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Tommy Battle urges getting back to the issues after Todd’s controversy engulfs race

Sam Mattison

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While a political firestorm consumed Alabama’s gubernatorial race on Tuesday, Tommy Battle is not getting involved.

Battle held a brief press conference on Wednesday to discuss Tuesday’s happenings, which included a Democratic lawmaker insinuating that sitting Gov. Kay Ivey is a lesbian and a GOP candidate slamming Ivey for grant money going to an LGBT organization.

The gubernatorial hopeful was brief in his comments but sent a clear message that he would not jump into the chaos, and he urged Alabama to talk about the issues rather than what he calls a “deeply upsetting” moment in the race.

“We’re better than this,” Battle said in a statement after the conference. “I feel like we’ve lost focus of what’s important for Alabamians and what challenges we must take on to make this state better.”

His fellow gubernatorial candidate Scott Dawson kicked off the controversy on Tuesday by saying that Ivey’s administration had continued to disperse state grants to an LGBT group in Huntsville.

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The group, called Free2Be, received over $168,000 in 2017 through federal funds that were administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Dawson said the group promoted views that were not in line with “Alabama values.”

Ivey’s administration said in a press release later that the money did not come from the state.

“Any suggestion that the Free2Be grant is an expense of state dollars which could have been used for any other purpose is simply wrong, and illustrates a lack of understanding of federal grant processes,” the statement said.

It was not until later in the day that state Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, capped off the day’s controversy with social media posts that suggested Ivey was gay. Todd’s response came after Ivey said she “certainly disagreed” with Free2Be’s goals.

Todd, who is Alabama’s only openly gay representative, has threatened in the past to expose closeted lawmakers. According to her, the rumor that Ivey is gay has been around for years.

Todd’s accusation was met with a strong pushback by an Ivey spokesperson who called it a “disgusting lie.” Ivey herself reiterated those comments on Wednesday and called Todd a “left wing political operative.”

“There is absolutely no truth to it,” Ivey said. “It’s false. It’s wrong. It’s a bald-faced lie. And I’m not gonna let them get away with it. Whether these attacks are malicious or ignorant or both – they represent everything that’s wrong with politics today.”

Todd’s future as an executive director of an LGBT group may also be in jeopardy. The retiring state representative was poised to become the executive director of One Orlando Alliance, which was founded in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting that targeted the LGBT community.

The group told al.com on Wednesday that they were reviewing Todd’s comments in an emergency board meeting. According to al.com, the board will announce on Friday if any action will be taken on Todd’s comments.

The Alabama Political Reporter reached out to the group through an email for comment, but they have yet to respond.

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Elections

Ivey took more than $100,000 from same Soros-backed PACs as Maddox

Chip Brownlee

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Republican incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey’s campaign criticized her Democratic challenger, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, twice on Thursday for accepting contributions from PACs backed by liberal donor George Soros, but Ivey has accepted $100,000 from the same set of PACs over the course of her campaign for governor.

Yellowhammer News, a Birmingham-based conservative media outlet, reported early Thursday morning that Soros gave $200,000 to a group of Tuscaloosa PACs chaired by Mike Echols, a longtime donor in Tuscaloosa and state politics.

Those contributions were reported Wednesday evening in mandatory financial disclosures with the Secretary of State’s Office.

That set of chain PACs — Cash PAC, CMG PAC II, ET PAC, Leadership PAC, Pride PAC II and T-Town PAC II — have contributed more than $600,000 to Maddox’s campaign through the primary and general election season.

Ivey’s campaign publicized Yellowhammer’s story quickly after its release this morning and criticized Maddox for accepting donations from the PACs.

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“George Soros is infamous for funding extreme organizations like Moveon.org, using his fortune to support gun control groups, describing capitalism as more dangerous than communism, and touting his influence over governments,” Ivey’s campaign said in a statement. “Which begs the question: is Walt Maddox working for the people of Alabama or the radical out of state liberals bankrolling his campaign?”

A request for comment about Ivey accepting donations from the PACs has not yet been returned.

The same set of chain PACs have long been involved in Alabama political contributions on both sides of the aisle.

The PACs have donated not only to Democrats but Republican candidates like former Gov. Robert Bentley during his campaigns, former Republican Alabama Attorney General Troy King during his primary run against Republican Attorney General Steve Marshall, Republican Secretary of State John Merrill and Ivey herself.

As recently as Oct. 2, Ivey accepted a $5,000 contribution from T-Town PAC II. During the same reporting period, Maddox received a $2,000 contribution from that PAC.

Both gubernatorial candidates have accepted contributions from all six PACs to which Soros gave money. In total, Ivey accepted $103,000 from those PACs over the primary and general election season.

Ivey’s campaign again criticized Maddox as a “lying liberal” after Maddox held a press conference Thursday, during which he called on Ivey to answer questions about former ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier’s allegations that she abused her power and had a state trooper reassigned to cover up the seriousness of a 2015 hospitalization in Colorado, when she was attending a conference as lieutenant governor.

“Walt Maddox is pushing these last second lies because his half baked liberal ideas have him losing in a landslide,” the campaign said in a statement. “With less than three weeks to go, not even $200,000 from George Soros can save him.”

