Susan Hightower and Margie Wilcox, the only women in a Republican field of five candidates running for Alabama House District 104, will advance to a runoff election Dec. 10 after they combined to earn nearly 74 percent of a paltry 3,535 total votes in a primary election Oct. 15.
The district’s total number of registered voters is about 38,800, meaning only about 6.7 percent voted for either Hightower or Wilcox. The other candidates, Ralph Carmichael, Nathan Davis and Charlie Plyler, combined to earn 915 votes. District 104, which represents a slice of Mobile County rich with business and residential areas, was formerly represented by Jim Barton for 13 years.
Barton resigned in August to become a partner in a Montgomery-based lobbying firm. Hightower, wife of State Sen. Bill Hightower, said she was “thrilled” to finish with the highest vote count, despite being forced into a runoff will Wilcox.
“In with five candidates to get 43 percent of the vote is almost unheard of,” she said. “While the overall turnout was low, my supporters are amazing and they are mostly friends and family and like-minded people reaching out to others.”
Hightower is the owner of children’s boutique Little Monkey Toes in Mobile and Gulf Shores, which has a separate online component and Wee-Exchange, a seasonal consignment sale that specializes in children’s clothing, toys and accessories. She employs about 20 people. She is also an associate real estate broker with Roberts Brothers.
“My main focus is to have a pro-business aspect particularly toward small business,” she said. “I also want to promote family values. The big, American family is under attack and the because the family is the foundation of society, of we lose our families we lose society. And as the mother of four children, I also realize the priority of a quality education and I think I have a lot to contribute to state government in that regard.”
Wilcox on the other hand, noted that she and Hightower actually have a lot of similarities on the surface and any undecided voters may want to look at personal achievements prior to the runoff.
“I like Susan and respect Susan and we are both conservative Republicans, but I have a lot more business experience,” she said. “I have almost 100 employees, I’ve been very active in the Mobile community for more than 30 years plus my work on the Mobile Chamber and Business Council of Alabama.”
Wilcox is a Theodore native who founded Mobile Bay Transportation in 1991 as an airport shuttle service and has grown it into Mobile County’s largest private transportation provider. In 2001, she launched Pensacola Bay Transportation in Northwest Florida and in 2007 she bought Yellow Cab company, which operates in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
Both candidates tout their emphasis on homeowner’s insurance reform, an issue that has been tossed around in Montgomery since hurricanes Ivan and Katrina in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
Hightower said she has been studying remedies alongside her husband while Wilcox speaks of the experience of losing her house in Hurricane Katrina.
Members of the Alabama Legislature receive a base salary of $51,696. The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Stephen Carr in a general election in Jan. 28. Because the next representative will complete the remained of the term vacated by Barton, the seat will be up for election again next year.