BY: ALANDER ROCHA
With a special election set for House District 10 after the resignation of former Rep. David Cole, R-Madison, candidates – new and familiar – are weighing their options.
Cole resigned from his House seat on August 30 and pleaded guilty to a charge of knowingly voting at a polling place where he was not authorized to vote.
The district is one of a handful of competitive seats in the Alabama Legislature. Cole got 52% of the vote in 2022 to Democratic nominee Marilyn Lands 45%. Libertarian Elijah Boyd got 3%.
Lands, who announced her candidacy on Tuesday in a live video streamed on her campaign Facebook page, said in a phone interview Wednesday that she is running a second time because of the momentum her campaign built the first time around.
“We worked really hard the first time around, and we knocked on lots of doors and we had a message that resonated with people, and I think we can turn our people back out again, she said.
She also thinks she can make a difference. As a mental health professional, she said that the “state of our kids and the crisis we’re having in healthcare” compelled her to run again.
“There’s been a lot of things that have been on my mind that we could do something about at the state level,” she said.
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, backed her candidacy Wednesday, adding that he is confident in her ability to perform in a potentially competitive race.
“The Marilyn story speaks for itself. She’s a mental health counselor. She worked for Boeing. She worked for the airport. She has been engaged in a lot of civic organizations within the community. She is of the community that she’s running in. Now, people get an opportunity to see Marilyn and understand her story,” Daniels said.
Anson Knowles, who intended to run against Cole in the 2022 Republican primary, said that he’s still undecided. The Alabama Republican Party kicked Knowles off the ballot for previous work with the Libertarian Party.
Knowles, who had raised questions about Cole’s residency, said in a recent interview that the last election took a toll on his family and with three kids, he said it’s a difficult decision to make.
“I can’t run as a Republican. The GOP made it pretty clear they don’t want me,” Knowles said. “I considered running as a Democrat for a minute just because I thought that’d be the best way to make sure the Republicans didn’t win because I’m so mad at them for what they did to me the last time.”
Knowles said that he rejoined the Libertarian Party in February and was appointed to the party executive board in March. He said that he is currently focused on recruiting Libertarian candidates for local Madison County races and has his hands full with candidate training.
He said that ideologically, he doesn’t fit in with Republicans, Democrats, or Libertarians, but he is currently focused on building up the Libertarian Party’s infrastructure.
“I’m an independent kind of thinker, and so I guess it didn’t sit well – like when I was in the GOP, that was part of the reason what why I had so many enemies in there, because I’d call up their establishment for their crap, and the Libertarians, I’d call out their people for their crap. It’s difficult to tell the truth to people sometimes,” Knowles said.
Elijah Boyd, the Libertarian candidate for the seat in 2022, said he plans on running again, but that has to be decided by the Libertarian Party. He said he’s not ready to make any final decisions just yet.
“I’ve been the representative for the party twice now, and I think I’m the best to represent, but I’ll let the party decide that,” Boyd said.
Other people who have mentioned they may run for the seat are Republican D.J. Klein, a broadband business owner and former Madison City Council member who expressed interest in the seat previously. Klein wrote in an email that since redistricting, he no longer lives in the district.
“And I hear that’s frowned on these days,” he wrote jokingly.
Headmaster Jerry Reeder of the Whitesburg Christian Academy in Huntsville was mentioned by Knowles as a possible Republican candidate for the seat, but he said that was just a rumor.
“We are, in fact, enjoying the humor of this situation and the fact there are, indeed, many rumors flying about,” Reeder said in an email.
There may have been some confusion, he said in the email, because the principal for the upper-school, Robby Parker, was approached about running for the seat but declined.
Parker said in an email that he was honored to be asked, but “firmly believe [he is]where The Lord wants [him].”
According to a plea agreement, Cole decided to run for the House District 10 seat in the summer of 2021. The seat was held by retiring Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison. But redistricting that year moved Cole’s home into House District 4, represented by Rep. Parker Moore, R-Hartselle, an incumbent who was seeking his second term in the House.
The agreement said Cole contacted a friend, referred to as “H.S.,” and negotiated a $5-a-month lease at H.S.’s home in District 10. Cole later changed his voter registration to the address but only had mail sent there.
The deadline for qualifying with major political parties will be Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. The deadline for independent candidates and minor parties is Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023.
Republished with the permission of the Alabama Reflector.