APR was the first to report the hospitalization and Collier’s allegations.

Maddox has accepted far more money from the PACs, amounting to $622,400 so far in the campaign.

Maddox has not yet reported any contributions since Oct. 15, when Soros’ donations were recorded in the PAC filings. The next set of weekly filings are due on Monday.

 

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Elections

Opinion | Kay Ivey’s official calendar is surprisingly empty

Josh Moon

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In late-August and early-September, there was one question dominating Alabama’s governor’s race.

Where is Kay Ivey?

The governor at that point had scarcely been seen in a few days. In one 10-day stretch, she held no public events and somehow managed to avoid even local ribbon cuttings and bridge openings. And her opponent’s campaign was raising questions about her lack of activity.

Walt Maddox, at that point, had already challenged Ivey to a series of debates. She declined, offering a number of excuses, including that she was “busy governing the state.” She had also told her Republican primary challengers that she was “too busy” to debate them.

So, I wanted to know: Who was telling the truth? Was it a big deal? Was Ivey too busy?

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There was only one way to find out: I filed an Alabama Open Records Act request for Ivey’s official calendar for a three-week span (Aug. 24 through Sept. 14).

That span, I figured, would provide a solid look into Ivey’s days and would cover all of the days that the Maddox campaign had questioned her whereabouts.

On Wednesday, after paying $17 and some change to a public entity to produce public records that the public had already paid to be produced once, APR was provided with copies of Ivey’s official calendar.

Counting every entry on the calendar for 21 days — including travel time to and from the governor’s mansion (which apparently takes 30 minutes) and air travel to a variety of meetings and ribbon cuttings — there are less than 60 hours accounted for.

That’s less than three hours per day.

But it’s actually worse than that, because most of that time is compacted into a handful of days, leaving large chunks of time — whole calendar pages — simply blank.

In total, seven days were blank. Three other days had just one entry.

In one calendar week — Sunday, Sept. 2, thru Saturday, Sept. 8 — Ivey’s calendar shows just three and a half hours of scheduled time.

That week, her days were completely blank on Sunday, Labor Day Monday and Tuesday. She had a single phone call on Wednesday and a single meeting on Thursday. She hosted the Alabama Association of Regional Councils on Friday morning and wrapped up the grueling week with a proclamation signing at 10:30 a.m. that Friday.

I’ll remind you that this is the governor — a governor in the midst of a campaign.

You would think her calendar would be crammed with events and meetings and staff scrums and trips all over the place.

But … there’s just nothing.

And that’s not normal. I know that for a fact.

I’ve been to the Alabama Archives and sorted through the official calendars for the last three governors of this state. None of their calendars look like Ivey’s. Not even close.

I shared photos on Facebook Wednesday night of entries from random days on Robert Bentley’s calendar. In some instances, his days spilled over onto a second page.

The same was true with Bob Riley. His days, like Bentley’s, seemed to be planned from morning until night. Every day. Even on the weekends.

What’s happening with Kay Ivey should raise eyebrows and a ton of questions. Mainly: Can she actually do this job?

I think that’s a fair question at this point, after the public freeze-ups, the long disappearances, the managed time by her staff, the refusal to debate, and now these nearly blank calendar days.

And then there are two other questions:

Who is running this state?

And who are you voting for?

 

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Elections

Anti-abortion group National Right to Life endorses Ivey

Brandon Moseley

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National Right to Life announced their endorsement of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) in the Nov. 6 general election.

Ivey said she proudly accepted the endorsement from National Right to Life, the third pro-life organization to endorse Ivey as Governor.

In a letter announcing their support for Kay Ivey, National Right to Life Executive Director David O’Steen and Political Director Karen Cross described Governor Ivey as a “strong advocate for life.”

National Right to Life applauded Governor Ivey’s support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act as well as her opposition to using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions and abortion providers.

“All Alabama voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to reelect you as governor so that you can continue to advance vital pro-life public policies,” said Cross and O’Steen.

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Governor Ivey’s opponent, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) has been running ads touting his pro-life and pro-gun credentials, which is odd for the modern Democratic Party; but Ivey is the one with the endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List, Alabama Citizens four Life, and the National Rifleman’s Association (NRA). The NRA magazines with their Kay Ivey endorsements arrived in NRA households across Alabama on Tuesday.

“This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life. We look forward to working with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children and medically dependent or disabled persons – whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia,” said Cross and O’Steen in their letter.

Kay Ivey has served two terms as Alabama’s state Treasurer and two terms as the Lieutenant Governor. She was elevated to Governor in April 2017 when then Governor Robert Bentley (R) resigned after the House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings. Ivey grew up on a cattle farm in Wilcox County, attended Auburn University, went to work as a school teacher, then went to work in state government.

Ivey’s campaign is emphasizing her administration’s strong job growth, robust economic growth, increasing pre-K access, and workforce development as reasons to elect her as governor. Mayor Maddox’s campaign is promising to extend Medicaid benefits to more people, raise fuel taxes, a state-sponsored lottery, taxing sports gambling, and a gambling agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians.

