A new political action committee devoted to issues affecting coastal Alabama has begun to make its mark on local races ahead of the June 5 primary election.
The Coastal 150 PAC, which started in part as a response to the state’s use of money set aside from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, is looking to strengthen South Alabama’s influence in state government by supporting candidates who care about issues affecting this part of the state, Executive Director Wiley Blankenship said.
“We needed to make sure candidates in southwest Alabama knew the real issues that impact us,” Blankenship said. “We’re a nonpartisan organization. We’re looking for the best man or woman [to speak to] the issues important to coastal Alabama.”
Coastal PAC, as it’s known, made donations to a number of area candidates from across the political spectrum. The PAC supported incumbents Margie Wilcox, a Republican running unopposed in the primary for House District 104, and Vivian Figures, a Democrat running against challengers Victor Crawford and Michael Cooley for Senate District 33.
The group also supported political veterans seeking a new office as well as some newcomers. Coastal PAC gave donations to Republican Jack Williams, who is running against Mark Shirey in Senate District 34, and Republican Stephen McNair, who is running unopposed in the primary for House District 97. The PAC has also contributed to Republican David Sessions, who is running unopposed in the primary for Senate District 35, as well as Republican Chip Brown. who is running against Matthew Bentley, Janet Brown Oglesby and Cody Dockens for House District 105. Another benefactor is Republican Willie Gray, who is running against Shane Stringer and Belinda Shoub for House District 102.
Blankenship said Coastal PAC picked a candidate in every local race except House District 99, but expects to make a recommendation in that race before the general election in November.
“We’re still evaluating that,” Blankenship said. “We’re researching to find the best candidate for that district. There is some thought that we wait until after the primary, when it gets whittled down.”
The Coastal 150 made the decisions of who to support following a pair of forums in which candidates were asked to answer questionnaires before being invited to speak to the group, Blankenship said. The forums, held on consecutive Mondays in April, featured state House and Senate candidates.
Coastal PAC is just one of many groups that have supported local candidates in 2018. A PAC made up of Alabama Power Co. employees has also been busy donating to a number of local campaigns.
Beth Thomas, a local spokeswoman for Alabama Power, said the PAC is funded through voluntary contributions from company employees. A committee of employees chooses which candidates to support, she said.
The bevy of candidates the Alabama Power PAC has supported so far includes both newcomers and incumbents. The PAC donated to former Mayor Sam Jones, who is running against eight other candidates for the Democratic nomination for House District 99. The PAC has also supported Gray, Brown, Williams, Figures and incumbent Adline Clarke. Clarke is facing Levi Wright Jr. in the Democratic primary for House District 97. The winner will face McNair in the general election.
Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education is another group that has made an impact on local races. The PAC promotes the issue of education, according to fair campaign documents.
The PAC has supported Jones, Williams, Gray and Figures and Sessions, as well as Barbara Drummond, who is running unopposed for the House District 103 seat.
Alabama Commissioners United, a PAC led by Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgood, has a mission to improve county and local governments through the support of well-qualified state candidates. The PAC is supporting Jones, Williams, Figures and Clarke.
The Alabama Hospital Association is also supporting a number of candidates on both sides of the aisle. Candidates supported by the AHA’s PAC include Jones, Williams, Clarke and Sessions.
The Alabama Realtors PAC has also been a major player so far. The PAC has supported Gray, Brown, Williams, Figures, Clarke, Drummond, Sessions, Wilcox and Republican State Rep. Victor Gaston, who is running unopposed in House District 100.