By Greg Markley
With the 2014 Alabama primaries four days away, voters deciding whether their solitary vote might matter can draw lessons from the 2008 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota. There, Democrat Al Franken unseated Republican Norm Coleman by just 225 votes, out of nearly 3 million cast.
In general elections with a presidential battle, turnout can be 40-50 percent higher than in a primary. Alabama’s 2012 primary, held jointly with a presidential primary, only attracted 24.42 percent of eligible voters. On June 1, 2010, both parties’ voters had a chance to elect their nominee for governor. Turnout was a paltry 32.2 percent.
Lee County Probate Judge Bill English predicts a Lee County turn out just under 20 percent.
The Republican state senate candidates and the Democratic state representative in Opelika featured last week likely recognize the importance of turnout. So do the office seekers in the three GOP contests featured below.
As soon as Randy Price discovered that a campaign mailer for his District 38 state representative campaign had a technical error, he had it corrected. It had called a group supporting his Republican candidacy a “Commission” instead of an “Association.” He explained: “I have always believed if an error is made and it can be corrected, correct it immediately.”
“For District 38, I believe voters need to send a businessman to Montgomery with more than 30 years experience,” Price said. “My campaign slogan is ‘Leadership Grows from Experience.’”
Price has run several successful businesses in Opelika, is a fifth generation family farmer and has been active in Republican politics for years. His wife, Oline Price, is the Lee County Revenue Commissioner and is unopposed for re-election.
Price’s opponent in the Republican field is Isaac Whorton, an attorney from Chambers County. Whorton has served as chairman of the Valley Planning Commission and has a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and a law degree from Faulkner University. Although he grew up in Valley, he mentions frequent childhood visits to Opelika.
District 38 includes parts of Lee and Chambers counties.
In House District 80, Rep. Lesley Vance has drawn two opponents in the Republican primary – Mervin Dudley and Alex Balkcum. Vance, then a Democrat, defeated the GOP’s Dudley in the 2010 general election. Balkcum is running under a theme of being “a conservative businessman who will fight to serve District 80, not the Montgomery special interests.” District 80 includes parts of Lee and Russell counties.
Although House District 79 centers on Auburn, it still has a sizeable number of constituents in north Opelika. Rep. Mike Hubbard is now the first Republican House Speaker in Alabama since 1873. But this year he faces a vigorous campaign from Fred “Sandy” Toomer, a former missionary in South America who now operates Toomer’s Coffee Roasters Company.
In the presidential preference and party primaries in March 2012, 85 percent of the ballots were for Republicans. This year, in the presence of so many GOP contests, the percentages might be similar. One simple vote could even be a factor in who wins.