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Gubernatorial candidates speak to PARCA Roundtable

Brandon Moseley

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Most of the candidates for Governor were present for the PARCA gubernatorial forum in Birmingham. Each of the six candidates were interviewed by a different member of the PARCA Roundtable.

PARCA, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, was founded by the late Gov. Albert Brewer to provide nonpartisan research into the problems facing Alabama.

Auburn Assistant Professor of political science Bridget also interviewed Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Battle said that he was inspired to get in public service by witnessing Birmingham Mayor George Seibels efforts to solve the city’s problems back when Battle worked as a young man at Britling’s Cafeteria.

Battle said that the state’s challenges turn into opportunities especially when we talk about getting our young people to stay or come back to Alabama.

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Battle said that in Huntsville City schools they test the students at the beginning of year as well as the end of the school year to make sure that we get a year’s worth of learning from that year of teaching.

Teachers whose students fail to progress can then receive remediation to improve their teaching skills. His wife Eula is a retired school teacher who founded a foundations that distributes 90,000 books each year are to under privileged children to address the achievement gap between children from non-affluent homes with their peers in affluent homes.

Battle said that as Governor he would make sure that everybody is at the table when we make decisions so that the outcomes are a win win for everyone involved. “Trust is something that you work on and build upon,” Battle said.

Sue Bell Cobb, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, was interviewed by WBHM radio in Birmingham news director Gigi Douban.

Former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Cobb said, “Balancing is what women do best. States that have the highest percentage of women in the legislature are leaving us in the dust policy wise.”

As chief justice, she introduced juvenile justice reform that has resulted in 60 percent less children being locked up.

Cobb said that she retired after 30 years as a judge because her priority then was to be with her Mother who had fallen into ill health. “My Mother is not in heaven. I retired but I did not retire my love for this state’’

Cobb said, “I am firmly convinced that 2018 is the year of the woman.”

“It is excruciatingly difficult to ask people for money,” Cobb said.

Cobb denounced the partisan, political attack pretending to be a news report that was used against her over her then aide. Cobb said that when you commit a crime and serve your time everything should be forgiven.

Little John got two additional college degrees after his incarceration and the attack on her campaign over his hiring was sad. He is “a righteous man.”

Cobb said that she did not know that he was a convicted sex offender when she hired him. “It is not a common practice for campaigns to do background checks. “He was highly recommended” and had worked for two other campaigns. He resigned and forced her to accept his resignation. “He never went to a single home. He managed teams of volunteers.”

“There is a propaganda piece that is being pushed” against me “that has lies and lies” about me,” Cobb said.

Cobb said that every school should have a counselor or behaviorist on staff.

“The teachers will not have to strike when Sue Bell Cobb becomes governor,” Cobb said.

“We have an image problem,” Cobb said. “Some think it is appropriate political ads to talk about mountain oysters. I am surprised that we did not see that on Saturday Night Live,” referring to a recent ad by Gov. Kay Ivey.

“What we have seen from Doug Jones election is that it is important that people become engaged,” Judge Cobb said. “I will promise you right now that if I am elected Governor I will never let you down and I will never embarrass you.”

GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Dawson was interviewed by Victoria Hollis, the strategy director of the Birmingham Educational Foundation.

“For 30 years I have been part of the ministry,” Dawson said. “His ministry is kind of like Billy Graham’s just not as big. Every year we host a student conference in Pigeon Forge and we work with Major League Baseball.

“I have worked with pastors for three decades,” Dawson said. “Please don’t discount pastors they are CEOs of their own organizations.” In his position he has to bring people together. On some things we have to agree to disagree; but we find common ground on those areas where we do agree. “The only thing harder than getting Republicans and Democrats to work together is to get Baptists and Methodists to work together.”

Dawson said that the one of the saddest things he has ever reads is that the prison system determines how many beds they will need by the number of children that don’t know how to read at third grade.

“I grew up in the Birmingham public school system,” Dawson said. “I would not be where I am today without teachers.”

Dawson said that he is concerned that our prisons are becoming generational facilities.

“You can live for days without food but you can’t live for one second without hope,” Dawson said.

Dawson defended his plan to deal with the growing drug addiction problems by mandatory testing of all children involved in extracurricular activities in high school. “We already do random drug tests. My son got tested every time. The kid that had the addiction somehow go missed.”

