Finally, the endless ads on TV will cease, Richard Shelby will not pop up on your computer 50 times a day and in time the signs will disappear from the road side. In other words, this leap year Presidential primary is over and done.
And tucked away down the back of the ballot, somewhere amidst the seemingly thousands of candidates wanting to be a delegate for Trump or Cruz or Yogi Bear or someone, we found folks running for one of four seats on the state board of education. When the sun came up on March 1, there were 11 good folks running in primaries. But as the sun rose this morning, two incumbents had defeated their challengers and four contenders were moving on to round two of this primary tournament. This will be on April 12.
Here’s is how it all came about.
District One–This is the district beginning in Mobile County and winding its way up I-65 to Greenville and Luverne. Incumbent Matt Brown faced three challengers, Carl Myrick, Adam Bourne and Jackie Zeigler. When all 91,180 votes were tallied, Zeigler had 33,591 (36%) and Brown was in second place with 24,480 (27%) Bourne finished with 21,244 (23%) and Myrick with 12,865 (14%).
Zeigler is a retired principal from Mobile and is the wife of state auditor Jim Zeigler. This name ID gave her a huge boost. Brown had incumbency and a large advantage in money to spend. Financial reports from the Secretary of State web site show that Brown had contributions of more than $99,000. He got $54,000 from the Business Council of Alabama, $25,000 from the Alabama Federation for Children and $5,000 from the Alabama Farmers Federation.
By comparison, Zeigler only shows contributions of $4,007, largely from her husband. In fact, the combined war chest of Zeigler, Bourne and Myrick was only $20,687. Or to put it another way, three candidates spent $20,000 and got 66,700 votes while Brown spent $99,000 and got 24,480 votes.
The fact that Zeigler led Brown by 9,000 votes and that she won both Baldwin County (Brown’s home county) and Mobile County (where Brown ran third) obviously bodes well for her in what will be a very light turnout election on April 12. The winner faces Democrat Ron Davis in November.
District Three–This may have been the most highly anticipated “match” of the day as long time incumbent Stephanie Bell was challenged by Justin Barkley of the Birmingham area. This district includes parts of both Birmingham and Montgomery. Like Brown in District One, Barkley got strong backing from BCA, the Farmers Federation and the Alabama Federation for Children. While Bell only showed contributions of $14,347, Barkley had more than ten times as much with $158,000. Of this, nearly $120,000 came from BCA.
But those expecting a cliff hanger that went down to the wire, did not get their wish. Instead, it was more like Holly Holm vs. Rhonda Rousey. Over soon after it started.
Bell got 60% of the 108,734 votes cast. Bell will face Democrat challenger Jarralynne Agee in November. She has her work cut out for her.
District Five–This is one of only two seats on the eight member board that favors a Democrat. Ella Bell of Montgomery is the longtime incumbent and faced off against veteran educator, but political newcomer, Joanne Shum of Montgomery. There are not many voters per gallon in this vast district that stretches from Macon County across the Black Belt and south into inner city Mobile.
Bell rolled up huge margins in each of the 17 counties in the district. Choctaw County, where she was held to 82%, was her worst county. There were 78,451 votes in the race, Bell got 87% of them.
District Seven–If there was a genuine surprise at how the SBOE races turned out, it was probably in this district that runs from the shoals to Birmingham and includes all of northwest Alabama. Incumbent Jeff Newman faced challengers Jim Bonner of Franklin County and Rhea Fulmer of Lauderdale County. Newman is in his first term on the board and is a retired Lamar County school superintendent.
Bonner has run in Franklin County for probate judge, state senate and house of representatives. Fulmer is a one time county commissioner. Re-districting impacted this district tremendously by including a large portion of Jefferson County. In fact, of the 91,979 votes cast, 32.4% of them came from Jefferson County.
With all votes counted, Bonner led with 41,399 (45%), Newman had 34,563 (38%) and Fulmer garnered 16,017 (17%). Amazingly, Bonner has not filed paperwork with the Secretary of State which indicates he did not reach the threshold of $1,000 raised or spent that requires filing. The significance of Jefferson County being added to this district is that Bonner got 6,154 more votes here than Newman, which was just a few hundred shy of the difference between them in the entire district.
As in District One, there will be a runoff for this seat on April 12.
Of course, there are always things to mull over after political campaigns. In football we call it “Monday Morning Quarterbacking.”
What strikes me most is the lack of return the Business Council of Alabama got on its investment of nearly $175,000 in the campaigns of Brown and Barkley. And you have to include the $50,000 Michigan millionaire Dick and Betsy DeVos sent to the Alabama Federation for Children.
Maybe folks across the state are saying they don’t care for anyone meddling in their school business.