The race for House District 10 is officially under way.
Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced the dates for a special election to fill the seat vacated when David Cole resigned two weeks ago as part of a plea deal. Just minutes after Ivey’s announcement, the first likely candidate for the seat, Marilyn Lands, announced a press conference for Tuesday at which she’s set to officially announce her campaign.
The primary elections for the seat will be held on Dec. 12, with the general election to follow on March 26. Primary runoffs, if necessary, would be held on Jan. 9.
“The people in House District 10 deserve to be fully represented in the legislative process, and by calling this special election, we will ensure that to be the case. Those in public office must be held accountable and to the highest standard,” Ivey said in a statement. “I encourage everyone in this district to get out and vote during this special election to ensure you have a strong voice advocating for you in the Alabama Legislature.”
Cole’s resignation followed his arrest for felony voter fraud. The plea deal Cole signed stated that he used the address of a family friend to register in HD10 and then improperly voted in that district three separate times. In exchange for his guilty plea, Cole faced just one felony charge. He also agreed to serve 60 days in jail and repay his House salary.
If not a favorite, Lands would have to be considered a formidable opponent and certainly a threat to score a rare Democratic flip in a district that has grown increasingly purple.
Lands lost to Cole last November by just seven points. But that loss had a number of built-in GOP advantages, such as the benefit of having a U.S. Senate race at the top of the ticket driving voters to the polls. In a state where a solid percentage of voters simply vote straight-ticket for the party, Cole got a boost with the higher turnout.
The turnout for a House seat election in March won’t have the same appeal to voters.
“It’s going to be about who can get their voters to the polls,” said House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville. “If you look at that race (between Lands and Cole), she actually performed very well. She’s very respected by the people of the district. She’s lived here and worked here for a long time. People know that she’ll serve the district well. I look forward to seeing what the results will be when the race is actually about that district and people have to vote for the person who will best represent them.”
Who will represent the GOP for the seat is unclear. During an interview on the Alabama Politics This Week Podcast, Daniels said that recent rumors had a former FBI agent and a current Madison city councilman being recruited for the race.
In addition to Lands, the candidate(s) running on the Republican side will also likely face a Libertarian candidate who could pull conservative votes. Anson Knowles, who signed up to run for the HD10 seat in 2022 before being booted from the ticket by ALGOP officials, has indicated that he plans to make a run for the seat as a Libertarian.
Elijah Boyd, a Libertarian candidate who ran in 2022 and who filed the election challenge that ultimately led to Cole’s arrest and resignation, also hasn’t ruled out a run for the seat.
In addition to Lands, there has also been talk of at least one other Democratic candidate – Triana Mayor Mary Caudle – entering the race. Caudle has no planned announcements and attempts to reach her were unsuccessful.
However, Daniels said he would encourage Caudle not to run, because Democratic lawmakers in the area are planning to back Lands.
“I don’t switch horses,” Daniels said. “I promised Marilyn my support and I plan to give it, as is Rep. Laura Hall and others. Mary Caudle is a great candidate but right now, I would encourage everyone to let us use our full resources in this race. The other side has a big advantage money-wise going into this.”