It’s legal, but can a candidate get elected to Congress without living in the district he would represent?

Republican voters in Alabama’s newly reconfigured District 2 will likely get a say on that question in the March 5 Republican primary. Two Republican candidates have announced they will seek the nomination to represent the 13 counties of the new district in Washington. One, attorney Caroleene Dobson, lives in Montgomery inside the district where she and her husband vote. The only other announced candidate at this time, State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), does not live in the district and would not be able to vote for himself.

Oh, it’s all legal. A member of Congress and candidate has to live inside the state but is not legally required to live in the district that he is running to represent. While an out-of-district candidate can lawfully run for Congress, he cannot vote for himself.

What will voters think? Will they vote for someone to be their congressional representative who cannot vote for himself? Who lives in another congress member’s district?

Albritton lives in the district represented by U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl (R-Mobile).

While there are only two announced Republican candidates for the District 2 congressional seat, there is still time for others. The deadline to run for office in Alabama is this Friday at 5 p.m. For Republicans, they must qualify in person or online with the Alabama Republican headquarters and pay a qualifying fee. Federal candidates also have to file paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission.

For Democrats, they must file with the Alabama Democratic Party.

In either party, the qualifying fee to run for Congress is $3,480.

Former State Sen. Dick Brewbaker, a Republican of Montgomery, has said he is interested in possibly running for Congress if there is no incumbent; that is the case with the new District 2. He must decide by the November 10 deadline. Brewbaker lives inside District 2.

The new District 2 lines were drawn by a federal court’s special master following litigation. Those lines removed any incumbent in District 2 and placed District 2 Congress member U.S. Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) in District 1, represented by another incumbent, Jerry Carl. Those two are both running in District 1 and will face off in the March 5 Republican primary — an unusual situation.

While Dobson and Albritton and possibly others will face off for the Republican nomination, a growing list of Democrats are being talked about to seek the Democratic nomination. That race is of high interest because the map drawn by the federal special master created a district that has about a 49% black-voting age population. The Democratic nominee would be in a competitive position in the November general election.

Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl says his party will strongly contest the seat and believes it can be retained in GOP hands. It could be a pivotal race nationally because Republicans have only a slim majority maintaining control of the U.S. House.

Democrats who have announced for the District 2 seat include:

  • State Rep. Jeremy Gray (D-Opelika).

  • Willie J. Lenard, recent plaintiff in a lawsuit against Gov. Ivey.

  • State Sen. Kirk Hatcher (D-Montgomery).

  • State Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Mobile).

Other Democrats being talked about for the District 2 seat include:

  • State House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville).

  • State Sen. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham).

  • Phyllis Harvey-Hall, Montgomery educator.

  • Jefferson County Commissioner Sheila Tyson.

There is no definitive information about which Democratic candidates live within and without the district.

Democrats also must qualify by November 10.

The counties in the new District 2 are:

Washington, southern Clarke, Monroe, Conecuh, Butler, Crenshaw, Pike, Montgomery, Bullock, Macon, Russell, Barbour and parts of Mobile: most of the city of Mobile, most black precincts, and most of north Mobile County.

The district runs from the Mississippi line adjacent to Mobile and Washington Counties to the Georgia line adjacent to Barbour and Russell Counties.

Jim Zeigler is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor.

You can reach him for comments at