Year-end financial reports indicate that in the Jan. 28 special election for Alabama’s House District 104, Republican Margie Wilcox has a wide advantage over Stephen Carr, her Democratic counterpart, but despite the margin, Carr is trying to take advantage of the primary election’s low turnout and has been forsaking many traditional, cost-incurring campaign tactics for good old-fashioned shoe leather.
Wilcox has raised $61,134 to Carr’s $1,845, according to reports filed with the Alabama Secretary of State.
“I’m glad Margie won actually,” Carr said of the Republican runoff, which pitted Wilcox against businesswoman Susan Hightower, the wife of State Sen. Bill Hightower. “It shows there was a decision made by a lot of voters that they weren’t quite comfortable with having a husband and wife team in office.”
But Carr said no matter which candidate prevailed, he knew he’d have a fundraising disadvantage.
“We haven’t asked for a whole lot, but early on we reached out to a few organizations,” he said. “It seems a lot is being invested into the 2014 election cycle already so there is not so much left for this special election. So we’re doing a lot of volunteer phone banking and trying to attend as many public events and we’ve been busy in that regard but the biggest issue is we lack PAC money or support from big organizations.”
Perhaps aided by the Republican supermajority in the Alabama Legislature, Wilcox doesn’t appear to have had the same problem and through November, had raised about a quarter of total contributions from political action committees or businesses within the state.
“It has been a challenge raising money,” Wilcox said, adding that she’s not encouraged by the fundraising disparity. “I think a lot of friends and business associates have come through for me, but you have to work for it. Ultimately though, it comes down to who can turn out their supporters at the polls and I’m hoping Republicans think it’s important to show up Jan. 28.”
Wilcox is a Theodore native who founded Mobile Bay Transportation in 1991, a business she expanded to Pensacola 10 year later. In 2007 she bought Yellow Cab company, which operates in Mobile and Baldwin counties. She currently has about 80 employees.
Carr led a nine-year career in the U.S. Army before being medically discharged and has been administering federal emergency relief programs since Hurricane Katrina. As the CEO of Carr’s Human Services Solutions, Inc., he recently completed the administration of a $9 million FEMA grant related to tornadoes that hit the state in April 2011, claiming he generated $29 million in resources with the money.
“Margie is a businesswoman with no government experience and I’ve done a great deal of working with agencies on a bipartisan basis,” Carr said. “She has accepted money from the insurance industry and union groups. If a Republican candidate wins this race, they’re hampered by what the supermajority wants them to do in Montgomery. The most important people to me are the independent voters and if they want someone to truly represent the people, I’m happy to give them that option.”
Carr said if elected, he would push back against the Alabama Accountability Act, which in an op/ed he wrote last month, claimed would remove $3,144,649 from Mobile County Public Schools, or as much as $239,000 from schools in District 104.
“The expansion of the AAA is not good for public schools and I wouldn’t expect someone like Margie Wilcox to speak against it,” he said. “In terms of being able to raise a voice dissent rather than roll over, if I’m not able to accomplish anything at least I’m able to be a voice of the people.”
About 8 percent of the district’s registered voters cast ballots in the primary runoff election Dec. 3. Carr said throughout the campaign process, he has been “baffled” by the number of voters who don’t know what district they live in or who their representative is.
“I share information with them and show them the maps and where they live and communicate about Jan. 28 and why it’s important,” he said. “If my campaign is not anything else, it’s making people aware that there is an election and there is an opponent. Turnout is a huge issue and it’s very sad so many people don’t even know who their local representative is or what district they live in. It’s almost as if all the noise in politics has pushed people away.”