The race for House District 102 is heating up, with less than a week remaining before the GOP runoff.
Satsuma Police Chief Shane Stringer and Citronelle newspaper publisher Willie Gray have both received endorsements ahead of Tuesday’s election, which will decide who wins the seat.
Gray received an endorsement from the National Rifle Association, state NRA director Art Thomm said. Thomm said Stringer has made public comments critical of constitutional carry in the past and the pro-Second Amendment group couldn’t support him.
Stringer apparently made the comments to a local newspaper roughly five years ago in support of permitting, as president of a national police chiefs association. He said he supports open carry and the Second Amendment.
Gray and his team are hoping the pro-gun endorsement helps his campaign, as he finished second in the three-person race in the primary election June 5. Stringer received the most votes, with 3,106, or nearly 49 percent. Gray received 2,810, or 44 percent. Belinda Shoub got 453 votes, or 7 percent.
State Sen.-elect Jack Williams has endorsed Gray in the race. Williams will replace Rusty Glover in District 34, after the latter’s failed attempt at lieutenant governor. Williams won the GOP primary over Mark Shirey, with 64 percent of the vote.
Shoub has since endorsed Stringer because of a number of factors. For one, Shoub said she was uncomfortable that it seemed Gray and Williams were running together. She also has reservations about Gray being publisher of a newspaper and running for public office.
“Shane has some really good thoughts about what he could do,” Shoub said. “He’ll give it his all.”
Shoub also questioned the NRA’s endorsement of Gray, saying she believed Stringer was pro-Second Amendment because of his work as a police chief. Despite her support for Stringer, Shoub said she’s willing to help out whomever gets in office.
Stringer also received an endorsement from Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran, according to a post on Stringer’s campaign Facebook page. In the post, Stringer wrote that he “couldn’t be more proud” to have the endorsement.
“It’s an honor to have the trust of a man who has been my mentor for so long,” he wrote. “He and I agree that Montgomery could use a little law and order.”
In a text message, Stringer said the endorsement means he has the support of law enforcement.
In a phone interview, Cochran said he had planned to stay out of the race because he considers Gray and Stringer friends. He changed his mind when he saw Stringer being unfairly attacked as an anti-Second Amendment candidate.
“He’s never been against the Second Amendment,” Cochran said of Stringer. “He hunts and is an outdoorsman.”
Where Cochran and Stringer agree, the sheriff said, is in the importance of permitting and background checks from a safety standpoint.
“Permits are not a violation of the Second Amendment,” Cochran said. “I strongly believe in permitting.”
With no Democratic opposition, Cochran will be re-elected as sheriff. He received more than 82 percent of the vote against GOP primary challenger Charlie Wyckoff.
As for the runoff, Stringer said he’s received a lot of support and “positive feedback.”
“The support has stepped up,” he said. “We’re continuing to go door to door and continuing the ground game.”
Jon Gray, a political strategist for Willie Gray, confirmed that Williams supports his candidate in the runoff. He added the campaign is not concerned about Shoub’s endorsement of Stringer, citing her election performance.
“I think endorsements are important if you get 25 to 30 percent of the vote,” Jon Gray, who is no relation to the candidate, said. “It’s not effective because it’s not 25 to 30 percent.”
As for Willie Gray’s campaign, Jon Gray said it has momentum and has also received positive feedback. After getting beat in June by nearly 5 percent of the vote, Jon Gray said the campaign has “redoubled” its efforts.
“We think we are in a position to win,” he said.
In the weeks since the June election, both candidates have done well in fundraising. In two weekly reports to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill’s office since the election, Stringer has raised S11,500 and $3,650 in contributions, respectively. Gray, on the other hand, has seen his war chest increase by $20,500 and $11,300, respectively, over two reports.