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Northwest Alabama counties pick Huckabee and Clinton

Trevor Stokes & Bernie Delinski   The Times Daily   06 February 2008

Northwest Alabama counties were decisive Tuesday in who they thought should represent the Republican and Democratic parties in November's presidential race.

Their thoughts, however, did not necessarily match the entire state's opinion.

Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale and Lawrence counties all favored former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for the Republican nomination in Tuesday's primary. Huckabee also won the vote statewide.

Area Republican voters, like the state as whole, voted John McCain second and Mitt Romney third.

But on the Democratic side, Barack Obama did not fare as well as he did in northwest Alabama.

While Obama scored a convincing win statewide, the four local counties overwhelmingly favored Hillary Clinton by nearly a 2-1 margin.

"Obama apparently did much better in areas where there are a lot more black votes, places like Birmingham and Montgomery," said John Harris, chairman of the Lauderdale Democratic Committee. "I really thought this would be a real close race in the Shoals area.

"I heard a lot of women say over the last few days about how they were looking forward to voting for a woman who has a legitimate chance to be elected president. Maybe that was the difference here locally."

Voter turnout in Colbert, Franklin, Lauderdale and Lawrence counties far exceeded the number of votes cast during the June 2004 primaries, which also included the presidential race.

In Colbert County for instance, there were nearly twice as many votes cast this year than in 2004 (14,055 Tuesday and 7,070 four years ago).

In Lauderdale County, 8,424 more votes were cast Tuesday than during the 2004 primary. Unofficially, there were 21,293 votes cast Tuesday.

An error in vote tabulations at the Underwood-Petersville precincts will be sorted out later today, courthouse officials said. The problem was that the voting machines at that precinct showed that seven more ballots were cast than was supported by documentation.

Only 525 more voters participated in Franklin County than they did in 2004, but 8,801 votes were cast in Lawrence County, double the number from four years ago.

"It looks like the idea of having this early election and disconnecting the presidential primaries from local primaries got more people interested in the process," Harris said.

Voters in Wayne and Lawrence counties in Tennessee also favored Huckabee and Clinton.

Clinton got 79.8 percent of the Democratic votes in Lawrence County (3,200) compared to Obama's 13.3 percent (532). In Wayne County, Clinton got 82.5 percent (868), with Obama getting 10.8 percent (114).

Huckabee beat McCain 560-435 in Wayne County and 1,229-1,206 in Lawrence.

    Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., greets supports as she enters her Super Tuesday primary night rally in New York, on Tuesday.
A canvas of Shoals voters Tuesday revealed there are a variety of issues that are important to them, but there was differing opinions about which candidate can best those issues.

Topics such as health care, the war in Iraq, the economy and a desire for the nation to head in a different direction seemed to be on voters' minds as they headed to the polls.

Florence resident Jan Thomas said faith is an important quality for any candidate.

"I voted for Mike Huckabee because he stands for a lot of the basic principles I stand for," Thomas said. "He's a Christian man, a man of faith."

She said Huckabee, a Republican, also is pro-life, which is important to her.

Thomas also supports his stance on immigration. "He's the man who will close our borders and limit the number of illegal immigrants who come into our country, or make them come in a fair way."

She also said health care should be affordable, but the government should not have to pay for it.

Florence resident Traci Allen usually votes Republican or for an independent candidate, but voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who is challenging Barack Obama for her party's nomination.

"She's more qualified," Allen said. "I can't say I'm not a big Barack Obama fan. He's a good guy and would make a good vice president and learn some things, but he's not ready."

Bill Richards, a retiree living in Tuscumbia, said he voted for Republican John McCain because "I have always admired the man, especially for what he had to overcome as a prisoner of war.

"He'll do what's right in the war," Richards said. "I am also a Republican and I see him as being our best hope in November."

Petersville resident Terry Stooksberry also chose Clinton.

"It seems like the Democratic ticket seems to be more for the working man, and that's where I'm at," said Stooksberry, a sheet-metal worker. "I just like the way Hillary Clinton has handled herself in so many situations she's been in. I'm leaning toward her basically because of her experience and the way she handled herself in the debates."

Health care also is an issue for Stooksberry. "We have got to get it more affordable for everyone. That's where she's trying to head, because she's shown that in the past."

Sheffield resident Melvin Patterson chose Obama in hopes he'll make health care affordable for everyone and bring the troops home from Iraq.

"He's young, he's energetic and he'll stop this war," said Patterson, a Vietnam War veteran.

Florence resident Dorothy Owens chose Obama, saying change is needed.

"We need someone who's going to do something for all people," Owens said. "He's talking about doing things for the children, for the elderly, and getting our people back from overseas and all these wars. We need our people back home. They shouldn't have been there in the first place."

She said she also believes Obama will provide unity, regardless of party affiliation. "We need to stand together as one."

Obama also was the choice for Muscle Shoals resident Premal Vora.

"I connect with his message as a young candidate," Vora said. "He's inspiring and brings a new face to things."

Foreign policy and special-interest influence in politics are important issues for Vora.

"He doesn't take money from certain special interest groups, so I think he's trying to do politics in a different way. That's a challenge to do that against the norm, and I like that," Vora said.

As a nurse, Tuscumbia resident LaDonna Jones lists health care as a priority, and says that's why she voted for Obama.

She also likes Obama's position on overhauling the tax system to make it more fair to the middle and lower classes, and was particularly struck when Obama said his secretary pays more in taxes than he does, because of the current system.

Muscle Shoals resident Adam W. Hill went with Republican Ron Paul, saying he likes his economic issues and approach to foreign relations, which he considers two major issues in this campaign.

Hill said Paul handles very complicated issues through economics. "It's his economic issues that I fall in line with."

Muscle Shoals resident Benjamin Scott likes Mitt Romney's economic policies, which he says also will help with foreign policies.

"People would tend to say the war on terror is a central issue, but tantamount to winning the war on terror is having a strong economy and strong domestic positions, because if you don't support a strong domestic policy, we're going to undermine our position on the war on terror. It's impossible to buy weapons without funds."

Scott said Romney also believes freedom comes from a divine source, and everyone should have it.

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