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Opinion | The race for the new 2nd District is about to heat up

With a little over three months to go until primary elections, the race for the newly drawn 2nd District is about to take off.

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As we roll into a new year, and with the first campaign finance reports due, it’s time to start taking seriously the race for Alabama’s newly-drawn congressional seat. 

Over the past couple of months, the field vying for nominations has officially dwindled a bit on the Democratic side. On the ALGOP side, it’s also dwindled, even if not officially. 

Darryl Sinkfield, an assistant executive director for field services with AEA, and Brian Gray, a Montgomery surgeon, each officially withdrew from the race, according to the Alabama Democratic Party. That leaves an even dozen Dem candidates in the race, but in reality, it still leaves the same five or six candidates with a realistic chance. 

The same can be said for the GOP candidates. There are technically eight candidates in the race for the ALGOP primary, but there are probably four with a realistic shot. 

On the Dem side, we’re looking at Reps. Anthony Daniels, Napoleon Bracy, Juandalynn Givan and Jeremy Gray, and state Sen. Merika Coleman. Shomari Figures, the son of longtime state Sen. Vivian Figures, is a possibility, but he’ll need to build name ID and a donor base quickly, and he’ll need a bunch of breaks. 

On the GOP side, current state Sen. Greg Albritton and former state Sen. Dick Brewbaker, Montgomery attorney Caroleene Dobson and former University of Alabama football star Wallace Gilberry are probably the only candidates with a realistic shot.  

For now, on the GOP side, I’d put Albritton as the frontrunner. He’s fairly well liked in the district, has solid Republican credentials without being insane and has the best financial support, with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians backing him. (That makes recent arguments against putting a statewide gambling amendment on the November ballot – because it would drive Dem voters to the polls and hurt Republicans in this race – all the more ludicrous. The party’s frontrunner is literally the biggest legalized gambling advocates in the state legislature.)

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It will be interesting to see what Brewbaker is able to do in the race, and the sort of support he’s able to get from the deep-pockets crowd. If he’s able to tap into the business community and gain traction in Montgomery, it will make things tough on Dobson, in particular, and on Albritton, from a votes standpoint. It will be tough to beat any candidate that dominates in the Montgomery area. 

On the Dem side, I don’t think there’s any mistaking that Daniels is the frontrunner. I know there was a recent poll conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Action Fund  that put Bracy on top, but I don’t buy it. I’m not saying the poll was purposefully flawed or even accidentally flawed – the SPLC’s Action Fund doesn’t engage in such. 

But looking at some of the specifics of the poll, the engagement was fairly light in areas where Bracy’s name ID would be lesser, and was higher in areas where he might do better. Additionally, the poll just happened to line up with Bracy’s first big text/advertising push of the campaign. 

That all makes a difference. As does the fact that 47 percent of the respondents couldn’t pick a favorite and were undecided. 

There’s one reason I think Daniels is out front: I believe the winner of each primary will be the candidate that wins Montgomery and the immediate suburbs. 

That area is too populated and the voters too reliable. If you don’t have the majority of the support from Montgomery, I don’t think you can win this race. 

A week prior to the SPLC poll, Daniels held a fundraiser at Wynlakes Country Club in Montgomery. It was hosted by some of the biggest, most influential politicos in Montgomery, including influential attorneys and judges, businessmen and civil rights activists. 

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In the coming weeks, Daniels’ financial backing will start to show up in the form of ads that flood the district, upping his name ID. I don’t think any other candidate will be able to match him in that regard. 

That said, it’s obvious that Bracy also has established name ID in an important area of the district. And he’s got the backing of a couple of major entities. Given a break or two, he’ll be a major player. 

We also shouldn’t sell the women of the race short. Coleman and Givan have each proven that they know how to campaign and know how to create organic media opportunities that up their IDs without spending campaign dollars. Already they’ve engaged in a public … debate? fracas? … over the issue of police bodycams. 

Coleman, specifically, has been well ahead of the pack in terms of engagement. She seems to have identified a few key areas where she can push stories and legislation, and she’s done a great job to this point of getting those issues in front of cameras. And my email inbox can attest that she’s working hard on raising campaign funds. 

That will be the first real measuring stick. When those reports drop in a couple of days, expect the field to dwindle quickly, as some dreamer candidates realize what they’re up against and elect to focus on their day jobs. Those reports will also show just who the major donors are serious about supporting and whose campaign is running the smoothest the fastest.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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