State school board member Mary Scott Hunter of Huntsville was elected to the board in 2010. Since then her name has surfaced several times when other elected offices have been mentioned.
In 2014 she stated that she might run for governor. Next it was rumored that she was looking at the Attorney General slot. When Jeff Sessions’ U.S. Senate seat came open she thought about jumping into the special election to fill it. Several months ago she announced that she would be a candidate for Lt. Governor in 2018, had a kickoff and started raising money.
Then last week she sent emails across the state stating her intention to run for the state senate in district 7, a seat being vacated by incumbent Paul Sanford. Here is part of this declaration:
“The people of my district know me as a fighter, as a wife, a mom of three children who attend public school, and a woman of faith,” said Hunter. “They have seen me tested and know the quality of my character. I love this state, and I love the place I call home, Madison County, Alabama. I’ve decided to enter the race for Senate District 7 because it’s where I can best serve the people.”
“I’m not a rookie in all of this, and I’m coming into this race with many allies and knowing where the snakes hide. There is much work ahead. I intend to use my experience serving on the Alabama State Board of Education to support efforts at all levels to improve public education from Pre-K through PhD.
I find it odd that she does not explain why she is abandoning her race for Lt. Governor. And the mention of SNAKES also seems odd.
Ironically, she has now come full circle since she ran for the same state senate seat in an open race in 2009. There were six candidates in the GOP primary. It was a very competitive race with only 619 votes separating the top four candidates in the primary. Sam Givhan was first, Paul Sanford second, Hunter third and Roger Richardson fourth. Hunter was edged out of the runoff by only 60 votes by Sanford, the eventual winner.
Sanford came from behind in the runoff to defeat Givhan and went on to beat Rep. Laura Hall in the general election.
Givhan is already a candidate for the same seat in 2018 and had $73,300 cash on hand at the end of July.
Why did Mary Scott hunter flip? Your guess is as good as mine. But common sense tells me it had to do with name recognition and fund-raising.
Hunter, Rep. Will Ainsworth and Senator Rusty Glover were the three announced Republican candidates until recently when Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh rolled out of the governor’s race into the one for Lt. Governor. She is a familiar face in GOP circles, having once worked for Governor Bob Riley, been executive director of the state Republican party and having run at least four statewide races for PSC, the first being in 2008 when she lost to Democrat Lucy Baxley.
Her last financial report filed with the Secretary of State showed $607,570 cash on hand and a recent donation of $20,000 from Drummond Coal.
The fund-raising leader at this point is Ainsworth with $1,031,731 in the bank. This includes a $500,000 contribution from himself. And rumors are that his family has the resources to assist his campaign significantly.
Hunter has done a decent job of raising money, showing a balance of $194,120 on her last report. And certainly better than Glover who only had $56,406 in the bank at the end of August.
But in a campaign against someone with Cavanaugh’s name recognition and Ainsworth’s bank roll, being a “decent” fund-raiser is not nearly good enough.
And the truth is, why does anyone want to be Lt. Governor these days? They have no power, sit on no committees, can not vote on any legislation. Right now we’ve been without a Lt. Governor for several months and no one has noticed.
Still, Hunter faces an uphill battle for SD 7. (In addition to Givhan, one-time Navy Seal Jeff Still is also a candidate for this seat. He had cash on hand of $15,577 the end of August.)
Unlike when she first ran for senate in 2009, Hunter now has a public record of her time on the state school board. And her involvement in the controversial hiring of Mike Sentance as state superintendent will be closely scrutinized. She testified twice before a legislative committee looking at the effort to discredit Jefferson County superintendent Craig Pouncey, was named in an internal report by the department of education looking at this process and is being sued (along with four others) by Pouncey.
And her biggest hurdle to overcome may simply be the perception that she is more “political opportunist” than political servant created by too many cries of “wolf” in recent years.