A roll of “I voted” circular stickers. (Getty)
With about a week left before the special primary election for House District 16, candidates in the crowded field are preparing to go head-to-head when voters cast their ballots on Sept. 26.
Five Republicans will compete for the party nomination, and if none of the candidates win at least 50% of the vote, a run-off for the two top candidates will be held on Oct. 24.
The district takes in Fayette County in north central Alabama, as well as northern Tuscaloosa County and western Jefferson County.
The candidate who wins — either with 50% in the primary or in the run-off — will face Democratic candidate John Underwood in the General Election for the seat in January.
Former Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, who assumed office in 2014, stepped down June 30th, to become the CEO of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce. During his time in the Alabama House of Representatives, he served as vice chair for Ways and Means General Fund, and was a member of several other committees.
South won House District 16 with 75% of the vote in 2014. He ran unopposed in 2018 and 2022.
A special runoff, if necessary, is scheduled Oct. 24. The special general election will be held on Jan. 9, 2024.
The special primary election for House District 55, which Rep. Fred Plump, D-Fairfield, resigned in May after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice, will be held on the same day.
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Occupation: Banker at Alabama ONE Credit Union. Before, Cox was a high school teacher.
Education: B.S., Agricultural Education, Auburn University, 2012; M.A., Agricultural Education, Auburn University, 2013.
Previous political experience/campaign: Fayette County Commissioner, District 1, 2021-present.
Fundraising: Cox has raised $47,544 and spent $38,185 as of September 15. Cox is the candidate with the most contributions from PACs, totalling $33,000 from 13 PACs. His largest contributors are Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education (AVOTE), a PAC affiliated with the Alabama Education Association, and the Alabama Credit Union Legislative Action Council. Each donated $5,000.
Cox said that it’s time for young, conservative Republicans to “step up to the plate and throw their hat in the ring.” He said that he’s passionate about public service, and he feels that his set of personal and professional experience will complement the position.
Citing his prior experience as a high school teacher, Cox said he wants to expand tech training for young Alabamians. By training young folks for high paying, tech jobs, he hopes to keep young talent in his district and in Fayette County, which reported population losses in the 2010 and 2020 censuses.
“As I’ve knocked on doors, met with stakeholders in the communities, it’s a lot of gray hair, and in a lot of ways, that’s good, but I think we’ve got to expand and grow our industry and job opportunities for people in this district,” Cox said.
He also said that infrastructure has been at the forefront as a county commissioner, which he said feeds into another priority for his campaign: business development.
“A lot of the time, rural Alabama kind of gets left out of the equation with funding and infrastructure projects. In my eyes, if we want to recruit business and industry to this area, we’ve got to have infrastructure,” he said.
Occupation: Retired munitions and ordnance specialist with the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.
Education: B.S., Public Administration, Samford University, 1994; Associate’s degree in munitions and ordnance from the Community College of the Air Force, 1998.
Previous political experience/campaign: First-time candidate for political office.
Fundraising: Fanin has raised $27,371, with $23,000 coming from Fanin. As of September 8, he spent $24,938.
As a retired veteran, Fanin said he has the capacity to put his focus entirely on serving the district. He wants to see an industrial park, an area meant to attract investment and create employment, and for continued infrastructure projects on U.S. Highway 43 and State Route 13, two of the major roads running through Fayette.
“We’ve got to have folks. We’ve got to have those roads widened. We got to or it’s going to be unsafe,” he said.
Besides infrastructure, Fanin sees workforce development as his district’s greatest need. He said there is a coal mine coming to Fayette county that has the potential to bring in a significant amount of jobs, and building infrastructure will support workforce development.
“We’ve got the jobs opening up every day,” he said. “We need infrastructure because our little towns and our communities are going to be booming.”
He said that to get these things done, the district needs someone who can dedicate their full-time to working in Montgomery, which he said he is able to do. He said that other candidates have at least one job, and asked, “when do you have time to do anything?”
Floyd Rodgers, Jr.
