We are now less than two weeks away from runoff elections in the Republican primary for two state school board seats.
In District One, incumbent Matt Brown faces challenger Jackie Zeigler, while in District Seven, incumbent Jeff Newman faces Jim Bonner. Both Brown and Newman finished second in the March 1 vote.
Brown was appointed to his seat by Governor Robert Bentley last summer. Zeigler is retired educator of many years from the Mobile County school system. Newman is seeking his second term on the board and is a retired educator and former superintendent in Lamar County. Bonner is a retired instructor from Northwest-Shoals Community College.
District One includes a major portion of Mobile County and all of Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw and Butler counties. Zeigler lead Brown by 9,111 votes on March 1 and won both Mobile and Baldwin counties, the two largest counties in the district. Of the 92,189 votes cast district wide, 84.1 percent of them came from just Mobile and Baldwin. Zeigler got 8,320 more votes in Mobile than Brown did.
Brown won Butler, Conecuh and Escambia counties, Zeigler won the other four.
District Seven sprawls across most of northwest Alabama and includes not only the Florence/Muscle Shoals/Tuscumbia/Sheffield area, but includes portions of both Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties. In fact the largest bloc of votes on March 1 (29,837) came from Jefferson County. This was 32.4 percent of the 91,979 total.
Bonner won Colbert, Franklin, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Tuscaloosa and Walker counties. Newman won Fayette, Lamar and Marion. Bonner won Winston County by one vote, 1,879 to 1,878
While Newman trailed Bonner by 6,836 on March 1, 6,154 of these votes came from Jefferson, which was added to the district after Newman was first elected in 2012. Bonner ran for the state House of Representatives in 2014 and lost to incumbent Mike Millican in the Republican primary 67.6 percent to 32.3 percent.
Of course, a look at candidate financial disclosure info is always interesting and gives clues of how a race is shaping up. Of these four candidates, Brown was by far the one with the most money in his war chest for the March 1 election. He raised $99,000 with $25,000 from the Alabama Federation for Children, $54,000 from the Business Council of Alabama and $5,000 from the Alabama Farmers Federation. Zeigler only raised about $4000.
All candidates have now disclosed their finances through March 25. It is available on the Secretary of State web site.
Through the 25th, Brown shows no contributions from either BCA or the Alabama Federation for Children. He received a $450 in-kind contribution from the Farmers Federation. Aside from this, he only shows $1,550 in contributions.
However, info from the Federation for Children show that they have again tapped one of their super rich out-of-state donors for $50,000. This is from Alice Walton of the Wal Mart Waltons of Arkansas. (In the first election, AFC got $50,000 from Dick and Betsy DeVos in Michigan. Brown got $25,000 of this.) It is highly likely that the Walton money will end up being spent on Brown’s campaign.
By comparison, Zeigler shows having raised $7,200. Of special, interest is the fact that an individual who gave Brown $1,000 for the March 1 election has now contributed $1,000 to Zeigler for the runoff.
As of March 25, Newman had raised $1,000 and received $450 in an in-kind contribution from the Farmers Federation. Bonner is the candidate who leaves you scratching your head. He has yet to file any paperwork with the Secretary of State for this race, an indication that he has neither raised nor spent $1,000.
In 1994, my good friend, the late Judge John Crawley of Brundidge threw his name in the hat for a seat on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals as a Republican. He received one contribution of $100 which he returned and never campaigned at all. Very much to his surprise, he beat his Democrat opponent in the general election.
If Bonner wins on April 12, I will think of him as the second coming of John.