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AL-01 Candidates Sound-Off on Syria

Lee Hedgepeth

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By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter

MOBILE— As the resolution for limited military action proposed by President Obama slowly makes its way through Congress, candidates for the 1st Congressional District have been sounding off on what they think is the appropriate role for the US to play in Syria. Alabama Political Reporter contacted all of the candidates for comment, and below are their responses.

The only candidate not to respond was Democrat Lula Albert-Kaigler, who could not be reached.

Bradley Byrne (R): “The President has not convinced me there is a justifiable reason for the United States to get involved in Syria. Before we spend American tax dollars fighting in another country’s civil war across the globe, I’d like to see that money spent here at home on critical projects like additional spans of I-10 across Mobile Bay which solve a major national and local problem.”

Quin Hillyer (R): “The humanitarian crisis in Syria is heart-rending. Unfortunately, if we apply the Reagan/Weinberger Doctrine, we see no clear and obvious objectives or endgames. Unless such objectives become very well defined, I would stay out. Meanwhile, the safety of Israel should be a paramount consideration.”

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Wells Griffith (R): “We cannot deny what is happening in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy on a massive scale. Unfortunately, like so many issues, this has turned in to a public affairs exercise for President Obama after showing zero leadership on a destabilizing Middle East.
President Obama owes the American people an explanation about what his intentions are in regards to Syria. The President has failed to lay out a coherent policy in regards to Syria and the Middle East as a whole, and as a result our standing in the region has been weakened. I am thankful that President Obama has respected the Constitution and sought the approval of Congress, but I believe that before any vote can occur we must have a clear assessment of the facts and proposed solutions in the best interests of America.”

“As your representative I will always look out for the safety of our men and women in uniform and base decisions on American interests at home and abroad. While much of the information being reviewed by elected leaders remains classified, I look forward to a transparent and robust debate in the congress before any vote.”

Chad Fincher (R): “I have very serious reservations and concerns about the United States invading Syria. As a congressman, before I would ever vote to send our men and women into harm’s way there would have to be a clear objective and a concrete exit strategy in place which I believe our President has not yet provided to Congress regarding an invasion into Syria.”

Sharon Powe (R): “Based on the alleged information related to the chemical gas attack of
Syria, I believe that those details are not justification for the US to conduct any type of reprisal attack on the Syrian government at this time. Furthermore, if such reprisal attacks are deemed necessary, those attacks should be authorized by the US Congress and our allies to include
countries in the Arab league. We do not need our intelligence leading us into another ‘weapons of mass destruction’ episode.”

David “Thunder” Thornton (R): “A brief answer to the question of whether we should go into Syria at the present time is ‘No.’ Our nation’s leaders have numerous times, both recently and even farther in the past, formulated plans and carried out intervention due to their poor diplomatic strategy. We seem to be led into these situations by individuals who feel military force is a problem solver and do not know how to deal with long range problems.”

“There needs to be a diplomatic plan using our nation’s integrity as a strength in negotiations. By repeatedly using military force as a solution undermines our nation’s integrity and reduces the respect we have from the nations of the world. There are times to use military force as a means of last resort but it should not be used where it compounds and does not solve a particular conflict.”

Daniel Dyas (R): Candidate Dyas asked the Alabama Political Reporter that his comments be published only in whole; due to their length, and controversy over their substance, his full statement appears in this article.

Jessica James (R): “No. The U.S. should not intervene in Syria.”

Dean Young (R): “At this moment, from where I’m sitting and what I know, which is very limited, I do not think we should intervene in Syria. Our Constitution gives the power to declare war to the U.S. Congress not Barak Hussein Obama. The U.S. Congress should receive a full briefing on exactly what is happening and why the president thinks we should go to war.”

James Hall (I): “I must preface my answer with a caveat: Currently, I have zero inside information on what could be a positive outcome of intervention in Syria. The only information that I am privy to is what I can glean from news outlets.”

