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New South Coalition endorses Maddox, spurns Cobb at heated weekend meeting

Chip Brownlee



With the Democratic primary elections only six weeks away, one of Alabama’s most influential Democratic groups voted over the weekend to endorse Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox for governor, spurning former Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb.

In a vote that was described as “not close at all,” the New South Coalition — one of the state’s most powerful black political organizations — chose to support Maddox, a newcomer to statewide politics, over Cobb, a former Alabama jurist who has long been involved with statewide politics.

“Our perception is that Walt Maddox has done a good job as Tuscaloosa mayor, and he would do a good job as governor of Alabama,” said outgoing State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, the founder and former president of the NSC.


The NSC’s decision to support Maddox — a move that will, in turn, mobilize the group’s grassroots get-out-the-vote resources in many areas of the state — comes as Cobb has had trouble getting Democrats to coalesce behind her campaign despite her history in Democratic politics.

“Former Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb was a person we supported every time she ran, down through the years,” Sanders said. “But there were two issues that concerned members greatly.”

Those two issues — her sudden decision to resign as chief justice in 2011 and a letter she sent last year to the U.S. Senate in support Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general — have weakened her once-solid support among Democrats.

“The best way to tell how somebody will do in the future is what they did in the past,” Sanders said. “We like to look at how somebody has done, and from that, project what they will do in the future.”

Members of the NSC, including State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, took Cobb to task at the group’s spring meeting in Montgomery Saturday, criticizing her for the letter she penned in Sessions’ support and for what they said was an abdication of responsibility.

When Cobb resigned in 2011, she was the top statewide elected Democrat left. Only Public Service Commission President Lucy Baxley remained after Cobb quit. Cobb resigned four years into her term after a race for supreme court justice that cost millions and achieved national notoriety as a Democratic victory during a time of Republican takeovers in the South.

“You showed me that you would rather take flight than fight,” Figures told Cobb at the group’s meeting Saturday. “I wanted you to run for governor in 2010, but you chose not to. How can you explain those two things: taking flight instead of staying to fight and supporting somebody based off of what everyone else was doing?”

Cobb, who said in 2011 that she was resigning to spend more time with her family, said Saturday that she quit to be with her mother in the final years before she died.

“I was with my mother … when she breathed her last breath,” Cobb said, “and no one is going to make me regret it.”

Figures was quick to respond.

“I was with my mother when she breathed her last breath, too, but I didn’t quit the Senate,” Figures said.

Figures — who ran against Session for U.S. Senate in 2008, becoming the first black woman to achieve the Democratic nomination for Senate in Alabama — said she had personal issues with Sessions, who was accused of pushing for the prosecution of Figures’ brother-in-law, Thomas H. Figures, as retaliation for his role in derailing Sessions’ 1986 nomination to be a federal judge.

Thomas Figures, who had served as an assistant U.S. attorney under Sessions in Mobile, testified against his former boss before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which ultimately refused to confirm Sessions’ nomination after allegations of racism.

Despite federal corruption charges, a jury eventually cleared him of all charges.

The Figures family has long held that Sessions pushed Figures’ prosecution as a political hit job. Thomas Figures himself, who died in 2015, said it was a “shakedown” in response to when he told senators Sessions called him “boy” and instructed him to be careful what he said to white people.

Sessions said at the time that he was recused from the case, leaving it to justice department officials in Washington, and has repeatedly denied the Figures’ allegations.

Sen. Vivian Figures said she couldn’t look past Sessions’ history with her family and questioned why Cobb — a longtime Democrat — would support a hardline Republican for appointment as the nation’s top law-enforcement officer.

“It cost our family a lot,” Figures said Saturday. “And for you to send a glorifying letter of recommendation for him to be the person, the chief law enforcement officer of this country, was just unconscionable to me. And if you did it based on your saying other black leaders did it, you’re saying you’re a follower, not a leader and not one to think for herself.”

Cobb, who sent the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, said she supported Sessions’ nomination only because he overlooked party divisions and supported her efforts to expand Model Drug Courts in Alabama.

At the meeting Saturday, Cobb said she was narrow in her letter of support for Sessions and has since posted another, less-friendly letter on her website that she sent to Sessions in August 2017 expressing her concern over his efforts to harshen federal charging and sentencing policies.

“Many people who have read my letter understood that it was an extremely measured, measured support for Sen. Sessions,” Cobb said. “I’ve written Sen. Session, challenging him on the issues of changing prosecution philosophy in the U.S. attorneys offices, which I think is very important.”

