State Sen. Slade Blackwell (R-Mountain Brook) added drama Friday to the final day to qualify for the 2018 election, switching from a re-election bid to the governor’s race.
Blackwell, who upset an incumbent Republican in the 2010 primary to win his seat, had been on track to run for re-election in District 15 but without fanfare, signed papers for governor instead.
His move pits him against incumbent Kay Ivey and four other challengers — Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; state Sen. Bill Hightower, of Mobile; evangelist Scott Dawson and Michael McAllister.
Blackwell, whose district includes part of Jefferson, Shelby and Talladega counties, could not be reached for comment.
Overall, more than 700 Republicans qualified to run for statewide offices and seats in the state Legislature, and hundreds more are running for local offices.
“Amazing,” was the one-word assessment of the party’s recruitment efforts offered by Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan.
Democrats across the country have been jazzed for months about early indications that the 2018 election might be a very good year for the party. That includes Alabama, where Democrats scored their most significant victory in years in December when Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in the special election to fill the Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Alabama Democrats not only will field a gubernatorial candidate —they have have two. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox are running, along with four lesser-known candidates.
Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley could not be reached for comment but told the Montgomery Advertiser that she was satisfied with the number of young and female candidates “That I think is a good sign, that we have new interest in people wanting to improve government, .in one way or the other,” she said.
The party also will have primaries for attorney general and secretary of state, and will contest offices for lieutenant governor, Supreme Court justice and state auditor.
Democrats also made some progress in recruiting candidates for the Legislature but still trail Republicans badly.
Democrats had at least one Democrat in 64 of the state’s 105 House districts as of Thursday evening. The party had not yet updated the list to include last-day filers, but those 64 districts already exceeded the party’s 2014 total by five seats.
In the Senate, however, Democrats fielded only 20 candidates as of Thursday night. That is down from 23 four year ago.
Lathan said she realizes that Democrats are optimistic after pulling off the upset in the Senate race.
“But the reality is, you look at primaries, we are having a ton of primaries all across the state. … We’re still an incredibly red state,” she said.
Lathan said the GOP is taking nothing for granted, however.
“We always take every race seriously,” she said.
But Lathan expressed confidence that the party would hold on tot he dramatic gains it has made in Alabama.
“Possibly, we actually might pickup some seats,” she said.