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GOP attorney general candidates address Republicans in Vestavia

Brandon Moseley

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The Republicans running for Attorney General — Chess Bedsole, Troy King, Steve Marshall, and Alice Martin — all addressed the Mid-Alabama Republican Club at their monthly meeting at the Vestavia Hills Public Library on Saturday.

Chess Bedsole said this was his hometown club.

Bedsole said, “I got out of law school in the mid-90s and wanted a job in D.C. so I went to D.C. hoping to get a job and found one with Jesse Helms.” While working with Senator Helms, Bedsole said that they banned federal dollars from being withheld from the Boy Scouts and defeated Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s ban on bullets.

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Bedsole said in 2000 he was sent to Florida’s Broward County where he worked for the George W. Bush legal team in the Florida recount. “After that, I came home and went to work and have been here for the last 17 years. I am a 47-year-old lawyer. I got involved in the Jefferson County bankruptcy had some clients who bought the fraudulent vehicles.” Bedsole said that he has been a criminal judge for a municipality in Blount County. The drug dealers started dealing outside of Bedsole’s jurisdiction. He went to Senator Jeff Sessions for help in setting up a drug task force. Sessions told Bedsole, “I need you to work a state campaign for me.” Bedsole agreed. “Being from Alabama I thought that would be a Governor’s campaign. Two weeks later I got a call from Trump Tower.” Donald Trump wanted Bedsole to run his Alabama campaign.

“While working for President Trump, my credit cards were hacked 17 times and the death threats piled up. Eventually, they had me traveling with Mike Pence for protection.”

After the election, Bedsole worked on Trump’s transition team. “I was asked what we are going to do with Obama’s executive orders: we are going to burn them to the ground, and that’s what we did. While there, I got a phone call from Bentley’s office asking me to interview for the Attorney General’s position. I told them, no. They said we thought you were interested in this job. I told them, I do want to do this job, but won’t interview because I am not going to recuse myself from the biggest public corruption case that office is handling. I am the only one on this stage that would not interview with Bentley. I have a passion for this job.”

Bedsole said, “We are number three for murder in the states. We trail Illinois only because of Chicago and we trail Louisiana only because of New Orleans. Birmingham’s murder rate has doubled in three years and that kind of crime has bled over into other areas.”

Former Attorney General Troy King said, “In 1979 I was a 10-year-old boy growing up in Elba. My dad called us all in for a family meeting. My dad said the real estate business is really bad. There is just nobody buying houses and there is no money for a vacation. Nobody moves to Elba so all the real estate market in Elba is just people in Elba trading houses and there has to be a strong economy for that. I asked whose fault is that and he thought for a minute and said the President’s. Back then, Elba was all Democrats. Well, I sent a letter to volunteer for Ronald Reagan. They sent me some brochures and I went door to door asking people to vote for Ronald Reagan so I can go on vacation. That is when I decided what I want to do. If we are going to send men to Washington and Montgomery that are going to make decisions that are going to affect boys in places like Elba I want to be one. I lived my boyhood dream.”

King was Alabama Attorney General from 2004 to 2011.

King said that for eight years he has watched what went wrong. The top three issues facing our state are corruption, corruption, and corruption. He said that he wants to make us proud to say we are from Alabama. He would like for parents to be able to show a picture of the governor of Alabama to their kids and tell them that if they work hard to study that they can grow up and be like the governor of Alabama. Does anyone say that? It doesn’t have to be that way

“When I became Attorney General, we had the weakest sex offender law in the whole country. There was no real penalty for sex offenders not registering and most of them did not; so it was worse than not even having one because a parent could go on the internet and search in their area and it would tell them that there were no sex offenders in their area when that was not the case so then they lowered their guard. I sought to change that. Senator ‘Jabo’ Waggoner and Rep. Jim Carns worked with us and we wrote the toughest sex offender law in the country.

King said that he wanted sex offenders to be required to wear ankle bracelets. To bring attention to that King said that he wore an ankle bracelet. “People could go on their computer and see where I had been. One day we decided to take the kids to a public pool. I came out in my swim trunks and the ankle bracelet. My wife said to go in and take that off. That the point, you can’t take the ankle bracelet off. It was a hot day and the pool it was crowded. They all left by the time we got to the pool because they thought that I was a sex offender. That was the point.”