Occupations: Coordinator, Alabama Communities of Excellence for the City of Fayette, a program from the Alabama League of Municipalities, an association of cities and towns; minister; business owner.
Education: Technical certificate in quality assurance supervision from Southwest Tennessee Community College, 2010; Church leadership certificate in biblical ministry from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 2021.
Previous political experience/campaigns: Candidate, Fayette City Council Ward 2, 2020.
Fundraising: As of September 15, Rodgers had not submitted campaign finance reports.
Rodgers said that he often feels like the elephant in the room. People often tell him they don’t see many Black Republicans, and among his peers, he’s often the only conservative in the room. But he sees that as an opportunity to “connect with everyone, on every level.”
He said from conversations he’s had with voters, people are tired of the division in the community and are “fed up with the political propaganda in the mainstream media.”
“I’m very good at building relationships, and I’m very good at pulling the great minds of our community together to solve problems that we face,” he said.
Rodgers said that he started reading scriptures and studying the Bible during the time he served in prison on a distribution and possession of illegal substance charge. That’s why he makes it a point to travel to the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center and the Fayette County Jail to read scriptures.
“I’ve been there before. I’ve been to the place where I was homeless, you know, so I was homeless and helpless and hopeless. You know, so I know how it feels not to have hope,” Rodgers said.
Faith and family is one of his campaign’s priorities, and he said that children have been exposed to “way too much right now.”
“Our youth are getting exposed to things that they shouldn’t be exposed to, dealing with gender and they shouldn’t have to be exposed to things like that,” he said.
Many students, school staff, and LGBTQ rights advocates who opposed these curriculum restrictions say they could lead to incomplete lessons, to some students afraid to talk about themselves or their families in class and increase mental health disparities for LGBTQ youth, according to Chalkbeat.
“I was exposed to some things at a young age, and I know how important that is to make sure they’re exposed to the right things. And also, I know how critical it is when you’re exposed to the wrong things,” he said.
Occupation: Part-time police officer at Bevill State Community College, former law enforcement since 1995.
Education: Associates degree in General Education, Brewer State Junior College (now Bevill State Community College), 1982.
Previous political experience/campaign: Fayette County Commissioner for District 6, 2000-present.
Fundraising: As of Aug. 31, Underwood’s campaign raised $1,995.00, of which he donated $1034.68 for the qualifying fee, and spent $300, not including the qualifying fee.
Underwood, the only Democrat running in for the seat, said that communication will be key for success in the district. He said South, the former district representative, did “a great job” in communicating with both Republicans and Democrats. He hopes to continue that work.
Serving as a county commissioner for the last 23 years, he said he’s got the experience to work with both sides of the aisle.
“Between my jobs with law enforcement and the county commission, I think I can do that job. In fact, I know how to do that job,” he said.
Underwood said that economic development and creating stable jobs are his main priorities, and he wants to keep residents and revenue in the district. Underwood said local leaders must establish incentives for people to stay in the district, including adequate housing.
“if you can’t find a place to stay, I mean, you’re still gonna have to move,” he said. “So you’ve got to have stable housing. You’ve got to be able to afford where you’re living,” he said.
Underwood sees jobs and housing as his campaign priority, but he also believes district residents deserve more access to affordable broadband.
“If you don’t have a stable job, it’s going to be kind of hard to keep getting any kind of broadband or anything else,” he said.
Fundraising: As of September 8, Brinyark raised $36,950 and spent $16,257. Brinyark has accepted $14,000 from six PACs, with EDPAC as the largest donor at $5,000.
Fundraising: Simpson has raised $7,500 and spent $5,638 as of September 8. One PAC, BIZPAC, donated $1,000 to his campaign.
Attempts to set up an interview with Bryan Brinyark and multiple attempts to reach Mike Simpson were unsuccessful. Greg Lowery, who was previously a candidate, was disqualified because the state party’s by-laws prohibit a candidate from running on a Republican ticket within six years of seeking office with another party. Lowery in 2018 ran for Fayette County Probate Judge as a Democrat.
Tomorrow: A guide to the special election in House District 55 in Birmingham.
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