By Greg Markley
Most Lee County legislators were easily renominated on Tuesday.
The smallest margin was for first-term State Sen. Tom Whatley (District 27). He defeated Andy Carter by 53 percent to 47 percent. Born on a dairy farm near Opelika, Whatley drew wide support from farming and business groups, but this was undercut by ads noting his strong support for President Barack Obama in 2008. Whatley faces Democrat Hayley Moss on Nov. 4.
For the “open” seat in District 38, and despite a 63 percent to 37 percent win in Lee County, Randy Price was defeated by Isaac Whorton, who received major backing in his native Chambers County. Thus, Whorton will succeed retiring state Rep. DuWayne Bridges; he faces no Democratic opposition. Price has served Republicans as county chairman and is an Opelika businessman. His wife Oline is Lee County revenue commissioner.
“I have known the Rev. (George) Bandy for 24 years, and we were the first African American city councilmen in Opelika,” reflected Lee County Commissioner John Andrew Harris. “So I am not surprised by his success tonight.” In District 83, Bandy won by more than 4-1 over Ronnie Reed of Russell County. Bandy is a minister in Opelika and has been a state legislator since 1994. In November, he faces GOP challenger Gary Head.
Media outlets statewide and, in some cases, nationwide, were especially interested in the Republican contest for state representative in District 79. Rep. Mike Hubbard, whose district is mostly in Auburn but includes parts of northern Opelika, won 60 percent to 40 percent over Fred “Sandy” Toomer. But that contest was close for much of the evening, and results in several precincts were delayed from being recorded.
Both the Whatley/Carter and the Hubbard/Toomer battles featured heavy spending on advertising by the candidates and statewide groups such as the Alabama Education Association (AVote). The AEA targeted Hubbard because as House Speaker he led fights for legislation such as charter schools the teachers’ group long opposed. His status as the first GOP Speaker in Alabama since 1873 gave this primary a larger profile than most.
“When I was younger I ran in marathon races,” noted Toomer. “When I finished a marathon I would say: ‘That was the dumbest thing to do, I will never do that again!’ That’s how I feel now about being a candidate. In my first try, I got 40 percent against the well-funded and probably the most powerful politician in Alabama. I had a great team supporting me: family, friends and staff.”
Hubbard faces Democratic standard-bearer Shirley Scott-Harris in the general election Nov. 4. Harris has a Ph.D in educational psychology and is a professor at Auburn University.
Hubbard was elected to the State Republican Executive Committee, beating Opelika realtor John Rice by 6,222 to 4,336 votes.
A July 30 runoff is in the offing for Stephen Benson (42 percent), president of Opelika Land and Timber, and Thomas Eden III (40 percent), an Auburn attorney, for the second State Republican Executive Committee seat from Lee County.
The 2014 primaries were supervised by informational technology specialist Tim Parson and Probate Judge Bill English. They reported that the tabulation and dissemination of voting results went well. There were 13,365 ballots cast, and turnout was a bit under the 20 percent of eligible voters that political observers predicted. Ballots cast for Republicans came to approximately 83 percent, with the Democrats casting the other 17 percent.
For the full statewide results, visit www.sos.alabama.gov/ – the Alabama Secretary of State’s office.