“With that being said, I am not in favor of military action in Syria. The administration is trying to justify a strike by essentially saying that the United States is the world’s police force. I am totally opposed to that premise. I do not see any single positive outcome for us. Nothing that we do in Syria will lead to any advancement on the war on terror, economic benefits, or future political influence in the region. There are many possible negative outcomes which ultimately could result in another global conflict. With the information that I have now, I am opposed to any action in Syria.”

Burton Leflore: (D): “The United States should not intervene in Syria at this time. However, Congress should send a clear an unequivocal message to Syria and the world that the United States will get involved if there is further use of chemical warfare.”

Leflore responded in a more in depth fashion on Syria in an Alabama Political Reporter interview, which can be seen here:

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a resolution for the use of limited force in Syria, 10-7. The Senate will soon have a vote on the floor. Debate continues in the House, with classified briefings for members scheduled throughout the next few days. Obama has not ruled out the possibility of a limited military strike even without authorization from Congress.

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ACLU sues John Merrill for blocking followers on Twitter

Chip Brownlee

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Secretary of State John Merrill is facing a lawsuit over his blocking of individuals on Twitter.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Merrill Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2018, on behalf of three Alabama citizens who say they were blocked on Merrill’s Twitter. They say an elected official shouldn’t be allowed to block constituents on Twitter because it’s a violation of their First Amendment rights under the Constitution.

“It is upsetting to me that the Secretary of State, who primarily uses his Twitter account to disseminate information on issues related to his office, has also weaponized that account by blocking those with whom he disagrees politically,” said Kimberly Fasking, a plaintiff in the case. “It is not the Secretary of State’s job to communicate only with those who agree with him, but with all of the people of the State of Alabama. I am disappointed that I no longer have ready access to information from the Secretary of State’s office in a way that allows me to engage meaningfully on topics that I find incredibly important.”

Fasking, along with the other plaintiffs in the case, are all residents and registered voters in Alabama, according to the initial court filing and the ACLU.

Fasking is a law student at the University of Alabama and says she was blocked after asking about crossover voting, while Heather Melvin Boothe, a second plaintiff, was blocked for stating “Good point! Ballot has major typo.”

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The third plaintiff, Herbert Hicks, a farmer and educator, was blocked after asking Merrill about a speaking engagement.

Merill quickly responded to the lawsuit Tuesday in a statement.

“The lawsuit filed today by the ACLU of Alabama is an attempted political hack job,” Merrill said. “Members of this liberal group are attempting to create an issue concerning lack of access to public officials that simply does not exist. As every member of the media and general public who interacts with this office knows, the most important thing for an elected official to do is to remain accessible to the people of this state. That is why I always make my cell number — 334.328.2787 — available to all Alabamians.”

Merrill does regularly release his phone number and responds inquiries.

The ACLU says Merrill’s Twitter account, @JohnHMerrill, is used “regularly to discuss Alabama election law, inform about his duties as Alabama Secretary of State, remind the public about upcoming elections, and generally engage with the citizens of Alabama.”

They argue that because of the way he uses this account, even if it’s personal, it has become an important source of news and information regarding Alabama elections and election law.

Merrill said in his statement that his account’s personal nature excludes him from a recent federal court ruling that held President Donald Trump’s blocking of followers on Twitter violated the First Amendment.

“Further, the account in question — @JohnHMerrill — is exclusively my account, while the account @alasecofstate is the state’s public account, and this account has never blocked anyone from viewing any of the posts on its page,” Merrill said. “The @JohnHMerrill account has remained a personal account since its creation, in October 2009.”

The lawsuit resulting in a federal ruling against Trump was filed by Columbia University’s Knight First Amendment Institute and seven of his former followers whom Trump blocked on Twitter.

After the federal court ruling regarding Trump’s account, Merrill told the Montgomery Advertiser that he would continue to block followers who were only interested in promoting their public agendas.

He reiterated that resolve in his statement Tuesday.

