Reflections on primary election experiences

Published 4:36 pm Thursday, June 12, 2014

By Sen. Hank Sanders 

The Primary Election is now over. I can write about my election in Sketches. I refused to write about it while I was in the midst of it. I don’t think I even mentioned one time in Sketches that I was a candidate for re-election. I did not want to use Sketches for my election purposes. I did not want it even to appear as such. The Primary Election is now over and I can write about my election experiences in Sketches.

From 1986 through 2010, every four years I seriously debated whether I should run again. In 2010, I made the decision not to run and announced it publicly. However, so many people spoke so strongly against my decision, I was moved to change my mind and run again.  This time I did not even consider not running. We were having such challenging times in the Alabama State Senate and the Alabama Legislature in general, I would not even think of not running. I could not see myself leaving during such times. The Primary Election is now over and I can write about my election experience.

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I really appreciated having a contested election.  Many citizens do not understand my attitude on this issue. However, I believe that it is good for the people and good for me.

When a district covers 10 counties requiring travel some 145 miles from the northern most point to the southern-most point and well over 100 miles from the western most point to the eastern most point, contested elections are good for all. In between elections, we go where we are invited. During an election, we go where the people are whether we are invited or not. The Primary Election is now over and I can write about my election experience.

The other person running for Senate District 23 was Robert Green, a former Police Chief for the cities of Selma and Northport. He was terminated from the position of Chief in Selma and in Northport.  He ran for Senate District 23 four years ago and got about 30% of the votes. I did not campaign very much because I was concentrating on the Artur Davis vs Ron Sparks race. Artur had said that he would not appear before any African American political groups. I took that personally and worked hard to help him see the error of his ways.

Some said Green should not even be running. I disagree. Others speculated that I got him to run.  I did not. I said everyone has a right to run; that the position does not belong to me or anyone else; that it belongs to the people. I was glad he was running. I never said a public word about him during the entire campaign. The Primary Election is now over and I can write about my election experience in Sketches.

I did take Mr. Green seriously in this race. He started running very early. (I believe sometime last year in August). He visited every county and was campaigning full time. He was very determined. I still had many other duties to fulfill including Senate, legal and community responsibilities. I could not be a full time candidate or even half time candidate but I did what needed to be done. The Primary Election is now over and I can write about the experience in Sketches.

The new Senate district has two new counties that were not previously a part of it, Butler and Washington. The previous district only had parts of Perry and Lowndes Counties and now has all of these counties. There were changes in Clarke, Conecuh and Monroe counties. Autauga County was removed from the district. The only counties in the district that were not changed were Dallas and Wilcox. New territory means new challenges and new opportunities. The Primary election is over and I can write about the experience in Sketches.

I have noticed a powerful tendency in people to believe what they want to believe in spite of reality staring them in the face. There is a group in Selma/Dallas that has worked against me for so long until they will vote for anyone (or anything) that runs against me. Many of them really convinced themselves that I was likely to be defeated. I believe that I have done more for Selma/Dallas County by far than any other county. I helped bring in ten industries over the last decade or so; secured millions in funding for numerous economic development projects; secured millions for public education and community colleges; and provided a variety of other assistance.  Dallas County has the largest population of any county in the district. I always carry it in elections but it is always the county with the closest margin of victory. I don’t really concern myself because I understand the dynamics of race and power. The Primary Election is over and I can write in Sketches about my experience.

On Primary Election Night, I kept in contact with various counties. I will share with you the final vote totals of each county. I carried Lowndes County with 2,780 to 782 votes or 78.05 percent to 21.95 percent. The totals for Wilcox County were 3,293 to 1,108 with my carrying the county by 74.82 percent to 25.18 percent. I carried Marengo County by 1,407 to 706 or 66.6 percent to 33.4 percent.  I carried Dallas County with 5,874 votes to 4,783 or 55.11 percent to 44.89 percent, the very same percentage as 4 years ago. The Primary Election is now over and I can write about my election experience.

The next County was Perry which I carried by 3,403 to 810 or 80.77 percent to 19.23 percent. I carried Clarke County by 732 to 92 or 88.83 percent to 11.17 percent. I carried Butler County by 1,809 to 838 or 68.34 percent to 31.66 percent.  I carried Conecuh County by 1,914 to 619 or 75.6 percent to 24.4 percent. I carried Monroe County by 1,012 to 109 or 90.28 percent to 9.72 percent. I carried Washington County by 345 to 47 or 89.7 percent to 10.83 percent. The totals from all counties were 22,569 to 9,894 or 70 percent to 30 percent.  It was a powerful victory and I am thankful to all who helped forge the victory.

Elections determine who serves in particular positions. Contested elections force candidates to engage the people in the decision making process. Voters have to think and act thereby giving voice to their values and visions. I am thankful for this election experience and for all who participated.