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Scandal, blue dogs and the fickle public could change the 2018 election, maybe

Bill Britt

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Campaign season is about to enter a critical phase with Republican and Democrat primaries less than 75 days away.

In this off-year election, only the governor’s race and the battle for attorney general are drawing any particular attention. Neither seat is held by an individual elected to the office by a vote of the people. Gov. Kay Ivey ascended to her position after the fall of Gov. Robert Bentley, and Attorney General Steve Marshall owes his job to the same deviant governor who was forced from office due to moral and legal failings.

As the 2018 Legislative Session hurries to a close, politicos are focusing their attention on primary election day, June 5, when many races are decided because of carefully drawn districts that favor either a Republican or Democrat candidate.

All political contests are consequential, but few have the potential to be transformative. If the status quo holds, little will change in the Heart of Dixie, but as with all things politics, the mercurial temperament of the electorate can change in interesting ways.

Take for instance Judge Roy Moore’s recent defeat in the 2017 U.S. Senate special election where scandal coupled with weak resolve among state Republican leadership gave a motivated youth and minority voter movement an opportunity to capture a seat held by Republicans for more than a generation.

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There is little reason to believe that Gov. Ivey will not win the Republican primary. Most recent polls show her with high favorables among Republican voters. But that doesn’t mean her path to victory is assured, as she faces three primary challengers and an enlivened Democratic base.

Having raised nearly three million dollars, Ivey is besting her closest competitor by over one million.

Secretary of State records show Ivey raising $2,833,064.91, Mayor Tommy Battle $1,692,632.00 (loan $4,000), State Sen. Bill Hightower $806,528.66 (loan $30,100) and Scott Dawson $638,967.00.

Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls former State Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox are, for now, only a distraction in terms of fundraising — but so was Doug Jones before he upset the state’s political equilibrium with his U.S. Senate win just a few months ago.

As for the attorney general’s race in the Republican primary, Marshall faces a field that includes former U.S. Attorney and recent AG chief deputy Alice Martin, former Attorney General Troy King and President Donald Trump’s Alabama finance director Chess Bedsole.

“That an attorney general is accepting donations from those who aided Hubbard is seen as troubling.”

Marshall is handily outpacing his rivals in fundraising having received $961,505.28 total with $18,021.40 in loans. Marshall contributions from in-state PACs has dropped precipitously since revelation surfaced about his actions to protect a molester on his staff.

But that hasn’t deterred out-of-state donors, many of whom seem to have no affiliation with Alabama. Marshall’s campaign is heavily funded by groups and individuals who are tied to the felony acts of former Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. That an attorney general is accepting donations from those who aided Hubbard is seen a troubling.

Among Republican voters, the most recent survey shows Marshall running behind King and slightly ahead of Martin.

Many high-profile politicos speaking on background believe if Marshall wins, he will move to fire public corruption fighter Matt Hart and his team. They also express concern that he will join forces with those who will weaken and dismantle state ethics laws.

Given Republican gerrymandering and the state’s right-leaning political bent, little is expected to change.

However, as blue dog Democrats are gaining ground across the nation, it is not inconceivable that Ivey could face a challenge from the left and given that Marshall was an Obama Democrat until 2012, it seems likely that he will be sent home by one of his three Republican challengers.

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Secretary of State’s Office begins voter fraud investigation in Wilcox and Perry Counties

Brandon Moseley

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Turnout in Tuesday’s primary runoff was just 12.7 percent across the state. That percentage, however, varied wildly across the state.

Many Democrats did not vote as there were not any statewide Democratic runoffs. Understandably then, the counties with the worst voter participation rates were Democratic dominated Black Belt Counties. Choctaw County was the worst in the state with an incredibly low .59 percent. It was followed by Hale with 1.53 percent. Third worst was Sumter with 1.6 percent followed by Bullock with 2.8 percent.

The Blackbelt had the worst voter turnout; but it also recorded by far the highest turnouts in Tuesday’s runoff election.

The Wilcox County probate judge’s race was apparently so exciting that 44.1 percent of voters turned out despite the heat and no statewide Democratic races.

Wilcox County has 11,058 people. 1,631 of those are under 18. There are only 9,423 voting age persons in the county, but an impressive 9,383 of them are registered voters. That is almost an impossible 99.59 percent voter registration rate. An incredible 4,167 of those voters made time in their day to cast a ballot in Tuesday’s runoff. 4,061 of those voted in the Wilcox County probate judge race, between Democrats Chris Stone and Britney Jones-Alexander. Alexander won the contest. The 44.41 percent voter turnout for the poor Black Belt county was three and a half times the state average.

