CULLMAN COUNTY, Alabama — The upcoming GOP primary in Cullman County will play a decisive role in determining the outcome of local and state races before the general election in November. While there are only a few contested offices, the contests for county schools superintendent and circuit judge have garnered significant attention.
Dr. Shane Barnette, the incumbent county schools superintendent, will face off against Morris Williams, a longtime school teacher at Holly Pond, in the Republican primary on March 5. This will be the first contested race for county schools superintendent in over a decade, as the position has been appointed since 2016. However, voters recently approved a referendum measure to restore the position as an elected one starting in 2022.
In another closely watched local race, two attorneys, Emily Niezer Johnston and Melvin Hasting, will compete for outgoing Circuit Judge Martha Williams’ Place 2 seat on Alabama’s 32nd Judicial Circuit. The winner will serve alongside presiding Judge Greg Nicholas as one of Cullman County’s two circuit judges. Both Niezer Johnston and Hasting have previously sought local office, but were unsuccessful. Niezer Johnston ran for the circuit judge’s seat in 2012, which was eventually won by Williams in a runoff election.
The only other contested race in the GOP primary features local attorney Stephen Parker challenging incumbent Chad Hanson for a seat on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. This race holds statewide significance. Hanson was first elected to the position in 2018, while Parker is making his first bid for elected office.
Meanwhile, two local races with incumbent candidates—District Judge Rusty Turner and Circuit Clerk Lisa McSwain—will have no opposition. Expectations are that both Turner and McSwain will be reelected without any challengers in both the primary and general elections.
The party primary elections will take place on March 5, with a possible runoff on April 16 if any races remain undecided. The general election is scheduled for November 5. Given the inclusion of the U.S. presidency on the ballot, a high voter turnout is anticipated for both the primary and general elections.
In conclusion, the Republican primary in Cullman County, Alabama will significantly impact the outcomes of local and state races. Incumbent Dr. Shane Barnette and challenger Morris Williams are vying for the highly contested county schools superintendent position, while attorneys Emily Niezer Johnston and Melvin Hasting are competing for the circuit judge seat. Additionally, attorney Stephen Parker is challenging incumbent Chad Hanson for a seat on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. District Judge Rusty Turner and Circuit Clerk Lisa McSwain are expected to be reelected without any opposition. The primary elections are set for March 5, followed by the general election on November 5.