“You have got to get the legislators who write the laws together with the lawyers, the judges and with law enforcement,” Dawson said.

Former State Representative and Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Fields was interviewed by Kendra Key, an attorney with the law firm Maynard, Cooper & Gale.

“Alabama is moving forward, it just needs a little help,” Fields said. “Alabama has to deal with her infrastructure,” and that includes broadband.

Fields said that we also need “commuter rail that will ship you over to Atlanta and get you on a plane to get where you got to go.”

Fields praised Congressman Robert Aderholt in the 4th district for his work in getting federal assistance to bring broadband to our rural areas and said that we should push other congress members to do more to help there.

“We need to get our people healthy and make sure that our education is fully funded,” Fields said.

Fields said that that he supports the lottery but was skeptical of some other candidates who seem to be suggesting that the lottery “was the answer to all our problems.”

“It is a shame that people are moving out of the Black Belt,” Fields said.

Fields spoke about environmental concerns in rural Alabama.

“We have got to stop the larger cities from shipping their waste there and ruining the environment in the rural areas,” Fields said.

Fields said that he has worked his whole life, “To bring change. positive change.”

Field said that working with the United Methodist Church he worked on bringing kings presidents leaders to come together regards our faith.

Fields said that he has always tried to be a person of integrity and bring people to the table. has overcome obstacles in his life and has met those obstacles head on and defeated them.

“Alabama has had to live with an executive branch that has failed her a judicial branch that has failed her and a legislative branch that has failed her,” Fields said.

“If change is going to take affect we have an opportunity to move Alabama to a level that we have never been,” Field said. “Civil rights began here.” Change can begin here and that change is electing James Fields as Governor.

State Senator Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, was interviewed by Assistant Professor of political science and public administration at UAB Dr. Peter Jones.

Hightower said that while passing legislation is important the kind of things that he wants to accomplish as governor are bigger than what you can accomplish with one piece of legislation.

Hightower said that he wants, “To dissolve the racial tension that we have in the state.” You bridge those gaps by building relationships.

On improving education Hightower said, “First of all you need to listen to the teachers have got to listen to the people on the ground.” We are too administration heavy and our teachers have too much paperwork. “I want to reinvigorate the reading program that Alabama was famous for.” Gov. Riley started that and then it was put aside by Gov. Bentley. “I literally see pockets of brilliance in our schools,” that needs to be built on and expanded statewide.

“There is not enough tax money in the rural areas,” Hightower said. “We need to make sure that broad band goes into the rural areas.” There are some schools now that pump University of Alabama lectures into the schools and the students can interact with the professor. Dual enrollment allowed my daughter to shave a year and a half off the time she spent at UAB.

Hightower defended his flat tax plan. The system we have right now is very punitive. There would be incredible savings. “If you didn’t have tax returns would you need a revenue department.”
On fighting corruption Hightower said, “It is called term limits. Everybody who has been indicted are the ones that have been there a long time. It is the ones that have been down there a long time that listen to the lobbyists instead of listening to the people.”

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox was interviewed by Associate Professor of management at UAB Dr. Anthony Hood.

Maddox said that as Mayors doing what we do each day we see the problems with mental health, opioids, etc.

As Hightower said, “We have pockets of brilliance in Alabama” but as Mayors we see that we have to get it right at the state level.

Maddox said that his plan is to pass the Alabama education lottery. It will include a scholarship program, universal pre-K, address the 75 to 80 failing schools that need wrap around services, takes $16 million and address those funding gaps between rich and poor school systems.

Maddox promised to expand Medicaid and address the health and mental health issues in the state.

“We can certainly debate in a theoretical world if the lottery is the best way to fund education but as a mayor” I want to do what can be accomplished in a practical way.

Maddox claimed that his lottery and a compact with the Poarch Creek band of Indians would bring in $400 million a year.

Maddox said that the Prison are going to be the purview of the federal court.  Judge Myron Thompson could issue a ruling any day.

Maddox praised Birmingham Randall Woodfin for what he has done with the recent stadium announcement and reaching out to the 99 neighborhoods.

On education, Maddox said that the state needs to be leveraging higher education and not just the big state schools but also the HBCUs.

