Two weeks before the polls would close on a special primary election that will likely exclude several of them from the general ballot, the nine Republican candidates for Alabama’s District 1 met on a single stage for the first time. A joint forum hosted by a coalition of seven republican organizations at West Mobile Baptist Church showcased a spirited and determined group of conservative candidates who seemed to share similar objectives, but displayed widely different personalities and experience.
Moderator Peter Albrecht of WKRG led the candidates through policy questions such as their thoughts on House Majority Leader John Boehner, the Syrian conflict, or immigration reform and personal questions including who they considered role models and what they would do if they had an hour with President Obama.
While dozens in a crowd of about 200 spectators appeared to be related to a candidate or otherwise already committing their support, after the 90-minute debate, several people were still undecided. One, Joyce Downey, said she was perhaps less sure than before.
“I thought I’d narrowed it down but I still haven’t made a decision,” she said. “There are two or three candidates I think may be better qualified, but I was impressed even by some of the younger people on the panel. I thought there was a lot of similarity in how they feel or what they believe and it was hard to differentiate or delineate between them. But it boils down to who has the basic conservative values, the passion and the energy to work for us.”
Downey said her final decision would probably be the result of “a lot of prayer.”
Semi-retired west Mobilian Constance Paulson said she was still on the fence between a couple of candidates.
“There’s at least two I’m leaning toward but some I know very little about,” Paulson said of the candidates. “I came to hear and see what they have to say. For me, I’m interested in their background and experience and who will best represent us in Washington.”
Democratic candidates Burton LeFlore and Lula Albert-Kaigler will meet independent James Hall and their Republican counterparts for another debate Sept. 17 at St. Paul’s Episcopal School. The Eastern Shore Republican Women will host the GOP candidates the following day at Fairhope Yacht Club.
The general election or a runoff, if necessary, is scheduled for Nov. 5. If a special primary runoff is necessary, the general election is scheduled for Dec. 17.