Tillman wins Democratic runoff for Alabama House District 56 against Huffman
Bessemer’s attorney, Ontario Tillman, won a strong runoff victory in the Alabama House District 56 election on Tuesday against Tereshia Huffman, a resident of Oxmoor Valley and a member of the Birmingham Water Works Board.
Tillman received 1,903 votes (71%), compared to 766 votes (29%) for Huffman, according to unofficial vote totals from the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. He will now face libertarian Carson Lester in the November 8 general election. No qualified Republicans to run for the seat.
Tillman won 12 of 14 polling places in the district on Tuesday, which includes Ross Bridge and part of the Lake Cyrus community in Hoover, as well as most of the communities in Bessemer, Brighton, Lipscomb and Oxmoor Valley and Shannon.
Huffman scored victories in the Ross Bridge and Oxmoor Valley polls, according to numbers provided by the Tillman campaign, but his numbers weren’t strong enough to overcome Tillman’s dominance in the rest of the district.
Tillman celebrated his victory with his supporters Tuesday night at E’s Legacy Smart Venue in downtown Bessemer and thanked them for their votes, prayers and words of encouragement.
“It’s not about me. I’m running as a public servant … to make changes in District 56,” Tillman said. “It is the victory of the people. … I think it came down to the fact that the 56-year-old people believed in me and I believed in the people and I wanted to represent the people – the people that I’ve known all my life growing up and being part of this community.
Tillman said he thinks voters are looking for someone who knows the district, understands the community, and will be active and approachable.
During the campaign, voters told him they wanted him to take care of things like infrastructure, floods, crime and jobs, he said. But the first thing he wants to do if he wins the general election is to learn how everything works in the Legislative Assembly and get to know the other members of the Legislative Assembly.
“It’s like being a rookie in the NFL. You have to learn the game, especially at this level,” Tillman said. “I want to make sure I know the process well so I can be the best and most effective representative I can be.”
During his campaign, Tillman said he would work to create more good-paying jobs in the House 56 district so people can earn a living wage. He will also work to provide more adequate and affordable housing, push for the expansion of mental health services, improve the public transport system, roads and other infrastructure, increase teachers’ salaries and retired teachers and to focus on science, technology, engineering and math education, he says.
Jeremy Ervin, his campaign manager, said when Tillman first announced he was running for the Legislative Assembly, many people counted him out.
“They didn’t even consider him a viable candidate to even run because he was new to politics,” Ervin said. “But one thing I knew was the support he had here.”
Tillman was the top vote-getter in the May 24 Democratic primary, with 2,090 votes (42 percent), to Huffman’s 1,198 votes (24 percent). The other two candidates who did not make the run-off were Bessemer councilor Jesse Matthews with 1,010 votes (20%) and former Bessemer councilor Cleo King with 712 votes (14%).
Tillman’s victory in the Democratic primary was “a thing of God,” Ervin said. “When it’s your time, it’s your time. God does not call people who are qualified. He qualifies those who are called.
Tillman said his opponents had had good campaigns and thanked them for making themselves available for service.
Huffman congratulated Tillman on his win and said he had a great campaign. She also thanked the people who supported her campaign and the issues she stands for.
“I gave my all to this campaign,” she said. “I didn’t get the result I wanted, but I’m not giving up on the district.”
She still wants to stand apart from people on issues like mental health, equitable education and inclusive economic development, she said.
Alabama House District 56 is currently represented by Louise Alexander, but she gave up the seat to run for Alabama House District 19 and ended up losing that candidacy on May 24 to Merika Coleman.