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Perry County had a 36.35 percent turnout and they were followed by Dallas at 35.43 percent and Greene at 34.08 percent.

The Secretary of State’s office has some suspicions about the success of some of these rural community organizers ability to turn out their votes. Secretary of State John Merrill has launched an investigation into Wilcox and Perry Counties because the number of absentee ballots appears to be unbelievably high.

Sec. Merrill told the Alabama Media Group’s John Sharp that his office is “looking into to prospects of absentee broker operations, in which campaign workers or people with an unknown organization, exchange gifts or cash for absentee ballots.”

Secretary Merrill has said that he wants to make it easy to vote; but hard to cheat.

Below are voter participation rates for all 67 counties:
Wilcox – 44.41%
Perry – 36.35%
Dallas – 35.43%
Greene – 34.08%
Covington – 31.32%
Marion – 27.85%
Fayette – 27.71%
Lamar – 26.19%
Lowndes – 25.47%
Walker – 25.01%
Clay – 24.12%
Coosa – 23.8%
Macon – 21.95%
Crenshaw – 21.09%
Blount – 20.77%
Elmore – 18.92%
Geneva – 18.73%
Marshall – 18.72%
Chilton – 18.08%
Coffee – 18.07%
Autauga – 17.39%
Montgomery – 17.34%
Bibb – 17.02%
Pike – 16.61%
Tallapoosa – 16.42%
Henry – 16.4%
Dale – 15.67%
Baldwin – 15.57%
Houston – 15.03%
Jackson – 14.33%
Limestone – 13.16%
Jefferson – 12.6%
Winston – 12.27%
De Kalb – 11.68%
Chambers – 11.23%
Pickens – 11.18%
Cullman – 11.03%
Shelby – 10.99%
Colbert – 10.79%
Etowah – 10.77%
Franklin – 10.73%
Talladega – 10.3%
Calhoun – 10.22%
St. Clair – 10.08%
Butler – 9.97%
Cleburne – 9.72%
Mobile – 9.49%
Randolph – 9.44%
Lee – 9.41%
Morgan – 9.07%
Barbour – 8.45%
Cherokee – 8.45%
Marengo – 8.01%
Clarke – 7.79%
Madison – 7.66%
Lawrence – 7.43%
Escambia – 7.24%
Lauderdale – 6.88%
Washington – 6.7%
Monroe – 6.46%
Tuscaloosa – 5.94%
Russell – 4.95%
Conecuh – 3.68%
Bullock – 2.8%
Sumter – 1.6%
Hale – 1.53%
Choctaw – 0.59%

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Walt Maddox, statewide candidates host forum in Gardendale

Brandon Moseley

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Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox will headline a forum for Democratic candidates at the Gardendale Civic Center on July 30 at 6 p.m. Maddox will be joined by a host of other statewide legislative and local candidates.

Maddox claims that he offers voters a path forward out of the state’s corruption and funding crisis.

“It’s the same crisis we’ve been facing for the last seven years,” says gubernatorial candidate Maddox. “If we don’t do something today, there will be no tomorrow; we need safe infrastructure, access to healthcare and good paying jobs.”

The organizers say they “put people before party” so they can bring about change in Alabama.

“As taxpayers, we have been shortchanged for too long,” says former Gardendale City Councilman Blake Guinn, who is working for the Maddox campaign and is one of the forum’s organizers. “I’m tired of being last in everything but football. I’m looking for candidates who have the energy, intelligence, and vision to move this state forward.”

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Most Alabama politicians are just “rubberstamp” what their national party says, says Jennifer L. Greer, a retired university assistant professor who lives in Gardendale and is also organizing the forum. “I don’t care about Washington. I care about Alabama and getting services for my tax dollars, like Alabama’s First-Class Pre-K in every community.”

Maddox will be joined at the Gardendale forum by:

  • Danner Kline, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, 6th Congressional District.
  • Judge Robert “Bob” Vance, Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
  • Dr. Will Boyd, Democratic candidate for Alabama Lieutenant Governor.
  • Joseph Siegelman, Democratic candidate for Alabama Attorney General.
  • Heather Milam, Democratic candidate for Alabama Secretary of State.
  • Donna Smalley, Democratic candidate for Alabama Supreme Court, Place 4.
  • Cara McClure, Democratic candidate for Public Service Commission, Place 1.
  • Kari Powell, Democratic candidate for Public Service Commission, Place 2.
  • Veronica R. Johnson, Democratic candidate Alabama House District 51.
  • Danny Carr, Democratic candidate for Jefferson County District Attorney.

The event is free and open to the public.

