By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
A new poll shows Independent State Senate candidate Craig Ford leading Republican Andrew Jones by seven points.
The two men are running for the State Senate District 10 seat currently held by Sen. Phil Williams, who is not seeking re-election after two terms in the State Senate. There is no Democrat in the race.
The survey, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research and paid for by the Ford campaign, shows Ford leading Jones 47 percent to 40 percent, with 13 percent undecided.
Ford is currently a State Representative and formerly served as the Democratic Leader in the House. He cites long-running disagreements with the direction of the Democratic party and his own conservative positions as reasons for switching to run as an Independent now.
“I am pro-life, pro-gun, I have an A+ rating from the NRA, pro-military, I serve in the National Guard, I’m pro-family and pro-business. I think my record will show the people and convince them that no matter what party they are with that I am the right choice for District 10,” Ford said.
Jones defeated State Rep. Mack Butler to win the Republican nomination. He’s and is a small business owner and a fourth generation farmer from Cherokee County. He’s also stated that he has always been a lifelong conservative and upholds conservative principles of small government, low taxes, fiscal responsibility, and accountability.
Jones declined to comment for this article. However, a Jones campaign poll provided to Alabama Daily News shows the Republican with a two-point lead over Ford. The Cygnal survey found 69 percent favorability for both President Donald Trump and Governor Kay Ivey, and which is a good outlook for the Republican candidate like Jones.and shows that as many as 34 percent of Republicans voted straight ticket in 2016.This means that Ford would need to win more than 80 percent of the non-straight ticket voters if the same results were to happen this year in order to win.
Ford’s history as a Democrat could help him with those who tend to vote democratic and he says he expects for those who voted for him in the past will still show up to the polls. The survey estimated that Ford would take 71 percent of the African American vote. That could mean as much as two points on Election Day.
Viable Independent candidates are a rarity in politics, yet the Alabama State Senate has seen its share recently. Sen. Harri Anne Smith has run and won as an Independent after being punished by the Republican Party for supporting a Democrat for Congress in 2008. She is retiring this year.
Ford’s greater popularity and recognition of his name is a considerable factor in the race. According to the survey, Ford’s name recognition came in at 69 percent among voters while Jones is at 38 percent. Ford told Alabama Daily News that these numbers make him feel confident about the outcome and thinks his previous track record as a legislator will be what gets him elected.
“Election night is really the only polling that matters but these polls show the hard work we put forward in the campaign and voters like the record of my 18 years of being a legislator so now we are focusing on getting our message out there,” Ford said.
Even so, all of the counties within District 10 (Etowah, Cherokee, St. Clair and Dekalb) all voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, so the number of reliable Democratic voters from Ford’s past are far and few in between and even if he did get a few crossover voters who would vote for an Independent candidate, it still may not be enough to overtake Jones.
The Cygnal report also showed Ford’s name recognition being higher than Jones but also said that that is an advantage for Jones because it means he has room for growth and improvement, while Ford has already been defined which leaves little opportunity to increase his vote share.
Ford said he plans on doing a series of town halls in his district and hopes to debate Jones at least three times, or possibly more if Jones wants too, until the election. He also said he believes his base from when he was a Democrat will come through for him, but also hopes people from both parties will come out in support for his values.
During his time in the party, For called for Democratic Chairwoman Nancey Worley and Democratic Conference head Joe Reed to resign. Democrats all over the state have increasingly voiced the same opinion in recent weeks when Worley was re-elected as chairwoman, saying that the party needs new leadership if they want any chance of gaining seats in the midterm election.
Caroline Beck is a reporter living in Montgomery. Follow her on Twitter @CarolineBeckADN or email her at Caroline@aldailynews.com.