The general election will be on Tuesday, November 6. Also in this election, voters gets to vote on Amendment Two which states that nothing in the Alabama Constitution can be construed as allowing abortions to take place. The growing pro-life movement is hopeful that the U.S, Supreme Court will eventually overturn the highly controversial Roe versus Wade ruling that forced the states to allow abortion on demand.

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Opinion | A breakdown of Ivey’s ever-changing story on her Colorado illness, trooper demotion

Josh Moon

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It’s tough to keep a good lie going.

The problem isn’t so much the original lie, even if it’s a doozy. The trouble comes on the back side, when you have to start piling lies on top of lies to make that original lie hold up. And then you have to keep it all straight.

The Kay Ivey administration knows what I’m talking about.

Unless a whole bunch of other people are lying, Ivey and her staff have been lying all over the place to try and cover up a 2015 incident in which Ivey, then the state’s lieutenant governor, suffered a series of mini-strokes. Or at least something that appeared to be mini-strokes, or TIAs.

They’ve been scrambling ever since.

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And over such a dumb lie, too. Who cares if a 70-year-old woman had a mini-stroke, or something that appeared to be a mini-stroke? Hell, 30-year-old men and women who are in decent shape have those things. They’re not necessarily indicative of poor overall health, although they do indicate a higher risk for future strokes.

But still, why lie? I’m guessing a lot more people would vote for a gubernatorial candidate who admitted to having a mini-stroke than for one who everyone knows is lying about a mini-stroke and who wrongly punished a state trooper for simply following the protocols of his job.

It seems Ivey now finds herself in the latter category. And I think it’s important to understand how we got here.

In this world of abundant news, it’s easy to forget facts and leave entries off the timeline. So, let’s paint this full picture.

Ivey’s “health issue” occurred in 2015 when she was in Colorado Springs for a meeting of the Aerospace States Association. According to her own comments about the incident, she felt lightheaded during the meeting’s opening day, a Friday, and was admitted to the hospital that day. She was released on Sunday.

For the better part of two years, the coverup of the incident was successful, because, let’s be honest, who really cares what’s happening in the personal life of the lieutenant governor. But shortly after Ivey ascended to the big chair following Robert Bentley’s embarrassing demise, whispers about her poor health began.

In May 2017, citing multiple sources close to the governor, APR’s Bill Britt published the first account of the health scare and the coverup, including details of Ivey having a state trooper working her security detail, Drew Brooks, demoted and shipped off to work in a drivers license office in Houston County.

Ivey and her top officials screamed it was fake news.

In multiple settings, including a sitdown interview with al.com’s Mike Cason, Ivey and her chief of staff, Steve Pelham, flatly denied almost all of it.

Ivey said she had actually suffered from “altitude sickness,” which apparently requires a three-day hospital stay now. She told al.com’s Leada Gore that the trooper, Brooks, was “promoted,” because working drivers licenses in Dothan at a 25-percent pay reduction is every cop’s dream assignment.

Pelham told Cason that there was no directive and no punishment.

And for a while, it all died down.

But on Tuesday, the bad lie came back to life, as they have a tendency to do. This time, Britt had a bigger story: Collier, the head of ALEA, was on the record backing up every word of what Britt and APR reported back in 2017.

And we got the receipts too.

Collier, the guy who actually signed Brooks’ transfer order, confirmed that Ivey’s head of security reported to him in 2015 that Ivey was suffering from “stroke-like symptoms” and was being rushed to the hospital in Colorado. Collier reported that information to Bentley and remained in contact with the security detail.

Sometime after Ivey returned from that trip, she summoned Collier to the law offices of Balch & Bingham, because those offices are the Alabama equivalent to the Bada Bing, apparently, where all the bad plans in the state are concocted. At that meeting, she informed Collier that she wanted Brooks demoted and transferred, and claimed Brooks had attempted to hack her email.

Documents obtained by APR show that Brooks — who Ivey and Pelham claimed was promoted — was actually forced off the lieutenant governor’s security detail — a highly sought after position with top pay — and moved to Dothan to give license exams for about $300 less per month in salary.

Does that sound like a promotion?

But you know what’s coming now, right? More lies to cover up the faltering lies.

Later on Tuesday, Ivey’s office released another letter from her doctor to prove that she is in great health and absolutely, 100-percent has never had a stroke. Small problem: in discussing the Colorado incident, Ivey’s doctor stated that she was hospitalized in Denver, which is a little more than an hour from Colorado Springs, where Ivey was when she became ill.

It’s tough to imagine a three-day hospitalization at a large hospital an hour away for altitude sickness. But then, this isn’t my (fictional) story.

So far, the Ivey camp hasn’t addressed Collier’s allegations about Brooks. Instead, Ivey tried to blame the whole thing on Walt Maddox, which, if true, really confirms that we should all be voting for Maddox because that dude’s a wizard.

It’s a sad state of affairs. But that’s usually the case when lies start to unravel.

 

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Tommy Battle urges getting back to the issues after Todd’s controversy engulfs race

by Sam Mattison Read Time: 3 min
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