Alabama House District #5 GOP Special Primary

There are three special elections today for state legislative seats across the country.  In Waukesha County, Wisconsin, Cindi Duchow will formally win election to WI State Assembly District #99, seeing as she won the Republican primary on September 1st in a race that was analyzed here.  There are also primaries taking place as part of special elections in both Alabama and Minnesota.

As I noted yesterday, I was hoping to post a more detailed analysis of both of those contests (see why, here).  But with voting already underway, here’s more of a summary and some key observations from the Alabama race:

The current composition of the Alabama State House of Representatives is 71 Republicans and 33 Democrats.  This HD#5 seat had been held by Democrat Henry White for two terms from 2006 to 2010, when a strong Republican wave after two years of President Obama’s first term carried Republican Dan Williams into office.  Rep. Williams passed away in July.

Mr. White ran against Rep. Williams last November and received 44% of the vote – he is also the lone Democratic candidate who will run against the eventual Republican nominee in this special election.  So while the GOP candidate will be favored to win here, Mr. White’s history in the district should make things competitive.

This district is situated in Limestone County in northern Alabama, along the Tennessee border, just west of Huntsville.  The centerpiece of HD #5 is the city of Athens, which is wholly located in the district and represents just under half its population.

Using GIS software, I created a map of HD #5, which appears below.  The black line represents the district boundary, while the red lines denote the “beat” lines, or primary voting districts.  The blue dots signify the location of polling places:

Alabama HD5 district map


There are five GOP candidates on the ballot today: Ronnie Coffman, Danny Crawford, Mike Criscillis, Jerry Hill, and Chris Seibert.  Mr. Coffman is from Elkmont, which is a small town in the northern part of the district (near polling place 401); the other four candidates are from Athens.  Mr. Seibert is currently a member of the Athens city council, and he defeated none other than Mr. Crawford to win that seat in 2012.  Mr. Seibert also ran for the area’s state senate seat last year and lost in a runoff in the Republican primary.  Jerry Hill has recently been a candidate for both Congress and Mayor of Athens.

In reviewing past voting results, it is clear that most of the votes in today’s primary will come from the city of Athens (polling place locations 101 through 106 in the district map).  Here is a breakdown of the vote totals by “beat” from last summer’s Republican primary:

AL HD5 2014 GOP Primary Votes by Beat

As I discuss here, my methodology is to review campaign finance reports to determine the number of unique contributors to each candidate, along with their address.  Since I’m looking to identify voting residents in the district who will vote and encourage their friends and neighbors to vote, I do not include in this analysis contributions from businesses, PACs, loans to the candidate, or duplicate donations from the same person.

CandidateNumber of
Contributions from
Number of
Contributions from
Individuals with
Addresses within
Alabama HD #5
Ronnie Coffman44
Danny Crawford6146
Mike Criscillis54
Jerry Hill00
Chris Seibert4237

In other elections, I have plotted the address of each individual contributor to provide a visual representation of the district; however to save time, I have included in the right-hand column the number of donations from addresses with zip codes that are either within, or adjacent to, HD #5.

For reference, here are the fund-raising totals, in dollars, for each candidate:

CandidateTotal ReceiptsTotal Expenditures
Ronnie Coffman$ 960$ 2, 087
Danny Crawford$67,095$61,669
Mike Criscillis$11, 342$ 9,380
Jerry Hill$ 0$ 0
Chris Seibert$31,536$30,397

Some quick thoughts:

  • I would be very surprised if anyone takes 50% of today’s vote and avoids a runoff, since it is usually very difficult to win a majority of votes in a five-candidate field.  Futhermore, because four of the candidates are from the same part of the district, which is also where most of the votes will be cast, it will be doubly hard.
  • If my methodology is predictive, than two candidates stand out for having a large number of individual donations from within the district: Danny Crawford and Chris Seibert.  Given their name recognition and previous experience in running for local office in Athens, I expect that they will be the two Republican candidates in the runoff.
  • While Mr. Crawford should enjoy unchallenged support from the northern section of the district, that area is less densely populated and there likely won’t be a significant number of votes cast there.
  • Based on several past campaigns, Mr. Hill appears to have a committed group of supporters; he’s the only candidate who made the ballot by collecting enough signatures, rather than paying the filing fee.  If turnout is really low, he could potentially sneak into the runoff, although I expect he’ll most likely wind up third.

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