Cobb said she’s written other letters “taking Sessions to task.”

Cobb’s responses to questions from Figures, Sanders and others at the NSC’s meeting Saturday wasn’t enough to secure her the group’s endorsement. The group decided to go with Maddox instead, and Figures on Monday announced she was personally endorsing Maddox for governor.

Her endorsement comes after other outspoken Democratic lawmakers, like Tuscaloosa Rep. Chris England, recently announced their endorsements of Maddox, too.

While Maddox’s clean slate as a newcomer to state politics was a factor, Sanders said, it wasn’t the only one.

“Walt Maddox is a fresh face on the statewide political venue, but a fresh face is not enough for Alabama New South,” Sanders said. “We think that Walt Maddox will make an excellent candidate and an excellent governor.”

Sanders said the NSC — which played a large part in getting voters to the polls in the December 2017 special election for U.S. Senate — will soon be mobilizing their resources for Maddox.

“It’s important,” Sanders said. “People working in many counties across Alabama, and people who are used to working the get out the vote will be engaged. That’s a readymade network that will immediately go to work for Walt Maddox.”


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A case of mistaken candidate identity could embarrass the ALGOP

Josh Moon



It’s one of the oddest, and most embarrassing, cases of mistaken identity in recent Alabama political history.

According to recent polling, James Bonner is leading Jeremy Oden in a race for a seat on the Alabama Public Service Commission.

No, not that James Bonner.


It doesn’t matter which James Bonner you were thinking of, it’s a different guy.

This Bonner — the one who resides in Bear Creek and who has never held public office despite several attempts — is set to embarrass the ALGOP like few other candidates.

On Monday, APR editor in chief Bill Britt wrote about a number of highly offensive Facebook posts by Bonner, including posting a Valentine’s Day card that read: “My love for u burns like 6,000 Jews.” There are other posts about strippers and an old blog post that inexplicably uses a racist rhyme.

Yet, because voters — mainly voters in south Alabama — are confusing James Bonner with a longtime congressman, he’s running neck and neck in the GOP primary.

“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 pollster and Cygnal president Brent Buchanan told Britt. “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.”

Should James from Bear Creek manage to pull off this “Distinguished Gentleman,” it could be a disaster for the ALGOP. Because his problems go well beyond a few offensive Facebook posts.

Bonner has filed multiple bankruptcies, has been cited by the IRS for failing to pay his federal income taxes for several years and owes his ex-wife more than $40,000 in back alimony. He also claimed during his most recent bankruptcy proceedings in 2016 that he is too disabled to work, and thus avoid paying his full alimony payments, yet he’s been able-bodied enough to run for public office five times over the last eight years.

And it gets worse.

Bonner entered into a bankruptcy agreement to repay his debts, which totaled into the six figures, and then he failed to pay the agreed-upon bankruptcy payments. That failure resulted in his bankruptcy agreement being dismissed — an extremely rare action by the courts and one that could see him face criminal charges over his back taxes.

And that’s not the end of it.

His campaign finance reports are also a mess. Most of his forms have been filed hopelessly late and are filled with incorrect info. He also has failed to report a single donation — outside of a loan he made to his campaign fund — to any of his various campaigns.

Following APR’s initial report on Monday, Bonner began scrubbing his Facebook page clean of the offensive posts. In response to the story, which he linked, he claimed his various offensive posts were made “make liberals angry.” He did not deny making any of the posts.

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Poll shows Maddox pulling ahead in race for Democratic nomination

Chip Brownlee



With endorsements from heavyweight Democratic groups like the New South Coalition’s campaign arm and the Alabama Democratic Conference, the Democratic party appears to be coalescing around Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox ahead of the June 5 primary.

A new poll released by the Maddox campaign Tuesday backs up what the endorsements hint: Maddox appears to be pulling ahead of challengers Sue Bell Cobb, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and James Fields, a former state representative from Cullman County.

Former gubernatorial aide Doug “New Blue” Smith and Dothan activist Christopher Countryman are also seeking the nomination.


The poll — conducted by Mississippi-based Chism Strategies for the Maddox campaign — shows Maddox capturing 68 percent of likely voters surveyed ahead of the Democratic primary election.

Cobb and Fields trail behind Maddox in the poll by a 5.6-to-1 and 11-to-1 advantage among those who expressed support for a candidate, respectively, according to the poll results provided.

