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Voters Tuesday decide who replaces Lesley Vance

One of the three Republicans vying to replace the late Lesley Vance as the Alabama House District 80 representative said some people he's talked to don't even believe the election is Tuesday.

Civil engineer James McGill said people even start arguing with him about it, insisting the election's not until March 1, when Alabama holds its party primaries.

If only 50 voters turn out to cast ballots this week, he'll at least be one of them, McGill said.

His opponents are Chris Blackshear, a Phenix City councilman who works at TSYS in Columbus, and Tommy J. Pugh, a Russell County school board representative who runs an insurance firm.

Pugh did not return calls seeking comment on the upcoming vote. Blackshear and

McGill said Pugh rarely has attended forums and other events to which the candidates were invited.

District 80 includes parts of Lee and Russell counties. Polls will be open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. EST in Phenix City and Smiths Station.

Russell County Probate Judge Alford Harden emphasized those times, noting that his county operates on Eastern time, so voters should not be confused by election notices based on Central time, 7 a.m.- 7 p.m.

Should no candidate get more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will coincide with Alabama's March 1 primaries, which may confuse voters again as two separate elections coincide.

Some voters wonder what would happen were Blackshear to win, as he cannot legally serve both on the city council and in the legislature. Blackshear said he would have to resign his council seat on April 13, after which the other councilmembers would nominate and vote for someone to fill the vacancy until the city holds elections in August.

Because Vance was just re-elected last year, the winner is to serve out the representative's term, which ends in 2018, Blackshear said.

Blackshear and McGill are well acquainted, as McGill also serves as director of special projects for the Phenix City-Russell County Chamber of Commerce. Blackshear called him a "great guy," adding, "We're both relatively new to this."

Both cited a common goal: to bring more industry and good jobs to the district.

Blackshear said he wants to lower taxes on small businesses and improve funding for the district's public schools. He also touts his conservative politics.

At age 41, he is 25 years younger than McGill, who's 66.

McGill cites his long experience as a former engineer for the Russell County Commission and as the chamber's special projects director.

He noted the district includes north Russell County, southern Lee County and the municipalities of Phenix City and Smiths Station. "I want to bring those four political entities together," he said. "Cooperation and unity is my big thing."

With the state facing budget shortfalls, Alabama has less revenue to spread among its counties and cities, so it's important that they work together, he said.

Though Pugh did not return calls seeking his perspective, his online campaign literature says he's a graduate of Russell County High School who took business administration courses at Chattahoochee Valley Community College and amassed 22 years' experience in the insurance business. He has served on the school board since November 2012, he wrote.

Blackshear said he has 22 years' experience at TSYS, where he's a director of account management. McGill has an engineering firm, McBride-McGill, but otherwise is retired, he said, freeing him to serve full-time while the legislature's in session.

So far no Demcratic candidate has qualified to run. One who tried was found to live outside the district, Harden said.

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