The Alabama special Democratic primary for House District 78 in Montgomery County is on Tuesday. Four candidates are running for the Democratic nomination in HD78: Terance “Watchdog” Dawson, Kenyatté Hassell, Roderick Thornton, and Donald Williams.
Loretta Grant was the only Republican to qualify, so there will be no Republican primary. Grant will face the eventual winner of the Democratic primary in the special general election runoff on Sept. 7.
The Democratic primary runoff will be on June 22 if no candidate can get 50 percent of the vote plus 1.
The House District 78 seat became vacant when Rep. Kirk Hatcher won the special election for Senate District 26 on March 2. Hatcher defeated the venerable Alvin Holmes for HD78 in 2018. Holmes served HD78 in the House for 44 years.
Terance “Watchdog” Dawson is a former Montgomery city councilman and is considered the founder of Gateway Park.
“House District 78, my campaign is dedicated to State Representative Alvin Holmes, a mentor of mine! I’ve been involved with the community when others couldn’t be found!” Dawson said.
“Having been a federal and state employee for almost thirty years and serving on the City Council, I was a registered lobbyist for a $million account, but just learning what the process is and having gone through all the training,” Dawson told 96.5 FM. “And because of my work with federal and state programs in state government it gave me a rare and unique opportunity to really understand you know the governmental process and how you take things from a sheet of paper to where people of the community of life are really dependent on what we do as part of the collective group of people in the area of information technology.”
Kenyatté Hassell, age 43, is the director of Young Life and a barber.
“I am a native of Montgomery, Alabama, and a lifelong resident of Alabama’s 78th House District. I am a husband, father of four, and active member of the community,” Hassell said. “I have served with the nationwide faith-based organization YoungLife for 16 years, and I currently serve as Montgomery’s Urban Director. In this position, I engage with youth and their families to build authentic relationships and help them grow in their faith. In addition, I manage Heritage Barbershop, which allows me to directly interact with community members and learn about their hopes, needs, and concerns. Beyond my family and professional activities, I am an accomplished campaign manager and strategist. I have served as campaign manager for Kirk Hatcher.”
Roderick Thornton is the owner at R & R Renovations LLC and a team leader at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama. He went to Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery and studied at Troy Montgomery and Trenholm State Technical College. He has a degree in communications and spent 22.5 years in the U.S. Navy where he served as an intelligence officer.
Thornton was born and raised in Montgomery.
“I went to public school in Montgomery. I started at Cloverdale Junior High and went to Jefferson Davis High School. From there I went to the Navy,” he said.
Thornton told 90.7 FM radio in Montgomery that he is running for state representative because when he left West Montgomery it was the hub of the community and since then “all of that is gone.” “My Mother has always taught me that if you want something done, do it yourself,” he said.
“We are going to try the next-door neighbor approach,” Thornton said. “I am a new face, a new voice and definitely a new idea.”
“I understand there is a need for prison reform,” Thornton said. “When you have got to build three new supermax prisons you are looking for people to put in there.”
Donald “Don” Williams is the former director of existing industry at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. He previously worked as the Human Resource at Simcala Inc. and is the former CEO/Owner at Dynamic Employment Solutions LLC. Williams is an Auburn University graduate. He also studied at Troy University and Auburn University at Montgomery. He graduated from Sidney Lanier High School and is a graduate of the Montgomery Police Academy and is a U.S. Army veteran.
Williams is a lottery supporter but says that any lottery and casino bill should be for education only. He is also campaigning for Medicaid expansion. Williams said that redeveloping the economy of House District 78 is one of his priorities.
“One of the biggest problems with 78 is that they are not getting enough businesses coming to that particular area, because you have to kind of spread economic development and not just to one area and I think that not enough effort has been made to point people to House District 78,” Hassell told WSFA TV News.
Whoever wins the district will serve the remainder of Hatcher’s district and then will have to run for re-election next year. HD78 will have to be reapportioned and redistricted, like the rest of the Legislature, before next year. HD78 could look significantly different.
Only voters who are already registered in the district may vote. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot has already passed. Voters may vote only at their assigned polling place and they must bring a valid photo ID with them.