On filling the new jobs at Mercedes and in Huntsville, “Our work force is not of the quality right now to go in on and fill those jobs on day one. Since the Great Recession 95 percent of the new jobs require a four year degree or a certificate from a two year college.”

Solving the problems of today is not accomplished by talking about mountain oysters and Confederate Memorials, Maddox said.

Maddox said that to get through college I played guitar on the Southside and I was pretty good. I played football at UAB.

Cobb emphasized her commitment to her lottery plan.

“We have got to have a governor that will work day in and day out to make sure that the legislature does what the people want and polls show that the people of Alabama think it is idiotic that we do not have a lottery.” I am going to call a special session and if they sine dies without doing it I am going to call it again and if they go home I will call another special session. “I am not giving up six years with my family not to get things done.”

Maddox said that he opposed Ivey’s plan to borrow a billions of dollars to build new prisons.

Cobb said that when she was Chief Justice she made several proposals on sentencing reforms/ The legislature has adopted many of those ideas and the prison population was 27,000 now it is down to 20,000, but sentencing reform is not enough we have got to stop the school to prison pipeline.

Fields said that he works in the prisons as a volunteer and once a prisoner has been in there for 20 years they start losing family members and they start giving up. Instead of spending $800 million to build more prisons we should have a proposal to spend it in the Black Belt replacing crumbling schools and infrastructure and providing clean water.

Fields said, “We have got to be serious about prison reform.”

The major party primaries are on June 5.

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Secretary Merrill orders election workers not to count write-in votes

Brandon Moseley

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The Secretary of State’s office announced Thursday that no county needs to count the write-in ballots for the general election.

In a statement the Secretary of State’s office wrote: “State law requires the Secretary of State’s Office to review county vote totals and compare those totals to the number of write-in votes cast in each statewide race involving a Federal or State office. Following the completion of that review, the Secretary of State’s Office is tasked with determining whether the total number of write in votes is less than the difference in votes between the candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for that office.”

“Secretary Merrill and his team have completed a review of the offices and it has been determined that no county is required by law to count and report write-in votes for any State or Federal office as provided in Alabama Code Section 17-6-28.”

County election officials must still make this determination for any county offices not included in the Secretary of State’s review.

The final vote totals as certified by the County Canvassing Board are due to the Secretary of State’s Office by Friday, November 16, 2018.

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Chad “Chig” Martin and Chris Countryman both ran write-in campaigns for governor.

Allowing write-in votes slows the process of counting the votes down considerably as those ballots would have to be pulled out and counted manually.

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Elections

Ivey launches inaugural committee

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey officially launched the Inaugural Committee and announced Cathy Randall and Jimmy Rane as the Co-Chairs who will oversee the festivities surrounding the inauguration along with committee staff.

“I am excited to officially launch the Inaugural Committee, which will be led by Dr. Cathy Randall and Jimmy Rane,” said Governor Ivey. “Cathy and Jimmy have embodied a spirit of service, in both their professional and personal life, and they have played a major role in the fight to keep Alabama working. I am proud to call them both longtime friends, and I am grateful for their willingness to lend their expertise and support as we prepare to usher in a new era for Alabama.”

Cathy Randall is the Chairman of the Board of Tuscaloosa-based Pettus Randall Holdings LLC and the former Chairman of the Board of Randall Publishing Company. Dr. Randall currently serves on the Alabama Power Board of Directors. She is a former director of the University Honors Programs at the University of Alabama, where she earned two Ph.D. degrees. Dr. Randall also served as director of Alabama Girls State, where she first met Governor Ivey.

Jimmy Rane is best known as “the Yella Fella” from his TV commercials. Rane is the Cofounder and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving and the wealthiest man in the state of Alabama. Since 1999, Rane has served as a Trustee at Auburn University, where he first met Governor Ivey while earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Rane also has a law degree from Samford Univesity’s Cumberland School of Law. Rane lives in Abbeville, Alabama and is well known for his charitable efforts to raise money to fund college scholarships through the Jimmy Rane Foundation.

