Lee Busby, a retired Marine infantry officer and Tuscaloosa sculptor, has announced a write-in campaign as a candidate for the Dec. 12 special election to fill the U.S. senate seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year.
“I was walking down the street and thought ‘Hell, I would vote for me before those two guys.’ And that is when I decided to do it,” said Busby, who began sculpting bronze busts of Alabama service personnel killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after retiring.
The Monday announcement by Busby, who identifies as a centrist Republican voter, comes roughly two weeks before the special election pitting Democrat Doug Jones against Republican Roy Moore. Busby joins a handful of other write-in candidates running campaigns statewide. The Alabama Secretary of State’s office said it does not track write-in campaigns ahead of elections because they do not appear on the ballot.
Voters may choose a candidate who doesn’t appear on the ballot for a contest by shading the circle next to the write-in box and writing the candidate’s name by hand in the blank space. The circle next to that “write-in” box must be shaded to ensure the vote is tabulated properly, according to guidelines from the secretary of state’s office.
A write-in candidate’s name must be spelled correctly using the full last name, though initials are acceptable for first and middle names. If the name is slightly misspelled, it must be close enough to the correct spelling that a voter’s intent can be reasonably determined upon review, according to the write-in voting guidelines.
All write-in votes will be counted if the candidate is qualified to hold the office and not a fictional character.
Busby sees opportunity in the special election to attract moderate Republicans who might either stay home or vote for Jones.
“I think there are a lot of people out there in Alabama who are like me and don’t feel that either of these candidates represent them,” Busby said. “I think a lot of them are going to choose not to vote.”
The response to his fledging campaign has been positive, Busby said.
“It has just blown up completely,” he said as he prepared Monday for interviews with local and national media.
Moore, as the Republican nominee in a reliably red state, was favored to be elected before becoming embroiled in a scandal following reports by several women in a Nov. 9 article by the Washington Post. The story said that the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, as an assistant district attorney in his 30s, had pursued romantic relationships with the women when they were teenagers. One of the women said she was 14 when Moore initiated a sexual encounter. Following the story, more women have come forward with similar claims.
Moore, who has denied the reports by the women, has rejected calls to step aside and claims the allegations are a smear campaign to derail his campaign.
Polls since the news broke show the race between Jones and Moore tightening.
In a brief interview Monday, Busby identified himself as a middle-of-the-road conservative.
“One of the reasons I did this is the far left and the far right flanks is where everybody is, and I think there is room to drive straight up the middle,” Busby said. “Even if you remove all the mess that is flowing around the Moore campaign, and even if you removed the Democratic problem with voters in Alabama, … I don’t see anything in either those candidates’ resumes that paints them as compelling candidates in the U.S. Senate.”
Busby said that his experience as a military officer, investment manager and small-business owner make him a better Senate candidate. In a profile released Monday, Busby identifies as centrist on social issues and conservative on fiscal, military, legal, economic and immigration issues.
Busby retired as a colonel in 2010 after a 31-year career in the Marines, both as an active-duty and reserve officer. He served in Iraq in 2007-08 and served as vice chief of staff for former Lt. Gen. John Kelly, who currently serves as President Donald Trump’s chief of staff. He worked in Afghanistan for a defense contractor helping to train the Afghan army.
“I think the issues that I was intimately immersed in, in Iraq and Afghanistan give me a good understanding of those foreign entanglements,” Busby said.
Busby said his service also gives him experience with defense and intelligence issues, as well as the challenges facing veterans.
He also cited his experience as a small-business owner.
“I have good understanding of what those people are going through and what problems they face,” Busby said.
While Busby is optimistic about his campaign’s chances, long-time Alabama political observer and former state lawmaker Steve Flowers believes the late write-in effort will be futile.
“It would have been difficult for somebody well-known. I would say it is almost impossible (for a newcomer like Busby). I doubt that anybody known statewide would get 5 percent in a write-in campaign. I don’t think it will have any significant effect on the race,” Flowers said.
Though a write-in campaign has been floated as an option for Republicans to replace the embattled Moore, national and state Republican leaders have not backed the option. The concern is that a write-in conservative candidate will siphon enough votes from Moore to hand Jones a victory.
Secretary of State John Merrill predicts statewide turnout will be between 18-20 percent for the race. It’s a scenario that has historically favored Moore because of his reliable core base, Flowers said. However, if a write-in candidate were to draw about 5 percent in a low-turnout race, Flowers noted it could be enough to cost Moore the election.
“My summation is every one of those write-in votes would go to Moore. My guess is they are disenchanted Republicans who can’t bring themselves to vote for a Democrat and can’t bring themselves to vote for Roy Moore,” Flowers said.
(c)2017 The Tuscaloosa News, Ala. — www.tuscaloosanews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.