What to watch in today’s election

Published 3:27 am Tuesday, November 4, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The race between Gov. Robert Bentley and Democrat Parker Griffith received most of the attention leading up to Election Day in Alabama, but the ballot also includes contested elections for constitutional offices, congressional seats and five statewide constitutional amendments.

Here are some things to watch:


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Republicans are trying to maintain their lock on the Alabama Statehouse in Tuesday’s election.

The GOP already controls every statewide office from governor on down, and winning even one could be tough for Democrats.

In races other than the vote for governor, Republican incumbents with the exception of Attorney General Luther Strange had no opposition or faced poorly funded Democratic challengers who had difficulty getting their message across in a state dominated by conservatives.

In the race for attorney general, Democrat Joe Hubbard mounted a media campaign against Strange with the help of donations from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Hubbard received the tribe’s backing after Strange filed suit trying to close its casinos.


Alabama’s U.S. House delegation will have at least one new member after the election, plus a new senior member.

With the retirement of longtime Rep. Spencer Bachus, voters in the 6th District of central Alabama will send either GOP nominee Gary Palmer or Democrat Mark Lester to Washington. Palmer, a conservative policy analyst, is a heavy favorite to win the solidly Republican district.

Republican incumbents faced only token Democratic opposition in three other contested races, and three other congressional incumbents had no opposition.

Bachus was state’s longest-serving House member before his retirement, a distinction that will now belong to Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville. Aderholt, who had no opposition for re-election for a 10th two-year term, took office in 1997.


Five statewide constitutional amendments are on the ballot. Two are supported by the National Rifle Association and involve a favorite topic for many in Alabama: Guns.

Amendment 3 would make owning firearms a fundamental right in the state. It would also require that measures to control firearms would have to pass the toughest review by state courts.

Amendment 5 is the so-called “Sportsperson’s Bill of Rights,” which says citizens have a right to hunt and fish subject to reasonable regulations. The measure also states that those regulations should promote conservation and management and guarantee the future of fishing and hunting.

Not all the proposals involve firearms.

Amendment 1 would prohibit Alabama courts from paying attention to laws that violate public policies or constitutional rights in the state.

Amendment 2 would allow for $50 million from the Alabama Trust Fund be used for constructing and maintaining armories.

Amendment 4 would require the approval of at least two-thirds of the Legislature before a law could be enacted making a local school board spend more than $50,000 in local money if the state isn’t providing funding.


White Democrats are trying to avoid extinction in the Alabama Legislature.

Only four white Democrats serve in the 35-person Senate — Billy Beasley of Clayton; Roger Bedford of Russellville; Marc Keahey of Grove Hill; and Tammy Irons of Florence. Keahey and Irons aren’t seeking re-election, and both Beasley and Bedford have Republican opposition.

In the House, there are 10 white Democrats among the 105 members. One of the white Democrats, attorney general candidate Joe Hubbard, lost his seat through redistricting. Another, Rep. Charles Newton of Greenville, lost in the primary.

Only two of the remaining eight Democrats lack Republican opposition. Those facing GOP challengers include Rep. Craig Ford of Gadsden, the House minority leader.


With the election done, state leaders will once again turn to the tough task of funding state government.

After an organizational session of the Legislature in January, lawmakers will return to Montgomery on March 3.

During the campaign, Gov. Robert Bentley said he would look to key Republican legislators for ideas on how to provide more revenue for the state’s tight operating budget, which funds most everything except schools. But new taxes aren’t popular with GOP leaders and seem unlikely.