Governor Ivey also announced several of her key campaign staffers will serve on the inaugural committee, including: Mike Lukach, Executive Director; Debbee Hancock, Communications Director; Anne-Allen Welden, Finance Director; Julia McNair, Deputy Finance Director; Julia Pickle, Director of Ticketing; Jonathan Hester, Director of Events and Production; Lenze Morris; Ryan Sanford; and Henry Thornton.

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The Governor added that more information about the inaugural theme and events will be announced in the coming weeks.

Kay Ivey became Governor in April 2017 when then Governor Robert Bentley (R) resigned. Ivey was easily elected as Alabama’s first Republican woman to serve as Governor. Lurleen Wallace (D) in 1966 was the only other female elected Alabama Governor. Ivey received more than a million votes, more than any governor since 1986.

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New Alabama House Republican Caucus meets to select leadership

Brandon Moseley

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The 77 members of the House Republican Caucus were sworn in by Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) during the group’s organizational meeting in Montgomery on Tuesday. This is the largest Republican supermajority in Alabama history.

Following the swearing-in ceremony, the Caucus selected McCutcheon as its candidate for House Speaker for the next four years and state Representative Victor Gaston (R – Mobile) as its choice for Speaker Pro Tem. State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville) was elected as House Majority Leader, State Rep. Connie Rowe (R – Jasper) was chosen as the Caucus Vice Chair, and State Rep. Phillip Pettus (R – Killen) was elected to serve as secretary/treasurer.
The 77 members of the Caucus on Tuesday unanimously affirmed that McCutcheon will once again serve as the group’s nominee for Speaker of the House when lawmakers convene for the Legislature’s organizational session in January. Because Republicans currently hold such a commanding supermajority in the 105-member Alabama House, being selected as the GOP Caucus nominee means there is little likelihood of any other outcome when the full body meets in January.

“Serving as Speaker of the Alabama House has been the greatest professional honor of my life, and I’m humbled that my fellow Republicans have chosen me to continue serving in that role,” McCutcheon said. “If elected during the organizational session in January, I will continue presiding in a manner that gives all members of both parties a voice in the legislative process. Our state faces many challenges, and finding needed solutions will require all of us to work together.”

McCutcheon was first elected as House Speaker during an August 2016 special session after former Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) was convicted of twelve counts of violating Alabama’s ethics law.

Prior to retiring after a 25-year career, McCutcheon was a law enforcement officer in the Huntsville Police Department and worked in areas like hostage negotiation, major crimes investigation, probation oversight and others. He has also worked as a farmer and as associate pastor at the College Park Church of God.

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This will be Victor Gaston’s third term as Speaker Pro Tem.

“My thanks go out to both the new and returning members of the House Republican Caucus for re-nominating me as the body’s second-in-command,” Gaston said. “I am excited for the opportunities that Alabama’s future holds and will continue working to make our state an even better place for all of its citizens.

Gaston was elected to the House in 1982 as one of only eight Republicans in the entire Alabama Legislature at the time. He served as Acting Speaker of the House for a period of months in 2016 following the Hubbard conviction.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville) will once again serve as House Majority Leader and State Rep. Connie Rowe (R – Jasper) as its vice chair. The two leaders will hold their positions throughout the 2018 – 2022 quadrennium.

“I am deeply grateful for the trust and confidence that my Republican colleagues have continued to place in me, and I look forward to continuing my service as their leader for the next four years,” Ledbetter said. “Republicans added to our already impressive supermajority in the general election cycle, and I will work to ensure that the bills, measures, and resolutions passed by the House reflect the same conservative beliefs and traditional values that Alabama’s voters share.”

Ledbetter is a former mayor and city council member in Rainsville, who was elected to the Alabama House in 2014. Ledbetter was elected as House Majority Leader in 2017. he was the first freshman member to serve in that post in modern times.

Ledbetter and his wife, Teresa, are the owners of a small business and have two children and four grandchildren.

Prior to her election to the Alabama House in 2014, Rowe served as the police chief in Jasper, Alabama and was previously employed as an investigator for the Walker County District Attorney’s Office for more than 20 years.

“I look forward to being a part of the Republican leadership team as we work to enact the conservative agenda that voters overwhelmingly endorsed at the polls,” Rowe said. “By sticking together and offering a unified front, House Republicans have a tremendous opportunity to move Alabama forward over the next four years.”

