Dukes to Run Unopposed in Re-election Bid

Dukes to Run Unopposed in Re-election Bid

By Dylan Smith, Managing Editor • dylan@southerntorch.com

Scottsboro, Ala. – Jackson County Board of Education Superintendent Kevin Dukes will seek a second term of office unopposed. While Dukes was the only Republican to qualify for the office, his path to run unopposed did not come without its fair share of controversy. 

Shortly after Dukes submitted qualifying paperwork to the Jackson County GOP Candidate Committee, his candidacy was ballot challenged by Mr. Ken Clemons and Ms. Ellen O’Connor. A ballot challenge may be exercised by any citizen of the county. Mr. Clemons is a member of the Jackson County GOP Executive Committee and Ms. O’Connor is the former chairwoman of the Committee. The two challengers say the basis of their effort to block him from obtaining access to the republican ballot was due to Dukes openly campaigning for democrat Felix Jackson in 2016.

The following is an excerpt from a formal letter Mr. Clemons wrote in submitting the challenge:

“Soon after Kevin’s application and approval for ballot access in the 2016 election cycle he openly campaigned against Mr. Cecil Gant who was running for re-election for District 2 school board. As a republican, Mr. Dukes openly campaigned for the democrat candidate Mr. Felix Jackson, against Mr. Cecil Gant. As a Republican, openly campaigning for the opposite party candidate is not allowed in the local or state republican by laws.”

In her letter, Ms. O’Connor recounted her seeing Dukes outside the precinct campaigning for Mr. Jackson.

“When I saw Mr. Dukes he was outside the precinct, at least thirty feet from the precinct door, wearing the Felix Jackson tee shirt and talking to voters about voting for Felix.”

The two individuals named in the challenge have since passed. The two men, Gant and Jackson, were both well-respected within the community and were beloved public servants.

Republican Party Chairman Allen Keller called a special meeting of the executive committee to hold a vote dealing with the matter. The executive committee overwhelmingly affirmed the decision of the candidate committee to allow Dukes ballot access.

Clemons and O’Connor then appealed the decision of the local party to the ALGOP Steering Committee. The state party opted to hear the challenge brought before them. Shortly thereafter, ALGOP summoned both parties to plead their case to the committee.

Both parties were given an opportunity to present their case.

In a strong show of support, a host of local republican party elected officials and officeholders accompanied Dukes during the hearing. Attending on Dukes’s behalf were Commissioners Tim Guffey, Jason Venable, and Danny Rich. Probate Judge Victor Manning, Attorney Jack Livingston, Mr. Kevin McBride, GOP Chairman Allen Keller, and GOP Vice Chairman Dylan Smith were also in attendance.

During the hearing, Chairman Keller stated that Dukes had been a loyal member of the republican party. Keller noted that Dukes had served as Vice Chairman of the GOP Victory Committee, personally paid for the party’s booth at the county fair and orchestrated a “Get out the Vote” rally where he brought high ranking state GOP officeholders to speak.

Mr. Livingston cited the recent successes of the Jackson County school system, as statistics indicate vast improvement of the school system. The system’s report card has improved each year. The first year it received a grade of 78 on its report card, it received an 82 the following year than most recently an 84. Skyline has the highest score (tied) of all pre-k-12 schools in the state with a 95.

Jackson County schools have gone from having no resource officers to a total of four countywide, thanks to a partnership with the county sheriff’s department. JCBOE has also partnered with UAH to address school safety. Several county schools have received Google grants.

After hearing arguments from each party, the ALGOP Steering Committee ruled against the challengers, making the determination that Dukes is eligible to run for re-election on the Republican ballot.

Dukes told Jackson Blaze that he is appreciative of the support he received from fellow republicans.

“I am thankful for our local Republican Party. They truly want what is best for our party.”

Shortly after Dukes’ ballot challenge victory, the Jackson County GOP formally filed a challenge against Democrat Superintendent candidate Kimberly Paris Coates, citing that she did not properly file mandatory certification from the State Department of Education prior to the deadline.

Testifying on behalf of Coates was a Republican member of the Jackson County Board of Education, Charles West. West has long been a vocal critic of Dukes. Members of the county Republican Party have expressed their displeasure of West’s decision to testify in court on behalf of Dukes’s Democrat challenger.

During the hearing, Coates stated that she decided to seek the position of superintendent on the last day of qualifying.

Dukes told Jackson Blaze that he took issue with Coates’ last-minute decision to run: “It’s not a position that anyone should take lightly. It takes much thought, planning, and dedication. It’s not a job you can decide you want the day qualifying ends.”

Judge Jennifer Holt issued a ruling determining that Coates had failed to comply with legal parameters stating that a candidate must submit a signed certificate from the state superintendent verifying that they possess a certificate in administration and supervision before the qualifying deadline.

Dukes expressed his gratitude for the system working as it should. “I appreciate that the system is fair, and the rules are enforced,” said Dukes.

Dukes and the Republican Party declared victory in what was a hard-fought and lengthy process. Barring opposition launching a write-in campaign for superintendent, Kevin Dukes will serve a second term as Superintendent of the Jackson County Board of Education.