Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl will face retired U.S. Marine James Averhart for Alabama’s first Congressional seat after both men secured their respective parties’ nominations Tuesday evening.
On the Democratic side, Averhart bested scientist and fellow political newcomer Kiani Gardner to secure the Democratic nomination. While Gardner, who resides on the Eastern Shore, fared better in Baldwin County, Averhart saw a big turnout in Mobile County that was able to secure him the position.
In all, Averhart collected 15,764 (56 percent) of the total votes cast compared to Gardner’s 12,019.
In a statement Tuesday, Gardner congratulated Averhart after concluding that — even with uncounted absentee ballots — her campaign was unlikely to make up the ground needed to secure a win.
“I am proud of every step that my team took, and we have accomplished some huge goals,” Gardner wrote. “It would have been a great honor to continue this fight to represent Alabama’s first district with forward-thinking and family-centered policies, but I am content with this election and look forward to continuing the work of engaging voters and expanding the political dialogue here in AL01 as a member of the Alabama Democratic Party.”
On his Facebook page, Averhart posted a short message reading: “Thank you for all of your support!!! On the road to November!!!” Calls seeking additional comment on the victory weren’t immediately returned.
Across the aisle, Carl secured victory over former State Sen. Bill Hightower — bringing an end to what was always projected to be a close race. As the results stand now, Carl secured 52 percent of the 84,705 votes cast compared to the 47 percent Hightower received. While Hightower managed to barely edge Carl out in Baldwin County, Carl was able to make up the difference on home territory in Mobile County.
In a statement released to social media, Hightower said he was thankful for his family and campaign staff’s support during what has been “a difficult year on the campaign trail.”
“While today’s results did not turn out as we all had hoped, it was your voices that kept me going during these long days,” he wrote. “I congratulate my opponent, Commissioner Carl, on a hard won contest and I look forward to working to ensure President [Donald] Trump is re-elected this November.”
Hightower did not have a watch party, at least partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but across town Carl and his supporters gathered at a restaurant on the Causeway. There the outgoing commissioner said he looked forward to working with Hightower to move the Repuclian party forward despite a contentious runoff campaign that was defined by a litintanty of negative advertising.
“When a race is over with, it’s over with You’ve got to put everything behind you if you’re going to serve the people,” Carl said. “We’re not done yet. We have another election in about 110 days, and we’re going to take it just as seriously as we did this race today.”
Speaking to supporters, Carl said he’d like to take the values he’s learned in Mobile to Washington and gave a promise that he wouldn’t “embarrass” or “let down” the people of Alabama’s first congressional district. He also said, if elected in November, he hopes to live up to the standard set by previous Republican congressmen to hold the seat such as Bradley Byrne, Jo Bonner and Sonny Callahan.
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