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Ainsworth blasts Twinkle in lieutenant governor race, lays out his plan for the office

Josh Moon

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Will Ainsworth, a state representative, speaks at a committtee meeting during the 2018 Legislative Session about his bill that would arm teachers. Ainsworth is currently in a race for lieutnant governor. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Career politician vs. successful businessman.

That’s the way Will Ainsworth sees his Republican primary race for lieutenant governor. He, of course, is the successful businessman, having founded Dream Ranch and the Alabama Hunting and Fishing Expo, and his opponent, Twinkle Cavanaugh, is the “swampy” career politician.

“You can’t get more swamp than my opponent in this race,” Ainsworth said during an interview with the Alabama Political Reporter on Wednesday. “She’s spent her entire life living off the taxpayers, bouncing from one state job to another. While I’ve been running successful businesses and putting people to work. That’s the difference between us, and I hope people will just look into our backgrounds a bit before making a decision.”

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Ainsworth’s background reads like the wish list for a conservative politician’s bio: raised in Boaz to a businessman dad and mom who’s the director of the local Crisis Pregnancy Center; he’s a former youth pastor, Auburn grad, started a couple of successful businesses with his brother, wife and three cute kids.

“I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life, and I know it, and I want to share some of that,” Ainsworth said. “I want to make the state better, to do what I can to help. This isn’t about earning a living or taking from the taxpayers. It’s about doing what I can to leave a better Alabama for my kids.”

To do that, he has a three-step plan for his time as lieutenant governor — a position Ainsworth acknowledges carries little real authority under current Alabama law. Just the same, Ainsworth said he believes the position — the only statewide elected official in the Alabama Legislature — can influence positive change.

And in that regard, he said he plans to focus on shaping a positive conversation among lawmakers, improving education and sharpening the state’s workforce development.

“I’m tired of Alabama government being an embarrassment to the Alabama people,” Ainsworth said. “I want to be part of changing that image.”

Ainsworth also noted that, unlike Cavanaugh, his children attend public schools, and he has ideas for improving public schools all over the state. That plan starts with expanding pre-k options and providing all school systems with the opportunity to participate.

“My wife is a former pre-k teacher, so I have some experience with seeing the benefits of that program up close,” Ainsworth said. “When I was running for the House, I went and sat down with many of the public school teachers in my district. I took their recommendations to heart.”

On the workforce development front, Ainsworth said he simply wants to be a facilitator — bringing people from all sides together to make sure we’re getting Alabama citizens into Alabama jobs.

“I want to be that voice, that person who can bring everyone to the table and make things happen,” he said.

Ainsworth also said he wants to continue the push in economic development to see more accountability. And he wants to see more focus on existing businesses expanding, which he said was the biggest jobs producer.

But mostly, he wants Alabama voters to know that he plans to work as lieutenant governor, unlike Cavanaugh.

“When she talks about improving education and creating jobs, it’s such a joke, because she has no idea how to do any of that,” Ainsworth said of Cavanaugh. “She’s never done it. She is a professional politician. She says these things because they sound good — that’s something a politician does.”

Ainsworth said he’s grown tired of politicians, like Cavanaugh, spending their entire lives in government, which is why he introduced a bill last session to put term limits on all public offices. He also said he’s been a staunch advocate for tougher ethics laws, and he was an original sponsor on a bill that prohibited lawmakers from jumping immediately from their office to working as lobbyists.

“That’s profiting from your office, as far as I’m concerned,” Ainsworth said. “My opponent certainly did that. She went right from being a public official to working as a lobbyist.”

In the early 2000s, Cavanaugh left a position with then-Gov. Bob Riley to become a lobbyist for a firm in Mississippi that represented Mississippi Choctaw Indian casinos. At the same time, Cavanaugh was serving as the executive director of the Alabama GOP.

But it didn’t stop there. After an unsuccessful run for the Alabama Public Service Commission, Cavanaugh was hired by Riley to work in his finance department. What experience Cavanaugh had working in finance is unclear — she has a degree from Auburn in biology and had never worked in finance. Additionally, Cavanaugh’s hire came during a statewide hiring freeze.

“How is any of that serving the public?” Ainsworth said. “That’s what’s wrong with politics today. Everyone is in it for themselves. But I’m not. I just hope the voters of this state will take a hard look at both of us and then make up their minds. There’s a pretty clear difference.”

 

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A case of mistaken candidate identity could embarrass the ALGOP

Josh Moon

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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:

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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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Ainsworth blasts Twinkle in lieutenant governor race, lays out his plan for the office

by Josh Moon Read Time: 4 min
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