“When people use a platform for public debate as a way to promote their agenda, regardless of the presentation of any factual information, I believe it is my responsibility to designate attempts to misinform the public as false,” Merrill said. “And, when users continue to publish those instances, or when they make hurtful statements about me or my family, I try to reduce the exposure to avoid misinforming members of the public.”

The lawsuit seeks to bar Merrill from blocking plaintiffs and others based upon whether he agrees or disagrees with their viewpoints, the ACLU’s complaint states. The case was filed in the Middle District of Alabama U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

Merrill said the lawsuit and its assertions don’t change the fact that he is accessible to the public.

“I am recognized as one of the most accessible and personally available elected officials in the history of the state of Alabama, which is why I visit all 67 counties each year,” Merrill said. “It is my desire to continue to be recognized in that way as long as I have the privilege to continue to serve in public office.”

ACLU of Alabama attorney Brock Boone said Merrill as a government official does not get to pick and choose who receives information on Twitter just like he can’t kick out his constituents for their beliefs at a town hall.

“This is a violation of the First Amendment,” Boone said. “It is worrisome that the individual in charge of free and fair elections chooses to discriminate against individuals on social media. As the Secretary of State, Merrill should be using his platform to inform the public, not censure them.”

 

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Want to know why Mike Hubbard still isn’t in prison?

Josh Moon

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Mike Hubbard probably isn’t going to jail anytime soon.

The former Alabama House Speaker who was convicted on 12 counts of misusing his office for personal gain, and who recently had the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals uphold 11 of those convictions, remains free on an appeals bond.

While most other convicted felons find themselves carted off to jail in handcuffs — with even most white-collar criminals allowed only a small window post conviction before reporting to prison — Hubbard has been free for more than 26 months.

And he’s likely to remain so until the Alabama Supreme Court either rules on his appeal or declines to hear it.

According to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, which responded to questions from APR about why Hubbard remains free, the appeals bond which keeps Hubbard free doesn’t expire until his appeals expire.

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The AG’s office refused to comment specifically on Hubbard’s case, but it did provide guidance specifically about appeals bond.

“An appeal bond does not expire until the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issues the certificate of judgement, which occurs when the appeal becomes final,” AG’s office spokesman Mike Lewis wrote in an email. “In most circumstances, an appeal becomes final in one of three ways: 1) the time for seeking review in the Alabama Supreme Court expires; 2) the Alabama Supreme Court denies cert.; or 3) the Alabama Supreme Court affirms the lower court’s judgment.”

So, the ball is now in the Alabama Supreme Court. And it often moves at a snail’s pace, particularly on issues dealing with political scandal and great public interest.

However, one thing that could speed the process along is the lengthy opinion from the Appeals Court upholding those 11 Hubbard convictions. Many attorneys familiar with the opinion believe it was written in such a way that it did the ALSC’s work for it, examining myriad avenues and pulling together several different legal arguments, and would prevent the ALSC from having to dig through the voluminous file.

On the other hand, one thing that could slow the court down is that there’s a new appeal in the case — this one from the AG’s office, which is prosecuting the case.

It has appealed the Criminal Appeals Court’s overturning of one count. That’s new ground for the ALSC to cover, and that could take more time.

And all the while, Mike Hubbard, convicted felon, will remain a free man.

 

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AG Marshall moves to strip pre-existing conditions coverage from hundreds of thousands of Alabamians

Bill Britt

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Nearly one million non-elderly adults in Alabama have pre-existing conditions and can’t be denied health insurance coverage under current law. However, Alabama’s appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall is currently engaged in a court battle that would deny those individuals health care coverage.

Marshall, the Republican nominee for attorney general, is part of a federal lawsuit which, if successful, will not only leave a third of Alabamians without health coverage for pre-existing conditions, it would strip over 50 million Americans of the same rights, as well.

