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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,

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.”

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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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Opinion | Collier’s allegations are not about Ivey’s health — they’re about retaliation

Josh Moon

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It’s not the (alleged) stroke, it’s the coverup.

That was the message from Walt Maddox and his campaign on Thursday, as they took shots at Gov. Kay Ivey for allegedly directing her security detail to cover up a health scare in 2015. She’s also alleged to have demoted a state trooper from her security team after he refused to conceal from his superiors a trip to the hospital Ivey was forced to take while attending a conference in Colorado.

And the story could use a little refocusing.

After APR’s Bill Britt wrote a story Monday that quoted former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency head Spencer Collier confirming the hospital trip for “stroke-like symptoms” and providing details of his conversations with Ivey about demoting the trooper, the story from state media outlets veered off course.

Instead of the focus landing on Ivey’s mistreatment of a law enforcement officer who was simply doing his job correctly, it became all about her health.

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Was she sick? Did she have a stroke? How’s her health these days?

Those are all fair questions.

They’re just not THE question that should have come from Collier’s revelations.

Because if Ivey did what Collier alleges, she possibly broke the law. And maybe, more importantly, she took money out of the pocket of a trooper who was trying to support a family simply because he refused to conceal her trip to the hospital.

That sort of behavior … well, we’ve seen that before in this state.

Mike Hubbard and Robert Bentley both went after law enforcement when they were initially caught in lies and illegalities.

Hubbard tried to defund the entire Alabama Attorney General’s Office and squeeze the prosecutors on his trail. He later launched public attacks against the lead prosecutor, Matt Hart, in a failed attempt to get out from under his misdeeds.

Bentley asked Collier, who was then head of ALEA, to lie to AG’s office investigators. And when Collier, after being terminated by Bentley for refusing to lie, told the world of the then-governor’s affair, Bentley set out to ruin the man.

Both Bentley and Hubbard wound up in jail for brief periods. And Alabamians wound up with more black eyes from the nation’s most corrupt state government.

That’s why this deal with the trooper matters so much.

Because it speaks to the character of Kay Ivey.

I mean, would she really demote this poor guy — the same trooper who sat by her hospital bed for three days — force him to uproot his family and go from the Montgomery area to Houston County, cut his pay and stifle his career because he followed trooper regulations instead of her improper/illegal directives?

Would she?

Because I think that’s something we should know.

Ivey, in response to Maddox’s comments on Thursday, told reporters that they should “check” the facts on the trooper, Drew Brooks.

I’ve done that.

I have copies from his personnel file showing where he lost pay and was sent from the governor’s security detail — a sought-after position — to giving out drivers licenses in Dothan — a very much not-sought-after position.



If Ivey has records indicating these things didn’t happen, I’d love to see them. And I’d also love to see records of her trip to Colorado in 2015.

Because right now, this is looking like a very familiar road.

A candidate who won’t debate. A politician who plays a little loose with the rules and law. A career politician who would do anything to stay in the game. A desperate politician who will stoop to any level to conceal their flaws and errors.

It all rings a bell, doesn’t it?

Mike Hubbard.

Robert Bentley.

Kay Ivey?

 

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Ivey campaign calls Maddox a lying liberal

Brandon Moseley

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The Kay Ivey campaign pounced after Walt Maddox contradicted himself and Spencer Collier at his news conference in Tuscaloosa.

Spencer Collier is a former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) head appointed by then Governor Robert Bentley (R). Collier thrust himself into the 2018 gubernatorial race by claiming that Ivey lied about an illness over three years ago back when she was Lieutenant Governor and then retaliated against a state trooper assigned to her security detail that allegedly was a source for an Alabama Political Reporter story about the hospital stay.

On Tuesday, Collier told Al.com “he has not been contacted by the campaign of Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.”

On Wednesday, Maddox told the Associated Press that he was “shocked to learn” about the Collier allegations.

