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GOP gubernatorial candidates hold debate in Birmingham

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

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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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Elections

Mistaken identity and racist, sexist, anti-Semitic posts could spell disaster in PSC race

Bill Britt

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Degrading women, racial slurs, anti-Semitic rhetoric and semi-pornographic images posted on social media pages hasn’t hindered the rise of a Republican Party candidate for the Alabama Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities and other entities.

The Alabama Public Service Commission race, where little-known James “Jim” Bonner  is challenging incumbent Jeremy Oden. Bonner is actually leading Oden in recent polls because voters in the Mobile area are confusing him with former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, who served the area in Congress for more than a decade. He is also seeing wide support in the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa areas because of former University of Alabama Chancellor Judy Bonner.

“What makes this particular race so interesting is that Jim Bonner is benefiting greatly from having the same last name as the former Congressman Jo Bonner and his well-known sister former Judy Bonner,” noted Cygnal’s president, Brent Buchanan. “This is borne out by the fact that in the Mobile media market Bonner leads Oden by 28 percent to 6 percent, a 4-to-1 ratio.”

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Despite all of this publicly available information, Bonner is leading in the GOP PSC primary against incumbent Oden for Place I on the commission.

According to Buchanan, Bonner is leading Oden due to mistaken identity.

Even though Bonner’s Facebook posts are readily available  voters wrongly identify the candidate.

Facebook Posts

A closer look at at his posts revels a card reading, “My love 4 you burns like 6,000 jews,” donning a makeshift postage stamp of Hitler. His post reads, “Awwwww I got a Valentine!!!!”

In other posts, he defended the N-word and called himself a Bentley Republican.

But if these things don’t outrage Conservative sensibilities, then perhaps a photo Bonner posted of a young boy nursing on a mannequin breast should.

In several posts, he likes the use of the N-word and jokes about African-Americans in derogatory posts, refers to a female as a fat stripper, then says, “I’m sorry everyone knows you’re not a stripper” and joins in negative comments about a woman’s vagina, which he calls, “[N]atures perfect design.” Referencing a Chinese restaurant’s menu he says, “The fried anus was the best I ever had.”

In post after post, Bonner seems to revel in racist, sexist and anti-semite comments, but this has dampened his support among those who think he is someone he’s not.

Even with its dominance, the Republican Party has struggled with the conviction of the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard on felony ethics violations, Gov. Robert Bentley who resigned in disgrace and loss of a safe U.S. Senate seat by Judge Roy Moore.

“It appears from the data that this PSC race is within the margin of error strictly because of name confusion. Bonner is competitive across the state despite the fact that he has spent no money on advertising or building his name ID,” added Buchanan. “Given what is expected to be a low turnout election, Bonner would be favored to win this race if it were held today.”

Bonner is one more case of Republicans failing to vet candidates before approving their candidacy.

 

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Elections

APR’s League of Influentials offer predictions in the upcoming Republican primary

Bill Britt

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During the first two weeks of May, the Alabama Political Reporter asked its League of Influentials to weigh in on upcoming Republican statewide elections. The Influentials are a roster of lawmakers from both parties, political analysts, members of the media, lobbyists and consultants that span the political spectrum.

The survey finds Gov. Ivey with a narrowing lead, a surprise in the attorney general’s race and Billy Canary of the Business Council of Alabama leaving sometime before hell freezes over and other prognostications.

Results in the June 5 primary for the Republican governor’s race, APR‘s Influentials project Gov. Kay Ivey will lead the field with 52 percent, followed by Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle at 24 percent, rounding out the field are Evangelist Scott Dawson pulling 16 percent and State Senator Bill Hightower with eight percent.

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What will the vote percentages be for each of the GOP gubernatorial candidates on Election Day?

Tommy Battle: 24 percent

Scott Dawson: 16 percent

Bill Hightower: 8 percent

Kay Ivey: 52 percent

In the Republican lieutenant governor primary, Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh tops the pack with 52 percent, according to APR‘s Influentials forecast. State Rep. Will Ainsworth garners 34 percent, and State Senator Rusty Glover trails at 15 percent.

What will the vote percentages be for each of the GOP Lieutenant Governor candidates on Election Day?

Will Ainsworth: 34 percent

Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh: 52 percent

Rusty Glover: 15 percent

In the Attorney General’s challenge, former Attorney General Troy King and current appointee, Steve Marshall, are within strike distance of each other with King holds a 4 point lead at 35 percent to Marshall’s 31 percent. Former U.S. Attorney and AG Chief Deputy Alice Martin pulled 22 percent, with Chess Bedsole coming in at 12 points.

What will the vote percentages be for each of the GOP Attorney General candidates on Election Day?

Ches Bedsole: 12 percent

Troy King: 35 percent

Steve Marshall: 31 percent

Alice Martin: 22 percent

As for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Tom Parker walks away with 71.88 percent to appointed Chief Justice Lyn Stuart’s 28.13 percent.

Who wins the GOP Primary for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

Tom Parker: 71.88 percent

Lyn Stuart: 28.13 percent

APR also asked its Influentials about any surprises in the Republican primary and, overwhelmingly, they saw the opportunity for an upset in the attorney general’s race with 46.88 percent seeing a stunning finish to the hotly contested election.

As for other potential surprises, the Influentials see small percentage in  the  GOP Supreme Court Chief Justice Primary at 18.75 percent, in the GOP Governor Primary 15.63 percent and a 9.38 percent in the GOP Lieutenant Governor Primary.

Which statewide race do you think will be the most surprising in the results on June 5?

GOP Governor Primary: 15.63 percent

GOP Lieutenant Governor Primary: 9.38 percent

GOP Attorney General Primary: 46.88 percent

GOP Supreme Court Chief Justice Primary: 18.75 percent

GOP Supreme Court Associate Justice Primary: 0.00 percent

APR‘s Influentials believe embattled Business Council of Alabama CEO Billy Canary will be replaced after the June 5 primary, with 18.75 percent thinking he will remain as the organization’s chief until after the November general election. The same number, 18.75 percent, project his departure when hell freezes over.

When does Billy Canary depart BCA?

After the Primary Election: 62.50 percent

After the General Election: 18.75 percent

After hell freezes over: 18.75 percent

A break down of Influentials who participate in this poll are as follows:

What best classifies you and your role?

Lobbyist/association: 25 percent

Legislator: 18.75 percent

Political Consultant: 37.50 percent

Other elected official: 6.25 percent

Media: 12.50 percent

All answers are received anonymously, and not even APR‘s staff can identify who participated in the survey.

 

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Elections

Deadline for registering to vote is today

Sam Mattison

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Today is the final day to register to vote in the party primaries set for next month.

Those who still have not registered can do so online through the Secretary of State’s website.

Alternatively, you can still register by mail, and you can always physically register at the board of registrars in your voting area.

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Alabama’s election laws require a photo identification to vote. While the most common ID used is a driver’s license, a variety of identifications can be used:

  • Valid Nondriver ID
  • Valid Alabama Photo Voter ID card
  • Valid State Issued ID (Alabama or any other state)
  • Valid Federal Issued ID
  • Valid US Passport
  • Valid Employee ID from Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board, or other entity of this state
  • Valid student or employee ID from a public or private college or university in the State of Alabama (including postgraduate technical or professional schools)
  • Valid Military ID
  • Valid Tribal ID

Alabama also gives out free photo IDs specifically for voting. The form can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.

The party primaries encompass many offices, including all statewide positions and seats in the Legislature.

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GOP gubernatorial candidates hold debate in Birmingham

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 8 min
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