Del Marsh

Del Marsh, left, tallies votes at Republican Headquarters in Anniston with Will Califf. (Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)

Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, will return to the Alabama State Senate in 2019, and he may still be the man running it.

Marsh defeated Democratic challenger Jim Williams Tuesday night by what seemed to be a large margin. With 40 of 46 precincts in, he had about 20,000 votes in Calhoun County, compared to 11,600 for Williams. Marsh said he was also ahead in the Talladega County portion of the district.

“Nobody has called the race for us, but we’re declaring victory,” Marsh said shortly before 10 p.m.

The vote returns Marsh not only to a Senate seat but also potentially to one of the most powerful positions in Montgomery. Elected president pro tempore of the Senate in 2010, he’s one of the few major figures of the 2010 Republican sweep who haven’t been toppled by scandal in recent years. He’ll be up for re-election to that leadership position next year when the new Legislature convenes for the first time.

Marsh is perhaps best known for the Alabama Accountability Act, a 2013 school choice law that offers generous tax breaks to help public school students switch to private schools. The bill, Marsh’s brainchild, won him enduring opposition from many educators and the Alabama Education Association, but so far that opposition has yet to translate into electoral defeat.

Democrats this year had hoped to be buoyed by a nationwide “blue wave” of voters energized by their frustration with Trump administration policies. Marsh said Republicans also had strong turnout.

“There was good turnout, but it was across the board,” Marsh said. “It was pretty much a wash.”

Williams, a retired Navy captain, campaigned on Medicaid expansion , arguing that Jacksonville’s hospital might not have closed this year if lawmakers had paid more attention to health care policy. He was also a critic of the Accountability Act, saying it took money from public schools without producing clearly good results.

“I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to go to Montgomery and make the changes Alabama needs,” Williams said Tuesday night. “But the voters have spoken.”

 

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

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