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GOP candidates speak to Huntsville Tea Party

Brandon Moseley



Three of the four Republican candidates for governor were in Huntsville at the Huntsville Tea Party gubernatorial forum.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said that as Mayor he has brought 24,000 jobs to the City of Huntsville and that he wants to do the same thing, just bigger for the whole state. Battle said that he wans to see everyone of the young people coming out of the schools in Alabama to stay here and get a job and be successful here. “This is the sixteenth forum that we have done; and this is the sixteenth forum that Gov. Ivey has not been here,” Battle said.

State Senator Bill Hightower said, “I am from Mobile. I am a businessman. I worked for large manufacturing companies for most of my career.” After 9-11 my wife and I moved back to Alabama and ran several small businesses. My pastor and others came to me and said, why don’t you run for office. I ran against Montgomery’s preferred candidate and I was outspent ten to one.

“Mike Hubbard’s people did not want me there,” Hightower said. “When I came to Montgomery, I did not owe anyone there anything. I voted for what I wanted to vote for. I was one of the most conservative state Senators.” I voted for term limits and for a flat tax. Kay Ivey has no voting record. I am the only one running with a record of voting.

“We have had a dermatologist for governor,” Hightower said. “We have had a lawyer for governor. We have never really had a businessman as governor. I want to be your CEO.” Go to my website and read my plan: 12 steps to Changing Alabama.


Scott Dawson said, “This is my first foray into politics. For thirty years I have been in ministry.” I tried to find someone to be part of a grassroots movement to run for governor eventually I ran myself.

Battle said of the prisons, that before we send someone to prison, “We need to make sure that these are the ones we need to be spending $39,000 a year on.” When they leave prison, they need to have earned a GED and received some job skills or they will be going back to prison. If they have a job they will pay taxes instead of costing us $39,000 a year.

Hightower said, “I was in the Senate when Governor Bentley brought his $900 million plan.” Prison should not be about locking someone up but instead be about bringing someone back to a purposeful life. We have to fix the prisons or the federal government will come and make us do it and it will cost a lot more.

Dawson said that he grew up in Ensley and there is not a mother in Ensley that is praying that her son gets to live in a bigger better prison. We need to do something about mental health. Right now, law enforcement has no option with the mentally ill other than to lock them up or turn them loose. We have to get a grip on drug abuse. “It is called a correctional facility it should not be a generational facility.”

Hightower said that the flat tax would makes it easier to do business in Alabama. Many times my wife has come home from her business and said that the state does not want her to make a profit.

Dawson said that he talked with one CEO in Birmingham who said that every week they joke about moving to Georgia so that Alabama will offer them the incentives that the state is offering out of state businesses to move here. Dawson said that we should cut the red tape and regulations and set Alabama businesses free.

Battle said, “85 percent of our people work for small businesses.”  “We are bringing in Toyota and Mazda and they are bringing in thousands of suppliers,” Battle said. Many of these suppliers will be customers of small businesses.

Dawson said that he read a book by former Governor Fob James. When James came into office he had to deal with prison overcrowding, education, and roads. The next governor will have to deal with prison overcrowding, education, and roads.

Dawson said that $63 million of money that is supposed to be earmarked for roads is taken away from ALDOT right off the top for other agencies. That does not  sound like a lot; but over twelve years that is almost a $billion. “A $billion will build a lot of roads.” If we get rid of all the legislative earmarks we can provide money for roads.

Battle said, “We have got to take our roads seriously. We have got too make a better system. We have got to improve that system.” I-65 is at over capacity. Not only are we not doing anything about it, we don’t have a plan to do anything about it.

Hightower said that he presented a plan to the legislature to use the BP oil spill settlement money for roads. It passed the Senate; but when it got to the House the special interests killed it. We need infrastructure improvements; but I want reform before we get more revenue.

Battle said forty percent of our prisoners have a mental health problem.

Hightower said that he is concerned about DHR. They are overworked. We have thrown the mentally ill in prisons. In Mobile County drugs for the prisoners is a bigger expense than anything else in the jails and the problem is growing. Autism is growing. We have to deal with mental health as a community.

Scott Dawson said, “Mental health is a crisis in our state.” A federal mandate could be coming if we don’t address it. “We have got to open up new beds and long term we have got to get a grasp on mental health.”

Hightower said that he is very Pro-Life and introduced the bill to ban the sale of baby body parts in Alabama.

Hightower said that he does not watch the violent video games and movies because it desensitizes me to violence. What we are doing to our kids through the culture is wrong.

