Jeff Martin 2022

I had planned to write something light and fun this week, probably involving the antics of my four-year old chocolate lab, but then I was reminded that there is a runoff election Tuesday and some of you might need some prodding to go vote.

I’m not here to suggest how to vote or even who I plan to vote for. Do your own research, but I expect to see you with an “I Voted” sticker if I run into you on Election Day. Do keep in mind that you have to stick with the party you voted for last month; if you cast a Republican ballot in the general election, you vote in the Republican runoff, and likewise for the Democrats.

Voter turnout last month was dismal with only 23% making the effort. I predict less than 10% will show Tuesday to decide whose names will be on the November ballot. I guess the low turnout shouldn’t be a surprise. Less than 13% participated in the 2018 primary runoffs.

It doesn’t help that most voters probably couldn’t identify most of the names on the ballot, other than candidates Katie Britt and Mo Brooks for U.S. Senate. But it’s bothersome that 10% of the electorate will pick our elected leaders, including the high office of the United States Senate.

I imagine most people don’t even know the purpose of the State Auditor, Secretary of State or Public Service Commission. These, along with the Senate race, are the five statewide races still to be decided on the Republican ballot. Democrats will choose between Yolanda Flowers and Malika Sanders Fortier to determine the Democratic challenger to face Governor Kay Ivey in the November General Election.

Katie Britt is leading Brooks by double digits and last week received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump to replace her old boss Sen. Richard Shelby. But anything can happen in a runoff, especially if no one shows up to vote.

The most important races on the ballot, other than that of U.S. Senate, are two seats on the Alabama Public Service Commission. The three-member commission regulates the state’s utilities. Two of those members, Jeremy Oden and Chip Beeker, are in danger of losing their part-time job – and the $99,488.40 salary that goes with it – to political newcomers who say the incumbents have been too cozy with special interests and have not done enough to protect the Alabama consumer from exorbitant electricity bills.

Oden, a former legislator, has served on the PSC for the past decade and faces challenger Brent Woodall, a Florence attorney who served as chief of staff for Beeker, the other Public Service Commissioner on the chopping block next week. Beeker, a timber farmer, has served eight years on the PSC. He faces Robert McCollum, who wants to be a watchdog for Alabama citizens and has vowed to abolish the “sun tax” placed on Alabama solar consumers by the PSC under Beeker, Oden, and PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh. This punitive fee makes it almost impossible for Alabamians to financially benefit from using solar energy to generate electricity for our homes.

Jim Zeigler and Wes Allen will face off in the GOP runoff for Secretary of State. Zeigler is the current State Auditor but he can’t run for that office again because of term limits, so he is looking to remain on the government payroll by moving offices within the state capitol building. Wes Allen is a former Probate Judge of Pike County and was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2018. His father is a state senator.

In the race to be the next State Auditor, Stan Cooke, pastor of Kimberly Church of God in Jefferson County, received the coveted endorsement of the Alabama Farmer’s Federation. Cooke ran for auditor in 2018 but lost to incumbent Zeigler. He will face Andrew Sorrell, a first-term legislator from northwest Alabama who owns a textbook business and pawn shop, among other ventures.

The duties of the State Auditor include maintaining property inventories on all items owned by state government worth more than $500 and appointing one-third of the board of registrars. There has been a push for several years by some in the legislature to abolish the constitutional office because it basically duplicates some of the duties performed by the Department of Public Examiners.

Take time, research and vote Tuesday. In last month’s election, some races were so close they have yet to be decided. State Senator Tom Whatley of Auburn lost his race by 1 vote out of almost 17,000 cast. One vote can make the difference. Cast yours.