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Alabama’s Republican primary season has been strong proof of the ongoing nationalization of politics.
For most of the campaign, top-tier GOP candidates have ignored state-specific issues to join in broader national Republican attacks on abortion, transgender youth and undocumented immigrants. Discussions of inflation came in relatively late, and discussions of health care, broadband expansion and gambling have been mostly absent.
“Especially in a primary, you have all the candidates jockeying to be the one true conservative,” said Ryan Williamson, an assistant professor of political science at Auburn University. “That’s why there’s a lot of gravitation toward social issues, like the transgender children, like the Roe v. Wade issue.”
The race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate appears likely to go to a June 21 runoff between the top two vote-getters. Gov. Kay Ivey has led polls of Republican voters, but the polls haven’t been clear on whether she will avoid a runoff in the race.
Ivey is seeking her second full term in office and, as an incumbent, has been able to call down significant contributions. She has raised about $5.4 million this year and spent $7.4 million (drawing on cash raised in previous years). The governor launched her re-election campaign last year with an emphasis on economic growth, particularly the state’s recovery of jobs after the COVID pandemic.
Ivey touted the strong economy in a statement from her office on Friday. But her campaign up to that point had focused almost entirely on social issues, highlighting her anti-abortion and pro-gun stances. Ivey also joined in Republican attacks on transgender youth and undocumented immigrants.
Lindy Blanchard, a nonprofit owner and former ambassador to Slovenia, started the 2022 campaign as a candidate for U.S. Senate. She switched to the gubernatorial race last December, reportedly after being encouraged to do so by former President Donald Trump.
Blanchard has continued to emphasize her ties to Trump (who had not made an endorsement in the gubernatorial race as of Friday) while joining in the social conservative pile-on in the primary. Blanchard has made a point of emphasizing her support for charter schools and her opposition to critical race theory, a framework for understanding the persistence of racism in America that educators have repeatedly stressed is not taught in K-12 schools. Blanchard has also said she would suspend the state gas tax and work to abolish the sales tax on groceries.
Blanchard’s campaign has been almost entirely self-funded. The candidate has put $5.4 million into her campaign coffers this year, while raising only about $52,000 from other sources. She has spent $8.6 million.
Tim James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, is mounting his third campaign for governor. He's made a play for socially conservative voters since the beginning of the campaign and has made attacks on transgender children the centerpiece of his run. In an echo of his father’s second term as governor, James has also said that Alabama must defend “Judeo-Christian values.” His platform also includes attacks on medical marijuana and opposition to gambling. James has called for the suspension of the gas tax and says he wants to abolish the state sales tax on groceries.
James has raised about $3.4 million this year and spent $4.2 million.
Lew Burdette, a former Books-A-Million CFO and president of a Christian nonprofit serving victims of domestic violence, is mounting his first campaign for office. Burdette, like other Republicans, is a social conservative who is pro-gun rights, anti-abortion rights and who criticizes Ivey over the gas tax and the vaccine mandates. But he emphasizes a focus on Alabama issues, saying he wants to work on improving education, mental health and prison conditions. Burdette also said he wants to improve transparency on campaign finance reform.
Burdette has raised $617,674 this year and spent $620,883.
Dean Odle, an Opelika minister, is running a campaign that claims on its website that the “political elite” are attempting to create a “New World Order … to strip away American sovereignty along with our Constitutional freedoms and create a world government through the United Nations.” A video on his website claims the federal government and tech firms have been taken over by “the communist left,” and includes conspiracy theories about COVID-19.
Odle has raised $122,342 this year and spent $102,159.
Stacy Lee George
Stacy Lee George, a correctional officer and former Morgan County Commissioner, is running on a conservative platform that includes calls for repeal of the gas tax increase from 2019 and encourages workforce development. It also includes a lengthy prison reform plan aimed at reducing overcrowding that combines sentencing and parole reform (including a requirement that the parole board have face-to-face contact with anyone up for parole) and a proposal to conduct executions by both lethal injection and electrocution simultaneously “to make sure the death penalty is quick and humane.”
George has raised $3,658 and spent $4,755.
Donald Trent Jones
Donald Trent Jones told al.com in April that he is the “yoga candidate” and got into the race after James attacked the practice in comments late last year. Jones runs a company that works to introduce yoga programs in schools and community centers, and told a Republican forum in April that “leadership starts with leading yourself.”
Jones has not reported raising or spending any money with the Secretary of State’s office.
Dave Thomas, a former state legislator and current mayor of Springville, is running on a mainstream Republican platform of gas and grocery tax cuts, gun access and resistance to federal policies, mixed in with a call to fully legalize marijuana in the state and tax and regulate it.
Thomas has raised $8,836 and spent $2,941.
Dean Young, a longtime aide to former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, has adopted Moore’s platform, with an emphasis on public expressions of religious belief and opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and the Common Core curriculum. Young, like the other candidates, is also calling for reduced taxes, more access to guns, and says he opposes critical race theory in classrooms.
