Category: 2018 Election

Jefferson County’s First African-American Sheriff Wants to Boost Diversity

By Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, WBHM

Like a lot of kids, Mark Pettway wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. But as he got older, things changed. Pettway begins his job as Jefferson County sheriff today. He’s the first African American to hold that post after defeating longtime Republican Sheriff Mike Hale in November. Read more.

Written in Black and White: In Alabama’s Statehouse, the Parties Are Split Almost Entirely by Race

When newly elected Neil Rafferty takes his place in the Alabama House of Representatives next year, he will be the only white Democrat in the 105-seat chamber

With one other white Democrat in the Senate, the Alabama Legislature’s two parties are almost entirely divided by race. An all-white GOP has a supermajority.

“You can’t deny the optics at times,” Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said about the party and racial split. He’s been a lawmaker since 2006 and has seen the racial polarization increase as the white Democrats dwindled in numbers.

Less than 10 years ago, in the 2006-2010 term, there were 62 Democrats in the House. More than half of them were white, said House public information officer Clay Redden. Now, there are 28 Democrats total. Republicans picked up five more seats in last week’s election.

In all, more than 75 percent of the members of the Legislature were white less than a decade ago, and more than 60 percent were Democrats, according to an analysis done at the time by The Birmingham News.

Being the minority race in the minority party isn’t something Rafferty, D-Birmingham, said he’s thought too much about.

“I’m going to go down there with humility and an eagerness and willingness to work with my colleagues, all of my colleagues, for the betterment of the state and House District 54,” he said last week.

But race has been an issue in the Statehouse in recent years.

England is concerned that, without diversity among parties, all issues begin to be viewed in a racial context.

“Racial issues are important, they are, but not everything is racial,” he said. “You don’t want everything to be painted with a broad brush because of the messenger and lose the message.” Read more.

Democrats Angered at Lack of State Party Support

Democrats across the country took the House and flipped several governorships during the midterms. It was a different story in Alabama. Democrats here lost every statewide race, and they lost five statehouse seats to Republicans. The Montgomery Advertiser recently reported the Alabama Democratic Party sat on hundreds of thousands of dollars as candidates say that money could have been used toward their campaigns. Many Alabama Democratic candidates blame their poor performance on the lack of support from the state party. Heather Milam, one of many Democrats who ran for the first time, lost the race for secretary of state to Republican incumbent John Merrill. She spoke with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager. Read more.

Scales and Tyson Couldn’t Have Been More Different in Farewells to the Birmingham Council

On their final day as city councilors, Lashunda Scales and Sheila Tyson addressed their colleagues during an otherwise uneventful council meeting, reflecting on their tenures before they move to a higher level of government.

Scales and Tyson were technically elected to the Jefferson County Commission in Nov. 6’s general election, though they were both uncontested and had been assumed to take their seats since winning their July runoff elections. Scales had been the councilor for District 1 since 2009, while Tyson had represented District 6 since 2013. Both won their bids for re-election last year, but their commission wins meant that they would have to leave their seats with three years remaining in their terms.

Their speeches at Tuesday’s council meeting highlighted the contrast in their political styles — Scales loquacious and boastful, Tyson serious and determined — and in many ways epitomized their respective terms on the council. Read more.

Alabama’s Wave of Women Candidates Won About Half of Offices Sought

Alabama, not unlike the rest of the country, had a wave of women on the ballot in this year’s primary election and in Tuesday’s general election.

Eighty-three Republican and Democratic women and two independent women ran for state office, including offices elected statewide and circuit judgeships. Forty-four of those women won their races.

In all, Alabama added six women to the count of state offices and circuit judgeships held by women. Three of those seats are circuit judgeships; two are seats in the House of Representatives and one is on the Alabama Board of Education.

Republican women fared well Tuesday. Of the 23 women who ran for those offices, 20, or 87 percent, won.

Terry Lathan, chairman of the state Republican Party, said Gov. Kay Ivey’s win was an important factor that will help contribute to more women running for office.

“With Governor Ivey breaking the glass ceiling as the first elected GOP female Alabama governor,” Lathan said in statement, “we will continue to recruit and expand our base of women candidates.”

For Democratic women, who made up 71 percent of all the women who ran, the outcomes looked different. Sixty Democratic women ran, with 24, 42 percent, winning their races.

