"I think it's time for a change for the district," said Stewart, 43, who qualified this week to run for the seat as a Democrat.
Qualifying to run in the 2014 elections ends today for both Democrats and Republicans.
Stewart, an Anniston High School and Jacksonville State University graduate, earned his law degree at Birmingham School of Law. Since 2006, he has practiced in the law firm run by his father, former U.S. Sen. Donald Stewart. The younger Stewart worked with the firm as a clerk when it pursued and won a class-action lawsuit against Monsanto for the PCB contamination that affected much of western Anniston.
He said he wanted to focus on problems in Anniston that aren't getting enough attention from the Senate, including education, the economy and health care.
"I'm concerned about people's health, about their ability to take care of themselves," Stewart said. He said he wasn't yet ready to take a position on the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Republican Gov. Robert Bentley has refused to expand the program, and many Democrats have made expansion a talking point in their campaigns.
Stewart said he wanted to spend time talking to people in the district before discussing detailed policy proposals.
Marsh, a member of the Senate since 1998, has become one of the most powerful figures in the Legislature since the Republicans won a supermajority in 2010. He is perhaps best known as the architect of the Alabama Accountability Act, a law that created a tax credit for parents who pull their children out of the state's lowest-performing schools.
Marsh is also former owner of Aerospace Coatings International, an Oxford business that refurbishes worn or broken airplane parts.
"When I ran for office back in 1998, I wanted to see a better business climate in this state," he said. Marsh said he wasn't sure what issue was driving Stewart to run.
"I would ask Mr. Stewart what it is about my leadership that he doesn't like," Marsh said. "We've reduced the size of government, we've improved ethics and we haven't raised taxes."
Stewart said he is just beginning fundraising for the race. Marsh, on the other hand, had $201,000 at the beginning of February, according to campaign finance reports.
While qualifying for the 2014 elections doesn't end until today, a number of challengers to local incumbents have already made their candidacies official. Alexandria Democrat Ted Copland has qualified to run against Rep. Koven L. Brown, R-Jacksonville. Etowah County coroner Michael Gladden has qualified to run as a Democrat against Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden.
At the statewide level, Gov. Robert Bentley faces a challenge in the Republican primary from former Morgan County commissioner Stacy Lee George and businessman Bob Starkey.
So far, sports equipment company owner Kevin Bass is the only Democrat to qualify in the governor's race. Two other rumored candidates, Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden and Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, announced this week that they would seek re-election to their current positions rather than run for governor.
Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.