MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A political truth in this part of the country is we may not have many surprises on election night. The heavy favorites for the general election are often picked months earlier in the party primaries. This is why political observers are keeping a close eye on Alabama State Senate District 33.
A longtime Democratic incumbent faces a legitimate challenge from a well-known conservative. The race between Vivian Davis Figures and Pete Riehm is one to watch. Travel down the Mobile Bay Causeway and you’ll see something rare at the eastern end. There are side-by-side campaign signs for a Republican with high name recognition and a Democrat with high name recognition. They just happen to be running for the same seat.
Republican Pete Riehm has been a GOP stalwart for years and is now mounting a challenge to Democrat Vivian Davis Figures. Riehm argues he can represent the concerns of the predominantly African American areas of Mobile just as well as the conservative parts of the district.
“By showing up and listening to them, understanding what their concerns are, and then representing them I’ve been out there, I understand the infrastructure needs in Prichard, education across the board,” said Riehm.
But Figures has been in office for decades and argues she’s the best choice for the district.
“There’s still a need for the voiceless to be heard, right now in the Alabama State Senate out of 35 Senators there are only seven African American legislators and there still needs to be a voice for that voiceless,” said Figures.
The unusual set of circumstances is really only possible due to recently enacted redistricting by the Alabama State legislature. The new lines for district 33 include a swath of heavily Republican Spanish Fort, creating an opening for the GOP looking to flip a seat. Riehm argues Figures has not been present for her district, but she counters by saying she has consistently helped her constituents through legislation and programs she’s supported.
“It’s one of those things that’s a dog whistle to try to get people to not talk about the issues so instead of talking about failing schools, infrastructure, roads that aren’t getting repaired,” said Riehm.
Figures said it’s something voters should consider when casting a ballot.
“We need people in office who are going to bring people together, who are going to find common ground who really do represent all people,” said Figures.
Turnout will be a big factor as Democrats look to hold a seat during a cycle where GOP enthusiasm is higher.