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Opinion | Residency and the 2nd Congressional District Democratic Primary

To the contrary, it appears it is better to not live in the District.

Candidates for the 2nd Congressional District, clockwise from top-left: Shomari Figures, Rep. Anthony Daniels, Rep. Juandalynn Givan, Rep. Napoleon Bracy, Sen. Merika Coleman, and Rep. Jeremy Gray.
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Opinion | It appears the qualification to run in the Democratic Primary for the new 2nd Congressional District is you should not live in the district

“Friends and Neighbors” politics and “all politics is local” has gone by the wayside.  Instead, we are a state and nation divided along partisan and racial lines. In Alabama almost all White voters are Republican and almost all Black voters are Democrats. Most folks vote lockstep along party lines.

The federal courts have picked up on this and decided to plow new ground and create a second minority district for us here in Alabama by taking redistricting out of the constitutionally designated power of drawing lines away from the legislature and using the Voting Rights Act as precedent to draw their own lines. When they drew the new lines for a second Black/Democratic district, they strived to make sure that the new district would favor a Democrat. The new district includes all of Montgomery and the counties surrounding Montgomery and extends through the Black Belt and gathers most of the Black voters in Mobile. It has attracted a host of aspiring, ambitious, Black politicians from every corner of the state.  

Federal law does not require a candidate to be a resident of the Congressional District to be elected to it. Believe you me, these Democratic aspirants have taken full advantage of that loophole. It appears that the best qualification to run in this new 2nd District Democratic Primary is you should not live in the district.

This race is chaotic and it is impossible to tell who is leading or who will win. It is a real comedy show.

You might assume that a sitting legislator might be the favorite, even though all of those legislators running live outside the district. For example, the three highest profile Democrats are Representative Anthony Daniels, Senator Merika Coleman, and Representative Juandalyn Givan and they live in Huntsville, Bessemer, and Birmingham, respectively, and represent those locales in the legislature. Thus, they cannot even make a pretense of moving into the Congressional District they are running for.  They cannot even vote for themselves.

Two other legislators, Jeremy Gray of Opelika and Napoleon Bracy of Saraland live close to the lines but are not quite in the Congressional District. However, Jeremy Gray has made a concerted effort to move his residence a few miles over to Phenix City, which is in his legislative district. I was told this by a young lady working for his campaign who had a Tampa, Florida telephone number. By the way, I do not know how people ascertain your private cell phone number,  but she got it and called me at 8:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning to explain Jeremy’s move. I told her she should not tell people that because it would appear odd he actually lived in the district.

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I had mistakenly said that Napoleon Bracy lives in Prichard, which is in his legislative district and actually in the new Congressional District. I received a barrage of emails explaining that Napoleon lives in Saraland, which is not in the district. Thus, Napoleon is complying with the requirement that to run successfully you should not live in the District.

The most pronounced candidate to correct me on his residence is Mobile candidate Shomari Figures. Young Mr. Figures’s claim to fame, and qualifications are that he is the son of veteran state Senator Vivian Figures and the late Senator Michael Figures. Up until a few months ago, he worked in Washington which I mentioned in my previous column, and which I thought was good publicity for him. He called me at 7 a.m. one morning on my private cell phone number and was adamant that he had moved home to Mobile and had gotten a Mobile residence.  He continued to barrage me with emails demanding to say that he now officially lived in Mobile. My advice to him was that if he wants to be considered a credible candidate that is not the best route to becoming a viable candidate in this District. To the contrary, it appears it is better to not live in the District.  

I will give the same advice to the other six Democratic primary candidates, if you happen to live in the district, do not admit it. You will be automatically dispelled as an odd ball and loser because you may very well be the only one running who lives in the district.

This one is fun to watch, a real novelty.

See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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