Democrats have renewed enthusiasm after Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. Prior to that win, the last Democrat to win a statewide office in Alabama was Lucy Baxley, who was elected to president of the Alabama Public Service Commission in 2008. The last time a Democrat won a gubernatorial election was 1998, when Don Siegelman defeated incumbent Republican Fob James.

The general election will be November 6.

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Attorney General Steve Marshall defeats Troy King for GOP nomination

Brandon Moseley

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Republican voters went to the polls and elected Steve Marshall as the Republican nominee for Alabama Attorney General.

Marshall was appointed as District Attorney by then Governor Don Siegelman (D).

Tuesday night Marshall thanked his supporters and his team and said that there would be a new vision for Alabama going forward.

“What reaffirms me is I’m not going to do this alone,” Marshall said. “I’m with amazing warriors that have a passion to help the people of this state. I can tell you tonight they are ready to go to work and I’m ready to let them go, let them at it.”

Marshall said in a statement, “Before almost every athletic event in which I competed, the last words from my father were always “don’t leave anything on the field.” I can say with certainty that, in this campaign, we have left it all on the field. I remain forever grateful for all the volunteers who have devoted countless hours over the course of the last 13 months and the dedicated staff who worked on the campaign. We have given Alabama a clear choice. And, I am steadfast in the belief that God is sovereign and He is good in the result.”

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The race pitted the current Attorney General Steve Marshall versus former Attorney General Troy King.
King was appointed Attorney General by former Governor Bob Riley (R) in 2004. He was elected to his own term in 2006; but was defeated in the 2010 Republican primary by lobbyist Luther Strange.

Steve Marshall was appointed as AG by then Gov. Robert Bentley (R) after appointing Strange to the U.S. Senate. Marshall was the District Attorney of Marshall County for many years. He switched to the Republican Party in 2011.

Troy King campaigned vowing, “We have got to take this state back from the grips of violent crime.” King described himself as the only Republican running in this Republican runoff and he had support from many prominent conservatives, most notably retired Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Roy Moore who sent out 50,000 letters of endorsement to his most committed supporters across the seat. Trump advisor Roger Stone flew in Monday to endorse King and prominent Trump backer Perry Hooper Jr. also endorsed King.

None of it helped. Republicans voted to stick with Marshall. As of press with 100% of precints reporting: Marshall had 211,562 votes 62 percent. Troy King had just 129,409 votes 38 percent.

Marshall was supported by most of the business groups in Alabama and he was endorsed by 41 of the 42 district attorneys.

Steve Marshall raised $3,233,610 in contributions much of it from out of state plus $20,215 in in-kind contributions, outraising Troy King by over a million. King raised $2,225,663 plus $16,218 in in-kind contributions.

King has accused Marshall of using the Republican Attorney General’s Association (RAGA) to skirt Alabama’s 2010 law banning PAC to PAC transfers. Marshall says that since RAGA is not Alabama based the PAC to PAC transfer ban law does not apply to them. King filed a lawsuit; but the Montgomery judges dismissed the lawsuit saying that he does not have jurisdiction over RAGA as it is out of state.

Marshall defended his campaign in an interview with WSFA TV Montgomery.

“We have followed the rules and done the right thing,” Marshall said. On King’s lawsuit Marshall said, “I think it was a desperate act for a candidate that was losing. Nothing that we have done is inconsistent with Alabama law.”

RAGA contributed over $700,000 to Marshall’s campaign.

“RAGA and those Republican attorney generals are fighting a very important fight in this country,” Marshall said. “I don’t have any regrets in this campaign.”

King conceded that Marshall won the election but did not drop his complaint with the Alabama Ethics Complaint over the RAGA money, which King claims may have come from Mississippi gaming interests and pharmaceutical companies regulated by the AG.

Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) Chair and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge congratulated Marshall in a statement:

“What a great night for Steve Marshall and the people of Alabama,” Rutledge said. “Steve is a dedicated conservative who has always stood for the rule of law and defended the Constitution. A fierce advocate for Alabama, Steve is also an incredibly decent man.”

“Steve Marshall is completely committed to serving his state and tomorrow he will wake-up and get right back to work. Steve will continue to combat opioids and violent crime,” Rutledge added. “He will continue to fight for Alabama families. RAGA is proud to stand with Steve Marshall – a big congratulations to my friend and colleague on his victory tonight.”

Marshall suffered the loss of his wife, Bridgette, just last month. When asked how her suicide affected the race Marshall said, “People see me more now as a person than as a political figure and know that we suffer too.”

Marshall will now face Joseph Siegelman (D) in the November 6 general election.

 

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Scandal, blue dogs and the fickle public could change the 2018 election, maybe

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