Marshall County Circuit Judge Race Pits Republican Against Independent

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ALBERTVILLE Ala. (WHNT) - On November 6th, most of the attention will be focused on the race for the White House with Democrats facing off with Republicans.  However, there is a big race in Marshall County that pits a Republican against an Independent.

Howard Hawk is the incumbent Circuit Judge for Place 2 in Marshall County.  He is running as an Independent.  He was first elected six years ago as a Democrat.  In late 2010 he switched parties and became a Republican.  But before the March primary, where he would have faced off with Jerry Baker, the Alabama Republican Party disqualified Hawk.  In making their decision, they said they felt he was not truly a Republican.

Hawk then collected signatures to get on the ballot as an Independent.   That's where the race stands now: Howard Hawk Independent candidate against challenger Jerry Baker, Republican candidate.

While Hawk has embraced his Independent candidacy as the way all judges should run, Baker, an Albertville attorney, isn't as convinced.

"He's trying to run as an Independent now," Baker said.  "But he's been a Democrat for 20 some odd years.  He told a group years ago that he 'was born a Democrat, would die a Democrat.  He ain't switching.'  And sure enough that's what he did."

Hawk, who served in the Alabama Legislature before becoming a judge, says he's always believed judges should run without a party label.  He says one of the first bills he introduced as a House member was to do away with partisan elections for the judiciary.

Hawk says running as an Independent is refreshing.

"And it will be a refreshing type thing to actually be the judge without, shall we say, those ties over the next six years," Hawk said.

Hawk has been running ads encouraging people to split their ticket on November 6th, knowing that many people in Marshall County will vote a straight Republican ticket.  However, Baker may hold an advantage in the fact no Independent candidate has ever been elected in Marshall County.  Hawk may also face a challenge in that President Obama is very unpopular in Marshall County as well.