A special primary election to fill the Alabama House District 80 seat left vacant by the death of Lesley Vance moved a step closer to a replacement Tuesday night with Phenix City Councilmember Chris Blackshear defeating two Republican challengers by a wide margin.
In unofficial totals from Russell and Lee counties, Blackshear won with 1,652, or 63 percent, of the vote over former Russell County engineer James McGill with 766, or 29.6 percent. Russell County School Board member Tommy J. Pugh was third with 171, or 6 percent, of the vote.
With Blackshear taking more than 50 percent of the vote, no runoff will be required to select the Republican nominee.
Blackshear said it's humbling to get the opportunity to possibly serve the residents of Russell and Lee counties.
"It's very humbling and I'm just looking forward to having the opportunity hopefully to serve the citizens of District 80," he said.
Probate Judge Alford Harden said only about 10 percent of the Russell County voters went to the polls. The Democratic Party still
has an opportunity to field a candidate to replace Kenicia Battle, who qualified to run but didn't live in District 80. If a Democratic candidate is found, that election will be held April 12.
To win the race with three challengers, Blackshear said he was able to expand on trust built since he was swept into Phenix City Council three and half years ago.
"I think it is a testament to relationships built over the years, trust built and reciprocated trust over the years," he said. "It didn't happen over night."
McGill, 66, said he called Blackshear after the substantial totals were counted.
"The people spoke," he said during a gathering at the American Legion. "They think young and youth can run society. I want my utmost support for him. Apparently I was not the candidate."
McGill said the legacy of what he brought to the campaign didn't mean anything. He's still hopeful in the two counties growing together.
"I want Smiths, Lee and lower Lee to grow together," he said. "They have chosen him to do that."
In the days ahead, Blackshear, 41, said he must get voters back to the polls to solidify what they started Tuesday night. He said the community has come a long way since 2012.
"I think the community needs to start realizing the positives we have," he said.
Vance died Nov. 3 at age 76 after an extended illness. He served the district for 21 years.