Less than a year away from next November’s elections only one outside candidate has announced his intention to run for County Commission. Jay Dill, a Jacksonville resident with business interests in Anniston and 2010 candidate for an Alabama House seat, said he plans to run as a Republican for District 5, covering Jacksonville, Piedmont and Pleasant Valley.
Meanwhile four of the five current commissioners — Fred Wilson from District 1, Tim Hodges from District 2, Don Hudson from District 3, and J.D. Hess from District 4 — all said they will campaign for their seats next year.
Attempts to reach District 5 Commissioner Rudy Abbott on Friday were unsuccessful. The current commission chairman has previously declined to tell The Star if he will run in 2014.
Sheila Gilbert, chairwoman of the Calhoun County Democrats, and Gene Howard, chair for the county Republicans, said it’s still early for candidates to declare their intentions to run, but both expect more to emerge before the deadline to qualify in April.
While four incumbents are seeking re-election, there’s a good chance the next commission won’t look a lot like the one elected in 2010. Since then, elected Commissioner James “Pappy” Dunn from District 1 died and Commissioner Eli Henderson from District 3 resigned after winning the 2012 election for Calhoun County Circuit Clerk.
That means 2014 will mark this first time Wilson and Hudson, who were appointed to their seats by the governor’s office, will campaign for office.
“I’m going to have to have some people help me,” said Hudson, who represents District 2, encompassing most of the western portion of the county including Ohatchee, Hobson City, Wellborn and parts of Oxford. “I’ve been told you’re always campaigning, and that’s especially true in the last year before the election.”
Campaigning will be a little more routine for Hess, who serves District 4, covering Saks and Alexandria. Hess, who is currently serving his fifth term on the commission, said typically he doesn’t start campaigning until he knows who he’s running against, which many times won’t happen until as late as April.
“If I had to start tomorrow, I got the signs,” Hess said. “But you never really stop campaigning.”
Hodges, serving his first term on the commission, said he expects campaigning will be a little easier for him next year as well.
“I think I’ll have more support now,” said Hodges, who in 2010 defeated four-time incumbent Robert Downing to win the District 2 seat, which covers most of the east side of the county including White Plains, Choccolocco, Dearmanville and parts of Anniston and Oxford.
“I ran as a Republican in 2010 and that was part of the wave that took office,” Hodges said. “I’m sure I’ll have someone to run against for the primary.”
Outside of Abbott, who has not said if he will run next year, Fred Wilson, who serves District 1 including most of Anniston and areas to the west of the city, is the only Democrat on the commission. Howard, of the Republican Party, didn’t say if he had anyone lined up to run against Wilson, but noted the party supported Wilson in 2012 when the governor picked him to replace Dunn on the commission.
“Fred’s a great guy,” Howard said. “I’m sure he’ll have someone run against him, but he’s a black democrat in the minority district, and we respect that.”
Primary elections for Calhoun County Commission are scheduled for June 3, with primary runoffs on July 15. The general election is Nov. 4.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.