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St. Clair County Republican Party meets

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the St. Clair County Republican Party met for their monthly session in Pell City. The group focused on the upcoming Republican primary.

Former St. Clair County District Attorney Van Davis (R) spoke for two candidates that he has endorsed.

“I am here supporting Billy Murray,” for sheriff. “I worked with him during my 18 years as District Attorney. I was asked to speak a few words for a lady I am supporting for Attorney General, Alice Martin. I met her when she was the U.S. Attorney. My perception of her was that she is a tough prosecutor.”

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Later, Davis said that he was involved in a public corruption trial in Lee County, “Battling day in and day out with a criminal defense team that was unruly.” Attorney General Luther Strange abstained from the case because his campaign had done business with Craftmasters Printing, which was involved in the case. In the Attorney General’s Office, “We were really having internal problems,” from people in the office who did not want the prosecution to go forward. “When she came in [as Deputy Attorney General], our problems were gone in 30 days. She called me up and said whatever you need in manpower and resources are yours. She is an incredible lady. She is extremely smart and is by far the most qualified person in the Attorney General’s race.”

St. Clair County Board of Education member Bill Morris (R) said, “I have been asked to serve as Governor Ivey’s county campaign coordinator. I would like to introduce the central Alabama Ivey campaign coordinator, George Anderson.”

“I am honored to serve as Governor Ivey’s field representative,” Anderson said. “I came down three
weeks ago from Iowa. When I started out in politics, we did door to door walking from paper lists, that has all been condensed into phone apps. We are using the advantage dialer for phone calling.”

“We are the best supported candidate in the state,” Anderson said. “We have 67 percent support but we can not let off the gas or we will have a runoff. My job is to make sure that that does not happen. We are reaching out to hard Rs. I was a regional field director for the RNC in Iowa. I also worked for the Iowa Republican Party. I come from an evangelical background. Hopefully I can recruit your help to get Governor Ivey back into office.”

State Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said that the legislature set an all-time record. “We are allowed to meet just 30 legislative days in a session. All the time I have been there, we always barely make it. This last session, we actually met 26 legislative days and saved the taxpayers $100,000. Not every bill got passed but teachers got raises. Income taxes and sales taxes are coming in at all time highs. Our economy in Alabama is a reflection of the economy nationally. We put money into the prison system and are going to add some troopers for the first time in years. We have added some money into mental health, but not nearly enough. We may have a federal judge tell us we have to put in more.”

Sen. McClendon said that under current law, when cities have over 12,000 residents, the mayor goes from being a voting member of the council to a chief executive with a council being a separate legislative branch. Moody is close to that threshold. “We passed a state law giving those cities a choice. They can make that choice until they reach 25,000 residents.”

McClendon said, “I would like to say a word for a candidate in a down ballot race for Agriculture and Industries. Senator Gerald Dial, he has done a lot for St. Clair County. If it had not been for the way the districts were redrawn, I would likely not be your Senator. It would be somebody who lived in some other county and they would not be here. He is a strong friend and ally of mine, and I would love to see him get that position. Agriculture is the biggest industry in Alabama. It is not a very high profile job but a very important job.”

Former St. Clair County Republican Party Chairman Paul Thibado said, “I am here to speak for Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh for lieutenant governor. I have always supported her for everything she has run for. I got to know her when she was state Republican Chairman and she was an excellent chairman. She is going to come to St. Clair County and will spend a couple of days here. I will be calling on help with that.”

Thibado said, “The new ethics law [HB317] is a decay of the legislative process. I would like to recognize Sen. Jim McClendon for voting against it. It was passed and was signed, and it was a decadence to the state. There will be more money paid under the table, and Jim voted against that and that means a lot to me. That is a bad law that got signed by the Governor and that breaks my heart.”

St. Clair County Deputy Freddie Turrentine is chairman of the St. Clair County Party bass tournament. Turrentine reported that the St. Clair County annual bass tournament was a tremendous success and that the party had raised the most they had ever made in the tournament. The party will begin awarding scholarship awards in May.

St. Clair County Republican Party Chairman Lance Bell announced that the next meeting will be at the City Market Grill in Pell City on May 24 at 11:45 a.m.

Judge Robert Minor announced that Judge Bill Weatington was in the hospital for five or six days but got out of the hospital on Saturday and would be returning to work on Friday, April 27.

Riverside Mayor Rusty Jessup announced that he is running for state House District 30 and asked for the group’s votes.

The major party primaries will be on June 5, 2018.

