State Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, announced Tuesday that he'll challenge Sen. Jerry Fielding, R-Sylacauga, for the Republican nomination in Senate District 11, which stretches from the Sylacauga area westward into St. Clair and Shelby counties.
Shelby County resident and medical marijuana advocate Ron Crumpton said he intends to seek the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat.
Fielding, a former district judge who was elected to the Senate in 2010, said he doesn't mind a challenge from within his party.
"I know Mr. McClendon," Fielding said. "He's a nice guy, and I know we'll see a good, clean race."
Fielding said his focus in 2014 will be on creating jobs and promoting economic growth.
"My focus is always putting people back to work," he said. "Economic growth is good for families, it's good for the community and it encourages growth in the state General Fund, which has not been growing."
McClendon, a retired optometrist, has been a member of the House since 2002. In comments to The Star, he said he didn't run to take down Fielding, but to move up to the Senate, where he said he could better represent his community.
"Although a senator represents a lot more people than a member of the House, I think a senator has a better chance of getting things done for his district," he said.
McClendon said he'd campaign on the his record in the House. McClendon chaired the House committee that produced the Medicaid reform bill that was passed in the 2013 session. He was also sponsor of the bill banning texting and driving throughout the state.
"It took six years to get that passed," he said. "I think that shows some tenacity."
A primary race between McClendon and Fielding would have been impossible four years ago. Redistricting moved District 11 westward, taking in parts of Shelby and St. Clair counties that were new territory for the district.
Fielding was elected to his seat in 2010 as a Democrat, but announced a switch to the GOP late last year. He said at the time that he'd long been a conservative voter and was moving to a party that better reflected his views.
The Democratic hopeful, Crumpton, said he, too, has switched parties. Crumpton, a former landscaper who is now an undergraduate political science student at UAB, said he was once a Republican, but came to feel the party wasn't standing up for individual rights.
"I was more of an old-school Republican," he said. "I believe in state's rights, LGBT rights, gun rights and legalization of medical marijuana."
Crumpton is the director of the Alabama Safe Access Project, which advocates for legalization of medical marijuana. He said uses the drug to help him deal with the effects of spinal stenosis, a condition which causes low back pain. Asked if he'd ever been arrested for his marijuana use, Crumpton said he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession in 2001. According to court records, he also entered guilty pleas on several misdemeanor charges of negotiating a worthless instrument in 2007. Crumpton said those bad checks were ones he'd written, in expectation of income that never arrived, during the failure of his landscaping business.
"It was a case of being young and stupid," he said. "I paid all that off."
The 2014 general election is more than a year away but candidates in some races are announcing their intentions this month in order to start their race for campaign funds. Party primaries will be held in June 2014 and fundraising for those races begins this month.
Capitol & statewide correspondent: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.