The case, Texas, et al. vs. the United States, et al., is currently being heard in The United States District Court for The Northern District of Texas, where 18 Republican attorneys general and two Republican governors are suing to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Recently, the Trump Administration joined the Texas lawsuit challenging portions of Obamacare that prohibit insurers from rejecting certain individuals or charging more for those with pre-existing conditions.

Polling shows public concerns over keeping coverage for pre-existing conditions is a major issue for voters with a supermajority — 75 percent — saying it’s “very important” to keep ACA’s insurance protections, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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The American Medical Association, The American Academy of Family Physicians, The American College of Physicians, The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have all sought to influence the court filing, an Amici Curiae. These groups argue what Marshall and his fellow litigants would strip health care from tens of millions of Americans, sow chaos in the nation’s health care system​ and would remove protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions.

Here in Alabama, the state’s Hospital Association is supporting Marshall’s election with nearly $20,000 in contributions to his campaign. A number of other health care related organizations are backing Marshall, including one firm’s founder who represents the Southern Poverty Law Center.

APR reached out to the Alabama Hospital Association’s Danne Howard asking why the organization supported a candidate who would take away medical coverage for Alabamians with pre-existing conditions, but as of publication deadline, Howard failed to answer APR‘s query.

Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse sees Marshall’s action as politically motivated and harmful to those he has promised to protect.

“Steve Marshall’s politically inspired effort to get rid of the Affordable Care Act could take health insurance away from 483,500 Alabamians, raise premiums, and end the Medicaid expansion, which has been critical for combating the opioid epidemic and keeping rural hospitals afloat,” said Woodhouse.

Marshall joins another GOP lawsuit challenging Obamacare

Marshall, an Obama-Democrat until 2012, turned to the Republican Party once he was determined to run for attorney general. He was first appointed Marshall County District Attorney by then-Gov. Don Siegelman and later appointed Attorney General by Robert Bentley before he was forced from office.

Marshall faces Joseph Siegelman in November’s general election.

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Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama plans a statewide campaign to pass constitutional amendment

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, a newly-formed political committee known as the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama announced that they will coordinate campaign and media efforts for passage of the pro-life constitutional amendment that will appear on the Nov. 6, statewide ballot.

The committee is chaired by Cole Wagner of Montgomery. It is officially registered with the Secretary of State’s office and has already recruited several prominent partner organizations and elected officials, which include: Alabama Citizens’ Action Program (ALCAP), Alabama Policy Institute, Alabama Pro-Life Coalition, Alabama Pro-Life Education Fund, Choose Life, Inc., Cameron’s Choice, Eagle Forum, Southeast Law Institute, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R – Monrovia, State Senator Steve Livingston, R – Scottsboro, and State Representative. Will Ainsworth, R – Guntersville, who is also the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.

“Passage of Amendment Two on the statewide ballot will allow Alabama to begin protecting unborn life as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Wagner said. “The Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama is tasked with educating voters about the constitutional amendment and providing them with accurate and truthful information while, at the same time, refuting falsehoods and misinformation that may be disseminated by pro-abortion forces within the state.”

Wagner said that the Alliance has created a public Facebook page and will soon begin its grassroots campaign and media efforts in support of the constitutional amendment. Additional organizations and public officials are also expected to announce their support for the group’s efforts in coming days.

Amendment 2 was sponsored by State Representative Matt Fridy, R – Montevallo.

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The Alabama Fair Ballot Commission released the following description:

“Amendment 2 provides that it would be the public policy of the state to recognize and support the importance of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life; and to protect the rights of unborn children. Additionally, the amendment would make clear that the state constitution does not include a right to abortion or require the funding of an abortion using public funds.”

The amendment will be on the Nov. 6 general election.

Abortion was illegal in Alabama until the U.S. Supreme Court issued the controversial 5 to 4 Roe vs. Wade ruling in 1972 stripping the state legislatures from the authority to regulate abortion within the states.

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AL-01 Candidates Sound-Off on Syria

by Lee Hedgepeth Read Time: 5 min
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