By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
The Alabama Legislature has 37 newly elected House and Senate members, a turnover of about 26%, going into the next quadrennium. Thirty-five of those members will be new faces in the State House.
But Tuesday’s general election, and the May and June primaries and runoffs, didn’t change the political make-up of the heavily Republican chambers. The parties swapped two seats Tuesday, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s office.
Democrat Phillip Ensler defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Charlotte Meadows in House District 74 in Montgomery County. The district was made more Democratic-leaning in last year’s redistricting process.
Ensler becomes the only Jewish legislator in the state and one of three white Democrats. Ensler thanked voters on Twitter late Tuesday.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who supported us and believes in a better, more equitable Alabama for all,” he said.
In the Wiregrass’ House District 85, Republican challenger Rick Rehm defeated Democrat incumbent Rep. Dexter Grimsley. Rehm’s campaign talking points included ending the sales tax on groceries and stopping the “indoctrination of our school children.”
And while Libertarians fielded candidates in multiple legislative races, the Legislature remains a two-party operation.
There will be five new Republican women in the House. Incoming Reps. Jennifer Fidler of Fairhope, Donna Givens of Loxley, Frances Holk-Jones of Foley, Leigh Hulsey of Helena and Susan DuBose of Hoover all picked up seats that previously belonged to Republican men. Yet, the overall number of women in the House — 20 — isn’t changing as other female representatives retired or sought other offices. In the Senate, there are now a total of four female senators, one less than previously.
After a slew of legislative retirements, bids for higher office and a few deaths, 22 of the 105 House seats were open this election cycle. In the 35-seat Senate, five were open. Meanwhile, eight House incumbents lost to primary challengers earlier this year. One Senator did as well.
Some the new freshman class come with legislative experience. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, is moving from the House to the Senate, where she replaces long-time Democrat Sen. Priscilla Dunn. And former Rep. Mack Butler, a Republican who left office in 2014, is back after defeating Rep. Gill Isbell, R-Gadsden. In that primary race, local officials later said some voters were given incorrect ballots. The ALGOP did not overturn the election results.
Voter turnout Tuesday was about 38.5%, according to unofficial returns from the Secretary of State’s office. Secretary of State John Merrill had predicted turnout of 45% to 50%.
Turnout was higher in the Tennessee Valley, Merrill said, in part because of the Congressional race to replace Mo Brooks and some State House races the people thought would be more competitive.
Those included State Senate District 2, where incumbent Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison, spent nearly $890,000, according to the latest campaign finance filings, to hold off Republican and Democrat challengers this year.
And House District 10, open this year because of the retirement of Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, now belongs to Republican David Cole.
In other parts of the state, Democrats narrowly hung onto their seats. Incumbent Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, squeaked by with 51% of the vote. And in Senate District 23, previously held by Sen. Hank Sanders and then his daughter Malika Sanders-Fortier, Democrat Robert Stewart won with 53.4%
There were 46 contested Alabama House races and 16 Senate races on Tuesday’s Alabama ballots. Here are the unofficial results from the Alabama Secretary of State’s office.
Based on unofficial results from Tuesday’s elections, and the May and June primaries and runoffs, this is the 2022-2026 Alabama Legislature:
(i) Wes Kitchens (R)