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Last updated 5:05PM ET
March 8, 2021
Another Costly Supreme Court Race May Loom
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - Republican Justice Harold See's decision not to seek a third term on the Alabama Supreme Court next year will likely create a crowded, costly race reminiscent of last year's battle for chief justice.

Jim Spearman, executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party, and Mike Hubbard, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, expect lots of lawyers and judges to give the race a look because open seats on the state Supreme Court don't come up very often.

Republicans currently hold an 8-1 lead on the Supreme Court, and See's seat is the only one on the court up for election next year.

The victory last year by Democratic Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb is causing Democrats to prepare for an all-out race, Spearman said.

Hubbard said Republicans will be fighting to maintain the GOP's dominant numbers.

"There will be a lot of focus on it. It's important for the Republican Party and the pro-business community to see the right person is on that court," Hubbard said.

Looking ahead to next year's race, Lauderdale County District Judge Deborah Bell Paseur, a Democrat, said she is definitely organizing for the race and will make a formal announcement in November.

Paseur ran for the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals last year, polling the second most votes of any Democratic candidate for the state appeals court, but losing to Republican Sam Welch, who had 52 percent of the vote.

"I feel like I have a lot of support still in place," Paseur said.

Spearman said Paseur's votes last year and her early entry into the race may discourage some Democrats from running.

"Judge Paseur has name ID across the state and with her votes last time, people might walk away and not contest that," he said.

But that's not stopping at least one from looking.

Cullman attorney Kimberly Drake, who ran unsuccessfully for the Court of Civil Appeals last year, said she's considering entering the Democratic race.

Montgomery County District Judge Sharon Yates, a former member of the Court of Civil Appeals and an unsuccessful candidate for chief justice in 2000, said she has had inquiries from Democrats interested in her running but, "I am definitely not running."

On the Republican side, party activists are circulating lots of names of people they would like to see run, including former Chief Justice Roy Moore.

"I'm asked every day about running for something president, governor, justice but right now I'm not inclined to run for anything," Moore said.

Moore said some people in politics are infatuated by holding public office, but he's not. Instead, he's writing an Internet column for WorldNetDaily and preparing legal briefs for the Foundation for Moral Law in Montgomery.

Republican Judge Kelli Wise of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals said she's received lots of calls to consider running, and she is weighing it.

Wise, who won re-election last year, said, "I have to look at whether my family is ready to go through another statewide campaign so quickly."

Wise said she expects a large field of candidates because there will be no incumbent.

Another Republican, Opelika attorney Ben Hand, said he's looking at the race.

Hand ran unsuccessfully last year against Justice Champ Lyons in the Republican primary. It was one of five Supreme Court races on last year's ballot. Hand said the race for See's seat will be much more visible to voters next year because it will be the only Supreme Court contest.

Five Republican appellate court judges Bill Thompson and Craig Pittman of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and H.W. "Bucky" McMillan, Pam Baschab and Greg Shaw of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals are frequently mentioned by Republican Party activists as possible candidates, but all said they are happy where they are.

Thompson said he plans to run for re-election next year to another six-year term.

Baschab said she also plans to run for re-election next year. She said she had made two races for the Supreme Court and that's enough.

McMillan, Alabama's longest-serving appellate court judge, said he hasn't decided whether he will run for re-election next year, but, "I definitely won't run for the Supreme Court. I have no desire to do that."

Shaw, who was re-elected last year, said, "Right now, I have no plans to enter that race." But he cautioned that he hasn't totally ruled it out.

Pittman, who was also re-elected last year, said, "I have no present inclination to run."

Mobile County Circuit Judge Rusty Johnston also gets talked about as a possibility, but Johnston said he has no plans to run because he prefers being a trial court judge. "Appellate work is not my favorite," he said.

Last year, candidates for the five Supreme Court offices set a national record by raising $13.4 million in campaign contributions. Of that, $8.2 million was raised in the race for chief justice, making it the second most expensive judicial race in American history.

William Stewart, a political scientist at the University of Alabama, expects another costly race because contributions will be focused on one seat next year and because See has been "a reliable vote for business interests."

"We can expect big bucks to be spent. Trial lawyers and business interests will be investing heavily in their candidates," he said.

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