House shakeup: 7 incumbents lose, 3 forced to runoffs

House shakeup: 7 incumbents lose,  3 forced to runoffs

By MADDISON BOOTH and MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

An embattled state lawmaker who in 2020 celebrated the birthday of a KKK founder was one of several Alabama House incumbents to lose a primary contest Tuesday. Others were forced into June runoffs, according to unofficial results from the Alabama Secretary of State.

Nearly two dozen incumbents on both sides of the aisle had primary challengers. Meanwhile, another 21 of the chamber’s 105 seats are open this election cycle. Here’s an update on some of the high-profile races.

In House District 88, Prattville City Council President Jerry Starnes challenged incumbent Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, and came out on top. About 61.94% of voters cast their vote for Starnes. Dismukes, a pastor and businessman, has faced a lot of controversy during his time in the State House. In 2020, some lawmakers and citizens called for his resignation after he posted a picture on Facebook of himself attending a birthday celebration for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a known Confederate General and KKK leader. Dismukes also pleaded not guilty to felony theft charges last year. He was accused of stealing from his former employer, Weiss Flooring.

Starnes currently serves as Autauga County’s Probation and Parole District Manager and a lieutenant colonel in the Alabama Army National Guard. He, like Dismukes, is a Prattville native.

In Jackson County’s House District 23, incumbent Rep. Tommy Hanes, elected in 2014, appears to have narrowly lost to Mike Kirkland, a 30-year Vulcan Materials employee and civic leader in Northeast Alabama. Kirkland had 51.59% of the vote.

In House District 7, Lawrence County native Earnie Yarbrough appears to have gotten about 54% of the vote, edging out first-term incumbent Rep. Proncey Robertson, R-Mt. Hope.

In House District 28, former state Rep. Mack Butler, who ran for state Senate in 2018, appeared to edge out incumbent Rep. Gil Isbell, R-Gadsden, with 51.98% of the vote.

In House District 45, GOP challenger Susan Dubose had a commanding lead over incumbent Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds. Dubose had nearly 75% of the vote.

In House District 72, Democrat Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro,  a lawmaker since 2005, appeared to lose Tuesday to challenger Curtis Travis, who had 52.68% of the vote.

In House District 94 in Baldwin County, long-time lawmaker Rep. Joe Faust, R-Fairhope, was ousted by challenger Jennifer Fidler, who received 63.21% of the vote.

Any candidate can ask for a recount in their race, but must pay for the cost, Secretary of State John Merrill said Tuesday.

Runoffs

In north Alabama’s House District 4, Rep. Parker Moore, R-Hartselle, appeared bound for a runoff. The first-term incumbent received 43.54% of the vote while challenger Patrick Johnson received 36.4%. Sheila Banister received 20.07%.

In House District 14, two-term incumbent Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, appeared headed to a runoff with Morgan County business owner Tom Fredricks. They had about 47% and 36% of the votes in a three-man primary. Fredricks is not new to campaigns, having previously run for the seat currently held by Rep. Parker Moore.

In House District 55 in Jefferson County, incumbent Rep. Rod Scott looked runoff bound, but a significant portion of precincts in that county hadn’t reported as of early Wednesday morning, according to the Secretary of State site. In the five-person contest, Scott had 25.55% of votes, followed by Fred “Coach” Plump with 22.34%.

In southern Jefferson County’s House District 56, there will be a run-off between two of the Democratic candidates. Ontario Tillman received the most votes, 44.20%,, but having not earned over 50%, he will face Tereshia Huffman again. She received 20.25% of votes. Tillman is a Bessemer native and has been both an educator and a basketball coach in various Bessemer City schools. He has been an attorney for the past nine years. Huffman was previously a Community Organizer for Alabama’s District 60. She also did local work in infrastructure projects and child advocacy. Currently, Huffman serves on the Birmingham Water Works Board.

Open Seats

In North Alabama’s House District 2, currently held by retiring Rep. Lynn Greer, the race was extremely close and headed to a runoff. Republicans Jason Spencer Black and Kimberly Butler came within five votes of each other, with Black receiving 30.99% of votes and Butler receiving 30.94%. Ben Harrison was not far ahead with 32.87% of votes. Terrance Irelan received only 5.19%. Black is a former Limestone County commissioner. Butler owns a photography business in Florence.

In Walker County’s House District 13, vacated last year by Rep. Connie Rowe, Republican Matt Woods snagged the win against competitors Greg Barnes, Keith Davis, Christopher Dozier and Charles Waits. Woods has been working for his family’s local business, Jasper Auto Sales, since graduating from college. Aside from the many boards and civic groups he is a part of in Walker County, Woods also serves as president of a local non-profit organization, Hope After Loss Organization (HALO), which was started by his wife.

In House District 20 in Madison County, Republican James Lomax came out on top with 43.92% of votes, but still not enough to avoid a runoff. Frances Taylor earned the votes to face Lomax in that runoff, earning 26.08% of votes. Other challengers included James D. Brown and Angela McClure.

Taylor is chairman of the board of trustees for the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind and works as a defense contractor. Lomax works for a real estate investment trust fund in Huntsville and is also very active in his community.

In House District 29, which includes portions of Etowah and Calhoun counties, Republicans Mark Gidley and Jamie Grant fought a tight battle. Early results show Gidley on top with 50.52% of votes. Gidley is a minister, and Grant serves as an Etowah County Commissioner.

In House District 54 in Birmingham, Democrat Rep. Neil Rafferty held onto his seat against Orange Beach native Brit Blalock and former Birmingham City School Board member Edward Maddox. According to early vote counts, Rafferty received 59.48% of the vote, but not all of Jefferson County’s precincts had reported as of late Tuesday.

Rafferty is a one-term incumbent. House District 54 is a presumably Democratic district that makes up parts of downtown and the eastside of Birmingham. Back in 2018, Rafferty won the Democratic primary runoff with 67% of the vote. 

In House District 64 in central Baldwin County, Republican Donna Givens seems to have prevailed against challenger Angelo Jacob Fermo with 51.67% of votes. Givens is retired from a 47-year career with Baldwin EMC. She has maintained strong community ties though, holding several positions in civic organizations in the area.

Alabama Daily News intern Mollee Breland contributed to this report.