2nd Congressional District: Shomari Figures and Caroleene Dobson head to general election

A man and a woman
A man and a woman

Attorney Shomari Figures (left) won the Democratic nomination for the 2nd Congressional District in a runoff on Tuesday. Attorney Caroleene Dobson (right) won the Republican nomination for the seat. The candidates will face each other in November. (Left: Stew Milne for Alabama Reflector: Right: Caroleene Dobson Campaign)

Democrat Shomari Figures and Republican Caroleene Dobson are headed to the November general election after winning runoffs Tuesday in Alabama’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District.

As of 10:26 p.m. Tuesday, Figures, an attorney, had 21,926 votes (61%) while House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, had 13,990 votes (39%) in unofficial returns.

In the Republican runoff, Dobson, also an attorney, had 14,688 votes (58%) while former Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Pike Road, had 10,454 votes (42%) in unofficial returns as of 9:10 p.m. AP called the race shortly after 9 p.m.

Figures took both of the major cities in the district. He appeared Tuesday to have narrowly won Montgomery with 7,151 votes (51.91%). He dominated Mobile, his home county, taking over 90% of the vote (9,591 out of 10,431 votes cast).

A message seeking comment was left with Figures on Tuesday. In a statement, Figures, a former aide to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, expressed his thanks to his supporters.

“This race has always been about the people and places that call our community home,” the statement said. “It’s about our teachers, public service workers, people in uniform, our seniors, and the children of our district. To all of those who have placed their trust and confidence in me, thank you. Now, we move forward with a unified party and mission to win in November.”

A message seeking comment was left with Daniels on Tuesday.

Dobson also had a strong performance in Mobile, getting 5,401 votes (69%), while Brewbaker got 2,276 votes (32%). Brewbaker dominated Montgomery, getting 5,495 votes (67.5%), to Dobson’s 2,649 votes (32.5%).

Tuesday’s results will put two first-time candidates in a race for a congressional seat that could determine control of the narrowly divided U.S. House of Representatives next year.

“Alabama’s Second Congressional District needs someone who will fight for us, and I will,” Dobson said in a statement Tuesday. “In Congress, I will listen to you, represent everyone in this district, and do what’s best for you, not the special interests in Washington.”

The Republican runoff turned combative at times, with negative campaign ads attacking Brewbaker’s record in state government.

Brewbaker said in an interview Tuesday night that he was happy with the campaign he ran. Before campaigning, he said he decided he was not going to run a negative campaign, which his advisors said was a mistake.

“Negative campaigning is done for a reason, and I guess they were proven right,” Brewbaker said, adding that “if you can get out of any politics with your integrity intact, you’ve probably accomplished something, so I feel good about it.”

A message seeking comment was left with Dobson.

Residency issues played an issue in the race. Figures recently moved back to Mobile and criticized Daniels for not living in the district. Daniels lives in Huntsville but cited his family’s roots in the district and said he would have relocated if he had won.

Daniels and Figures broadly agreed on policy. They focused on health care, particularly Medicaid expansion and reproductive rights, and said they would vote to codify abortion rights. They emphasized leveraging federal resources and addressing health care disparities. Education, LGBTQ+ rights, and environmental initiatives were also key points.

Figures said earlier this month he wanted to improve education and health outcomes in the district.

“We have teachers here that devote their lives, their time, their energy, their hearts and their careers, to educating the future workers of this state, and we have not been there for our teachers in the way that we need to be,” he said.

Daniels had stressed his legislative record, particularly on economic issues. He cited his passage of a bill exempting overtime pay from taxes, which Daniels said he hoped to replicate in Washington.

“Employment is what addresses poverty, education, early childhood education, cradle to pre-K, (and) looking at ways to expand access,” he said. “I’m doing something now in the Legislature. I’ve introduced a piece of legislation to try to address some of that, but at the federal level we’ll do it in a much broader way in looking at a mixed delivery system to help with early childhood.”

The new district is likely Democratic, but Republican candidates have maintained the district is competitive with the right messaging. Under the new congressional lines, President Joe Biden would have won the district in 2020 by 12 points, according to the Cook Political Report.

Republicans Brewbaker and Dobson also had few major policy disagreements and focused on the economy and social values, as well as issues like international relations, border security, agriculture, and energy independence.

Brewbaker expressed concerns during the campaign about federal spending, inflation, and climate change policies. He advocated for stricter border security measures, term limits for members of Congress, and a focus on fiscal responsibility, as well as support for Israel in the war on Hamas. Dobson focused on achieving energy independence and reducing federal overregulation, particularly in the agricultural sector.

Both supported the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, advocating for state-level decisions on abortion. Brewbaker said he was wary of a national ban. Dobson declined to say how she would vote on national abortion restrictions but praised Alabama’s near-total ban.

The district emerged out of a federal lawsuit over congressional maps approved by the Alabama Legislature in 2021.

Plaintiffs argued that Alabama’s legislative map unfairly packed Black voters into one district, limiting their political influence. In 2022, a federal court agreed, citing the state’s racially polarized voting patterns.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal of the ruling in June. The Alabama Legislature last summer drew a new map, which the federal court rejected, saying it did not follow their instructions. The court approved a new map in October that created a new 7th Congressional District in west Alabama that is majority-Black, and a new 2nd Congressional District that is near-majority Black, with a Black Voting Age Population (BVAP) of 49%.

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