Heflin Democrat enters state Senate race
by Tim Lockette
Aug 26, 2013 | 5390 views |  0 comments | 64 64 recommendations | email to a friend | print
 Darrell Turner
Darrell Turner
Tim Sprayberry, left, and Gerald Dial.
Tim Sprayberry, left, and Gerald Dial.
MONTGOMERY – Labor union representative Darrell Turner is the latest candidate – and the first Democrat – to enter the 2014 race for the District 13 seat in the Alabama Senate.

Turner, 62, of Heflin announced his candidacy over the weekend at a meeting of local Democrats. In later comments to The Star, he said he's running to steer the Legislature away from big business interests.

"If you're a large corporation, this Legislature seems to have your interests in mind," Turner said. "If you're an average working guy in Cleburne County, they're not thinking about you."

A native of Cleburne County, Turner is the business representative for the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters. He said he represents union members across the Southeast on behalf of Local 798, which is headquartered in Tulsa, Okla. He's also chairman of the Cleburne County Democratic Party.

Turner is the sole Democrat in a three-person race in District 13, which includes parts of Cleburne, Clay, Chambers, Cherokee, Lee and Randolph counties.

The incumbent, 75-year-old Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, is the majority whip, author of the latest redistricting plan and one of the more powerful figures in the Senate. Dial faces a primary challenge from Cleburne County Republican Party chairman Tim Sprayberry, 47.

Both Dial and Sprayberry seemed to regard Turner as a distant threat Monday. The primary is in June, several months away.

"I'm running in the Republican primary right now," Sprayberry said.

Sprayberry, who has campaigned on a platform of term limits, gun rights and lower taxes, said he was "still the only real Republican in the race." It was a dig at Dial, who was elected in 2010 as a Republican but previously served two terms in the House and six in the Senate as a Democrat.

Dial said he's always been conservative, and has developed influence in the Legislature that allows him to help his district.

"I'm just starting to have influence," he said. "Before, I was a minority within the majority."

Dial said he suspected Turner's candidacy was a response to Dial's own moves against labor unions in the past year. Alabama has long been a "right to work" state, where non-union workers can't be required to pay a representation fee to a labor union. Dial has advocated putting the “right to work” wording in the Alabama Constitution.

But Turner said he's been thinking about running for roughly two years. Asked how he'd be a better senator than Dial, Turner declined to comment, saying he didn't want to go negative.

"I'm not running against Sen. Dial," he said. "I'm running for what I believe in."

Sheila Gilbert, chairwoman of the Calhoun County Democratic Party, described Turner as a "tenacious campaigner" who wouldn't let up on a long campaign.

"He's like a bulldog," Gilbert said. "Gerald had better get ready."

Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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