Morgan County has a newcomer running for school superintendent and a challenger for a commission seat following the first two days of qualifying for the May 24 Republican primary in what could become an intriguing election year.

Tracie Turrentine, principal at Eva School in the Morgan County system, became the first Republican qualifier for the superintendent's race. In the District 2 Commission primary, Randy Vest qualified to run for a fourth four-year term, and political newcomer Stephen D. Johnson, 52, an operator for Hartselle Utilities, qualified to run against him.

Four other Morgan incumbents also have filed paperwork since Republican qualifying began locally and statewide Tuesday. Democratic qualifying began last month, and qualifying for both parties ends Jan. 28.

Turrentine said she has spent almost 20 years in education, with the last seven in administration. She said if elected, her focus would be on bringing in more teachers to the school district and bringing back more traditional learning in the classroom.

"I would like to encourage universities to make it a little bit easier on teachers right now to get their degree," Turrentine said. "Everything else is getting easier. If you're in a trade, you can do that in two years, but education is still four to five years, depending on what you're going into."

Turrentine said her school district now places too much emphasis on technology-based learning and is deviating from the traditional core curriculum.

"To me, there's a balance between computers and teaching," Turrentine said. "Kids shouldn't be on Chromebooks all day long. I would like to mentor administrators to introduce more hands-on learning and keep a good balance between an online and hands-on learning curriculum."

Morgan County Superintendent Robert Elliott, who was appointed by the school board last year to fill the unexpired term of Bill Hopkins Jr., declined to say if he would seek election to a full four-year term. He said he would make comments Jan. 28. Hopkins left the position to become director of the Fayetteville, Tennessee, school system.

Turrentine said that if elected, she will be the first female superintendent of Morgan County. So far, she has raised $14,760 for the race and has spent $8,703.25, according to the campaign finance reports she has filed.

Other qualifiers in Morgan are Commission Chairman Ray Long, Sheriff Ron Puckett, Coroner Jeff Chunn and District 2 school board member John Holley.

Morgan and Limestone counties are expected to have at least one contested legislative race in the Republican Primary. District 4 Rep. Parker Moore has said he will run for reelection, and Decatur business owner Patrick Johnson has said he also will seek the seat. The Alabama Republican Party website didn't list any qualifiers for District 4 as of Wednesday afternoon, and no incumbent Morgan County lawmakers had qualified in other races. 

Local business owner Tom Fredricks, who previously ran for the District 4 seat, has qualified to run in District 14, which includes Winston, Walker and Jefferson counties. Republican Tim Wadsworth currently represents the district.

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Lawrence County

Four Republicans have qualified so far in Lawrence County: incumbent Max Sanders for sheriff, Sonny Malcom for County Commission District 2, District 3 incumbent Kyle Pankey and District 4 incumbent Bobby Burch. Lawrence County Republican Party chairman Daniel Stover said he is expecting several more candidates to qualify by the Jan. 28 deadline.

Marcus Echols, Democratic chairman for Lawrence County, said that no Democrats have qualified yet but said he wanted to see some of the offices challenged, even if he had to qualify himself to run.

"If I ran, I would definitely like to run for County Commission District 4 or state representative District 7," Echols said.

Echols said that Lawrence County voters would benefit from having candidates of both parties.

"I feel like it's a one-party (political) system for sure," Echols said. "A great example of that is the last superintendent election we had. An overwhelming majority voted Republican."

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—wesley.tomlinson@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438. 

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