“We passed a tough child pornography law. We went to Walker County and he had pictures of over 100 children on his computer. We indicted him for every count. We could have just indicted him on five or six; but we indicted him on all of them because we were making an example. “We have to have the will to use the laws the laws that are on the books. We are not going to let you break the law with impunity.”

“If you would like to see the job done right,” King said. “If you would like to make change, if you would like to take a stand there is a way to do that but I can’t do it alone.”

Attorney General Steve Marshall acknowledged longtime Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber. “Thank you for taking an interest, Thank you for teaching me to be a prosecutor.”

“I am an Atmore native. I went to the Birmingham School of law. After graduation, I went to Birmingham and worked for a big law firm, but I am a product of rural Alabama. I went to Marshall County have been there for the last 25 years.”

Marshall said, “I have heard that AG stands for aspiring governor. That is not me. I don’t want to be your Governor and I don’t want to be your Senator.”

“A little over a year ago, I was appointed as Attorney General and I had to evaluate the AGs office,” Marshall said. “I saw that Luther Strange was a champion against the Obama administration. I saw an emphasis on public corruption. We wanted to be able to continue that in my administration. I saw other things that the AG’s office could do better.”

One of those was opioid addiction. “Overdose deaths have quadrupled since 2007. I did not see the AGs office talking about violent crime. There was no leadership coming from the AGs office on that.”

On human trafficking: “Jack Williams started a task force, but the AGs office was not fully engaged.” Marshall said that he changed that. “Luther was a champion of regulatory reform.”

“Unlike the other people on this stage, I am not talking about what I will do as Attorney General but what I have done as Attorney General. As your AG, I have taken a stand with the Trump administration on the travel ban. I took a stand with Jeff Sessions on saying no to sanctuary cities. I have taken a stand with the people of Pensacola who have had a cross in their public park. I have taken a stand with a Christian baker who does not want to make a cake for a gay wedding. When the Mayor of Birmingham tried to put a wall around a Confederate Veterans memorial that has stood for over a hundred years, we acted within 24 hours.”

“Gambling is illegal in Alabama,” Marshall said. “I know that there are people that think it should be legal. I am not a policymaker. If there are institutions in this state that are not following the law and local authorities will not act; it is my responsibility to make that happen. In Morgan County, the local DA helped us to close a facility there. In other counties, local authorities have not cooperated. “We have 9 actions pending against 5 gambling facilities. Luther Strange did not act on that issue but it is incumbent on me to enforce the law.”

“If I see things that we need to change in the law I work with the legislature to change it. A man killed a woman that was pregnant, but he was only charged with one death. We went to Montgomery to change that law and person was defined to include a preborn child. Because of that change in the law, when a man in Marshall County killed a mother that was two months pregnant we put that person on death row for capital murder.”

Marshall promised that if elected that he will continue to push the fight on opioids and on violent crime.

Former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said, “I live in Lauderdale County; but spent 8 years here (Jefferson County) as your U.S. Attorney where I got over 140 convictions in the area of public corruption.”

Martin said that she prosecuted people involved in the two year year college scandal and helped to convict: the Sheriff of Jefferson County, four of seven Jefferson County commissioners in the sewer scandal, including Mayor Larry Langford, and in the Healthsouth corruption where many people were cheated out of their saving because of that fraudulent activities.

“AG stands for Alabama Guardian,” Martin said. “I will fight for you. I am pro life and pro-Second Amendment. In addition to being the former U.S. Attorney, I was Chief Deputy Attorney General. The AG is the tip of the spear against crime and the shield to protect the people from the leftist liberals who are trying to tear this country apart to impose a socialist experiment. They think it’s better for you.”

Martin said, “I want to fight corruption.” Marshall was appointed by Robert Bentley. He was a Democrat until 2012. Will Brooke, Jimmy Raine were named in the Mike Hubbard trial. “This AG has accepted over $250,000 from people we were investigating as part of the problem. I have worked long and hard over my 25 years to fight corruption.”

“When Gov. Fob James appointed me as a Judge he told me that he would not hold me to being a Republican as no Republican had won an election in Lauderdale County in over a 100 years,” Martin said. “I told him I would rather run as a Republican and lose than win as a Democrat. I am not a party switcher. I am not a party flopper.”

“HB317 has peril in it,” Martin claimed. “There are holes in there that good people like Jabo Waggoneer may not notice. I may not be a policy maker in Montgomery but they are going to hear my voice.”

