By Greg Markley
The percentage of District 79 voters who live in Opelika is relatively small. Yet, in the special election set for Sept. 13, these voters may play a vital part as four Republicans battle in their primary election. If no candidate wins by a majority, there will be a runoff on Nov. 29; perhaps engendered in a tight race by the small band of voters in Opelika in District 79.
We have approximately 900 eligible voters who live in Opelika who can vote in this House District 79 special election, explained Robert Garris, elections manager for Lee County. We will have more, as thousands of electronic registrations are being processed as we speak. (Of course, only a small portion of those new voters live within House District 79.)
With the redistricting following the 2010 U.S. Census, most of House District 79 that was in Opelika was parceled out to other districts. Today, there are a few hundred homes located around Saugahatchee Country Club that are in District 79, said Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller.
The polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 pm. for voters whose registrations indicate they are in House District 79. If a Special Primary Runoff is not necessary because one candidate receives a majority of the votes in the special primary, the Special General Election will be held on Nov. 29. If a primary runoff is necessary, the Special General Election will be held on February 7, 2017.
Gage Fenwick, an Auburn University economics major, is seeking enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 29 ballot as the Libertarian Party candidate.
The District 79 seat was held by Republican Mike Hubbard until he was forced from office after a jury found him guilty of 12 felony ethics charges. He had been the first GOP House Speaker in 137 years. He is awaiting a decision on whether there will be a new trial.
“When I started thinking about running for this state House seat, I reached out to Mayor Gary Fuller,” said Joe Lovvorn, a Republican candidate in the Sept. 13 primary. Even if part of a district is small, as in
Opelika, people still need to get representation. He said that as his
father Terry is a Randolph County commissioner, he has learned many practical lessons.Joe Lovvorn is a battalion fire chief and businessman in Auburn.
Among the larger contributions from Opelikans to Lovvorn are $5,000 from Allen Harris and $1,000 from Phillip and Jenny Adamson.
Another GOP candidate is Brett Smith, an attorney in Auburn. Kyle G. Sandler of Opelika has chipped in $1,500 for Smith’s campaign and Just That One OK, LLC has added another $1,500.
Fred “Sandy” Toomer owns a wholesale coffee company, having sold a retail operation a few years ago. Toomer had backers from Opelika in his previous run for state representative in House District 79 in 2014. He lost to Hubbard by 60-40 percent.
Records provided by the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office for Jay Conner, a realtor and teacher of real estate skills, indicate he was allowed to waive his campaign finance report due on Aug. 26.