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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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Elections

Activist calls for Attorney General Steve Marshall to be decertified or impeached

Bill Britt

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Across the state, lawyers, politicos and candidates are questioning how to deal with the dark money that flowed into the Republican Attorney General’s primary race.

North Alabama Republican activist Thomas J. Scovill is calling for Speaker Mac McCutcheon and the ALGOP steering committee to deny Republican primary winner—appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall—certification because of funds he received from the Republican Attorney Generals Association.

“As Steve Marshall’s campaign finance issue drags on, the embarrassment to Alabama government and the Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) is growing,” Scovill wrote, McCutcheon. “Just as the Alabama Republican Party acted quickly and decisively on the issue of PSC candidate James Bonner’s decorum, now is the time to act decisively on the much more serious issue of lawbreaking by our attorney general.”

At issue is Marshall’s acceptance of $735,000 from RAGA’s 527 nonprofit organizations which Scovill and many others believe is a clear violation of Alabama’s Fair Campaign Practice Act. The state’s Republican legislative supermajority outlawed PAC-to-PAC transfers as part of its reform measures in 2010.

Marshall claims the donations are legal because of a loophole in state law. He also argues that federal law trumps state law in this instance.

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Scovill in his letter to Mac McCutcheon and a petition to ALGOP Chair Terry Lathan says Marshall’s claim is not only misleading but wrong.

“The question of federal jurisdiction raised by Marshall is a red herring,” says Scovill. “When it comes to campaign finance, those who play in federal elections have to comply with federal law, and those who play in Alabama elections have to comply with Alabama law. Those who play in both have to comply with both.”

A thorny advocate for campaign finance transparency, Scovill has fought and won several battles against those who tried to skirt the state’s FCPA.

During the primary election, Scovill backed outsider Chess Bedsole in the Republican Attorney General’s contest. In the runoff, he supported Marshall until he discovered the RAGA contributions.

“My choice for attorney general was Chess Bedsole,” said Scovill. “And just after the primary, I endorsed Steve Marshall, but then when I got back from a two week trip to Colorado on the Thursday before the runoff, I got caught up in all this PAC to PAC and 527 stuff and said, ‘Oh gee, I should have put some time into this back in February.’”

Marshall won the Republican nomination for Attorney General against Troy King who made the same accusation as Scovill. Montgomery County Judge James Anderson dismissed King’s partition to force Marshall to stop using RAGA funds, but that doesn’t mean the matter is settled.

Several legal minds say that Judge Anderson was wrong in his ruling. There are also those who want the issue decided before Marshall’s exception becomes a rule that opens the floodgates for out-of-state PACs to flood the state with dark money from hidden sources.

“Even with a preliminary review by the Alabama Ethics Commission, this controversy cannot be adjudicated through the office of the Alabama Attorney General for obvious reasons – Marshall is the incumbent attorney general,” writes Scovill. “With his nomination by the ALGOP pending, we are out of time for legal quibbles, alibis, and antics.”

In both his letter to Speaker McCutcheon and ALGOP, Scovill references PSC candidate James “Jim” Bonner who the Republican Party disqualified shortly before the primary.

As APR‘s Brandon Moseley reported in June, “Numerous voices in the party have expressed their concerns that Bonner being on the ticket could be an embarrassment that could turn out Democrats jeopardizing and drag down other races up and down the ticket.” The Alabama Republican Party Candidate Committee voted not to certify election results for Bonner even though he was already on the printed ballots. At the time, ALGOP Chair Lathan said, “When our state party chooses to take these steps, it is a serious and rare occurrence. We strongly believe that this is one of those solemn moments. This vote was carefully considered and was not taken lightly.”

Alabama Republican Party will not certify Bonner

Scovill contends the Republican committee must do the same with Marshall. “Marshall is embarrassing the Alabama Republican Party by violating both the spirit and letter of Alabama law,” wrote Scovill. “Republicans are responsible for pressing for enforcement of the law, enforcement which includes impeaching Attorney General Marshall if necessary. Ignoring the issue will create a major controversy Democrats will exploit in the coming general election to the detriment of every Republican on the ballot.”

In August, the State’s Ethics Commission will likely weigh-in on Scovill’s question — finding that RAGA’s actions were unlawful, but it’s the Republican Party that will ultimately have final say on if the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban applies to Democrats and Republicans alike.

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Secretary of State’s Office begins voter fraud investigation in Wilcox and Perry Counties

Brandon Moseley

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Turnout in Tuesday’s primary runoff was just 12.7 percent across the state. That percentage, however, varied wildly across the state.

Many Democrats did not vote as there were not any statewide Democratic runoffs. Understandably then, the counties with the worst voter participation rates were Democratic dominated Black Belt Counties. Choctaw County was the worst in the state with an incredibly low .59 percent. It was followed by Hale with 1.53 percent. Third worst was Sumter with 1.6 percent followed by Bullock with 2.8 percent.

The Blackbelt had the worst voter turnout; but it also recorded by far the highest turnouts in Tuesday’s runoff election.

The Wilcox County probate judge’s race was apparently so exciting that 44.1 percent of voters turned out despite the heat and no statewide Democratic races.

