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Figures, Dobson advance in Alabama's runoffs for new House district

Candidate signs for Alabama's second congressional district race sit outside a polling center in Montgomery on Tuesday.
Kyle Gassiott
/
Troy Public Radio
Candidate signs for Alabama's second congressional district race sit outside a polling center in Montgomery on Tuesday.

Updated April 16, 2024 at 23:40 PM ET

Voters in Alabama's new congressional district chose their party's nominees Tuesday in a race that could ultimately tip the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Shomari Figures, former deputy chief of staff for Attorney General Merrick Garland defeated Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels in the Democratic primary, according to a race call by The Associated Press.

Figures thanked his supporters at a speech on Tuesday night and said that he would employ "old school" campaigning techniques like knocking on doors between now and November in order to gain support.

"I'm enormously grateful for the confidence and the trust and the faith that the voters of this newly drawn District 2 have placed in me to represent the Democratic party in November," Figures said. "That is something that I do not take lightly, something that I will take with me every single day to make sure that we're giving everybody in this district a seat at the table, a voice in the conversation."

In the Republican primary, Montgomery attorney Caroleene Dobson emerged as the winner in the race against former Alabama state Sen. Dick Brewbaker, also according to a call by The Associated Press.

Dobson reached out to rural voters in the district saying she understood their concerns growing up on a cattle farm that her family has lived on for five generations.

"Making it as a farmer isn't easy," she said in a recent campaign ad. "It takes faith, grit and sacrifice, especially now in Joe Biden's America."

In the ad she attacked the president's immigration policies and blamed him for "skyrocketing" prices.

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Tuesday's runoffs came after no candidate in either party, Democratic or Republican, was able to secure enough votes on Super Tuesday to avoid a runoff.

A district drawn to boost Black representation

The newly drawn district lines came following a legal battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Advocates for Black voters in Alabama claimed the state's previous congressional map, approved by a Republican-dominated state legislature, violated the Voting Rights Act.

As NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg explained at the time of the high court ruling last year:

"This is a community"

Some voters, like Lisa Williams, who lives in Mobile, Ala., hopes the candidate who ultimately wins in November can put politics aside and do what's best for the district.

"It's an opportunity for whichever candidate to truly be a voice, to truly give a voice to a lot of these communities, Black or white, it doesn't matter. It's not a race thing," Williams said. "This is a people thing. This is a community."

Figures and Dobson now have about seven months to make their case to voters in a district that stretches from the state capital in Montgomery down to Mobile in the southwestern corner of the state and touches the state's border with Georgia. The new district is part urban, part rural, and has a Black voting-agepopulation of nearly 50%.

Figures, who was one of two candidates on his party's primary ballot, benefited from name recognition in much of the district, given he's from Mobile and his parents Michael and Vivian Figures served in the state Senate. Figures also worked for Attorney General Merrick Garland and in former President Barack Obama's administration.

Daniels, his primary challenger, was hoping his advocacy for tax breaks on overtime pay and his time navigating a Republican supermajority in Montgomery will appeal to voters.

Dobson, a political newcomer, set her sights on the district's rural voters saying, if elected, she would push for reduced federal regulation in the agricultural section. While she campaigned on tightening U.S. border policies, she also said she supports streamlining the farm worker-visa process.

Copyright 2024 Troy Public Radio

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Kyle Gassiott