JeffCo Democrats sweep contested races - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

JeffCo Democrats sweep contested races

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

Election night brought several big upsets in Jefferson County. Not one Republican won any contested race in the county.

Democrats and Republicans seem to agree- it comes down to a shift in demographics that makes the county look a little bluer.

Congratulatory signs made by students and teachers greeted Judge-Elect David Carpenter outside his children's school. He'll soon replace Judge Teresa Petelos, presiding judge of the Bessemer cutoff who fought to save the courthouse.

"I spent so much more time on the ground, at events, knocking on doors, at football games, meeting people. I think that made the difference," said Carpenter, a Democrat, who unsuccessfully tried to defeat Petelos in the previous election.

Carpenter says Petelos spent ten times as much as he did. That's why he believes it had nothing to do with money. He isn't alone.

Judge Katrina Ross, a Democrat, is one of only two judges re-elected in contested races.

"It boils down to who gets the vote out. If you look at Jefferson County, we are one of the counties that turns blue," said she said.

All eleven of the judicial candidates who won contested races were Democrats.

The five Republican incumbents who lost turned to Facebook. Judge Jill Ganus wrote, "we simply have no words tonight... We are still grappling with what happened tonight."

On his page, Judge Bill Cole referenced the 2008 election  when other Republicans in the county lost.

The Alabama Republican Party chairman says the results reflect changing demographics.

But all the same, Judge Ross calls it bittersweet.

"Of course, I'm happy for the Democrats because I am a Democrat. But I'm sad because I know some of the people I truly, truly cared and I loved and enjoyed being on the bench with are not there," she said.

In addition to Judge Petelos, Family Court's Presiding Judge Brian Huff will soon be replaced.

"It's going to be a learning experience for all of us," said Ross.

Ross plans on continuing to find funding for the domestic court program, as well as ways to minimize court costs.

Carpenter wants to start a veterans program. It would utilize TASC and the VA to help veterans who commit crimes. But he says he'll also continue fighting for the Bessemer courthouse.

"It is one of the finest courthouses in the State of Alabama, and I will be one of the biggest advocates of keeping it there," he said.

Birmingham City Councilor Carole Smitherman won a judicial race. She will have to vacate her council position. Someone will be appointed by the council to serve the remainder of her term.

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