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Primary election brings change to Alabama legislature, longtime lawmakers unseated

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Longtime state lawmakers and newer ones alike saw upsets in Tuesday’s primary election, some by just a handful of votes.

District 27 newcomer Republican Jay Hovey beat 12-year incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley by four votes for the Senate seat.

In the race for Senate in District 31, Republican Josh Carnley upset Rep. Mike Jones, who was elected in 2010 and chaired the powerful House Rules Committee.

Other newcomers who did not face incumbents include Republican Lance Bell. He won the District 11 Senate seat and faces no Democratic challenger in November.

Bell says improving infrastructure for his constituents is a priority.

“We’ve got some roads that are in horrible shape. That shouldn’t take you long to drive from point A to point B, but because of traffic issues it’ll take forever, so try to divert some money, correct some of those issues,” Bell said.

Another new face is soon to be in the Senate: current Democratic Representative Merika Coleman.

She’s familiar with the legislative process, having served in the House for 20 years. Coleman says she’ll support bills rolling back abortion restrictions, and making it more difficult for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them, among many other issues.

“We have got to do something to ensure that guns don’t get in the hands of criminals, of people who are mentally ill. We’ve got to do something to stop the killing of our young babies,” Coleman said.

Other new faces might not be so new after all. Hank Sanders got the most votes in the District 23 Democratic primary for a Senate seat he once held for nearly 40 years. He says his main reason for running is to push for Medicaid expansion.

“I saw I would have the best chance of getting that resolved in the legislature, rather than to protest and activities in the street,” Sanders said.

Other notable upsets include the District 94 House seat, where Jennifer Fidler beat 20-year incumbent Rep. Joe Faust, and in District 88 where Jerry Starnes beat incumbent Rep. William Dismukes.

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