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Redistricting makes Alabama Senate District 33 competitive

During the redistricting process, a portion of Spanish Fort in Baldwin County was drawn into Figures’ district in Mobile.

Vivian Figures, left, and Pete Riehn, right.

The race for Alabama State Senate District 33, a Democratic stronghold, could be closer than anticipated due to redistricting resulting in a portion of Baldwin County, a committed Republican voter base, being added to the district. 

Incumbent Senator Vivian Davis Figures has held the office for over 25 years. Figures won the seat in 1997 following the death of her husband Michael Figures who served from 1978 until 1996. 

Figures has a long, tenured history in Alabama‘s Democratic Party including being the first woman to ever serve as Minority Leader from either house in 2013 and 2014 after being elected by her colleagues. The incumbent also ran for the United States Senate in 2008 but lost to Jeff Sessions. Most recently Figures made national headlines for being one of only two women to speak out against Alabama’s abortion ban in 2019 before the law went into effect in 2022 following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Figures’ opponent, Pete Riehm, has his own history in Alabama politics however controversial that history is. Riehm, who co-founded the Common Sense Campaign tea party in 2009, has not been shy about voicing his opinion as a radio host for the show “Common Sense Radio” and a columnist for the website, RenewAmerica.com. Through this column, Riehm has espoused harmful rhetoric like comparing transgender people to pedophiles and equating support for Black Lives Matter to supporting the KKK.

Riehm peddled election denialism after Donald Trump’s defeat to Joe Biden, saying, “There was not an insurrection on 6 January 2021, but rather a coup on 3 November 2020.” Riehm was in fact at the Capitol on January 6 after organizing a trip there but says his group left as the riots broke out. Riehm was eventually interviewed by the FBI about his time at the Capitol on January 6 as AL.com reports. 

Riehm said that he is optimistic about defeating Figures because he said the senator has not been present in the county and his campaign has made strides with all voters. 

“We’ve made inroads with Independents, swing-voters, and democrats,” Riehm said. “A lot of that, I hate to say it, is because the incumbent has not maintained her relationships. There are voters looking and they were frustrated because they did not feel like their voice was being heard. And the fact someone came and asked to hear their opinions opened the door.” 

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Figures responded by questioning Riehm’s presence in District 33 and telling APR she is always present through her duties as state senator.

“How else could I have been as effective as I have been in achieving success on those issues that matter to those I serve if I haven’t been present,” Figures said. “My question for Mr. Riehm is where has he been and what has he done for the communities of District 33 before he decided to run for this office?”

Figures told AL.com that after Riehm attended the riot or insurrection at the Capitol he was not fit to represent District 33. 

“We do not need that representation in the Alabama State Senate,” said Figures

During an interview with APR Riehm stated that he would concede his own race if he loses to Figures. 

“We’re gonna get the results and whatever they are they are,” Riehm said. “I think there’s a lot of safeguards, there’s going to be a lot of poll watchers so, I’m not worried about it.” 

Even with the controversial comments, Riehm has more of a chance than his predecessors to oust Figures, although still slim. District 33 remains a predominantly Black, Democratic-leaning boundary even with the inclusion of the Baldwin County city Spanish Fort, a wealthy, white area. According to GOP strategist, Jon Gray, because of “voter apathy” Riehm has a chance but that chance remains small because of the disparity in voter populations. 

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Figures has stated that if re-elected she would work to create a committee of appointed individuals from communities throughout District 33. The purpose of what Figures calls a, “think tank kitchen cabinet committee” will be to give appointed individuals the ability to tell Figures of the problems their communities are facing and allow the senator to advise the committee on the best ways to educate their communities. Although Figures voted against the redistricting plan she will welcome her new constituents even if they are not happy with the new arrangement.

Figures will rely on her record of bi-partisanism to demonstrate to voters that she is someone who will serve all of the citizens of District 33. 

“I work with everyone, and I am an independent thinker who will make the decisions that are in the best interest of the people I serve based on the facts and figures before me,” Figures told AL.com. 

Riehm is focused on education issues like supporting school vouchers and advancing economic programs in low-income areas in the district. Riehm like Figures has stated he does not care about left or right but serving all constituents. 

The General Election is November 8. 

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