“Numbers don’t lie — Walt is on a fast track to a substantial victory in the primary,” said Chip Hill, a spokesman for the Maddox campaign. “The people of Alabama, especially younger voters, are finding Walt and his message very attractive.  He will most definitely be a force to be reckoned with in November.”

From May 15 to May 17, 13,601 likely Democratic voters were interviewed by live callers, according to the Chism Strategies results released.

The Alabama Democratic Conference — long considered one of the main gatekeepers in Alabama Democratic politics and one of the most powerful and active black political groups in the state— officially threw their support behind Maddox on Saturday.

Maddox has received a number of endorsements in the race for governor including from Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin last week.

A number of key Democratic lawmakers in the state — from State Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, and State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa — have also backed Maddox.

A Democrat hasn’t been elected governor in Alabama since former Gov. Don Siegelman’s victory in 1998. Democrats in Alabama are hoping that recent momentum from Sen. Doug Jones’ election last year could help a Democrat upend the GOP’s hold on most statewide elected positions.

While Maddox is a newcomer to state politics, Cobb has experience in statewide races. Her election as supreme court chief justice in 2006 cost millions and achieved national notoriety as a Democratic victory during a time of Republican takeovers in the South.

Cobb has had trouble getting traditional Democratic groups to back her campaign. Members of the Alabama New South Coalition and its political arm, the New South Alliance, expressed concern during their endorsement vote over Cobb’s resignation as chief justice and a letter she wrote backing President Donald Trump’s nomination of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

When Cobb resigned in 2011, she was the top statewide elected Democrat left. Only Public Service Commission President Lucy Baxley remained after Cobb quit.

Both the Alabama Democratic Conference and the New South Coalition have strong voter outreach and get-out-the-vote operations that could work to Maddox’s advantage in the June 5 primary.

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Manufacture Alabama makes endorsements

Brandon Moseley



Friday, Manufacture Alabama announced several endorsements for the upcoming primaries.

“Alabama’s Primary Election is June 5. Many Manufacture Alabama endorsed candidates have tough primary elections. It is crucial that you get out and vote on June 5. There have been many significant races over the years that have been decided in close primaries or run-offs,” the group said in a statement.

Manufacture Alabama Endorsed Candidates include:


Governor: Kay Ivey (R)
Lieutenant Governor: Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh (R)
Attorney General: Steve Marshall (R)
Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries: Gerald Dial (R)
Treasurer: John McMillan (R)
Alabama Public Service Commission, Place 1: Jeremy Oden (R)
Alabama Public Service Commission, Place 2: Chris “Chip” Beeker Jr. (R)

State Senate Races
Senate District 2: Tom Butler, R-Madison.
Senate District 3: Mike Sparks (R)
Senate District 7: Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville.
Senate District 8: incumbent Steve Livingston , R-Scottsboro.
Senate District 12: incumbent Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.
Senate District 21: incumbent Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa.
Senate District 34: Jack W. Williams, R-Wilmer.

State House Races
House District 10: incumbent Mike Ball, R-Madison.
House District 12: incumbent Corey Harbison, R-Cullman.
House District 14: incumbent Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley.
House District 16: incumbent Kyle South, R-Fayette.
House District 22: incumbent Ritchie Whorton, R-Owens Crossroads.
House District 30: Rusty Jessup, R-Riverside.
House District 48: incumbent Jim Carns, R-Vestavia Hills.
House District 49: incumbent April Weaver, R-Alabaster.
House District 55: incumbent Rod Scott, D-Fairfield.
House District 64: incumbent Harry Shiver, R-Bay Minette.
House District 73: incumbent Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo.
House District 77: Malcolm Calhoun, D-Montgomery.
House District 102: Thomas Gray, R-Cintronelle.
House District 105: Chip Brown, R-Mobile.

Alabama Supreme Court
Chief Justice: Lyn Stuart (R)
Place 1: Brad Mendheim (R)
Place 4: Jay Mitchell (R)

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals:
Place 1: Christie Edwards (R)
Place 2: Terri Thomas (R)

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Place 1: Richard Minor (R)
Place 2: Chris McCool (R)
Place 3: Bill Cole (R)

State Board of Education
Place 8: Rich Adams (R)

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New South Coalition endorses Maddox, spurns Cobb at heated weekend meeting

by Chip Brownlee Read Time: 6 min