Wilcox County has 11,058 people. 1,631 of those are under 18. There are only 9,423 voting age persons in the county, but an impressive 9,383 of them are registered voters. That is almost an impossible 99.59 percent voter registration rate. An incredible 4,167 of those voters made time in their day to cast a ballot in Tuesday’s runoff. 4,061 of those voted in the Wilcox County probate judge race, between Democrats Chris Stone and Britney Jones-Alexander. Alexander won the contest. The 44.41 percent voter turnout for the poor Black Belt county was three and a half times the state average.

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Perry County had a 36.35 percent turnout and they were followed by Dallas at 35.43 percent and Greene at 34.08 percent.

The Secretary of State’s office has some suspicions about the success of some of these rural community organizers ability to turn out their votes. Secretary of State John Merrill has launched an investigation into Wilcox and Perry Counties because the number of absentee ballots appears to be unbelievably high.

Sec. Merrill told the Alabama Media Group’s John Sharp that his office is “looking into to prospects of absentee broker operations, in which campaign workers or people with an unknown organization, exchange gifts or cash for absentee ballots.”

Secretary Merrill has said that he wants to make it easy to vote; but hard to cheat.

Below are voter participation rates for all 67 counties:
Wilcox – 44.41%
Perry – 36.35%
Dallas – 35.43%
Greene – 34.08%
Covington – 31.32%
Marion – 27.85%
Fayette – 27.71%
Lamar – 26.19%
Lowndes – 25.47%
Walker – 25.01%
Clay – 24.12%
Coosa – 23.8%
Macon – 21.95%
Crenshaw – 21.09%
Blount – 20.77%
Elmore – 18.92%
Geneva – 18.73%
Marshall – 18.72%
Chilton – 18.08%
Coffee – 18.07%
Autauga – 17.39%
Montgomery – 17.34%
Bibb – 17.02%
Pike – 16.61%
Tallapoosa – 16.42%
Henry – 16.4%
Dale – 15.67%
Baldwin – 15.57%
Houston – 15.03%
Jackson – 14.33%
Limestone – 13.16%
Jefferson – 12.6%
Winston – 12.27%
De Kalb – 11.68%
Chambers – 11.23%
Pickens – 11.18%
Cullman – 11.03%
Shelby – 10.99%
Colbert – 10.79%
Etowah – 10.77%
Franklin – 10.73%
Talladega – 10.3%
Calhoun – 10.22%
St. Clair – 10.08%
Butler – 9.97%
Cleburne – 9.72%
Mobile – 9.49%
Randolph – 9.44%
Lee – 9.41%
Morgan – 9.07%
Barbour – 8.45%
Cherokee – 8.45%
Marengo – 8.01%
Clarke – 7.79%
Madison – 7.66%
Lawrence – 7.43%
Escambia – 7.24%
Lauderdale – 6.88%
Washington – 6.7%
Monroe – 6.46%
Tuscaloosa – 5.94%
Russell – 4.95%
Conecuh – 3.68%
Bullock – 2.8%
Sumter – 1.6%
Hale – 1.53%
Choctaw – 0.59%

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Walt Maddox, statewide candidates host forum in Gardendale

Brandon Moseley

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Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox will headline a forum for Democratic candidates at the Gardendale Civic Center on July 30 at 6 p.m. Maddox will be joined by a host of other statewide legislative and local candidates.

Maddox claims that he offers voters a path forward out of the state’s corruption and funding crisis.

“It’s the same crisis we’ve been facing for the last seven years,” says gubernatorial candidate Maddox. “If we don’t do something today, there will be no tomorrow; we need safe infrastructure, access to healthcare and good paying jobs.”

The organizers say they “put people before party” so they can bring about change in Alabama.

“As taxpayers, we have been shortchanged for too long,” says former Gardendale City Councilman Blake Guinn, who is working for the Maddox campaign and is one of the forum’s organizers. “I’m tired of being last in everything but football. I’m looking for candidates who have the energy, intelligence, and vision to move this state forward.”

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Most Alabama politicians are just “rubberstamp” what their national party says, says Jennifer L. Greer, a retired university assistant professor who lives in Gardendale and is also organizing the forum. “I don’t care about Washington. I care about Alabama and getting services for my tax dollars, like Alabama’s First-Class Pre-K in every community.”

Maddox will be joined at the Gardendale forum by:

  • Danner Kline, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, 6th Congressional District.
  • Judge Robert “Bob” Vance, Democratic candidate for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
  • Dr. Will Boyd, Democratic candidate for Alabama Lieutenant Governor.
  • Joseph Siegelman, Democratic candidate for Alabama Attorney General.
  • Heather Milam, Democratic candidate for Alabama Secretary of State.
  • Donna Smalley, Democratic candidate for Alabama Supreme Court, Place 4.
  • Cara McClure, Democratic candidate for Public Service Commission, Place 1.
  • Kari Powell, Democratic candidate for Public Service Commission, Place 2.
  • Veronica R. Johnson, Democratic candidate Alabama House District 51.
  • Danny Carr, Democratic candidate for Jefferson County District Attorney.

The event is free and open to the public.

Democrats have renewed enthusiasm after Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore for U.S. Senate. Prior to that win, the last Democrat to win a statewide office in Alabama was Lucy Baxley, who was elected to president of the Alabama Public Service Commission in 2008. The last time a Democrat won a gubernatorial election was 1998, when Don Siegelman defeated incumbent Republican Fob James.

The general election will be November 6.

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Gubernatorial candidates speak to PARCA Roundtable

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 11 min
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