At his press conference on Thursday, Maddox told Al.com reporter that he had actually had a meeting with Spencer Collier several weeks back. Maddox admitted, “Spencer contacted me a few weeks ago and wanted to meet… He told me what he was going to do.”

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This embarrassing episode came on the heels of a Yellowhammer News report that Maddox’s struggling campaign has been bankrolled by far-left billionaire George Soros.

Maddox is running ads claiming that he will never lie.

The Ivey campaign wasted no time in taking advantage of Maddox’s gaffes.

“Apparently Walt Maddox isn’t just a liberal. He’s a lying liberal,” Ivey campaign spokesperson Debbee Hancock wrote in a statement. “The people of Alabama will see this for what it is – a desperate false attack from a shameless politician who will say or do anything to get elected.”

Hancock reiterated that the Governor and her doctor “have repeatedly disputed these lies and provided detailed accounts to back it up. As it relates to the officer, that’s another Maddox whopper. News outlets reported last year that the officer actually received a promotion and raise in late 2015.”

“Walt Maddox is pushing these last second lies because his half baked liberal ideas have him losing in a landslide,” Hancock stated. “With less than three weeks to go, not even $200,000 from George Soros can save him.”

Ivey took more than $100,000 from same Soros-backed PACs as Maddox

Collier was fired as head of ALEA by Bentley after a power struggle with alleged Bentley mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Collier has been suing Bentley ever since. Collier became disenchanted with Ivey; because she has authorized using state funds to pay Bentley’s legal defense to fight Collier’s efforts to get a cash settlement from ex-Gov. Bentley. Collier is presently working as the police chief of Selma.

Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) is the Mayor of Tuscaloosa. He has never run a statewide campaign before and is struggling to find any issue that can cut into Ivey’s enormous 20 point lead in the polls. Maddox has run ads claiming that he is pro-life and pro-gun; but has conflicting statements on those positions. He has said that the Second Amendment has to be limited like the First Amendment. How that would work and what that means for gun owners is unclear. He has also said that he is pro-life; but opposes the pro-life Amendment Two, which is also on the general election ballot.

There are only eighteen days until the general election.

(Original reporting by the Yellowhammer News’ Sean Ross and the Alabama Media Group contributed to this report.)

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Zeigler: Change from Bentley to Ivey “removed a dark cloud over Montgomery”

Brandon Moseley

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State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) told the Republican Women of Coffee County the resignation of former Gov. Robert Bentley “removed a dark cloud over Montgomery.”

Zeigler said he could see a real difference when Ivey took over in April 2017 after, “Bentley’s forced resignation.”

“During the two years I served with Gov. Bentley, I was never allowed inside the governor’s offices,” Zeigler said. “Once Kay Ivey took over, I was inside the governor’s offices six times in just the first two months, working with her staff on issues.”

Zeigler clashed frequently with the Bentley Administration even before his term began. Ultimately, Zeigler filed the first ethics complaint against Gov. Robert Bentley in March 2016. 13 months later the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Bentley was in-deed likely guilty of violation multiple counts of Alabama ethics and campaign finance law. Five days later, the House Judiciary Committee began historic impeachment hearings. On that same day, April 10, 2017, Bentley resigned and Ivey became governor.

As Governor Ivey has focused on: growing the economy. Unemployment has reached record lows and businesses are moving manufacturing to Alabama. The legislature has passed the second largest education budget in history. Kay has focused on increasing computer science classes, pre-K expansion, workforce development, and building new prisons.
Ivey is seeking a second term as governor in the November 6 general election. She faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Madox (D).

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While Zeigler had been a consistent critic of Bentley. Zeigler has not filed litigation against the Ivey administration but has been active on other issues, such as diversion of food funds by the outgoing Etowah County Sheriff.

While Ivey has led Maddox in every polls by large margins, Zeigler told the Republican group that some GOP voters “may be too confident. They think we Republicans have it made, so they don’t need to get involved and don’t need to vote. That is the quickest way to lose an election.”

Zeigler is seeking re-election in the Nov. 6 general election. He is opposed by Democratic nominee Miranda Karrine Joseph. This is the third time that Joseph has run for Auditor.

