By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
State Sen. Slade Blackwell, R-Mountain Brook, who qualified Friday for the Republican gubernatorial primary, has withdrawn from the race.
Blackwell, a wealthy Birmingham businessman who has represented Alabama’s Senate District 15, withdrew from the race Monday just days after his last-minute qualification, the Alabama Political Reporter has confirmed. His name has been removed from the ALGOP’s list of qualified candidates.
Sources close to Blackwell say the Birmingham-area senator was upset about Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Correction’s plans to close a work release center in Childersburg. Childersburg, which is in Blackwell’s district, and several cities nearby benefit from the center’s 150 inmates that provide low-cost labor to areas Shelby and Talladega Counties.
Local leaders in both of those counties have opposed the closing of the facility because they say it could mean a loss of labor and tax increases, impacting everything from park maintenance to city hall upkeep. ADOC had planned to transition the facility into a Life Tech Transition Center as part of a wider plan to address the prison system’s overcrowding and low staffing levels.
Blackwell has spoken about the plans on the Senate floor and planned to meet with ADOC officials and local leaders to iron out an agreement.
The plans to close the facility in Childersburg, according to our sources, were a motivating factor in Blackwell’s last-minute decision to qualify for the gubernatorial race. The sources, who requested anonymity, said Blackwell met with Ivey’s administration Monday and what came of it was at least a preliminary agreement on reversing the administration’s decision to the close the facility — dependent upon Blackwell dropping out of the race.
But now that he’s dropped out of the governor’s race after only officially being in for three days, Blackwell has missed the deadline to qualify to run as a Republican for his Senate seat, leaving the spot open to two Republican candidates who recently qualified.
It isn’t clear if Blackwell may seek the seat as an independent.
One of those candidates, Miranda Carter, is currently serving as the chief of staff for Blackwell’s Senate office and is also finance director for Birmingham evangelist Scott Dawson’s gubernatorial bid. The other is Dan Roberts, whom Birmingham political operative Chris Brown encouraged to oppose Miranda Carter for that seat, according to sources close to the candidates.
Roberts is an employee of UAB and would need prior written consent from the chancellor of UAB to run for any public office.
Friday was the last day to qualify for major party primaries.
Blackwell has long considered runs for higher office — including Alabama’s 6th Congressional District and a run for the U.S. Senate last year, though both times he opted to stay in the State Senate. This time it appears he has done the same.
Blackwell is the owner of the Birmingham-based Inkana LLC., a sizable real estate and development firm specializing in complex projects, partnerships and joint ventures in the healthcare and infrastructure industries. In the Senate, Blackwell has served as the chair of the Banking and Insurance committee and vice chair of the Job Creation and Economic Development committee.
If Blackwell would have continued his bid for governor, he would have been the sixth Republican to qualify in a crowded field, joining Ivey, Dawson, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, State Sen. Bill Hightower and Michael McAllister.