Nancy Worley, chairwoman of the Alabama Democratic Party, had a different take, chalking up many of the losses to inexperienced candidates with unrealistic expectations. Read more.

Straight-Party Voting Shows Increasing Political Polarization in Alabama, Controlled Outcome of Some Races

Alabama voters are casting straight-ticket ballots in growing numbers, highlighting a trend toward political polarization in the state.

That move was on full display in Tuesday’s election and appeared to be a critical factor in the outcome of some races.

About 65 percent of those who participated in the general election voted straight tickets, according to totals from the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office. Read more.

Jefferson County’s ‘Blue Wave:’ How the First Black Sheriff and District Attorney Won Election

Jefferson County’s first black sheriff and district attorney were swept into office Tuesday on a wave of Democratic straight-ticket voting.

Votes from the county’s Republican strongholds were not enough to combat the unusually high number of Democrats casting straight-party ballots, votes from inner-city Birmingham, votes by dissatisfied Democrats in the county’s larger cities and possibly votes by Republican women protesting President Donald Trump.

“I think the numbers say that straight-ticket voting greatly benefited the Democrats more than Republicans,” said Jefferson County Board of Registrars Chairman Barry Stephenson.
Read more.

Related story:

Jefferson County Elects its First Black Sheriff and District Attorney

Two New Lawmakers to Join Incumbents in Jefferson Legislative Delegation

Incumbent Alabama lawmakers serving Jefferson County all won re-election in Tuesday’s general election voting, and two new members who ran for open seats, will join the Jefferson County delegation.

Republican Senate candidate Dan Roberts and Democratic House candidate Neil Rafferty will be a part of a large freshman group in the 2019 Alabama Legislature after 22 House members and 10 senators retired in 2018 or resigned to seek other offices or positions.

The addition of Roberts and Rafferty, a Republican and a Democrat, does not change the political party makeup of the county delegation since they replaced a Republican and a Democrat. Read more.

GOP Strengthens Majorities in Alabama Statehouse. House now Has 1 White Democrat.

The Alabama Statehouse got a little more red Tuesday, with the GOP picking up one seat in the Senate and likely five in the House, according to unofficial results and media reports.

The number of white Democrats in the Alabama House dropped from six to one — newly elected Neil Rafferty of Birmingham. In the Senate, the number of white Democrats held steady at one.

Republicans have had a supermajority in the Statehouse since 2010, but the additional seats may give the party more confidence to take on potentially controversial issues.

“They already could shut down debate, they could move bills,” retired Athens State University political science professor Jess Brown said Wednesday. “Democrats could make a little noise on the fringes, but Republicans ruled the roost. That will remain the same.”

Now, Brown said, they have “a little breathing room from public opinion” and more leeway to take up a statewide gas tax increase — something Republicans have flirted with for several years — and possibly a lottery. Read more.

Election Night in Alabama: Unofficial Statewide Results in 10 Top Races

Number of counties reporting: 67 out of 67

Walt Maddox (D)
Kay Ivey (R)

Chief Justice:
Bob Vance Jr. (D)
Tom Parker (R)

Attorney General: 
Joseph Siegelman (D)
Steve Marshall (R)

Secretary of State:
Heather Milam (D)
John H. Merrill (R)

Lt. Governor: 
Will Boyd (D)
Will Ainsworth (R)

Public Service Commission Place 1
Cara Y. McClure (D)
Jeremy H. Oden (R)

Public Service Commission Place 2
Kari Powell (D)
Chris “Chip” Beeker Jr. (R)

Miranda Karrine Joseph (D)
Jim Ziegler (R)

State Treasurer
John MacMillan (R)

Commissioner of Agriculture & Industries
Rick Pate (R)

All of Alabama’s Republicans in the House of Representatives won re-election: Rep. Bradley Byrne is at 63.24%, Rep. Martha Roby is at 61.43%, Rep. Mike Rogers is at 63.74%, Rep. Robert Aderholt is at 79.798%, Rep. Mo Brooks is at 61.06%, and Rep. Gary Palmer is at 69.22%. Democrat Terri Sewell was unopposed and got 97.80%.

Check out more results at AlabamaVotes.Gov.