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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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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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The revenge of the BCA

Josh Moon

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A terminated position, a transfer, a well-financed primary opponent and a ballot challenge.  

Over the last several weeks, some of the major players who exposed a scheme to smear a state superintendent candidate and hand the job to an outsider have fallen on hard times.

And the source of their problems isn’t much of a mystery among Montgomery insiders: The Business Council of Alabama.

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“This is (the BCA’s) MO now,” said one Republican lawmaker. “They crossed them and this is the payback.”

To understand what’s going on, we’ll need to backtrack a bit. Back to the Dumbest Scheme Ever.

That scheme was carried out during the 2016 search for a state schools superintendent that eventually landed Michael Sentance.

To make quick work of it, here’s what happened: Jefferson County superintendent Dr. Craig Pouncey was the frontrunner for the state job, but just before the official interviews of the finalists, a mysterious ethics complaint was filed against him. That complaint originated from State School Board Member Mary Scott Hunter, who said she received it anonymously, like every other board member, prior to a regular meeting.

The allegations in the complaint were way old and way outside the statute of limitations. But that didn’t stop Hunter from passing them along, the Ethics Commission from opening an initial investigation or the legal staff at the Alabama State Department of Education from opening its own investigation.

Ultimately, the allegations were found to be without merit. But when Pouncey lost to Sentance, a number of people wanted to know just what the hell happened.

State Sen. Gerald Dial opened a bipartisan legislative committee investigation into the matter and started calling witnesses. At ALSDE, another investigation was started — this one headed by department attorney Michael Meyer, at the direction of Sentance, to uncover whether department employees had conspired with Hunter to smear Pouncey.

Keeping tabs on the whole matter was blogger and now Montgomery school board candidate Larry Lee, whose popular “Education Matters” blog was a daily must-visit site for most education employees in the state during this ordeal.

The result of it all was an embarrassing chain of discoveries — that Hunter bragged about Pouncey’s “ethics problem” at a BCA event, that ALSDE attorneys called Pouncey’s alma mater to encourage it investigate him, that Ethics Commission violated at least three of its own rules to open an inquiry and that attorneys from a politically connected firm were mysteriously aiding the whole process.

It was a mess.

One that led to Hunter backing out of her bid to become lieutenant governor and played no small role in Sentance ultimately being forced out after just a year on the job.

“That wrecked a lot of plans, when he was pushed out of there,” said a source close to the situation.

But last month, things took a turn for the BCA, when its candidate of choice, Eric Mackey, was selected by the board as the new state superintendent. And ever since, some odd things have been occurring.

Dial, who headed up the legislative committee investigation, is retiring from the Senate and is running for state Agriculture Commissioner. And wouldn’t you know it, he has a well-financed opponent. (Although, apparently one who has a questionable past.)

Lee’s candidacy for the Montgomery County School Board was in serious jeopardy recently after a challenge was filed with the Alabama GOP executive committee. Lee found evidence of at least two hired attorneys working to dig up dirt on him, and BCA director Billy Canary personally donated to Lee’s opponent.

Meyer, who wrote the report on the Pouncey smear — the report that famously found evidence of five people colluding to smear Pouncey — was surprised a week ago with a transfer out of ALSDE and to the state Department of Human Resources. Three days later, Meyer’s wife, Tracey, a longtime legislative liaison who was well liked around the State House and ALSDE, had her position eliminated by Mackey without warning.

Several state school board members have privately expressed shock and anger at the moves. But for several state lawmakers, who spoke to APR on condition of anonymity, the revenge tactics by the BCA and Canary aren’t a surprise. And they’re a major reason so many of them have soured on working with the BCA.

“I don’t get what they’re trying to do,” said one longtime Republican lawmaker. “This is not the way it was done in the past, when that group had a lot of power. We had disagreements, but there was understanding of why and we still worked together. There was none of this vindictive revenge junk or whatever it is — punishment, I guess. A lot of people are tired of it, and I think that shows in how unsuccessful BCA has been lately.”

Two sessions back, BCA-backed legislation was shut out. Last session, the only meaningful bill it pushed through was a revisement of ethics laws — a bill that was so unpopular by the time it passed that it could cost lawmakers their seats in upcoming elections.

Now, with a potential gas tax and an infrastructure overhaul bill poised for consideration, the BCA is facing a critical time. If these pushes fail in the upcoming session — and passing a tax hike is never easy in this state — it would be a major blow to many of the businesses that contribute the most BCA money.

But instead of building bridges to ensure it all passed, the BCA leadership appears to be setting them on fire.

 

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St. Clair County Republican Party meets

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
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