“In 2015 (as Deputy Attorney General) I met with the Alabama Medical Association,” Martin said. “At the time we were the highest prescribing state for opioids in the country. There were two point four active opioid prescriptions per every man woman and child.” Martin said that she wanted to make the doctors check the database to see how many other prescriptions a patient had before they prescribed opioids; but they said, “That would take too much of my time.” What they did agree to do was mandate that all doctors receive training in drug addiction and narcotics as part of their continuing education requirements.

“I have a bachelors in nursing from Vanderbilt,” Martin said. “I worked as a nurse to pay my way through law school. I have worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Memphis, Tennessee in 1983 for Ronald Reagan. I am proud that I have been endorsed by the Alabama Farmers Federation. I am proud that I have been endorsed by Bamacarry. I am the only candidate who has been a judge and I have sentenced people to jail.”

Martin said that when Luther Strange became attorney general he killed a plaintiffs attorney agreement that would have paid $114 million to Jerry Beasely’s law firm that Attorney General Troy King had entered in to to handle the BP oil spill. “We worked that case ourselves and sent money back to the Treasury and avoided a staff cut to the Attorney General’s Office because of it. If I am elected I will similarly kill a plantiffs agreement that the current Attorney General has entered into on opioids, saving the state millions.”

The Republican Primary will be on June 5.

The Jefferson County Republican Party is having a banquet honoring Greg Canfield and Byron York as well as Law Enforcement on May 14. Cost to attend the dinner is $150. There are sponsorship opportunities available, including a VIP reception.

The next meeting of the Mid-Alabama Republican Club will be on May 12. Sen. Richard Shelby will be the guest speaker.

 

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with six and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook.

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GOP gubernatorial candidates hold debate in Birmingham

Brandon Moseley

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From Left to Right: Scott Dawson, Tommy Battle and Sen. Bill Hightower.

Wednesday, Scott Dawson, Bill Hightower and Tommy Battle were on stage at the historic Lyric Theatre in Birmingham for the Republican candidates debate sponsored by AL.com’s Reckon and ABC33/40. Gov. Kay Ivey declined to participate in the media event. An empty podium with Ivey’s name was placed on stage for her anyway.

Roy Johnson served as moderate while Lauren Walsh, Cameron Smith, and John Archibald served as the journalist panel asking the questions.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said of himself, “I am a family man and a businessman.” Battle said that he became Mayor ten years ago and education, roads and bridges, and recruiting good paying jobs were the issues, Now Huntsville is the seventh best city to live in America. I want to do the same for the state,

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Birmingham-area evangelist Scott Dawson said that he grew up in Ensley, started working at 14, got a job at 16 and went into ministry.

“We love our state, but we have lost faith in our leaders in Montgomery,” Dawson said. “You can live days without food but you can’t carry on without hope and we have lost hope in our leaders.”

State Senator Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, said that he is involved in a number of small businesses in the Mobile area.

ABC 33/40’s top political correspondent Lauren Walsh asked: Alabama passed legislation making it illegal for high school teachers to have sex with students but that law’s constitutionality is being challenged in the courts arguing that is too broad and violates teachers’ rights. Since the age of consent in Alabama is 16, teachers should have the same rights to have sex with a 16 year or older student as any other adult in the state has. If the court overturns the law, would you support legislation raising the age of consent?

Battle said that we have to look at it in context.

“There is a breakdown in morality across our country,” Dawson said. Dawson said that there were a lot of hypotheticals in the question but that he would support raising the age of consent if the court strikes the law down banning teacher-student sex.

Hightower said that he opposed any lowering of the age of consent.

“You don’t allow it in a company,” Hightower said. “I have not studied the ramifications of that. I have talked to many people across Alabama who told me that they were sexually abused by the teachers and nothing is done. They should not be allowed to come back and teach.”

“This is such a serious issue,” Dawson said.

Many of the questions asked were about former Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Hightower was asked about a bill he sponsored that would have changed the law on how judges are removed to make Alabama like the federal government and for non-judicial constitutional offices where impeachment is done by the Senate and not by the Supreme Court.

“The judicial inquiry commission is not working right,” Hightower said. “It was not a fair trial. Let’s have impeachment of the judicial offices just like all the other constitutional offices. I don’t think the process was right. I did not like how the process was handled. It was a very one-sided argument. Judge Moore is not the only person who has a problem with the JIC.”

Battle disagreed. “I don’t want the legislature making political decisions about a judicial candidate.”

