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Alabama Elections Directory 2006

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

HD 31: Mask/Whorton GOP Primary Preview

Today voters in State House District 31 (parts of Elmore and Coosa counties) will go to the polls to select a Republican nominee to face Democrat Bobby Payne in the Feb 28 special election to fill the seat left vacant by the November death of longtime State Rep Jack Venable (D-Tallassee). The winner of the general election will provide the victorious party with early momentum in the battle for control of the legislature.

But before we can focus on the general election, a GOP nominee must emerge from today's primary. I discussed the race earlier in the process (focusing on the district, the candidates, and a private poll) and yesterday the Montgomery Advertiser had a final wrap up before the vote. Also if you're interested in policy, check out each candidates' guest piece in the Advertiser (including Democrat Payne) as well as the Wetumpka Herald's moderation of a quasi debate between the two Republicans.

There is little doubt that Elmore County Commissioner Don Whorton began the race as the frontrunner against economic development consultant Barry Mask. Whorton's two terms on the county commission gave him name recognition and political experience that Mask could not match. However, Whorton's tenure on the commission is not an unvarnished positive as he was forced to take controversial stands and developed more than a few detractors.

However, the short special election campaign (made even shorter by Christmas and New Years) left Mask's work cut out for him. Mask does seem to be well thought of with plenty of connections, both locally and in Montgomery, but raising his name ID to a sufficient level to win an election (70% or so) in such a short period is a difficult task.

The campaign has not been altogether uplifting either. Both candidates have run television advertising and conducted direct mailing. And Mask has accused the Whorton camp of "push polling", a political tactic akin to smearing your opponent under the guise of a traditional telephone poll. In this case Mask has taken umbrage that Whorton (or his allies) would label Mask a lobbyist.

This should be a relatively close race as Mask has no doubt closed the wide gap that existed when the race began. However, I don't believe Mask has accrued the financial edge many observers expected due to his close ties to some in Montgomery. I've been told that Whorton has been competitive with (if not actually ahead of) Mask in terms of television ad buys (the lifeblood of a campaign). I am skeptical that Mask has had enough time or money to sufficiently spread his name and message to the point where he can overtake Whorton, even considering Whorton's not inconsiderable weaknesses.

Special elections are incredibly volatile as voter turnout is usually abysmal. If one candidate can turn out their supporters at a slightly higher clip than their opponent, then that can make all the difference. Yet even though special elections are notoriously difficult to predict, as this is an elections site I feel obligated to weigh in.

I believe that if this had been a more traditional campaign then Mask might well have won, but given the unusual circumstances of this campaign, I don't think Mask had the time or means to make up the significant head start Whorton developed over several years in Elmore county politics.

Prediction -
Don Whorton -- 55%
Barry Mask -- 45%

Results should come in the late evening and I'll post them as soon as I can find them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The push-poll wasn't just "accused" it actually happened and its wrong. Whorton is a dirty politician. He felt a little afraid he was trailing and threw in the kitchen sink.

If you are right and Whorton does win tomorrow I hope he doesn't show up to the floor of the State House as drunk as he is at Commission meetings.

1:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On above post drunk was referring to drunk with power.

1:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well it sounds like the dirty mafia boss hubbert is up to his old tricks of push polling. Im sure he is buying votes and tampering with the machines also.

8:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are putting too much stock into television advertising in a special election, Mask is doing more direct mail and door-to-door. That is what wins special elections.

12:24:00 PM  
Blogger PoliSciZac said...

You may be correct, I would not be at all surprised to see Mask win either. Also I've heard anecdotal evidence of very low turnout, not sure that favors one canddiate over the other though.

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