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Alabama Democrats---"life after the 2018 midterms." An APR 40th anniversary encore presentation

APR Student Reporter Jessica Rendall

Alabama Public Radio is celebrating forty years on the air in 2022. The APR news team is diving into our archives to bring you encore airings of the best of our coverage. All sides are looking ahead to the midterm elections this November. That was also the case in 2018. That’s when APR intern Jessica Rendall* reported on the fallout for Democrats following the midterms that year. Here’s that story from the APR archives.

I’m standing in the corner of the District Room, an industrial looking bar with all its tables and chairs pushed to the wall. People start filing in and are offered campaign stickers and t-shirts. The room fills up and soon all sixty eager pairs of eyes fall onto the mayor as he enters the hushed room. It’s the night before the midterm election and a rally for the Tuscaloosa Mayor is buzzing with hope, excitement and determination. After months of campaigning, Walt Maddox’s race for Alabama comes down to this.

“People of my generation don’t think that it has any value,” says Alex Ates. “It almost feels like if we continue on this track it’s gonna be irreversible.” Ates is a student at the University of Alabama. He is also a supporter of the Walt Maddox campaign and shares his thoughts on the engagement of young people and why many choose not to vote. However, like many young people with an interest in politics, Alex has hope. “The reason why I have hope though, is Alabama has a history of courage,” he thinks. “Grassroots, groundwork, activism.”

“We won’t win all the elections, we know that,” says Tommy Hyche. He has his own brand of anticipation tonight. Hyche running for Alabama State House District sixty one.

“But if we can win enough as democrats, filling good candidates up and down the slate, all the way from Walt Maddox all the way down to the board of education,” says Hyche. “I hate to use the term blue wave, but people are ready for a change and we’re that change.”

Hyche didn’t have to wait long…

“Well I think there is a little post-mortem that has set in,” says Hyche. We sat down with him following his loss at the polls…

“It was a long year, year and a half of campaigning. I think the most surprising thing and it was for all of us democrats in Alabama was how we lost. Basically being a 60-40 sweep by the Republican Party,” says Hyche. “By us getting out and giving people a choice, hey there is another party in the state of Alabama besides just the red party. We all read how that turned out, you know 65% of people voted straight tickets, uh that didn’t go too well evidently, so.”

It was sixty to forty vote in favor of Kay Ivey to be Alabama Governor. GOP candidates pretty much swept every other race in the state…

“I think the biggest challenge is to overcome the majority of Alabamians’ identification with the Republican Party,” says Professor Joseph Smith. He’s head of Political Science at the University of Alabama. We sat down to pick through the pieces of the Democratic losses. “Around 60-70% of Alabamians think of themselves as republicans, and so it’s hard to tear them away from that party attachment,” says Smith. “Without a very unattractive republican candidate, it’s going to be very hard for democrats to get over the hump and win a majority in state wide elections.”

Moving forward, there are many who have not lost hope, like the “Woke Vote” campaign. Based in Birmingham, the group works to encourage Alabama’s black community to vote. Their efforts made a huge impact last year when the record turnout of black voters won Democrat Doug Jones the Senate seat over Roy Moore. Hyche also knows the road ahead will be an uphill battle.

“It’s going to be tough in Alabama and it will for maybe another cycle or two. It surprised a lot of us that we lost by the amount that we did lose because we really felt like a lot of people in the state of Alabama was ready for a change but evidently not. So basically when you look at it the democrats kind of lost at a bite at a time and you got to get it back a bite at a time.”

Hyche says there’s one way to beat the Republicans in Alabama. “It’s just like the elephant in the room you know, the old saying. How do you get the elephant out of the room? Well he’s too big to get through the door so you got to eat him a bite at a time. And that’s kind of the way politics is in Alabama.”

However it turns out for the Democrats, they may have to do it without Tommy Hyche. He says he’s had enough and won't be running again. For APR News, I’m Jessica Rendall in Tuscaloosa.

APR intern Jessica Rendall currently works as a reporter for the Australia Broadcasting Company out of Brisbane. Among the stories she covered in the APR newsroom was "what's next?"
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