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The 2020 election is a year away, but voters in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District may learn who they’re sending to Congress well before then.

Candidates have until 5 p.m. Friday to qualify with their parties to run in 2020 elections. As of Thursday afternoon, only one candidate had qualified in the 3rd District race: incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Saks. 

“If they’re not qualified with their party by the deadline, they won’t be on the ballot,” said Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. 

Alabamians go to the polls in March to select Democratic and Republican nominees for U.S. president, one U.S. Senate seat, all seven of the state’s U.S. House seats and an assortment of state-level positions, most of them in the judicial branch.

By 2 p.m. Thursday, Democratic Party officials said no one had yet qualified for the Democratic primary for the 3rd District seat, which covers a swath of eastern Alabama with Anniston near its northern end and Auburn near its southern end. 

Rogers, now in his ninth term in the House, was the only candidate listed in the district by the state GOP, which has kept a running tally on its website of candidates who’ve qualified to run. 

Mallory Hagan, the former Miss America who ran as a Democrat against Rogers in the 2018 election, said by text Thursday that she had no plan to run in 2020. 

Adia McClellan Winfrey, a Talladega psychologist and chairwoman of the Talladega County Democratic Party, said Thursday that she’s as yet undecided on a run. Winfrey sought the seat in 2018 but lost the Democratic nomination to Hagan.

“I’m just thinking about the commitments I have to balance between running for office and being a mom,” Winfrey said. 

Democrats have been caught up in a bruising battle for party leadership in recent weeks, with state Rep. Chris England of Tuscaloosa winning a run for party chairman on Saturday, after a vote to remove former party chairwoman Nancy Worley. Worley challenged that election in court. 

Attempts to reach both England and Worley were unsuccessful Thursday. Merrill, the secretary of state, said he met with Democratic party officials Wednesday to talk about how the qualifying process works. He said those officials met with him at the direction of England. 

“I met with the people who asked me to meet them,” Merrill said. 

Merrill said the parties don’t have to send his office a list of qualified candidates until Dec. 18. Still, he said, to make it onto a party’s list of qualified candidates, a candidate would have to file with the party by the Friday deadline. 

Independent candidates have until March to qualify, but independent candidacies are rare, in part because they typically require candidates to collect thousands of signatures. 

Last-minute qualifiers are not uncommon in Alabama, particularly on the Democratic side. Parker Griffith, the party’s 2014 candidate for governor, filed his papers just before party offices closed on the last qualifying day. Former senator and U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions was widely expected to announce a 2020 run for Senate Thursday, just a day before this year’s deadline. 

Rogers has never run unopposed, but has trounced primary challengers in two past races and has defeated Democratic opponents by a margin of at least 20 points in the past five general elections. Attempts to reach representatives of his office Thursday were unsuccessful. 

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.