GOP eyes North Alabama
Last Modified: Saturday, August 28, 2010 at 11:29 p.m.
In a well-publicized Republican push to take control of the Alabama House and Senate, party officials are turning their focus to “targeted” districts. And the bull’s-eye is centered on north Alabama.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard said he won’t give away the party’s election playbook, but he’s not quiet about the goal of controlling state legislative power.
Hubbard said the party has an eye on 15 or 16 targeted House seats and eight Senate seats where he said the demographics show a Democratically-held seat could become Republican.
Republicans need to add 10 seats in the House and four in the Senate to become the majority party.
The targeted list includes at least five north Alabama House seats and three or more Senate seats in the region. The strategy will likely result in lots of regional attention before the Nov. 2 general election.
Hubbard didn’t volunteer to provide a list of the specific targeted races statewide. He did respond when asked about north Alabama races on the list. He said they include House Districts 1 and 2 in Lauderdale County, Districts 8 and 9 in Morgan County and District 5 in Limestone County.
Targeted Senate seats include District 2 in Limestone and Madison counties and District 4 that includes Cullman, Lawrence and Winston counties, Hubbard said.
“Any open seat where the demographics show a Democratic seat could become Republican, we are going after,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard said when the party targets a race, state party officials “work closely with the candidates.” The extra attention includes providing money, marketing advice and sometimes media buying where the state party actually negotiates placement of candidate advertising and commercial time.
Republicans are not alone in their push to win House and Senate seats. Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham said his party’s approach may differ, though.
“Any seat targeted by Republicans, we will also target,” Turnham said. “But we also have others. Even if Republicans win several of our seats, we may win some of theirs as well.
“Whatever Republicans are doing, they are not doing it in a vacuum.”
Turnham said the deaths of several longtime legislators in recent years, retirement of others and some seeking other elected positions make the 2010 races different from most. One result is more open seats with no incumbent seeking re-election.
For instance, Rep. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, is leaving her House District 1 seat to run for the Senate District 1 seat of retiring Sen. Bobby Denton, D-Muscle Shoals. Two open Shoals seats are not typical.
Morgan County has two open House seats after the retirement of longtime House District 8 Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, and District 9
Rep. Ronald Grantland, D-Hartselle.
Turnham also pointed to the open seat race in Senate District 9, where former Senate President Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove, is retiring Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, is running for re-election but Democrats hope former St. Clair County Probate Judge Wallace Wyatt
will oust him, Turnham said.
Another race Democrats hope to take is the Senate District 7 seat that Huntsville Republican Paul Sanford won in a special election when Parker Griffith resigned.
Jess Brown, Athens State University political science professor, said both parties will likely narrow their vision of target races before November.
Money will be part of the reason.
“I would prioritize, putting protection of incumbents first, then going after open seats,” Brown said. “I would take on a sitting candidate only if I had a seasoned candidate to run in the race.
“That puts Paul Sanford’s race near the top of the list for Republicans who think, since he was just elected, the seat is theirs,” Brown said.
But Democrats also put the race near the top of their priority list. Brown said with former state Sen. Jeff Enfinger, who used to hold the seat as their candidate, they have a seasoned campaigner.
Two other north Alabama races also pit seasoned campaigner against seasoned campaigner.
One is the House District 5 race between incumbent Rep. Henry White, D-Athens, and current Athens Mayor Dan Williams, a Republican. The other is the House District 2 race in Lauderdale County between incumbent Mike Curtis, D- Greenhill, and Republican Lynn Greer, of Rogersville, who used to hold the seat, initially as a Democrat and later as a Republican.
The opposite is true in the District 1 House seat that Republicans are targeting. Neither Democratic nominee Greg Burdine nor Republican nominee Quentin Hanson have been elected to office.
For the two state parties, the goal is control in the House and Senate and targeting races is part of the process, Brown said.
Republicans have never held a majority in the state Legislature.
M.J. Ellington can be reached at mjellington@TimesDaily.com.