Sped-up qualifying deadline poses challenge for Democrats
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Jan 13, 2014 | 2221 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sheila Gilbert speaks with area Democrats about qualifying candidates for public office at the Calhoun County Democratic Headquarters on West 11th Street in Anniston. (Photo by Stephen gross/The Anniston Star)
Sheila Gilbert speaks with area Democrats about qualifying candidates for public office at the Calhoun County Democratic Headquarters on West 11th Street in Anniston. (Photo by Stephen gross/The Anniston Star)
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A little before noon on Monday, the Calhoun County Democrats qualified their first candidate for the 2014 elections.

Less than 24 hours after the party secured a headquarters — sandwiched between a law office and a bail bond company on 11th Street — County Commissioner Fred Wilson stopped by on his lunch break to pick up the state’s filing papers to qualify as a candidate for the November election. Monday was the first day for candidates to qualify for this year’s elections.

That makes Calhoun County Democratic Chairwoman Sheila Gilbert nervous.

“It’s not the start day that worries us,” Gilbert said. “It’s that end date.”

Feb. 7, to be exact, is the last day for candidates to qualify. That’s close to two months before the original April 4 deadline for candidates to qualify. Earlier this month, Alabama Secretary of State Jim Bennett announced the date would be moved up to accommodate federal laws governing military and overseas absentee voters.

Gilbert said she heard about the sped-up qualifying schedule Friday afternoon. After talking to Robert Downing of Downing and Sons on Gurnee Avenue and owner of available space, she said, Gilbert quickly landed new headquarters for the party, setting up shop Sunday afternoon

But not just securing a physical location for the upcoming elections has been a challenge on a shorter deadline; it’s also going to be tough finding candidates to run for office, Gilbert said. Republicans control the vast majority of local seats in Calhoun County, and so far no one has announced plans to run against a Republican incumbent on the Democratic ticket. Just Wilson and Calhoun County Revenue Commissioner Karen Roper have announced plans to run for the Democrats for locally held seats, and Roper will face a Republican challenger in Carolyn Henderson, a current county registrar.

Gilbert said several people have approached her about running for office, but were hoping to use the next two months to weigh that decision. Now, it looks like they won’t have that much time.

“I don’t think it’s going to scare anyone away,” Gilbert said. “They just have to speed up that decision.”

Monday’s unofficial grand opening for the party’s newly acquired headquarters doubled as a meeting with officials from the St. Clair, Cleburne, Talladega and Etowah counties Democratic Party organizations. Leaders discussed ways to register more voters and find suitable candidates. Gilbert also discussed plans for members of Mark Kennedy’s newly formed Alabama Democratic Majority group to come to Calhoun County to help out with local elections, and the possible opening of a statewide office in Gadsden.

Gilbert said the Calhoun County Democrats headquarters at 32 West 11th St. will remain open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. until the qualifying deadline of Feb. 7. Anyone interested in running for local office on the Democratic ticket can stop by the headquarters, email calhouncountydemocrats@gmail.com, or call 256-231-5481.

Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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