Dawson said, “I think he (Judge Moore) was right. I think he was railroaded.”

The panel demanded to know who the candidates voted for in the Senate election.

Battle said, “I supported the Republican candidate.”

“I did vote for Roy Moore,” Dawson said.

“I couldn’t vote for the other candidate,” Hightower said.

They were asked if they believed the women who alleged that Moore had underage relationships with them. (Actually, only Leigh Corfman alleges that she was below the age of consent when she dated Moore, but the panel just used “underage” for all of the accusers).

Dawson said that the allegations were troubling but that he talked with Moore’s pastor for the last forty years and he lived an upstanding life.

Hightower said that he was confident that the U.S. Senate could have determined what happened had it come to them.

The candidates were asked if they had ever challenged authority in their lives.

Dawson said that in his ministry he has had to sit down with other minister and lay the facts in front of them that they have fallen.

Battle said, “We have got to have ethics. We have got to have integrity and got to have honesty.” Three times as Mayor I have sent in ethics reports on other officials and each time I called the person and told them what I was doing and why.

The candidates were asked about HB317, which exempts economic developers from the ethics law.

Hightower defended his vote in favor of the bill in the senate.

“Fake news condemned this bill,” Hightower said. “When the Secretary of Commerce comes to me and says that we will lose projects without this bill passing, what do you expect me to do?”

Hightowers said that if site selectors had to register like lobbyists, “Toyota wouldn’t have come. Mercedes wouldn’t have come. I did not like the bill as it came to the Senate; but in ten months we will write a more robust ethics bill.”

Battle said, “I did not need HB317 to lure 24,000 jobs,” to Huntsville.

Battle said that he supports protecting site selectors, but he was opposed to the section in HB317 allowing economic developers to work for contingency fees

“Ethics bills are not written to protect lobbyists but to protect the people of Alabama,” Dawson said. “Why not wait and get it right, especially in the wake of yet another indictment.”

“I was disappointed that we adjourned without addressing ethics reform,” Hightower said.

The candidates were asked about school security.

Battle said that in Huntsville, “We hardened the site,” where there is only one place to come in or out have to be buzzed in and buzzed out and put a police officer in every school.

“You have to protect the kids,” Dawson said. “I am not opposed to arming our teacher, but I don’t want it to be the wild wild west.” “We need to pay a stipend to those teachers who are protecting our students on the front lines.”

Hightower said, “We know who the problem kids are. In Mobile 1,700 families generate about 78 percent of the crime.”

Walsh asked the candidates about entering into an agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians to allow casino style gambling at their facilities in exchange for taxes on the revenues.

Battle said, “That is not a financial tool I would jump into quickly.”

Dawson said if you legislate stuff just to raise money all you will do is keep legalizing more stuff to raise more money. “It is not a good economic decision for Alabama.”

The candidates were asked if they support raising the gas taxes to fund more infrastructure.

Battle said that we need to have more revenue to make infrastructure improvements and could be in favor of that but said that was just one option.

“Roads and bridges have to be addressed,” Hightower said. “We also have to address waterways and broad band. The bridge in Mobile is going to be a toll road. We already have money.”

Hightower said that we need to remove earmarks and re-prioritize money and should consider privatizing the Alabama Department of Transportation.

“Right now we are transferring $65 million out of ALDOT,” Hightower said.

Dawson said that there is a rumor that Kay Ivey would call a special session after the Republican primary to raise fuel taxes for infrastructure.

Hightower said, “I have heard that. It is no rumor that if certain people are elected they will raise taxes.”

Dawson said that Kay Ivey said that she would end task forces but has since created a school safety task force and is about to form an opioid task force. “You have to wonder if we have a flip flop governor.”

Battle said, “There is probably a consortium running the government. She is on jets going here and there passing out more checks than the publishers clearing house folks. When do you have time to govern?”

Dawson said, “She is coach because we fired our previous head coach and we have an interim coach while we look for a head coach that can win a national championship.”

Hightower said, “She is no Nick Saban,”

The candidates were asked about protecting Confederate monuments.

Dawson said, “I am going to protect the monuments.”

Hightower said that nobody is talking about taking down Auschwitz..

Battle said that when he was in Maine he saw memorials to Civil War veterans like we have, except they were to Union veterans.

The candidates were asked about legalizing marijuana.

Hightower said that we are already fighting opioids.

Dawson said, “I don’t care if it did bring money into this state, I am not going to support it.”

