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Alabama Democrats enthusiastic, but can they win?

November 3, 2018
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FILE- In this Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 file photo, former Miss America Mallory Hagan, center, of Opelika, Ala., announces her Democratic bid for Alabama's District 3 seat. (Howard Koplowitz/AL.com via AP, File)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Hopeful after electing Doug Jones as U.S. senator and energized by their opposition to President Donald Trump, Alabama Democrats have more candidates running for statewide office in 2018 than they did four years ago — nine this year as opposed to six in 2014. Statewide races are on the ballot from governor on down.

But whether Democrats can pick off even one Republican incumbent in a deep red state is an entirely different matter.

No Democrat holds statewide office in Montgomery, and Alabama’s nine-member delegation to Washington includes seven Republicans. But starting with the race between GOP Gov. Kay Ivey and Democratic challenger Walt Maddox, Democrats are expressing more optimism than in recent years.

Here are some of the top races and issues to watch in Alabama on Election Day:

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Alabama hasn’t even had a lieutenant governor since April 2017, when Kay Ivey was elevated from the position to become governor following Robert Bentley’s resignation. That’s about to change.

Republican state Rep. Will Ainsworth and Democrat Will Boyd are vying to become lieutenant governor. The main job of the office is to preside over the state Senate.

Ainsworth was first elected to the Alabama House four years ago. The North Alabama resident billed himself as Christian conservative who will set a higher ethical standard at a Statehouse tainted by repeated scandals in recent years.

Boyd is a minister from Florence. He has made several unsuccessful bids for public office, including last year when he sought the Democratic nomination for the seat now held by Jones.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

The race to be Alabama’s attorney general features an odd dynamic — the challenger may have better name recognition than the incumbent.

Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall, an appointee who previously served as a county prosecutor in north Alabama, is being opposed by Democrat Joseph Siegelman, the son one of the best-known names in state politics, former Gov. Don Siegelman.

Marshall, 53, took over in February 2017 after Luther Strange was appointed to the U.S. Senate. He endured personal tragedy earlier this year when his wife Bridgette took her own life in June just weeks before the Republican runoff.

Siegelman, 30, is a Birmingham attorney who was making his first bid for public office. While many voters might recognize his name because of his father, they also might attach some unwanted baggage to it. Don Siegelman, Alabama’s last Democratic governor, served time in federal prison after being convicted in a bribery conspiracy.

CONGRESS

Six contested congressional seats are on the ballot, highlighted by the race for the District 3 office that represents much of eastern Alabama.

Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Saks is being challenged Democrat and former Miss America Mallory Hagan of Opelika as he seeks a ninth term in the solidly GOP district.

While Hagan has portrayed Rogers as being out of touch with voters after years in Washington, Rogers has cast himself as a solid conservative who supports the president on issues including border security and strengthening the military.

In other races, GOP Rep. Bradley Byrne of Fairhope is opposed by Democrat Robert Kennedy Jr. of Mobile in District 1, and Republican Rep. Martha Roby of Montgomery is being challenged by Democrat Tabitha Isner in District 2 of southeastern Alabama.

Eleven-term Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt of Haleyville is on the ballot in the District 4 of north central Alabama against Democrat Lee Auman, a camp manager from Union Grove. Democrat Peter Joffrion is attempting to unseat four-term Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville in District 5.

In the 6th District of metro Birmingham, GOP Rep. Gary Palmer is seeking a third term against Democrat Danner Kline, an early leader of Alabama’s craft beer industry.

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

Constitutional amendments about the hot-button topics of abortion and religion could help drive turnout on Tuesday.

Voters will decide whether to add anti-abortion language to Alabama’s 1901 constitution specifying that the state recognizes the “rights of unborn children.” The measure does not impact abortion access unless Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, is reversed.

The statewide ballot also includes a constitutional amendment regarding the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools and government buildings. The proposal would allow for the display the Old Testament laws in a way that “complies with constitutional requirements” such as being intermingled with historical documents.

Both issues could help bring GOP voters to the polls given the numbers of Christian conservatives who vote Republican in the state.

SUPREME COURT

The ballot includes two contested races for Alabama Supreme Court, including the top position on the nine-member panel.

Republican Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Tom Parker and Democratic Circuit Judge Bob Vance Jr. of Birmingham are vying for the office of chief justice.

Parker was elected to the Supreme Court in 2004. His campaign appealed to social conservatives and emphasized his hope of one day overturning U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as the one that legalized abortion.

Vance was endorsed by six former chief justices, including three Republicans.

In the other Supreme Court race, Birmingham attorney Jay Mitchell and Jasper attorney Donna Wesson Smalley are both seeking the Place 4 position on the state’s highest court.