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Hartselle Enquirer

GOP leaders see county ranks swell

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Meetings of the Morgan County's Republican Executive Committee used to be rather small affairs. In the early 1990s, the meetings would have about 15 or so committee members and its slate of candidates was sparse.
Those times have changed, however, as local and state Republican leaders are looking at Morgan County as fertile ground for GOP candidates and voters.
"Now, we're up to having almost a full committee and multiple candidates in each slot," Executive Committee Chairman Clay Marlow said. "People are coming to visit (the meetings) much more. They are becoming more aware of being Republican."
This year, Republicans plan to field three candidates for County Commission chairman, three candidates for the district four County Commission seat and two for County Commission district three.
That's a far cry from 2000, when Stacy Lee George became the first Republican County Commissioner in the county's history. George defeated three-time incumbent and Democrat Howard Jenkins and his time on the commission has been tumultuous, with voters often being divided on party lines.
Revenue Commissioner Amanda Scott, also a Republican, was reelected in 2002. District Attorney Bob Burrell, who has been elected three times as a Democrat, made a switch to the GOP earlier this year.
At that time, State GOP Chairman Marty Connors said he thought Burrell's party change was the start of a trend in Morgan County, long a stronghold for Democrats.
"It's one of our best new fishing holes," Connor said.
The county's growing GOP seems to be on the tail end of a statewide trend. Alabama elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction in 1982, when voters sent Guy Hunt to Montgomery. Since that time, only one Democrat – Don Siegelman – was elected to the post. In 2002, Republican Bob Riley won Morgan County over Siegelman, eventually going on to capture the governorship.
The state's Republican trend is so strong, Alabama is usually written off by Democratic presidential candidates, who don't see it beneficial to spend campaign time or dollars here. Since 1972, only one Democratic presidential candidate – fellow Southerner Jimmy Carter – has won Alabama.
Marlow said the only downside to the increased interest is it pits Republicans against Republicans earlier in the election year.
"The bad part is now we're going to have to have a runoff," he said.
Alabama law requires candidates to have 50 plus 1 percent of the votes to avoid a runoff. The greater number of candidates seeking a post makes that harder to do.
Still, Marlow said the increased interest is encouraging.
"We're (Morgan County) one of the bright, shining stars in North Alabama," he said.

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