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ALGOP will hear 3 Legislative race challenges in Saturday closed meetings

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

The Alabama Republican Party steering committee will meet Saturday to potentially change the outcome of the May 24 primary election in Senate District 27 and hear other challenges in two Alabama House primary contests.

The meeting will not be open to the public.

The party on Thursday released information on the format of the hearings, including in House Districts 28 and 29, where ballot distribution errors in Etowah County have been documented.

For each hearing, parties will be given time to present their cases and answer questions from the committee. There will also be closing arguments and the committee may request additional information from parties.

Decisions will be made public after parties are notified. It was unclear Thursday when that might be.

The challenge in House District 2, in Lauderdale and Limestone counties, will happen at a later date, the ALGOP said.

In Senate District 27, three-term incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, lost by one vote to Auburn City Councilman Jay Hovey on May 24. Whatley’s father, Charles Whatley, filed the challenge to the party and a separate request for a recount in one precinct to Talladega County. That request was later withdrawn.

Whatley’s campaign argues that Democrats, encouraged by Hovey’s campaign, interfered in the GOP primary by voting for him. During the campaign, Whatley painted Hovey as a liberal. Hovey has said voters of the district have spoken.

Alabama law only prohibits party crossovers in runoff elections. Those who voted in the Democratic primary cannot cross over to vote in the Republican runoff, and vice versa. However, voters are free to choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries each cycle.

While there is no specific ALGOP bylaw against so-called crossover voting, the committee could vote to disqualify Hovey as a Republican candidate. Under Alabama election law, it is the parties who ultimately decide which candidates to certify for the general election ballot.

Depending on who the party sides with Saturday, the other man has one path toward Nov. 8, Secretary of State John Merrill told Alabama Daily News.

“The only recourse they would have is to run as a write-in candidate,”  Merrill said. 

“…If (Whatley or Hovey is) denied ballot access by the Republican Party, they cannot gain ballot access as an independent candidate, a Democrat or as a party affiliated candidate for any other party, according to the sore loser law.”

Separately, the deadline to register as an independent candidate has passed. Sherri Reese is the Democrat running in Senate District 27.

In Etowah County, two GOP House candidates asked for re-dos in their primaries after human errors related to the 2021 redrawing of district lines meant some voters got incorrect ballots on May 24.

In House District 28, certified results from the Secretary of State’s office show former legislator Mack Butler defeating incumbent Rep. Gil Isbell, R-Gadsden, by 219 votes. Next door in House District 29, Mark Gidley won with 4,014 votes against Jamie Grant’s 3,940.

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