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St. Clair GOP urged to vote yes on Alabama Amendment Two

Brandon Moseley

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Rick Renshaw with the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama addressed the St. Clair County Republican Party at a meeting in Moody Thursday. Renshaw urged the gathered Republicans to vote Yes on Amendment two.

Amendment Two is a pro-life amendment that would clarify that nothing in the Alabama Constitution could be interpreted as guaranteeing a right to an abortion.

Renshaw said that the opposition is, “Sitting on $900,000. We have about a $1000. When I say they are going to outspend us a million to one, I mean that literally.”

We are not going to be able to run TV or radio advertising, Renshaw said. The opposition group is calling itself: “Alabama for Healthy Families. Can you be any more deceptive?”

We recently announced three co-chairs for our group, the Alliance for a Pro-Life Alabama: PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan, and Mary Sue McClurkin. She shepherded a lot of legislation through the House during her four terms.

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We have a statement from the Attorney General supporting Amendment Two, Renshaw said. Any state candidate is welcome to submit a statement supporting Amendment Two.

AG Steve Marshall (R) has been supportive of the pro-life cause.

“When the Democrats controlled the legislature, we were kind of conditioned to vote no on Amendments,” Renshaw said. We need to get over that. Renshaw said that he was good with all four of the statewide Amendments; but particularly Amendment Two.

Renshaw warned that Planned Parenthood and the Amendment Two opposition would use scare tactics and misinformation to defeat Amendment Two.

“They are trying to scare people about the nature of the Amendment.” Renshaw said.

Renshaw told the Alabama Political Reporter that Planned Parenthood PACs in other state are transferring funds to the Alabama for Healthy Families PAC in violation of Alabama’s PAC to PAC transfer ban law.

“Thank you for letting me come up here and speak,” Renshaw told the St. Clair County Republicans.

The Chairman of the St. Clair County Republican Party is Lance Bell.

Chairman Bell said that Sheriff elect Billy Murray (R) did not run for another term as a member of the state Republican Executive Committee because he did not want to appear on the ballot twice. Emory Cox ran for that seat; but he got a job in the White House so had to resign.

The St. Clair County Executive Committee then accepted nominations for the vacancy. Judge Phil Seay (R), a former St. Clair Republican Party Chairman, was selected unanimously to fill that vacancy on the State Republican Executive Committee.

“Thank you very much I really appreciate it,” Judge Seay said.

The Treasurer reported that the St. Clair County Republican Party had over $45,000 in their main checking account. The bass tournament and scholarships accounts are separate from that main account.

Judge Seay made a motion that $10,000 of that be used to pay campaign debts for Judge-elect Bill Cole (R), Judge-elect Richard Minor (R), support the campaign of State Senator Jim McClendon (R), and state house candidate Craig Lipscomb (R). The St. Clair County Repubican Steering Committee would be able to spend up to $10,000 at their discretion.

The motion passed unanimously.

Chairman Bell announced that the Party will have officer elections in February.

St. Clair County School Board Member Bill Morris (R) is heading the St. Clair County for Kay Ivey Campaign.

Morris said that the governor needed donations to her campaign and volunteers to work the polls on election day.

Chairman Bell said that Kay Ivey was leading her Democratic opponent by 20 percentage points in the latest polling but that the biggest concern is that Republicans get complacent and not show up on election day. “Make sure you go vote and bring your friends and family too.”

Judge Robert Minor (R) thanked the party members who contributed to the local charity, Lighten the Load which raises money so that children in the foster care system can have hard sided luggage so that when they have to move to a new location they have something to put their stuff in. “Most of them have to put their stuff in garbage bags,” Judge Robert Minor said. “We raised $6500.”

On November 20, St Clair County will be 200 years old. There will be birthday parties with cake at both the Ashville and Pell City court houses.

The general election will be November 6.

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GOP gubernatorial candidates hold debate in Birmingham

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 8 min
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