In one of the closest elections in Alabama history, State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) is moving forward with plans to challenge the results of the May 24 GOP primary election for Senate District 27.
On Election Day, Whatley, who chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, trailed Auburn City Councilman Jay Hovey by just four votes. After provisional ballots were tallied a week later, Whatley trimmed his deficit to a single vote.
The East Alabama district includes Russell, Lee and Tallapoosa Counties.
According to local reporting, Whatley edged Hovey six votes to four when provisional ballots were tallied in Lee County. In Tallapoosa County, three votes went to Whatley’s column while two went to Hovey. No provisional ballots cast in Russell County applied to the race.
Shortly after the provisional ballots were counted, Whatley’s campaign issued a statement to Yellowhammer News indicating that the senator would pursue an avenue to scrutinize the election results.
In the days that followed, the Whatley campaign submitted a request for a recount. In a letter sent to county probate judges and Republican Party officials on June 3, Hovey’s legal representation outlined their arguments against Whatley’s pursued recount.
The Hovey campaign’s letter reads as follows:
Last week, the Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) announced that its candidate committee would hear Senate District 27’s election contest.
In a statement released Tuesday by counsel representing Whatley’s campaign, the senator’s legal team advised that they had withdrawn their request for a recount and will instead work to ensure that “all Republican votes” were tallied.
Whatley’s allies have reportedly raised concerns regarding the possibility that Democratic voters crossed over to participate in the Senate district’s Republican primary election.
“In a primary election, there is no statutory provision for a recount, and one must be requested and paid for by one of the parties,” Whatley’s legal team noted in the statement. “Our team had a short time period to request a recount and did so to preserve our right. Unfortunately, Jay Hovey and his legal team sent an extensive letter objecting to all aspects of the recount, including objecting to its timing, objecting to the manner in which the recount would be conducted, and even objecting to what ballots would be recounted.”
According to his legal representation, Whatley remains “confident” that he will emerge as the eventual Republican nominee and earn the district’s nod for a fourth term of service in the legislature’s upper chamber.
“Rather than spending extensive time arguing with the Hovey campaign and its legal counsel, Senator Whatley and his team instead choose to move forward with the challenge brought by his constituents to ensure that all Republican votes are counted in the race,” the lawyers added. “Senator Whatley remains confident that he will be named the Republican nominee for Senate District 27 and will continue to serve the people of the district.”
The eventual winner of the hotly contested GOP primary will face Democratic nominee and U.S. Army veteran Sherri Reece in the November 8 general election.
Yellowhammer News will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates accordingly.
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL