A Closer Look at the Looming Special Election in House District 31
Governor Riley will most likely announce the dates for the special election in the next week or two. Recent special elections have taken about 5 months to see a successor take office and that is probably a reasonable estimation for this seat as well. Though we don't know the exact dates for the special election, it is obvious this district will see a competitive race to succeed Venable.
The district itself contains portions of both Coosa and Elmore county. Looking at the precinct level results from the 2002 elections it appeared to me that the actual voting percentage broke down to around 79% from Elmore and 21% from Coosa. This is good news for the GOP as Elmore county is a Republican stronghold and looks likely to outweigh the Democratic lean of Coosa.
More specifically I also crunched the 2002 Governor's race numbers from the district. My calculations had Riley carrying the district with 61% to Siegelman's 39%. I used the governor's race numbers because I thought it would be as good an indicator as any of the partisan feelings of the district since the race was essentially 50/50 statewide.
I should stipulate that it's possible I misread some of the Excel tables, so some of the figures could be a little off. And of course a state house race has a different dynamic than a governor's race, but I think these numbers give a sense of the general GOP lean of the district.
Democrats best hope would be to run Venable's widow or perhaps one of his children as someone with the Venable name could take advantage of the goodwill accrued throughout the decades. However, even Venable's margins decreased over the years as his district grew more Republican. 2002 saw Venable's lowest victory margin as he won 58% of the vote.
The candidates and campaigns will certainly determine who the next representative is, but Democrats have their work cut out for them to hold the seat. And Republicans have an opportunity to flip a Democratic seat before the 06 elections and show they mean business in the battle for control of the State House.