MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — An incumbent Marshall County circuit judge who switched the Republican party after being elected as a Democrat was reelected Tuesday night as an independent.
Howard Hawk became the first Marshall County judge to win as an Independent.
He defeated Republican candidate Jerry Baker, 16,904 to 13,869.
After serving in the Alabama House of Representatives as a member of the Democratic Party, Hawk ran for circuit judge as a Democrat in 2006 and won.
Following the November 2010 election, Hawk announced his plans to join the Republican Party, as he considered himself a fiscal conservative with views in line with party shifts.
In January, local GOP officials decided Hawk would not allowed to run on their ticket, and removed Hawk from the ballot before the primary.
With no Democrat opposition, a Baker win in the primary would mean a win in November.
“A handful of political cronies, quite frankly, got together and decided they would select a judge by in the last minute taking me off the ballot and making de facto their person selected,” Hawk said.
Hawk viewed that approach as taking away the people’s right to vote, and said that his race and votes for him were secondary to the actual political process.
“The people of Marshall County said it loud and they said it clear: the right to vote is a precious thing, don’t mess with it.”
“We had 5,200 people sign petitions, drop them in the box here at our house asking us to say no, we want a right to vote on our circuit judge,” he said.
“Judges should be independent, that’s what judges should be, they should be non-partisan in election, and I think this is a poster child for why we need to get partisanship out of the judiciary,” Hawk said.
His slogan during his campaign was “Independent, what judges really should be,” and his advertisements emphasized the importance of not voting straight ticket as Republican votes would go to Baker and Democrat votes would go to neither.
There were 9,267 straight-ticket Republican ballots, however voters could check that box and additionally vote for Hawk instead of Baker.