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Butler vs. Lewis state Senate race ‘most competitive’

HUNTSVILLE — It’s arguably the most competitive political race in Alabama.

A state Senate race in North Alabama sees a long-serving politician going up against an immensely popular business leader when Republican State Sen. Tom Butler squares off against Democrat Kim Lewis.

The two candidates are vying for Butler’s State Senate District 2 seat in the Nov. 8 general election.

“The Butler-Lewis contest for State Senate District 2 might well be the most competitive legislative contest in the Tennessee Valley region of Alabama,” said Dr. Jess Brown, a professor of government and public affairs at Athens State University.

District 2 Map (Kimberly Caudle Lewis/Facebook, 256 Today)

“Ms. Lewis clearly presents the strongest personal resume of any Democrat nominee seeking a legislative post in many years. But, she is also running against the most experienced legislator in the region,” Brown said. “Senator Butler possesses substantial knowledge of this district down to the neighborhood level; he has campaigned in some areas of SD2 on nine occasions over 40 years. You meet a lot of voters doing that.”

In 2010, Butler won by a margin of roughly nine percentage points against a Democratic candidate who lacked the community roots or civic involvement of Lewis.

Brown points out there are very few genuinely competitive legislative seats – House or Senate – in Alabama.

“The Legislature has used legislative redistricting to create many districts that are either overwhelmingly Republican or overwhelmingly Democrat in their voting patterns,” he said.

However, District 2 was redrawn after the 2020 census, leaving it virtually a 50-50 Democratic-Republican split. The district spans through western Madison County and eastern Limestone County.

(Tom Butler for State Senate/Facebook, 256 Today)

The new lines work in Lewis’ favor according to David Person, a local media consultant.

“Kim has an excellent chance in District 2,” Person said. “She’s proven herself as an engaging leader, she’s inspiring, very active civically along with her work as head of the chamber.”

In 2019, Lewis was elected as the board chair of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the first Black female to hold that position.

Person’s view is even shared by some Republicans.

Butler’s 2022 primary candidate opponent and former District 2 State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw has said he ran because he feared the Democrats could win. Holtzclaw lost in the primary, despite winning the seat from Butler in 2010. Holtzclaw did not file for re-election in 2018, leaving the door open for Butler.

(Kim Caudle Lewis/Facebook, 256 Today)

Republican strategist Jay Town strongly disagrees, though.

“Democrats can’t even field a quorum for their state party meeting, how in the world will they get enough people to the polls to defeat an Alabama institution?” he said.

Formerly representing District 6 in the Alabama House of Representatives before moving to the Senate, Butler has served in the Legislature for more than 30 years.

While no polling is publicly available, there are whispers the race is tighter than Butler and the Republican Party are comfortable with. While, on the record, party leaders don’t see any chance Butler could lose, Republican and conservative allies lately have become more energized, spending money to boost the incumbent’s campaign.

(Tom Butler for State Senate/Facebook, 256 Today)

Town said, even with Lewis’ standing in the community, he doesn’t see the district flipping to blue.

“I like Kim, and new lines certainly increase her support,” he said. “But that support will not be enough to overcome someone who has served North Alabama well for so many years.”

Person won’t quite concede the point.

“Kim has proven she has the resources to be competitive,” stated Person. “This area has been trending blue for quite some time, there are some good opportunities.”

(Kim Caudle Lewis/Facebook, 256 Today)

Meanwhile, election insiders are predicting a relatively low turnout this election cycle – not just in District 2 but also statewide. Low voter turnout historically meant the majority of votes will be straight party ballots and involve fewer independent voters, a key demographic in election upsets.

Voters will make their decision on Nov. 8. Click here to find your polling location.

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