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In HD52 primary, Datcher appears to be favorite in six-candidate Dem field

Voters go to the polls on Tuesday to elect former Rep. John Rogers’ replacement in HD 52 primary.

Kelvin Datcher
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For the first time in more than 40 years, Alabama Democrats will on Tuesday elect someone other than John Rogers to serve House District 52. 

Rogers, who pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire and mail fraud and conspiracy, held the seat since 1982 but was forced to resign as part of a plea deal. Now, six Democratic candidates – Kelvin Datcher, Eric Major, Dedra Campbell, LaTonya Millhouse, Eyrika Parker and Frank Woodson – are vying to replace him. 

There is just one candidate on the Republican side – Carlos Crum. That, too, is a rarity. Crum is the first Republican to run in the district in over a decade. He is considered a considerable longshot. 

Datcher, who currently serves as Birmingham’s Deputy Director of Community Outreach, appears to be the frontrunner in the race. He has the backing of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, Fairfield Mayor Eddie Penny, both of the district’s state senators – Rodger Smitherman and Linda Coleman-Madison, Birmingham City Council President Darrell Quinn and Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson. He also picked up an endorsement from the Business Council of Alabama. 

During an interview on the Alabama Politics This Week Podcast shortly after announcing his candidacy, Datcher talked about his goals if elected and the sort of representation he would provide. Specifically, he said he wanted to approach problems in a different way. 

“One seat is not going to change the math (of the legislature),” Datcher said, referring to the Republicans’ supermajority. “One thing we can do, though, is change the conversation and find places where we have common ground. The default in American politics is divisiveness. My job is to figure out whether, if there’s 10 things we need to address, and 80 percent of the time we can’t get support to address those issues, how do we go about ensuring that the 20 percent is possible? 

“I just think that there are more things we have in common with each other. Maybe we just have to talk about things a little differently to get things done.” 

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Datcher brought up the issue of Medicaid expansion, and how shifting the conversation from just the basic healthcare needs of citizens to also including the benefits to economic development could draw in more Republican support. 

Campbell, a zoning inspector in Birmingham and a Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee member, is, not surprisingly, focused on housing issues and better health care options and freedom for women. 

“We have to create a future for our children,” she told the Reflector. “What kind of future are we leaving for them?”
Major, a business owner and a former state Representative in the 1990s, said his primary focus would be addressing crime and Medicaid expansion. During a candidate forum, he stressed that the city couldn’t move forward unless crime rates were reduced and people felt safer. 

Millhouse, a community relations manager, said she would focus on housing issues, such as providing more starter home options and cleaning up the dilapidated properties around Birmingham. She told the Reflector that she wanted to solve the issues simultaneously. 

“Now you’re clearing off the blight, you create homeownership, which in turn, builds economic wealth. Okay, so my goal is to take back our community, one house at a time,” she said. 

Parker, who currently serves as the Jefferson County treasurer, highlighted her financial responsibility as treasurer, noting that as the county’s first Black female treasurer there hasn’t been a single discrepancy. 

Woodson, who founded and leads Mission Alabama, a nonprofit that focuses on underserved communities, also focused on the issues of crime and blighted properties within the district. He said that citizens in some communities simply don’t feel safe anymore, and the issues are getting worse. 

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The winner of the Democratic primary will face Crum in November.

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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