The Republican primary is on June 5.

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Walt Maddox proposes Opioid Crisis Plan

Sam Mattison

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Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Walt Maddox proposed a plan to combat the growing opioid crisis in Alabama on Monday that de-emphaizes prisons and takes away responsibilities from the Department of Mental Health.

In his plan, Maddox said that his first action to deal with the crisis would be to separate substance abuse from the Alabama Department of Mental Health and create a cabinet-level position specifically dealing with the crisis.

“We need a cabinet level officer who answers directly to the Governor in the battle to save our state from the ravages of illegal drug use while continuing to coordinate drug policy with mental health resources so that underlying causes of addiction are addressed,” Maddox said.

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The candidate also stressed that prisons were not the answer to the opioid crisis.

“Our prisons are troubled on all fronts, but one of the clearest, most consistent mistakes of the past has been to warehouse non-violent prisoners with addiction problems without providing treatment or rehabilitation,” Maddox said.

Finally, he called on–as he has many times before–for an  expansion of Medicaid, which was sharply rejected by Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration.

Maddox’s call for funding hits upon one of the most crucial problems with combating the opioid crisis: how does Alabama fund the solutions to the opioid crisis?

It is unclear if Alabama will have the funds to fight the crisis considering that the state is expected to face a budget shortfall that could extend into tens of millions of dollars. A light at the end of the tunnel is an earmark in a budget proposed by Trump’s White House that would allocate billions to fight the opioid crisis.

But even Trump’s funding may come with the recommendation for harsher punishments for trafficking the drug.

Trump suggested in March that drug dealers should face the death penalty for their role in the opioid crisis. White House Spokesperson Kellyanne Conway reiterated the point in an interview with CNN.

Even when it comes to treatment, the candidates fall on different lines.

Maddox suggested in his plan that medical marijuana could be a solution to the crisis and even suggested that the drug be recreational in Alabama, which is a plan that is greatly opposed by Republicans in the state who have only recently warmed up to the idea of medical marijuana.

The plan for medical marijuana could also be met with a more pugnacious Justice Department headed by Jeff Sessions. After he was seated in the position, Sessions said he would no longer allow states to violate the federal prohibition on Marijuana and even suggested going after states that only allowed medical marijuana.

Under Gov. Kay Ivey, the opioid crisis Alabama received its own Council commissioned by the governor and overseen by three co-chairs–Attorney General Steve Marshall, Acting State Health Officer Scott Harris, and Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear.

The council’s report recommended a slue of policies and legislation, but most failed to gain traction in the 2018 Legislative Session.

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Cavanaugh secures endorsement from Alabama Retail Association

Chip Brownlee

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Republican lieutenant governor candidate Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh has received another business industry endorsement, this time from the Alabama Retail Association and its Alabama RetailPAC.

The endorsement comes after Cavanaugh recently received endorsements from the Alabama Realtors Association and the Alabama Home Builders Association.

Cavanaugh, who has served as the president of Alabama’s Public Service Commission since 2012, was the first woman to chair the Alabama Republican Party and was once Gov. Bob Riley’s co-chief of staff. The PSC is an elected panel that regulates utilities in Alabama, including Alabama Power.

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Cavanaugh is running for the GOP nomination against State Rep. Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville.

Cavanaugh said she was honored to receive the endorsements of “job creators across Alabama.”

“Through the sale of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and much more, the Alabama Retail Association’s thousands of members touch almost every aspect of daily life in our great state,” Cavanaugh said. “Having owned several small businesses, I have signed both sides of a paycheck and am committed to sound conservative policies that allow job creators to do what they do best.”

Cavanaugh said her priorities would be with education, infrastructure, and workforce development if she were to be elected as lieutenant governor.

Formed in 1943, the Alabama Retailers Association was founded by retailers who saw a need for representation in state politics and policy.

The Alabama Retail represents 4,200 members and their 6,000 locations statewide. Those members range from small, family-owned retail stores to large national chains and big business.

Cavanaugh has raked in a number of endorsements from business interests in the state including the Business Council of Alabama, Manufacture Alabama and the Alabama Associated General Contractors (AGC). Political action committees representing the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama, the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association and the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association have also announced support for Cavanaugh.

The June 5 party primary elections are less than 50 days away. Cavanaugh’s March fundraising report showed a monthly fundraising total of $70,035.

 

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GOP attorney general candidates address Republicans in Vestavia

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 11 min
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