State Senate races include runoffs, 4-vote difference

State Senate races include runoffs, 4-vote difference

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

A GOP challenger had a four-vote lead over a three-term State Senate incumbent late Tuesday night, making the State Senate District 27 race too close to call.

Jay Hovey, an Auburn City Council member, carried Lee County, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State, over Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn. But possible provisional and overseas ballots were not yet counted. That would happen by Friday, Secretary of State John Merrill told Alabama Daily News.

A candidate can ask for a recount in a primary, but must pay for it. The district also includes portions of Tallapoosa and Russell counties, which Whatley carried.

Whatley spent about $1.2 million on the race, compared to Hovey’s $94,674, according to campaign finance records. The primary winner will face Democrat Sherri Reese in November.

In the 35-seat Senate, five incumbents didn’t seek reelection, creating contested races in those districts. And nine incumbents — seven Republicans and two Democrats — had primary challengers.

In the Wiregrass, Coffee County Commissioner Josh Carnley appears to have narrowly avoided a run-off for Senate District 31 with 50.2% of the vote. Long-time Sen. Jimmy Holley gave up the seat, creating a three-man GOP race between Carnley, state Rep. Mike Jones and Norman Horton. Jones had about 40.36% of the vote.

The district includes Coffee, Covington and Pike counties and northern Dale County.

In Madison County’s Senate District 2, State Sen. Tom Butler held off a challenge from the man who preceded him, former State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw. Interestingly, Butler also held the seat before Holtzclaw. Democrat Kim Caudle Lewis is on the November ballot.

In Senate District 11, which includes parts of St. Clair, Talladega and Shelby Counties, there is an open seat due to the retirement of State Sen. Jim McClendon. Republican Lance Bell received 73.12% of votes over Michael Wright. There is no Democrat running.

In Senate District 12, which includes Calhoun County and part of Talladega County, Republicans Keith Kelley, Wendy Ghee Draper and Wayne Willis fought for the seat long-held by Sen. Del Marsh. Draper won 39% and Kelley 35%, and will face each other again in a runoff. The winner will challenge Democrat Danny McCullars in November.

In Senate District 19, current state Rep. Merika Coleman had about 71.13% of the vote over fellow House member Louise Alexander. However, as of nearly midnight Tuesday, only about 61% of Jefferson County precincts had been reported. The seat is vacant because Sen. Priscilla Dunn did not seek reelection.

And in Senate District 23, former Sen. Hank Sanders and Selma native Robert Stewart appeared headed for a runoff to be the Democratic nominee for the seat previously held by Sanders and mostly recently held by his daughter, Malika Sanders-Fortier. In a four-person primary, Sanders received 44.51% of the vote and Stewart received 30.18%. Republican Michael Nimmer will be on the November ballot for the eight-county Black Belt district.

Other state Senate incumbents who fended off primary challengers on Tuesday included: Tim Melson, R-Florence; Randy Price, R-Opelika; Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook;  Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville;  Linda Coleman-Madison, D-Birmingham;  Greg Albritton, R-Range;  and Billy Beasley, D-Clayton.

Alabama Daily News intern Mollee Breland contributed to this report.