Voter turnout tops 37%
Published 9:04 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2016
More than 37 percent of Pike County voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary races.
“The voter turnout was certainly better than in 2012, when we had 28 or 29 percent,” said Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen.
Allen said a total of 8,094 ballots were cast on Tuesday, representing more than one third of the county’s 21,445 registered voters.
The process went smoothly, thanks in large part to the dedication and commitment of the workers who manned the polls.
“I want to thank all of our poll workers,” Allen said. “They did an outstanding job and I want them to know how much they are appreciated.”
Allen credited the contested Pike County Commission races on both the Republican and Democratic ballots with helping spur the local turnout.
“And the presidential election was also a big draw,” he said. “It was a good day at the polls here in Pike County. It’s good to see people involved in the election process.”
In the county commission races, District 3 incumbent Jimmy Barron defeated Republican challenger Forrest Lee and newcomer Russell Johnson defeated District 6 incumbent Joey Jackson. Chad Copeland, Republican, and Steve Thrash, Democrat, both earned spots on the November general election ballot for the District 4 seat.
Statewide, most Republican incumbents on Tuesday fended off GOP challengers who sought seats in the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the state Supreme Court. However, two incumbents serving on the Alabama Board of Education — including the board’s vice president and a member appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley — are headed for runoffs after losing primary races to Republican challengers.
Sen. Richard Shelby was successful in his primary bid for a sixth term, and U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, Mike Rogers, Bradley Byrne and Robert Aderholt also handily defeated challengers to represent their district. The leadership of the state’s Supreme Court will likely remain the same with the incumbent justice cruising to victory and two others running unopposed.
Richard Shelby, who was elected to the Senate in 1986 as a Democrat and later switched parties, faced challenges from four Republican opponents. Incomplete returns showed Shelby leading by a wide margin with more than 60 percent of the vote. The longtime senator faced a challenge from Marine veteran Jonathan McConnell, who won about 27 percent of votes.
Business owner Shadrack McGill, who served in the state Senate from 2010 to 2014, and challengers John Martin and Marcus Bowman were also looking to unseat Shelby, who will face off against Democrat Ron Crumpton in the general election.
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, a former Montgomery City Council member in her third two-year term in Congress, defeated Wetumpka Tea Party organizer Becky Gerritson to represent the 2nd District, which includes much of Montgomery and southeast Alabama.
Roby has campaigned to improve health care for veterans in central Alabama and to preserve the area’s military bases.
Gerritson testified before Congress in 2013 about the IRS targeting conservative groups and accused Roby of aligning herself with the Washington establishment.
“They have given me their blessing and mandate to continue to fight for conservative solutions,” Roby said of Alabama voters during her victory speech, adding that they chose “solutions over sanctimony, progress over pessimism, and results over rage.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers defeated longtime Auburn educator Larry DiChiara in his quest for a fourth term representing District 3, which covers east Alabama. Early, incomplete returns showed Rogers had won about 75 percent of the vote.
Rep. Robert Aderholt, who serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, was successful in his quest for an 11th term representing the 4th Congressional District, which covers a large section of north Alabama.
Early, incomplete returns showed Aderholt had won about 80 percent of votes.
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne also defeated Orange Beach developer Dean Young in a rematch from a 2013 special primary runoff to fill the District 1 seat that was left vacant when Rep. Jo Bonner retired. Incomplete returns showed Byrne with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Byrne was elected to his first full term in 2014. The 1st District covers a swath of southwest Alabama including Mobile.
STATE SUPREME COURT
Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker defeated GOP challenger Donna Beaulieu in the GOP primary. Parker will likely keep his seat on the state’s high court since there was not a Democrat in the race. Parker was elected to the state’s high court in 2004 and was re-elected in 2010. He previously served as deputy administrative director of the courts and as legal adviser to Chief Justice Roy Moore.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
Twinkle Cavanaugh will continue as president of the utility-regulating Public Service Commission.
She defeated Republican challenger Terry Dunn, a former commissioner who wanted to establish a special usage-based rate plan. Cavanaugh had won 62 percent of votes with 52 percent of precincts reporting.
Dunn has accused the commission of lacking transparency and serving utilities over ratepayers. Cavanaugh has said in campaign ads that she’s used her position to fight the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and “liberal environmentalists.”
STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
GOP incumbent Matthew Brown faced the most crowded primary field — three challengers looking to represent a swath of southwest Alabama — and is headed for a runoff with Jackie Ziegler, the wife of state Auditor Jim Ziegler.
Brown, an engineer for the county highway department, was appointed by Gov. Robert Bentley to fill a vacant post in July. Local and national education writers were quick to point out that Brown never attended public schools and didn’t appear to support them.
Brown pledges to support career and technical education programs and — like other Republican candidates — fight or reverse federal influence on state school standards. Ziegler had won about 34 percent of votes with 75 percent of precincts voting. Brown had won 29 percent and challenger Adam Bourne had won about 22 percent.
Board Vice President Jeff Newman was also in a three-way Republican race for District 7, and is headed for a runoff with Jim Bonner, who won about 43 percent of votes with 70 percent of precincts reporting. Newman had won about 38 percent of votes. The district begins in northwest Alabama and stretches into Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties.
The primary runoff is scheduled for April 12.
Longtime Republican incumbent Stephanie Bell, who represents central Alabama, had also won about 60 percent of votes, according to early returns. Democrat Ella Bell, whose district covers much of the state’s Black Belt region, had won more than 80 percent of the vote, according to early returns.
Voters approved a proposed amendment to the state Constitution to authorize the Legislature to replace a retirement system for judges, state Supreme Court justices, circuit clerks and district attorneys who are elected or appointed after Nov. 8.
State Treasurer Young Boozer said in a statement that under the current system, circuit clerks and judges pay into their retirement plans but district attorneys don’t. A new plan could save taxpayers roughly $4.3 million annually, Boozer said.