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District 2 seat up for grabs; was the choice already chosen; a fav eatery coming; and more in this week’s OTR

Off The Record: The latest rumors and rumblings in North Alabama


State Senate District 2 up for grabs

State Sen. Tom Butler has quietly started telling insiders that he does not plan to run again in 2026 and will instead focus on being a full-time grandfather. Two potential Republican candidates are already eyeing the seat – Madison Mayor Paul Finley and State Rep. Phillip Rigsby from the Monrovia area. Political experts predict the Democrats will field a candidate as well, as the district is one of the more competitive general election seats in the State. Kim Lewis ran a strong race as the Democrat in 2022 and lost but that might have been different in an open seat without the powers of incumbency.

Britt rebuts

Remember all the chatter about Alabama’s junior Sen. Katie Britt being a possible contender for Donald Trump’s vice president pick? While the Britt-VP pick talk has abated in recent weeks, expect it to return even louder after March 7. Britt has been tapped to deliver the rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union address next week. The first woman elected to the Senate from Alabama is also the youngest Republican woman ever elected to the Senate. She will no doubt provide a stark contrast to Biden, who is almost 4 decades older.  

Photo Finish

The race for Congress in District 1 is neck and neck going into the homestretch as both campaigns and outside groups continue to attack each other. But insiders have seen two polls this week that show Rep. Jerry Carl of Mobile with a lead over fellow Republican Rep. Barry Moore of Enterprise that is outside the margin of error. However, both polls show a high number of undecided voters so hold on to your tickets for what might be a photo finish.

‘Game Plan’ part deux

Get ready for the workforce development version of last year’s “Game Plan”. The proposed package of four economic development bills dubbed “The Game Plan” was rolled out with a slick logo, a snazzy tag line (“Securing Alabama’s Future”), and much hullabaloo before its passage in 2023. The coming workforce development plan will reportedly receive the same treatment ahead of its launch in the coming weeks. Touted as transformative by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, the plan includes consolidation of workforce efforts, expanded business tax credits, a Workforce Pathway diploma, and a new secretary of Workforce Development to run the new Alabama Workforce Authority.

Choice already chosen?

As the latest school choice bill rolls its way through the Alabama Legislature some are wondering where’s the vocal opposition of years past? Local superintendents notwithstanding, coordinated opposition efforts haven’t been a factor this legislative session. The CHOOSE (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Our Students’ Education) Act, which would provide up to $7,000 per student for education expenses, is now heading to a Senate committee after passage in the Alabama House. One theory concerning the seemingly reduced reaction comes via a Montgomery insider who proposes that “perhaps” the bill could be diluted somewhat before full passage as part of a prearranged deal. 

Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill coming!

There’s a new steak place coming to town. Knowledgeable sources say building plans have been submitted for a Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill at Clift Farm. Stoney River describes itself as an “upscale steakhouse, specializing in hand-cut steaks, fresh seafood selections, signature salads and house specialties.” This will be the 14th location for the concept that comes from the same restaurant group that developed J Alexander’s and its location at Town Madison. Travelers to Nashville’s West End and Franklin who have dined at one of those locations rave about the food and expect to see the same soon in their first Alabama location.

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