631 offices up for election

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 11, 2002

Messenger Publisher

Secretary of State Jim Bennett gave Brundidge Rotary members a short course on the mechanics of the election process on Wednesday.

"In less than two months, we’ll be voting on a whole new slate of candidates," Bennett said, referring to the June 4 party primaries.

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"These are the primaries to put the party tickets together to do the real battle in November," he said.

The Secretary of State’s office is responsible for managing elections in Alabama, and this year will prove a busy end to Bennett’s eight-year term in office.

"We’ve got 631 offices to fill on the state, county and district level," he said. These include all constitutional offices – such as governor or lieutenant governor; seven U.S. House of Representatives seats and one U.S. Senate seat; all state legislative seats; all county sheriffs and revenue commissioners; and more circuit and district level offices.

Even with the large slate of offices, Bennett said he doesn’t expect overwhelming voter turnout. "In the primaries, we’ll probably have about 40 percent turnout," he said. "In the last primary, we had 32 percent."

For the gubernatorial race on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, Bennett predicts that turnout could grow to slightly more than 50 percent. "It will be interesting to see if 9-11 has an impact on voter turnout, with more people wanting to be involved," he said.

Overall, he said, the election should prove a close one. "I don’t look for any runaway elections," he said.

But, he did predict runaway costs to candidates. "This election will also be very expensive," he said. "To make a successful campaign for governor, you have to raise $5 million to $7 million; it’s $2 million for lieutenant governor; … and even some state senate races will cost $400,000 to $500,000."

Even House of Representative races, which he described as "neighborhood races," can cost upwards of $200,000.

The reason? "The two part system," he said. "No longer is wining the Democratic primary tantamount to being elected … and some of these races get very, very expensive."

Bennett also other insight into the election:

· This year, 32 legislative incumbents escaped opposition from any major party.

· Sixteen legislators are leaving office.

· Of the 31 statewide offices, 23 are filled by Republicans; eight by Democrats.

· In the Legislature, Democrats have a two-to-one majority.