By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
BIRMINGHAM—Tomorrow morning, polls will open across Alabama for the 2014 primary elections. From the Tennessee Valley to the Gulf Coast, more than a few races will be highly competitive, with upwards of a million dollars being spent in some of the top-ticket primaries. Below is a list of some of the closest and most interesting races to watch tomorrow night as the polls close and results begin rolling in.
House District 79, Sandy Toomer v. Mike Hubbard
The race between incumbent Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and Auburn businessman Sandy Toomer is sure to be one of the most watched in the state tomorrow. Hubbard, who has been implicated in the court proceedings surrounding the public corruption investigation by a Lee County Grand Jury, has spent nearly a million dollars, which would be surprising even if it were not only the primary – and not general election. Toomer, though originally polling behind Hubbard by double digits, has since gained serious momentum with the revelation (in a campaign ad) by former Auburn University governmental affairs advisor Buddy Mitchell that he illegally provided Mike Hubbard with confidential contract bids in order to give his business, Auburn Network, an unfair competitive advantage.
US House of Representatives, 6th District
Formerly held by retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus, the AL-06 GOP primary has been one of the most well funded campaigns in the state. The only federal Alabama congressional seat without an incumbent to run for re-election, the candidates of the Sixth District field have been out on the campaign trial for months. While most polls have Alabama House Rep. Paul DeMarco in the lead, State Senator Scott Beason has also recently set himself apart in both internal and media polls. Also in the top tier of candidates are Dr. Chad Mathis and businessman Will Brooke, followed in the polls by Gary Palmer, Tom Vigneulle, and Rob Shattuck.
Lieutenant Governor, Stan Cooke v. Kay Ivey
Recent internal polling in the race for Alabama’s Lieutenant Governor has shown that Dr. Stan Cooke, pastor of Kimberly Baptist Church, is well within reach of incumbent Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey. During the 2014 legislative session which ended in April, Ivey – on several occasions – had trouble keeping control of the legislative body, something Dr. Cooke has campaigned as being prepared to do with structure and fairness. A longtime friend of the Governor, Dr. Cooke was pleased to have Bentley visit his church after it was nearly completely flattened during the tornadoes that touched down during last month’s severe weather events.
Public Service Commission, Place 2
Obama, Obama, Obama. Though he is not running in the race, President Obama, or Barack Hussein Obama, as the candidates are more likely to say, has been one of the main topics of this particular primary race. Incumbent PSC Commissioner Terry Dunn is fighting off primary challenges from the right, with his opponents, Chip Beeker, Phillip Brown, and Jonathan Barbee, pointing to alleged connections between Dunn and environmentalist groups, and saying that they will fight Obama’s anti-coal, job killing agenda.
Senate District 12, Del Marsh v. Steven Guede
While this race is not polling as close as Speaker Hubbard’s, Incumbent Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, might be in trouble from a challenge by Republican Steven Guede. During the last legislative session, Marsh, who had been spearheading the passage of a “revolving door bill,” which would prevent lawmakers from lobbying after they leave the body, later fought tooth and nail to kill any ethics reforms that were attached to the bill. These provisions opposed by Marsh included language preventing family members of legislators from lobbying, a rule that would have barred Marsh’s daughter, Christine, from her as a lobbyist at the State House.
House District 54
One of the few contested Democratic seats in the state, House District 54 incumbent Patricia Todd, Alabama’s first and only openly gay elected official, is facing a challenge from both Chris Cummings, a former radio show host, and Lawrence Conaway, an elder at Guiding Light Church. The challenge fro Cummings is well funded, with the AEA donating money because of their opposition to Todd. In the 2013 legislative session, Todd gained the disfavor of the AEA when she voted yes on a procedural vote that allowed what would become the Alabama Accountability Act to move forward.