Russell County voters head to polls Tuesday for primary, Circuit Court judge elections

benw@ledger-enquirer.comJune 1, 2014 

Russell County voters go to the polls on Tuesday to elect a Circuit Court judge and pick nominees in the Democratic and Republican primary elections across Alabama.

Probate Judge Alford M. Harden is projecting a 20 percent turnout in the county with 22,000 registered voters. Absentee voting has been very light and that trend is expected to continue at the polls.

With a primary election, Harden said voters must select a Democratic or Republican ballot to cast votes for candidates. If you want to vote for the Circuit Court judge, you must ask for a Democratic ballot to vote for David Johnson, a District Court judge, or April Lancaster Logan-Russell, a Phenix City attorney.

"They are running against each other as a Democrat in the local election," Harden said. "There is no one on the Republican side. That race will be decided Tuesday."

In a relatively quiet race, Johnson said he has been talking to voters but noted that not enough folks are fired up about this election.

"I think part of that might be because there is not a hotly contested governor's race in Alabama," he said. "It's been unusually quiet so far."

Johnson, 33, is trying to fill the seat being vacated by his father, Albert Johnson, who is retiring in December.

Echoing the same concerns as the probate judge, Johnson said he's talking to voters about the Circuit Court judge's race.

"If they don't vote in the Democratic primary, they will have no say in who the next judge is," he said.

On the campaign, Johnson said he has focused on his experience as assistant district attorney, an attorney in a private practice and a District Court judge for almost four years.

Logan-Russell was called at her Phenix City office, but she was unavailable for comment.

In other Democratic primary races, Russell County Commissioner Ronnie Reed is challenging incumbent state Rep. George "Tootie" Bandy of Opelika in District 83. Dolores Elias McTier Allen and Tim Simpson are seeking the at-large seat on the Russell County Board of Education. The winner will face Republican Amy Atkins in the Nov. 4 General Election.

On the Republican ballot, state Rep. Lesley Vance in District 80 is opposed by Mervin Dudley and Alex Balkcum. The winner will face Russell County Commissioner Tillman Pugh, who switched from a Republican to a Democrat when the Republicans seized control of the Alabama House in 2010.

In District 27, incumbent state Sen. Tom Whatley faces Andy Carter, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot.

Russell County Coroner Arthur L. "Pee Wee" Sumbry Jr., a Democrat, faces no opposition in the primary but will face Republican Lamar Sizemore, a retired nurse, in November.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor and Revenue Commissioner Naomi Elliott, also both Democrats, are not on the primary ballot because neither has any opposition.

Harden said polls in Russell County open at 8 a.m. Voters will need valid identification, which may include a driver's license, passport or an employee or school ID.

The probate judge said there also will be new voting machines. The optical scanners work the same as the old machines but they may be a little intimidating.

"They should not experience anything different from their previous voting experience," Harden said.

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