By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Experts including Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett (R) were predicting incredibly low voter turnout in the single digits in Tuesday’s July 25th Republican Primary runoff. To the dismay of those of us who make our living covering the Alabama political scene, those predictions proved much too correct.
There are over 3 million registered voters in Alabama. Of those, only 235,938 people voted on the Cotton Promotion Amendment. The amendment to allow cotton farmers to have a referendum on making their checkoff mandatory passed with 63 percent of the vote. 204,472 Republicans voted in the highly competitive Secretary of State’s race, where rising Republican star, State Representative John Merrill defeated former Montgomery County Probate Judge Reese McKinney. Rep. Merrill received 108,664 votes to just 95,808 votes for Judge McKinney.
A week before the election, a poll by Cygnal turned heads when it showed the Sixth District Congressional Election was technically over with Gary Palmer crushing state Representative Paul DeMarco by over 30 percentage points. Most observers believed that the race was much closer than that. Clearly Palmer had all the momentum since the June Primary victory. Palmer had won both the debates and the endorsements from four of his five former Republican Primary opponents.
Palmer won despite trailing the better funded DeMarco campaign 14 points in the June 4 Republican Primary. Tuesday’s 28 point victory for Palmer vindicated the polling by Brent Buchanan and the Cygnal team, who correctly called the Palmer landslide and all the statewide GOP races. Palmer received 47,491 votes, 64 percent of the vote, while Rep. Paul DeMarco received only 27,295 votes, 36 percent.
As bad as the turnout was in July’s runoff, it could have been truly disastrous without the rare runoff in the Sixth Congressional district. If you subtract the 74,786 Sixth District Congressional voters, the other six Congressional Districts averaged less than 27,000 voters each.
Former Public Service Commissioner Jim Zeigler won the Republican nomination for State Auditor over retired businessman Dale Peterson. Zeigler has spent decades as a fixture on the Alabama political scene. Zeigler won 65 percent of the vote to Peterson’s 35%.
Peterson’s ethics were called into question by many in the media because of charges that he had shoplifted cashews and beer at two Hoover stores. Peterson denied the charges and is appealing the conviction.
Incumbent Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn (R) lost re-election to former Greene County Commission Chair Chip Beeker 59 percent to 41. Dunn angered the Alabama business community because of alleged ties to environmental extremists. Dunn’s calls for formal hearings by the PSC to set rates was viewed by many, Alabama Power included, as an effort to expose the company’s records to scrutiny by attorneys from out of state environmental attorneys.
In State Senate District 17, Trussville realtor Shay Shelnutt won an extremely tight race to replace Scott Beason over Locust Fork attorney Brett King. Only 540 votes separated the two young Republicans 52 percent to 48 percent. Shelnutt emerged from a field of seven Republican candidates to win the seat with strong support by the Business Council of Alabama and other business groups.
Former Autauga County Commissioner Clyde Chambliss almost won election in a four person Republican Primary field in the Senate District 30 race in June. Electrician Harris Garner refused to concede the primary even though Chambliss was only a handful of votes away from winning. Chambliss made his Republican Primary victory official on Tuesday with a resounding 65 to 35 percent victory.
In Senate District 1 anesthesiologist Tim Melson defeated Athens City Councilman Chris Seibert 57 to 43 percent.
In State Senate District 22, Greg Albritton defeated Harry D’Olive 58 to 42 percent.
Businessman Arnold Mooney defeated former Miss Alabama Amie Beth Shaver in a tight Republican House District 43 race 53 to 47 percent.
Incumbent Mack Buttram (R) was defeated by Good Hope Mayor Corey Harbison 55 to 45 percent in House District 12. Rep. Buttram lost despite determined efforts of Speaker Mike Hubbard, former Governor Bob Riley and other Republican leaders on his behalf. Buttram had been targeted for removal by the Alabama Education Association and Harbison’s win is seen as another victory for the embattled AEA.
In the only Democratic Primary Runoff for a legislative race we are aware of, incumbent state Representative Ralph Howard (D) won a tight victory over Thomas Moore 53 to 47 percent in House District 72.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said, “With Governor Robert Bentley, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, Attorney General Luther Strange and our 6 Republican congressional candidates leading our ticket, I feel very good about the outcome of the General Election. I believe November will be a watershed election for the Republican Party in Alabama.”