Jim Bonner came within just 1,848 votes of incumbent Jeremy Oden for Public Service Commissioner Place One.
The Alabama Political Reporter and other media outlets had been writing reports for weeks before the primary about arguably anti-Semitic, misogynistic, racist, sexist, and crude comments about PSC candidate Jim Bonner as well as about his troubled finances.
The reporting, by APR editor Bill Britt and others in the media, led to many powerful industry groups increasing their funding for incumbent Jeremy Oden’s campaign. Business leaders said publicly that Bonner’s election would be an embarrassment to the state and put pressure on the Alabama Republican Party to do something.
A week before the election polling by Montgomery-based Cygnal revealed that many Alabama voters believed that Jim Bonner was former Congressman Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, who is widely liked and appeared to be winning the race. Bonner, who had no money to campaign, appeared to be cruising toward a likely victory in the down ballot race.
This motivated ALGOP to act. It was too late to remove Bonner from the ballot as they had already been printed and many Alabamians had already voted on absentee ballots.
Chairman Terry Lathan and the Alabama Republican Party Candidates Committee took the unprecedented step of voting unanimously to censure Bonner and asking Republican voters to not vote for the candidate.
Two days after that the committee decided that they had not gone far enough and voted not to certify Bonner with the Secretary of State’s office if he did win the election. Congressman Bonner even released a statement urging voters not to vote for Jim Bonner, who had been a Trump delegate in 2016.
“When our state party chooses to take these steps, it is a serious and rare occurrence,” Lathan said of the move. “We strongly believe that this is one of those solemn moments. This vote was carefully considered and was not taken lightly. Due to the ALGOP Candidate Committee’s decision, votes cast in the Republican primary election for Jim Bonner for the Public Service Commission, Place 1 will not be certified.”
The work of reporters, pollsters, business leaders, Lathan, the Republican Party leadership worked and Oden emerged as the victor on election day but just barely.
Oden had 220,744 votes, 50 percent, and Jim Bonner had 217,049 votes, 50 percent of the vote. The difference between the two candidates was ultimately 3,695 voters.
Bonner said on Facebook, “It’s sad that people can be swayed by a headline. I’m not racist or anti Jewish or in trouble with anybody. What is sad is that negative lies work on the weak minded.”