DeKalb County District Judge Steve Whitmire has collected enough signatures to qualify to run for re-election as an independent candidate in the November General Election.
Whitmire needed the signatures of at least 642 registered voters, representing three percent of the total votes (21,403) cast for governor in DeKalb County in 2018. His campaign turned in 1,699 signatures, but the Secretary of State’s office stopped counting once they determined that 645 of the signatures were verified.
Grace Newcombe, press secretary for Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, verified that Whitmire is the state’s first and only independent candidate certified to be on the November ballot. The only remaining step was for the judge to submit his financial paperwork in accordance with the Fair Campaign Practices Act, as all candidates are required to do.
“It’s humbling that the people came to my rescue,” Whitmire said. “It was a lot of work, and I want to thank the people who did the soldier work. They got three times what we needed in less than a month.”
Whitmire said the successful petition campaign isn’t about how popular he is, but rather, how the voters let the state know who they want to be their judge.
Whitmire called the petitions “the most direct form of conversation that citizens can have with their government. There are filters when we choose our representatives to cast votes on our behalf down in Montgomery. The party process is another filter. A small group of people inside of one party deciding who gets to run are another filter. People don’t like being told who can go to work for them, but the voters directly let our state know who they want to see on the ballot. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue serving. I appreciate the trust that the people have in me. It is my distinct privilege to serve you.”
He offered a special thanks to local Republicans who “stuck their necks out for me, speaking on my behalf when I was trying to get on the Primary ballot.”
Whitmire won his first six-year term in 2002, winning re-election unopposed in 2008 and 2014. He announced he would run as a Republican last fall, but the local GOP Executive Committee fought his candidacy, arguing he did not follow proper procedure for switching parties, as David Gulledge, chairman of the DeKalb County Republican Party explained at the time.
Whitmire said he qualified directly at the state level because he is “a state employee, paid by the state and state candidates can only qualify with the state party. I could not qualify with the county in any way, even if I wanted to.”
He said he did not think it would matter if some DeKalb County Republicans opposed him joining the GOP because other county Republicans supported him, including elected officials who directly addressing the GOP state candidate committee or submitted letters endorsing his candidacy.
The candidate committee voted in early December to remove Whitmire from GOP’s Primary ballot, which was set to include the party’s other qualifying candidate, Teresa Darwin Phillips of Sylvania. However, Phillips sent a message to Gulledge on Dec. 13 requesting that her name be removed from the ballot after agreeing to disbarment by the Alabama State Bar.
Lacking a candidate, the district judge position does not appear on the ballot that local Republicans will see when they vote next month. No one qualified to run as a Democrat either. Whitmire looked into his options but declined to run as a Democrat, saying he felt in his heart that he was a Republican. He said he looks forward to another six-year term if he wins in November.
“Thank you, DeKalb County,” he said.