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Democrats look to rebound in 2018 elections

With Alabama's 2018 primary elections less than nine months away, political season will soon be upon us.

At the state level, candidates are already announcing and campaigning for offices including governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and several more positions. Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that she would seek a full term as governor in 2018.

Although 2017 was not scheduled to be an election year, Alabamians will return to the polls for the Republican runoff for the position of U.S. Senate to fill the void left by Jeff Sessions after his appointment as United States Attorney General. Current senator Luther Strange faces stiff competition from Roy Moore in the September 26th runoff, with the winner to face Birmingham attorney Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee, in the December  12th general election.

While most polls show the eventual Republican nominee ahead of Jones, at least the Democrats have a strong candidate in the former U.S. Attorney. The same may not be true for other state races in 2018, as Democrats  search for strong candidates willing to face an uphill battle in Alabama politics, where every statewide position is filled by a Republican. 

A 2014 study by the Hill ranked Alabama as the most solidly red, as in Republican, state in the nation. That number one ranking has only solidified the past three years as Republicans carve away at local elected offices traditionally held by Democrats in places like Franklin and Colbert Counties.

Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay) has announced he will be vacating his seat in order to run for Alabama Senate in District Six. Morrow has held the District 18 House seat since 1990.While Russellville businessman Jamie Kiel has announced his candidacy for Morrow's House seat in the Republican Primary, no Democratic candidate has emerged.

Franklin County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman Eddie Britton says his party is focused on keeping the seat and will nominate a strong candidate.“It's very important to retain the seat especially with the way Republican leadership is going across the state,” Britton said. “From the governor to the speaker of the house to the chief justice, their criminal and unlawful actions have resulted in their removal from office.

“We will find a conservative candidate right to replace Rep. Morrow. There are several candidates considering it. People are tired of what the see in Montgomery. Alabama voters are taking notice that things haven't gone well the last seven years under a Republican super majority,” Britton added.

Britton believes Republicans haven't delivered on their promises and Alabama voters will take notice in 2018.

“We're excited about the possibilities and think it's about time people realize all the things the other party bragged about accomplishing just didn't happen,” Britton said.

Florence resident Brandon Willcutt, president of the Alabama Young Democrats, admits his party has been 'outmarketed' by Republicans in recent years. Willcutt and his organization are working to change that and they're starting with a grass roots campaign across all 67 Alabama counties.

“The Alabama Young Democrats are working on a 67-county strategy. We've visited 42 of the 67 already and have been successful in reviving three defunct county parties and helped get those back and running,” Willcutt said. “We've also seen several Young Democrat chapters spring up as part of that effort.”

Willcutt said he will be organizing an event in Franklin County this fall. Typically, these visits are held at a local restaurant where elected officials and local leaders are invited in an attempt to excite the Democratic base in the area.Another strategy is the 'Stronger Together' training. Willcutt said the Young Democrats have been through Birmingham, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, the Shoals area and Etowah County working to bring Democratic candidates up to speed on how to campaign in 2018.

“There are a lot of Democrats still on executive committees who aren't used to having to work hard to win an election. They just won the Democratic primary and pretty much were elected,” Willcutt said. “That has changed in 2017. Yard signs and hosting a fish fry won't get you elected anymore.“Social media, a good canvassing operation, a marketing plan including working the phones with a phone bank are some of the things a candidate needs. We're trying to spread that knowledge statewide and believe we'll find success in that. It may seem like we're fighting a losing battle, but we're seeing some small successes and victories that we think over the course of the next few election cycles will add up to some larger victories,” he added.

According to the Young Democrats constitution, membership is open to any Democrat age 16-40. To start a chapter, there must be at least five people within the county wanting to join. Willcutt said the state organization is there to help local chapters walk through the process.

Willcutt believes that Democrats need to stop being reactive in their message and become proactive in defining who and what the Democratic Party is about.

“I don't think taking the approach that everyone is created equally, everyone deserves equal rights, regardless of affiliations, is an un-Christian value. For the life of me, I can't put my finger on why having affordable health care that keeps you alive and keeps you from going broke is an un-Christian value,” Willcutt said. 

“Trying to work a job so you can feed yourself and pay your bills isn't an un-Christian value but we get demonized for those things as well. Taking back control of our narrative is something we're putting in place so we can effectively move our message forward,” he added.

For more information on the Alabama Young Democrats, contact Willcutt at bjpwillcutt@gmail.com.

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