To Face Democrat and Independent in East Alabama Race Come November –
By Wayne Ruple –
HEFLIN, Ala. — In what was considered by some to be the lowest voter turn-out in 16 years for a primary in Alabama, a relatively unknown private investigator living in Heflin on the state’s eastern border came within 416 votes of upsetting the incumbent Republican Gerald Dial in state Senate District 13, a seat held by Dial for the past 36 years. Dial is 76 and says this is his last run at public office.
Only one in five Alabama voters cast a ballot statewide. Only 613,000 voted in the race for governor.
Overall, there are 3,035,690 registered voters in the state in only one of 13 states in the country with an open primary system. Registered voters do not have to be declared members of a political party to vote in that party’s primary.
In Senate District 13, which runs along Alabama’s eastern border, the counties include a portion of Cherokee, Cleburne, a portion of Clay, Randolph, Chambers and a portion of Lee county. The total population, based on the 2010 census, is about 132,777.
The area is mostly rural with little or no manufacturing and many find themselves driving across the state line into Georgia to find employment and good paying jobs. Many educators bemoan the fact that high school and college graduates from the district must move to other more metropolitian areas of the state to find jobs or move entirely out of the state in search of a better life.
Dial told the media that he expected a close race but he didn’t expect it to be as close as it was. He got 7,419 votes, 51 percent, compared to first time contender Tim Sprayberry, who got 7,003 votes, 49 percent.
Dial ran on his many years of experience in Montgomery which included time spent both as a member of the Senate and House since the 1980s. He began as a member of the House and went on to serve six terms in the state Senate. Running as a Democrat, Dial lost his seat in 2006 and in 2009 decided to switch to the Republican Party. He took back the seat back in 2010.
In numerous campaign speeches he stressed his seniority and his ability to stand up for and be the voice of his rural district.
Basing his campaign on a Tea Party platform, challenger Sprayberry said on his website, “I looked at all that is wrong with our government and society. I noticed that we expect our government to change the way it conducts business, but we fail to change the people who run our government. Thus, Democrats become Rinos (Republicans in name only) and continue doing business the way they always have.
“When it comes to government bigger is not better, and when it comes to taxes less is always the better. Excessive regulation stifles job growth,” Sprayberry said. “Just like a man who reports to work and is required to take a drug test, every person who applies for any type public assistance should have to take one too.”
Sprayberry said he wears the title of a Tea Party “Wacko Bird” as a badge of honor and on his campaign Website and spoke in favor of smaller, limited government, citing recent blood and DNA collection road blocks. He came for lower taxes, a long-time Republican mantra, saying “Far too many taxes are paid for independent surveys or slush funds,” so politicians can award grants to supplement their campaigns. He was for eliminating and aggressively fighting the creation of excessive regulation that stifles job growth. And he supported term limits and drug testing for anyone getting any form of government assistance, a common campaign tactic that political analysts recognize as a racist appeal.
According to records on file with the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, Sprayberry received a total of $169,080.65 for his campaign, with largest contributors Speed Pac, A Pac and A -Vote.
Dial has received $502,422.32 in contributions with largest contributors to date being AGC Pac, Alabama Bankers Pac, AlaPac, FarmPac, Innovation Pac, Progress Pac and Students First.
Now with the primaries over, Dial will face Democratic Party Contender Darrell Turner from Heflin in Cleburne County and Independent Bill Fuller.
Fuller is not totally new to Alabama politics. He is a resident of Lafayette and in the past has described himself as conservative against offshore drilling, the legalization of marijuana, school vouchers, civil unions and gay marriage. He is also a pro-life Second Amendment gun advocate who favors affirmative action and capital punishment.
He was formerly a five term legislator representing Chambers and Lee counties, having been elected in 1983 as an independent and four times as a Democrat. He was also chairman of the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee from 1994 to 1998 and served as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 1999 to 2000.
Fuller was appointed in July, 2000 by former Gov. Don Siegelman to serve as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Human Resources.
Heflin resident Darrell Turner will be tossing his hat into the political ring as a Democrat to round out the three way climb for the District 13 Senate seat. This will be his first foray into state politics and into a race that some political observers have termed critical to Democrats wrestling control from the Republican “Super Majority” in Montgomery.
“For years, I haven’t felt like I’ve had representation in this district,” Turner said. “We need someone in Montgomery who will look out for the hard working families and their values, support education, and most of all, represent the people of district 13 in an open, honest way.”
“As a business representative for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, Turner knows how to compromise to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs,” he says on his campaign Website.
“Compromise and negotiation are two of the things we’re missing in Montgomery right now,” Turner says. “For the legislators to represent the people, our voices must be heard and we must work together to find solutions. As your state senator, I will be sure my voice is heard.”
Turner says that the lack of cooperation and transparency in the current leadership is what leads to deals like the Alabama Accountability Act. That bill was changed dramatically in a closed, backroom deal and then passed through with no opportunity for debate.
“That’s not what the American government is supposed to look like,” he said. “We can do better than that.”
© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.