By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Alabama Republicans statewide and Republicans and Democrats across Alabama’s First District will go to the polls next Tuesday, July 14, in the long-delayed party runoff elections. The runoffs were initially scheduled for March 31 but were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social distancing will reportedly be in place at all voting locations within Escambia County, and voters are encouraged to wear facemasks to help lessen the spread of the novel coronavirus, which had afflicted almost 40,000 Alabama residents and claimed more than 950 lives in the state through late last week.
Only three offices will be on the GOP ballot next week: Unites States Senator; First District Congressman and a criminal appeals judge.
Tuberville vs. Sessions
In the race for the Republican nomination for the senate seat, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville will face former U.S. Senator and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Tuberville drew the most votes (239,173; 33.4 percent) in the March 3 GOP primary, while Sessions (226,675; 31.6 percent) finished a close second. The winner of Tuesday’s runoff will face incumbent Democratic Senator Doug Jones in November’s General Election.
Democrats and Republicans will vote in runoffs to select their respective party’s nomination for the First District Congressional seat, while is being vacated by Bradley Byrne. Byrne chose not to seek a fifth term in the U.S. House but finished third in the senate race.
Kiani Gardner, a Spanish Fort resident and biology professor in the state community college system, will face James Averhart, a retired U.S Marine who lives in Mobile and heads up a non-profit organization there. Gardner earned 22,962 votes in the March 3 primary, while Averhart was named on 21,022 ballots.
The winner of that race will face in November either Mobile County Commissioner and businessman Jerry Carl or former state senator Bill Hightower, who are seeking the GOP nod. Carl edged Hightower by a 38,359 – 37,133 margin in the March 3 primary.
Appeals court judge
Also on the Republican ballot is the choice of a judge for the Place 2 position on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Incumbent Beth Kellum, who was elected to the post in 2008, will face former Lauderdale County Commissioner Will Smith.
Kellum led the March 3 primary with 232,303 votes but did not win the required 50 percent to avoid a runoff. Smith drew 198,663 votes in the three-person race.
Thursday, July 9, is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot for the runoffs, and all absentee ballots must be returned to Escambia County Circuit Clerk John Robert Fountain’s office by 11 a.m., July 14. Absentee ballots that are mailed must be postmarked no later than July 13, and those returned in person must be delivered by the person who will cast the ballot.
Polls will open at 7 a.m. and remain open until 7 p.m. next Tuesday.
Note: Atmore News will not hold the paper for results next Tuesday evening. Results will be readily available online and on television election coverage.