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ALGOP Chair John Wahl says Republicans still have fighting chance in new AL-2

While Alabama’s newly-drawn Second Congressional District favors Democrats for the 2024 election, Alabama GOP Chair John Wahl said he still believes Republicans have a fighting chance to maintain control.

The new congressional district map was imposed on the state in October by a federal court, who in September rejected a map adopted by the Alabama Legislature that did not include a second Black-majority or near-majority district, as was requested by the Supreme Court. That request was made after the court had ruled that the state’s 2021-approved map likely violated the Voting Rights Act given that it had just one Black-majority district, despite the state’s Black population being enough to constitute two.

Speaking Thursday in Enterprise at a meeting of the Wiregrass Republican Women, Wahl said that while he believed the federal three-judge panel did not follow constitutional redistricting principles in selecting the congressional map, he still felt Republicans could eke out a victory in District 2.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat this: I think that this is a district that was purposely created to be a lean-Democrat district, I think that makes it very hard for a Republican to win,” Wahl told Alabama Daily News. “However, I also think that the Biden administration and the flawed policies of the Democrat party are going to have a lot of voters thinking twice before pulling the Democrat lever. I think that gives Republicans a chance in District 2.”

Under the new map, Congressional Districts 1 and 2 would see the most radical transformation.

A comparison of the map lawmakers approved in July (left) and the map imposed on the state by a federal court (right).

Previously encompassing just the southwest corner of the state, District 1 will now stretch across to Alabama’s southeastern border in Houston County. Much like the change in District 1, District 2 would go from encompassing the state’s southeast corner to expanding west to Washington and Mobile counties, and in the process, would see its Black-voting-age population grow from 40% to nearly 49%. According to election data, the new District 2 was also found to have voted for Democrat candidates in the past 16 of 17 elections.

Under the new map, Congressman Barry Moore, who currently represents District 2, now lives in District 1 and announced this week he will challenge Congressman Jerry Carl for the seat. To which Carl said, “bring it on.”

District 2, the new opportunity district for Black voters, has already seen three Democratic candidates file to run, and one Republican. The qualifying deadline is Nov. 10 and Wahl encourages more Republicans to consider running.

“A strong primary is healthy for everyone involved,” Wahl told ADN. “We encourage candidates, we like to see people engaged in the process. Running for office is a calling, and when I hear someone who wants to serve their community, I encourage them and say you have a voice. Sometimes that voice is the winner and goes on to be the party’s nominee, sometimes they just bring up the issues that are important to them or to their local communities. Through that, it’s a healthy process.”

Wahl went on to heavily criticize the new congressional district map, along with the three-judge panel who he argued had set out to create a second Democrat district as part of a “political agenda.”

“The Wiregrass was split in half, the coastal area of Alabama was split in half, these are communities of interest, and that federal court doesn’t realize that, they don’t realize how different the Wiregrass is from the coastal region,” Wahl said.

“Looking at those communities of interest and compactness should have been the priority instead of what they looked at, which was purposely creating a second Democrat district.”

Two of those federal judges – Terry Moorer and Anna Manasco – were appointed by President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019, respectively, whereas Stanley Marcus was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1985, and again by President Bill Clinton in 1997. 

Nevertheless, Wahl argued the judges had intentionally set out to produce “a Democrat outcome, not a minority outcome” in making its decision, and that he was still hopeful the Supreme Court would consider taking another look at the redistricting case.

“I think it’s important for us to call this what it is: a federal court using the legal process to forge a political agenda,” he continued. 

“That is problematic, and I hope that down the road we will actually get to argue this case on its merits before the Supreme Court. Even though the state did not get a stay, this case is still moving forward on the actual merits of the case.”

Wahl also laid some of the blame on the state’s congressional map being taken out of the hands of state lawmakers on the court’s instructions, who told the Legislature to create a second Black-majority district, or something “quite close to it.”

“I mean, what is ‘close to it?’” Wahl told ADN. “There was never a direct explanation of what they were looking for. How could the state comply with something that is not defined? And yet when they came back, they created a district that is not an opportunity district, this is a straight-up Democrat district.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has strongly objected to the map being imposed on the state, and had argued it to be an “unconstitutional racial gerrymander.” Marshall said his office intends on continuing to challenge the map, though it’s uncertain whether the Supreme Court will hear another congressional map challenge from the state.

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