Low voter turnout expected at primaries Tuesday

Published 3:00 am Saturday, August 12, 2017

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday for party primaries in the race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat, but turnout is expected to be lower than usual.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he is projecting about 20 to 25 percent of voters to go the polls Tuesday compared to typical turnouts of 30 to 32 percent.

Shirley Reddoch, president of the Pike County Republican Women, said she expects turnout here could be even lower.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“I believe it’s going to be between 10 and 12 percent,” Reddoch said. “We have been trying to get people to go out and vote. We don’t support any specific candidate as a party, but we do want people to go out and vote.”

Reddoch said many Republicans might stay home feeling secure that a Republican will take the seat.

Jerry Williams, leader of the local Democratic Party, said a lack of advertising in the area will likely lead to a low turnout on the Democratic side.

“I really haven’t seen a lot of advertising in our particular area,” Williams said. “I don’t really see a big turnout. I can hope for it, but it would be surprising if there was.”

A total of 16 candidates are in the race for the Senate seat including nine Republicans and seven Democrats.

With Alabama leaning heavily Republican recently, few predict a Democrat will be able to win the seat.

Williams said the only thing Alabama Democrats can do is field a good group of candidates and hope for the best.

“We’ve got a good slate of candidates,” Williams said. “All of our candidates have run positive campaigns rather than trying to muddy each other as they’ve been doing on the other side. To my knowledge, there’s been no outside money dumped in this race.”

Out of the Democratic candidates, Williams said Robert Kennedy Jr. has been the leading candidate in recent polls but has some other candidates closely behind him.

Former Vice President Joe Biden recently endorsed former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones in the race. Other candidates include Will Boyd, Charles Nana, Vann Caldwell, Michael Hansen and Jason Fisher.

Polling has shown three Republicans have separated themselves in Luther Strange, Roy Moore and Mo Brooks.

Strange already had name recognition, serving as the state’s attorney general until Robert Bentley appointed him to fill Sessions’ seat. That didn’t sit well for some, as Strange paused an investigation into Bentley’s alleged misuse of state funds to cover up an extramarital affair.

Strange has the backing of the Senate Leadership Fund, which is tied to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. President Donald Trump has also given his endorsement to Strange.

Moore has notably served as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court twice. Moore was removed from office both times, first because he refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the courthouse and next because he asked probate judges not to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

Brooks recently made headlines as one of the Republican congressmen at a GOP congressional baseball practice that was targeted by a shooter, who injured several politicians. It was later revealed Brooks’ name was on a list in the shooter’s pocket.

Brooks is the U.S. representative for the fifth district of Alabama and is a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Reddoch said she believes they are the only three candidates remaining with a shot at the Senate seat.

Each has campaigned on being aligned with Trump, but Reddoch said she doesn’t think Trump’s endorsement will matter to local voters.

“I don’t think in this race it’s going to have any influence at all who Donald Trump endorsed,” Reddoch said.

The other six Republican candidates in the race are Randy Brinson, Trip Pittman, Bryan Peeples, James Beretta, Joseph F. Breault and Mary Maxwell.