Young has raised $665,390 (most of it from a $500,000 personal loan) and spent $607,213.
Enterprise native Katie Britt, a former Business Council of Alabama president and CEO and longtime aide to outgoing U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, has emphasized her opposition to President Joe Biden and her support for abortion restrictions, restrictive immigration policies and bills targeting transgender youth in ads. Britt says she wants to promote job creation in Alabama through cuts to taxes and regulations.
Britt enjoys the backing of several key Republican groups, most notably the Alabama Farmers Federation, and has Shelby’s endorsement as her successor.
Britt has raised $6.8 million and spent $4.7 million.
Mo Brooks, who has represented the Huntsville area in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011, has long been on the far right of the party, calling for immigration restrictions and the abolition of the Affordable Care Act.
Brooks won Trump’s endorsement last year, but could not separate himself from the field amid heavy spending from Katie Britt and Mike Durant. In March, Trump withdrew his endorsement, the official reason being a comment Brooks made at a rally seven months earlier. Brooks later accused Trump of asking him to “immediately rescind” the 2020 election, which Brooks said he could not do. (Trump had not made an endorsement in the race as of Friday afternoon.) Despite that, Brooks' campaign has referred to the candidate as "MAGA Mo."
Through May 4, Brooks raised $2.8 million and spent $3.3 million.
Mike Durant is a Huntsville engineering owner and a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot who was injured and taken hostage during the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia in 1993, an incident that formed the basis for the book and film, “Black Hawk Down.” Durant has stressed his loyalty to Trump and his criticisms of Biden, particularly over last summer’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Durant has also espoused Republican positions against abortion and immigration and for gun access. The candidate has made relatively few public appearances during the campaign and declined to participate in debates with other Republicans.
Through May 4, Durant raised $10 million and spent $7 million.
Lillie Boddie’s FEC candidacy filing, dated May 2021, said that she did not plan to raise money and that she “mostly just want(s) my name on the ballot.” A letter included with the filing listing her reasons for running began, “There are some Alabamians who are in collusion with federal officials in trying to take my things. Don’t take my things.”
Boddie has not reported raising or spending any money.
Karla DuPriest, a business owner from Mobile, calls for job creation and steps to protect American trade, along with expanded veterans’ benefits and offering more private school options to families with schoolchildren.
Through May 4, DuPriest reported raising $4,350 and spending $2,091.
A California native, Jake Schafer’s platform calls for offering private school options to parents, abolishing the Affordable Care Act and defending gun access.
Through May 4, Schafer raised $3,768 and spent $3,667.
Steve Marshall is seeking his second full term as Alabama attorney general. Marshall, like other Republicans, has focused more on Washington and less on Alabama issues, joining statewide lawsuits over social issues, including abortion and public expression of religion. At a meeting in Washington earlier this year, he refused to call Biden the “duly elected” president of the United States.
Through May 18, Marshall raised just under $319,000 and spent $220,000.
Harry Still III
An attorney from Baldwin County, Harry Still has a wide-ranging platform that advocates pro-gun measures. Still also supports reorganization of the Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training (APOST) commission to address crime and improve public trust, along with the creation of a “go-team” to investigate officer-involved shootings. Still’s platform also calls for replacing Alabama’s 1901 Constitution, which he calls unwieldy, and for boosts to the attorney general office’s Public Integrity Unit, which investigates public corruption.
Through May 9, Still had raised $11,782 and spent $8,034.
Secretary of State
A state representative and former Pike County probate judge, Wes Allen’s platform is against early voting, no excuse absentee ballots, and curbside voting.
Christian Horn, a former college football player, says he would fight “fraud,” support the state’s voter ID laws, and try to promote Alabama’s election system to other states.
Ed Packard, who served as an official in the Elections Division of the Office of Secretary of State, emphasizes his experience and says he would prioritize election audits and protection of the personal data of voters.
Jim Zeigler, the outgoing State Auditor, opposes efforts to create early voting and voting by mail, and says he would support the voter ID system.
Stan Cooke, a pastor who has run for several state offices, is emphasizing the state auditor’s ability to appoint registrars, tying it to falsehoods claiming voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Rusty Glover, a former state senator, also emphasizes the role of the state auditor’s ability to appoint registrars, citing “the importance of having secure ballots on Election Day.”
Andrew Sorrell, a state representative from Muscle Shoals, also emphasizes the electoral parts of the auditor’s job, though he also says he wants to expand the powers of the office beyond property tracking and restore powers to the office taken from it by the Legislature.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or email@example.com. Updated at 6:31 p.m. on Nov. 6 to delete language that said Harry Still was anti-environmental regulation. Still's campaign website, accessed through the Wayback Machine, part of the Internet Archive, said "Burdensome and complicated new environmental regulations are not part of a solution to move Alabama forward. We have every environmental regulation we need to protect our precious landscapes and waterways already in place. Like many issues that come under the umbrella of the Attorney General's office, environmental investigation and enforcement should be a higher priority and shall be under my direction."
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama Republican candidates seeking statewide, US offices