition for circuit clerk, probate judge, sheriff, coroner and two seats on the Shelby County Board of Education.
- In Jefferson County, there are races for district attorney, county clerk, two probate judgeships, sheriff, two seats on the County Commission and two seats on the Jefferson County Board of Education, one of them opposed.
Alabama has a record 3.4 million registered voters this fall, but Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill predicts voter turnout will be near record lows, possibly in the 25 percent to 40 percent range.
Powell, the UAB political scientist, said he also expects a surprisingly low turnout because “nothing is happening to energize voters.”
“The single most amazing thing is how boring it has been,” he said. “Vance is attacking Parker, but that is the only negative thing I’ve seen. Even that one is not that negative.”
BirminghamWatch has put together a 2018 General Election Voter Guide that includes information about a study PARCA conducted to assess issues on voters’ minds, amendments on the ballot and, of course, profiles of each candidate, including biographical information, the main issues they’re citing in their campaigns, their top contributors and links to their web or social media sites. You also can find lists of all major contributors to the candidates for governor since they started their campaigns.
In our Voters’ Toolbox, you can:
Find out how to check your voter registration and the polling place to which you are assigned.
Research the candidates, including their campaign financing and issues statements they’ve made to organizations such as the League of Women Voters. The Toolbox also has links so you can find votes, positions and speeches many candidates have made on various topics.
Look up your individualized ballot, including the specific district races that will be on it.
It’s all in the General Election Voter’s Guide. And keep an eye out for more stories as the campaigns close in on election day.