Qualifying starts Jan. 8 in both parties

Posted 11/8/17

Let’s clean out the notebook ...

This is a special edition, you might say, as a number of items were left over from the Walker County Republican Party meeting last week. To expedite things on a …

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Qualifying starts Jan. 8 in both parties


Let’s clean out the notebook ...

This is a special edition, you might say, as a number of items were left over from the Walker County Republican Party meeting last week. To expedite things on a busy news week, I will relate them here, starting with the most important news for candidates: We now have the starting and ending dates for qualifying, and they will be the same in both local Republican and Democratic parties. Qualifying for the 2018 elections will run Jan. 8 through Feb. 9.

Walker County Republican Party Chairwoman Linda Ensor announced the dates at the recent party meeting at Bevill State Community College in Jasper. A primary resolution was adopted by the county party’s executive committee that night before the main party meeting, as another party meeting is not expected next month, Ensor said.

Tim Bowen, the chairman of the Walker County Democratic Party, said Friday local Democrats are adopting the same schedule as the local Republicans.

All party qualifying in Alabama must end by Feb. 9.

•The county Republican Party’s candidate screening committee is still seeing candidates. “They have interviewed several,” Ensor said at the Republican meeting, noting Bruce Bennett is the chairman.

Bennett said the committee must interview any candidate who has not been elected on a Republican ballot. If one qualifies for the race, that candidate still will not be allowed to be on the Republican primary ballot until they have first been screened by the committee.

The next meeting for the candidate committee will be Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Jasper Public Library, starting at 3 p.m.

“It will be first come, first serve,” he said. “It’s very informal. We just sit around and talk. The committee asks you questions and we listen for your answers. We’re just verifying what your platform would look like if you had your own platform. We ask questions about that.” 

The committee then votes to approve or disapprove, and then the executive committee votes.

“In many cases it is just preliminary,” Bennett said. “If there are any problems, we’ll come back and ask you more questions.” 

Once cleared to be on the ballot, a $25 membership fee to the Walker County Republican Party will also have to be paid by the candidate to the party to be on the ballot.

“It think it is wrong to have a candidate on our ballot who is not even a member of the party,” he said.

•Among those who stood to say they are running as Republicans for office next year are Thomas McCarty of Sumiton, who is running for District 13 House seat; superintendent of education candidate Joel Hagood; sheriff candidate Steven Shaver; and, running for re-election, Circuit Judge Hoyt Elliott; Coroner Joey Vick; Probate Judge Rick Allison, Circuit Judge Doug Farris, Sheriff Jim Underwood, Circuit Clerk Susie Odom and state Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley.

•Elliott and Allison noted they had switched from the Democratic Party, with Elliott saying, “Ultimately you come to a realization people change and parties change, and parties aren’t what they used to be.” He said as a lawyer he has noted sometimes people stay in a relationship for a long time, thinking the other person will change, making them happier.

“But it doesn’t always happen that way,” he said. “That’s pretty much the way it was for me.” 

Ensor said, “I”m really glad you did change. I felt like you were conservative all along.” 

On Allison, Ensor said, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are. He works with you the same. He is a good fellow. I have been after him for years to change. I told him, ‘The only thing that is wrong with this is that you didn’t do this while I was chairman.’ He did it when Steven (Aderholt) was chairman.” Aderholt resigned as chairman this week, leading to Ensor to be appointed again as chairman

Both Elliott and Allison said they had been through the screening committee.

• In a related development, Ensor announced Saturday on Facebook that District 3 Walker County Board of Education member Bill Ed Gilbert has agreed to switch to the Republican Party.

Ensor said later that party officials had been in talks with Gilbert for several months about making the switch. She said that leaves District 1 county school board member Jason Rigsby as the last remaining Democrat in the county. Gilbert has had to deal with a family medical problem this week and, with his priorities in the right place, has not been available for comment. He did relay on a phone message earlier this week that he was asking for prayers for that family member. He is welcome to come back later and talk about it.

•The called U.S. Senate General Election will be Tuesday, Dec. 12, Ensor said. Hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. statewide. National Republican Committee member Vicki Drummond, who is also on the party’s state executive committee in Alabama, said there is a tremendous difference between the Democrat and Republican platforms. “Policies do affect the culture,” she said. “You cannot govern if you cannot win.” She said the Senate has 52 Republicans to 48 Democrats, adding the party cannot afford to lose seats.

“The (Republican National Committee) has always been totally impartial. We did not take sides in this primary at all. In fact, I would lose my job if I did, so I was not about to take sides. But now that we have a candidate, they are going to pump in $360,000 into the state and they are also sending staff down.” 

Efforts will concentrate on Huntsville, Birmingham and Mobile, and President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are expected to campaign in the state closer to Election Day.