Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning. Sign Up

Democrat Lands’ House victory significant, hard to replicate

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In what marked the first net gain for Democrats in the Alabama Legislature in more than 20 years, Marilyn Lands, running on reproductive rights, secured a decisive victory this week during the special election to represent House District 10 in north Alabama.

Winning by nearly 25 percentage points and flipping the district blue, the race drew national attention and has been championed by Democratic Party leaders as a bellwether of Democrats’ prospects for future election success.

Marilyn Lands received 3,715 votes in the special election, and her Republican opponent Teddy Powell, 2,236.

Others, however, have cast doubt on whether Lands’ victory can be replicated. 

Leaders in the Alabama Republican Party have largely labeled the election’s outcome as a fluke, chalking it up to low voter turnout. Others, such as Jess Brown, who taught political science at Athens State University for 26 years, said the circumstances that produced Lands’ victory were wholly unique.

The election came less than two months after a ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court that essentially granted frozen embryos similar legal protections to that of children or fetuses in the womb, a ruling that saw in vitro fertilization services shutter across the state.

Lands, who earned 45% of the vote in a 2022 bid for the seat, leaned heavily into the IVF issue during the race, and campaigned on a platform of securing reproductive rights by not only protecting IVF availability, but repealing the state’s near-total ban on abortion.

Lands this week told Alabama Daily News she sees her victory as replicable, and predicted a strong showing for Alabama Democrats in the next state election cycle.

“I definitely think that in 2026, we are going to see more seats going blue; I saw that before this issue, but I think this issue is going to really play into what happens next, and will be a key factor in that,” Lands said.

“Just from how well this resonated on election day… it was wild how many people came up to me when I was at a precinct and hugged me. This is just something that the people want.”

District 10 includes some of the city of Madison, southwest Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal and some unincorporated parts of the county. Madison County that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976. 

Still, leaders of the Alabama GOP argue that the election’s low turnout, which was 14.5%, was ultimately what afforded Lands her victory, and not her campaign on reproductive rights.

“Low turnout special elections are hard to predict, and notorious for unexpected outcomes,” said Alabama GOP Chairman John Wahl in a statement following the election.

“It’s important to remember that only 14.5% of the population voted in this special election, and that is extremely low turnout when compared to a regular general election. Democrats got lucky yesterday, and the Alabama Republican Party is committed to taking this seat back in 2026.”

Attorney General Steve Marshall shared a similar analysis of the race.

“What I remain struck by is significantly low voter turnout, and I think if there’s anything that should be drawn from that, it’s a question of how do we energize people to be able to come out to a special election,” Marshall told ADN Thursday. 

“To the extent that people draw broad conclusions about what that means in the state, I think that’s misguided.”

‘That Alabama Supreme Court IVF ruling shook the tree on abortion politics’

Brown largely agreed with Republicans that Lands’ victory could not be perfectly replicated in the future. He did, however, say that the margin by which Lands won was not something Republicans could afford to ignore.

“I do think Lands’ victory, the margin of it, should cause Republicans to have some quiet conversations; they should at least take stock of what happened here,” Brown told ADN. 

“It seems to me what they need to be careful about is making laws (about) the right to life; when you get pre-fetus, you are playing with political dynamite if you start to be draconian about potential pregnancies. You’re playing with political fire.”

While the court’s IVF ruling will be two years in the past by Alabama’s next state election cycle, which Brown said made reproducing the exact circumstances surrounding Lands’ victory impossible, other state laws targeting abortion that go beyond the status quo could potentially produce similar results for Democrats in the future.

“As long as the Republican party, particularly in southern culture, was viewed as the party who protected fetuses in the last stages of gestation, all was well politically… but the IVF ruling suddenly disturbed all that,” Brown said. 

“I think a lot of Alabamians who sit in church pews every Sunday morning who view that last trimester fetus as a person, and want it protected, they do not view those embryos in that nitrogen at UAB as a person. I think the Alabama Supreme Court helped Marilyn Lands far more than you can realize, they may have even given her the seat.”

Lands did attribute the court’s ruling as having “energized voters to come out,” but didn’t discount what she said were her deep roots in the community as being a major factor in her victory, having lived in the Huntsville area her entire life. She also said pushing back against the state’s abortion ban would be her first priority once sworn in.

“The first thing we need to do is repeal our no-exception abortion ban, and I think we also need to provide a real guarantee to our families that they will have access to IVF, as well as contraception,” Lands told ADN.

“I’m going to go down to Montgomery and be a champion for women’s freedoms and reproductive health care, that’s my plan.”

Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Web Development By Infomedia