Two Montgomery powerhouses — and two of the most prominent Democrats in the state — fell Tuesday night.
Rep. Alvin Holmes, the longest-serving member of the Legislature having served 45 years, and Rep. John Knight, a powerful lawmaker who has himself served for 26 years, were defeated in primary runoff races by relatively unknown opponents.
Kirk Hatcher, a school teacher and newcomer to state politics, beat Holmes with 59 percent of the vote.
David Burkette, a Montgomery City Councilman who has never held a legislative seat, beat Knight for the third time in less than a year.
“It clearly shows that the people want to move in a different direction,” Burkette said during an interview with WSFA after his win. “They want leadership that they can depend on.”
Dependability, though, has rarely been an issue for Holmes and Knight in their careers. If anything, Holmes has drawn critics for advocating too strongly for his constituents, particularly in his early days.
Holmes was a lightning rod, and he seemed to take great pleasure in striking back, particularly on the touchy topic of racism. The 78-year-old was famous for his House floor filibusters, and for his debates with Republican colleagues over questionable bills.
He was also known for outrageous statements, which often teetered on the edge of racism themselves, and for his wit. While many dismissed Holmes as eccentric, maybe even crazy, he was anything but. In reality, he was one of the smartest members of the Legislature, and his knowledge of rules and House governing procedures often allowed him to tie his colleagues in knots and send House Speakers scrambling for answers.
While a savvy politician himself, Knight chose a more reserved path, but one that led to great power. For several terms, Knight chaired the House budget committee and was the man primarily responsible for divvying up the annual state pie.
All politicians have their enemies, but with the way he conducted business, Knight seemed to accomplish a rarity in today’s political climate — he attracted friends from across the aisle.