State Rep. Phillip Pettus (R – Killen) is a retired state trooper serving his second term in office. He was elected to serve as the secretary/treasurer for the Caucus.

Democrats will only have 28 seats in the Alabama House of Representatives, down from 33. Republicans will also have a 27 to 8 supermajority in the Alabama Senate.

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Opinion | The Alabama Democratic Party has no plan, no hope for the future

Josh Moon

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The Alabama Democratic Party is a dumpster fire.

This cannot be news to you by now.

Not after last Tuesday. Not after the last eight years.

Actually, that description might not be harsh enough. Try this: The Alabama Democratic Party is a flaming bag of poop way down at the bottom of a dumpster fire.

And before you go away thinking that to be too harsh, consider this: In the midst of a legit blue wave nationally — Democrats will gain around 40 House seats and receive around 8 million more votes when all of the counting is finished — Democrats in Alabama lost five House seats to an existing GOP supermajority.

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Alabama Dems’ best crop of candidates in YEARS received roughly the same percentage of the vote as its worst candidates ever.

Gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox traveled more than 30,000 miles around this state, spent years attending county commission meetings and getting to know citizens on both sides of the aisle. His likability numbers among likely voters, regardless of party, were fantastic.

He got roughly the same number of votes as Lt. Governor candidate Will Boyd, who you couldn’t pick out of a lineup with The Beatles.

Party chairwoman Nancy Worley and Democratic Conference head Joe Reed had quite the answer for this disaster of an election, saying, and I’m paraphrasing here: “eh, whatchagonnado?”

That was basically Worley and Reed’s response after they were heavily criticized by their own candidates last week. The criticisms, which came most loudly from Congressional candidate Mallory Hagan, centered on the Alabama Democratic Party’s lack of assistance with campaigns, lack of messaging, lack of financial support, lack of planning, lack of Get Out the Vote efforts, lack of organization and lack of visibility. To name a few.

Worley and Reed attempted to explain it all away by noting that Hagan and other candidates faced insurmountable odds, that the deck was stacked against them, that they would have been wasting resources to have even tried.

Don’t you dare buy it.

Because while it’s true that dropping a half-million the last month of the campaign wouldn’t have saved any candidate (except maybe Johnny Mack Morrow), that’s not when the money should have been spent. That’s not when the party office is most useful.

Winning elections takes effort. It takes planning. It takes information. It takes a long-term strategy.

Republicans didn’t take over the State House after 100-plus years of Democratic control because they prayed about it harder, even if that’s what they’d like you to believe.

They had a plan. They executed that plan.

They started down the ballot, winning races where a handful of votes swayed by the top of the ticket or a county initiative could land a few judgeships, maybe put a new House rep in place. Then they built on that.

They also did it through messaging.

I loathe Mike Hubbard, but that dude knew how to win elections. And he knew how to drive a point home. From the mid-2000s on, Democrats couldn’t go to the bathroom without Hubbard holding a press conference or issuing a press release claiming the Dems were in the bathroom plotting to take your guns or steal your money.

He went to major businesses around the state and started making deals for campaign contributions. And then he used those funds to push the party message even harder. Year after year, Hubbard and the rest of the ALGOP highlighted every bad thing Alabama Democrats did, and told people how Republicans would fix it and make their lives better.

Hubbard could do that, because as party chairman, he spoke for the ALGOP. And because he controlled the purse strings of the party, he could ensure that his message was the message resonating throughout the ALGOP.

ALGOP candidates were prepared with the best polling, the best opposition research, the best ads and the best volunteers. And they were all pushing just the right messages to voters.

They got to be so good at it that it didn’t matter if the candidate was essentially a door stopper. The ALGOP brass, led by Hubbard and a few others, had established a system so good and so efficient that they could get Shadrack McGill elected to the Alabama Senate.  

It didn’t even matter that the messages were mostly BS, and all Hubbard really wanted to do was take all of the money he could get his hands on.

The plan, the message and the execution were so good that it didn’t matter.

Alabama Democrats don’t have any of that.

Not the plan. Not the voice. Not the leadership.

And for some reason, the people in charge of the party seem to be OK with that. Because they just continue to not do anything at all to fix it.

The state deserves better.

 

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Gubernatorial candidates speak to PARCA Roundtable

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 11 min
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