With an open seat in House District 95 for the first time in three decades and another in House District 64 for the first time in eight years, the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation is certain to experience some turnover this year. But separately, Republican incumbents are also facing primary challenges in House Districts 96 and 94, while two-term State Sen. Greg Albritton has an opponent in Senate District 22.
Interestingly, women are running for four house districts in Baldwin County, and depending on how the results shake out, may flip the gender imbalance of the delegation, which is currently all men.
On the Eastern Shore, State Rep. Matt Simpson, a former state prosecutor, is looking for a second term in House District 96. He’ll appear on the Republican ballot alongside challenger Danielle Duggar, a Spanish Fort educator.
Duggar told Lagniappe she was running because she was disappointed with how state leaders handled COVID lockdowns, raised the gas tax and approved the Alabama Numeracy Act, a math tutoring program, rather than eliminating Common Core standards.
“We allowed our governor to rule by mandate,” Duggar said. “So she had emergency powers to close schools, to close churches and to force people to wear masks. There are abuses of power and violations of our constitutional rights to worship and to earn a living. They allowed big-box stores to stay open while they shut down mom and pop stores. It was a massive transfer of wealth from Main Street to Wall Street and we can’t ever let that happen again.”
Simpson said disagreements with political opponents and constituents come with the territory, but he’s proud of the work he has accomplished during his first term. Specifically, he pointed to the recent announcement that Novelis would build a $2.5 billion aluminum plant at the South Alabama Mega Site, legislation he sponsored creating the Baldwin County Mental Health Court, and improvements the Legislature authorized for teacher pay and education programs.
“I’m a bottom-up kind of guy when it comes to the government,” Simpson said. “I think our local leaders have great knowledge of their local issues and what they are facing and what they are seeing. I believe we should be advocates for our local leaders as opposed to mandates from the top down. This role is a difficult job and at times you have to make difficult decisions, but I’m always putting Baldwin County citizens of District 96 first.”
Moving southward, former Fairhope Public Works Director Jennifer Fidler is attempting to unseat State Rep. Joe Faust, who has represented House District 94 since 2004. At a political forum hosted for local candidates by the Common Sense Campaign in April, Fidler told attendees she was friends with the incumbent, but she feels like “a strong local, more energetic voice for the people.”
Fiddler, a seventh-generation Baldwin County resident with strong ties to central Baldwin County’s agricultural traditions, said constituents are concerned about national politics and growth locally.
“We need someone new to represent the citizens of District 94 and serve as their conservative voice in the Legislature,” she said in a statement. “We need someone who will continue to work to protect our waterways, and understands the value of private property rights and the importance of our agricultural farmland. I’m excited about the opportunity to stand as a new voice in the Legislature to represent the citizens of this district.”
District 94 includes areas south of Fairhope, including Point Clear, Barnwell, Marlow and Magnolia Springs.
Before his death from cancer last month, State Rep. Steve McMillan announced it would be his last year representing House District 95. He was initially appointed to the seat in 1980 and upon his death, was the longest-serving member of the Legislature. Three Republicans are seeking the nomination to become his successor. The winner of the primary will face Democrat Richard Brackner in November.
Francis Holk-Jones is a native of Foley who has practiced insurance in the county since 1979. She spoke highly of McMillan, adding she intends to be as approachable and accommodating as the former representative.
“I think customer service is a priority in any business you’re in, and I think of politics like a business,” she said, noting as a teenager, she served as a page in the Legislature. “I think by being a lifelong Baldwin County resident, who has been here through the good and the bad times, commitment and experience is something I bring to the table.”
Interestingly, Holk-Jones has raised more money this cycle than any other legislative candidate in Mobile or Baldwin County. While no other candidate has hit the six-figure mark, campaign finance documents indicate Holk-Jones has more than $300,000 in contributions, including a $100,000 personal loan. She told Lagniappe her donations are grassroots and the personal loan is another sign of her commitment to the seat.
Reginald “Reggie” C. Pulliam is also an insurance agent and a Republican, but that’s about where his similarities with Holk-Jones end. Pulliam, a native of Oklahoma and relatively recent newcomer to Baldwin County, said he was turned on to politics by the 2008 presidential campaign of Ron Paul.
“I’m like the black sheep of the Republican party, speaking out about things that enrich them,” Pulliam said. “If you explain the way American elections work to a 12-year-old, they see contributions and donations as a bribe. And that’s exactly what they are.”
Pulliam said he is self-financing his campaign and if he wins, he only intends to serve a single term in office. His platform includes ending the grocery tax, supporting a statewide lottery and gaming, getting the state out of the liquor business and legalizing marijuana.
“I don’t think we should have career politicians,” he said.
Michael Ludvigsen is a sixth-generation Baldwin County resident who lives in Fort Morgan. A retired computer operations specialist, he is currently a member of the Fort Morgan Fire Rescue team.
“It’s in my blood that I need to help,” he said. “When I look at a candidate I look at their character, what motivates them and how they make decisions. What I find somewhat unique in myself is that I’ll take a call, listen to the issue, work with a person and try to get problems solved.” Ludvigsen said he’s interested in legislating for more home rule for municipalities and counties in the state, rather than having to run issues such as annexations and landmark districts being decided in Montgomery.
Another open seat was created when House District 64 State Rep. Harry Shiver announced his retirement last year after two terms in the Legislature. Seeking the seat May 24 are Angelo Fermo and Donna Givens. Fermo is a retired 21-year law enforcement veteran and business owner in Loxley and Belforest.
“As a law enforcement officer, I have spent 15 years protecting the families of Baldwin County and was willing to lay down my life for your families,” Fermo said in a statement. “It would be my honor to protect our conservative values in the State House. I’m running because I believe in the American way of life and our children’s futures.”
According to campaign materials, Givens retired from Baldwin EMC in 2021 after a 47-year career, most recently as a government affairs liaison. She has held positions in numerous community, business and civic organizations in Baldwin County, including serving as chair of both the North and Central Baldwin chambers of commerce, and on the board of the South Baldwin Chamber and the South Baldwin Regional Medical Center. In addition, Donna was appointed to leadership positions on state boards by multiple governors. She did not respond to a request for an interview.
In the State Senate, Bay Minette’s Stephen Sexton is looking to unseat the incumbent, Greg Albritton of Atmore, in Senate District 22. The district was radically redrawn during reapportionment last year, and now covers portions of Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Monroe, Clarke and Washington counties.
Sexton is a retired Army chaplain and Iraq War veteran who is active in several civic and veterans organizations. A graduate of the University of South Alabama, Sexton indicates the foundation of his campaign is a “reduction of taxes on the hard-working taxpayers.” Albritton is an attorney with a private practice in Atmore. He is seeking his third term in the office.
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