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Opinion | Dobson v. Figures: Can the Democrats cash in?

The CD2 race presents an opportunity for the Alabama Democratic Party. Failure shouldn’t be an option.

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Experience apparently matters very little to the voters in Alabama’s newly-drawn 2nd Congressional District. 

First-time candidate Shomari Figures, a Democrat from Mobile, will face first-time candidate Caroleene Dobson, a Republican from Montgomery, in November’s general election. They each won primary runoffs on Tuesday, and they did so fairly easily. 

Despite seeing it time and again, it still surprises me how much influence money has in political races in this state. From a practical, on-paper standpoint, there’s no way Figures or Dobson should have beaten Anthony Daniels or Dick Brewbaker – two longtime public servants with solid reputations. 

But when you mix in the right mailers, enough TV time and professionally shaped messaging, you change the score. 

That’s not a knock on either Figures or Dobson. It’s just reality. 

And reality is all that matters now. 

For Democrats, this is a must-win race. For many reasons. Not least of which is the fact that a whole bunch of people fought tooth and nail for a whole bunch of time to make this district a possibility. 

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Alabama is in desperate need of another Democrat in Congress, and Shomari Figures would be a formidable one. Despite his lack of public office experience, Figures, a highly respected attorney, has spent a lot of time working around national-level politics in D.C. He has a lot of friends in high places, and his connections could very well spell lucrative-for-Alabama committee assignments and clout. 

As we know from the days of Richard Shelby – and from the current days of Terri Sewell – having a respected and connected congressperson can do wonders for the federal dollars flowing into your district. 

Figures is smart and calculated, and he has all the makings of a multi-term congressman. But he has to get there first, and that, of course, means he’ll need to beat Dobson. 

I have said from the outset of this race that the dynamics of CD2 make it almost impossible for a Republican to win. The reason for that is while the district is almost evenly split between white and Black voters, it is extremely short on moderate Republican voters (if there even is such a thing anymore). 

But there are a number of moderate voters in general, especially in the suburbs around Montgomery and Mobile. They generally vote for Democratic candidates, but they’ve also shown in various elections that they can switch allegiances or even just stay home. 

So, in theory, a Republican in a high-turnout election, where Trump is on the ballot, should have a shot. But that’s where the hard-right nature of the GOP voters in that district comes into play. 

Because in order to win the GOP nomination, any candidate in the race, in order to appease those rightwingers, was going to have to move way, way, way right. On pretty much every topic. And in doing so would create basically a Spotify playlist of campaign ads for the Dem. 

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Dobson’s CD2 campaign is a perfect example of that. And I can prove it in just one soundbite. 

Dobson, a Harvard-educated, well respected attorney who has undoubtedly familiarized herself with the U.S. constitution, said out loud, during a debate that was broadcast to thousands, that her chosen immigration policy would be to deport everyone here illegally and deport the children born in the U.S. to people who are here illegally. Essentially, Caroleene Dobson – who I’m pretty sure isn’t of Native American heritage – advocated publicly for the deportation of first-generation U.S. citizens. 

You see what I’m saying? 

The majority of Dobson’s campaign to this point has been a dog and pony show, where she tries to pretend that she’s unfamiliar with how laws work or how science is applied or that her time working within the U.S. justice system somehow failed to lead her to believe that Donald Trump is a felon-in-waiting, and deservedly so. 

And now, with Shomari Figures standing on the other side and saying smart things that are relevant to the voters she needs to have a prayer in this race, she has to get all of that rightwing feces back in the bag and hope they didn’t notice that she was coated in it 48 hours ago. 

I don’t think there are enough mailers or TV ads with smiling children to do that. 

My one nagging doubt, though, is about that cryptocurrency money. It put Figures over the top in both elections. That super-PAC dumping millions into the race on his behalf was a game changer. 

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Are they committed moving forward? That’s a big question, because looking at Figures’ fundraising outside of that super-PAC involvement, he falls well behind Dobson. Well behind. 

The one thing that could make it a moot point would be a well-organized effort from the Alabama Democratic Party. A get-out-the-vote effort of Doug Jonesian proportions. 

Maybe it’s a pipe dream. Maybe I’m being absolutely delusional to even suggest such a thing. But man, an organized push to put Figures in congress and secure a seat of national importance sure would be a nice starting point for a reorganized and reinvigorated ADP. 

I’ll believe it when I see it, of course. But I sure would love to see it.

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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