Dawson said that in Alabama, “We dare defend our rights. I believe in the Second Amendment. The absolute right of our constitution for you to bear arms,” is guaranteed by the Constitution. “We should not waiver any of the rights that our founding fathers gave us.”

Battle said that when Remington came to Alabama they told them you are going to get some bad comments. Battle responded, “You do realize that you are coming to Alabama don’t you?” There was a poll and 97 percent were in favor of Remington coming and only 2.5 percent were opposed. “We support the right to bear arms here.” They are a great industry. We are proud to have them here.

Dawson said that he wants to, “Replace Common Core standards It is time to get rid of Common Core.” “I am not opposed to standards. I want Alabama standards from Alabama teachers that understand Alabama values.”

Battle said, “The state standards need to stay steady. We need to have a state set of standards that can move us forwards.”

Hightower said that he favors repealing Common Core and pledged to, “Work toward repealing that and creating our own Alabama standards.”

Governor Kay Ivey was unable to attend as she had an event in Etowah County that same night.
The major party primaries will be on June 5.

Hometown Mayor Tommy Battle overwhelmingly won the straw poll with 53 1st Choice votes.  Scott Dawson was second with 30 votes  Bill Hightower had 21 votes and Kay Ivey had 4.

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King pauses campaign after opponent’s wife’s death

Bill Britt



After learning about the death of Attorney General Steve Marshall’s wife, his opponent, former Attorney General Troy King, announces a pause in his campaign out of respect for the Marshall family’s loss.

“Paige and I just learned of the tragic death of Brigette Marshall,” said, King. “Today is a sad and difficult day. Today we are not in different political campaigns or camps. We are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. We cannot imagine the deep sense of loss and grief the Marshall family must face.”

King further offered condolences saying, “We offer our deepest sympathies and heartfelt prayers for Attorney General Steve Marshall and his family and pray that God’s grace and peace and hope will enfold and sustain them.”

King’s campaign also said, “Out of respect for the Marshall family, I have paused my campaign during this time of mourning. I have directed that all of our advertising be stopped. May God hold them in the palm of His hand.”

King and Marshall will face each other in the July 17 Republican runoff for state’s Attorney General.


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Alabama Supreme Court Candidate Donna Wesson Smalley talks Justice with APR

Brandon Moseley



Thursday, the Alabama Political Reporter went to Jasper for an extended interview with Democratic candidate for Associate Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court Place 4.

Donna Wesson Smalley grew up on a cattle farm in Etowah County near Attalla. She is an attorney with four decades of experience with the law. She earned her law degree from the University of Alabama Law School. Smalley is 62 years old.

APR asked: Why are you running for Alabama Supreme Court?

“The real truth is that I feel a real calling for it,” Smalley said. “I have dedicated my whole life to the law, and this is a natural next step.”

APR asked: What are your qualifications to serve on the state Supreme Court?


“I offer a lot with the breath of my experience. I have 40 years as a practicing attorney. I am a former adjust instructor at the University of Alabama School of Law. I am a former adjunct professor in writing in the English Department. I relocated to Walker County in 2005 after being in Tuscaloosa for 23 years. I have done a lot of different things in the practice of law, which I think is important.”

“That I am a woman brings another experience to the court and Alabama needs more women in leadership positions,” Smalley said.

APR asked if the Judicial Inquiry Commission  and the Court of the Judiciary should be tasked with disciplining judges, or should judges be treated like every other constitutional office and the legislature be the body tasked with impeaching judges (like in the federal system)?

“I think the JIC is much better equipped to handle disciplining judges with an eye of protecting the sanctity of judges and the courts than the legislators. They are not as well equipped by education and experience. There is a balance between popular opinion and a more studied reasoning. That is one of the aspects of our code that has been used as a model used around the world.”

Smalley credited Howell Heflin with modernizing that section and felt that it, “Should be kept.”

APR asked: Does the state of Alabama have an ethics problem?

“Yes, obviously we have an ethics problem when three of our top elected officials have had to be replaced,” Smalley replied. “One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

“We have pretty good ethics laws, but we need better enforcement of them,” Smalley said. “For the few public officials that do break the public trust – they need to be punished.”

APR asked: The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) has been very active in endorsing and contributing towards judicial races. Is there a conflict of interest there in judicial candidates accepting contributions and donations from business interests that routinely have business before the court system?

“It is hard to avoid the appearance of impropriety when any one group contributes large amounts of money to the judges that settle disputes that often involves companies that are members of that group,” Smalley said. “This is a big problem and we need to figure out how to solve it.”

“We really need for the legislature to come up with a plan to deal with campaign finance laws in a fair and effective matter,” Smalley added.

APR asked: Should judicial races in Alabama be partisan political races?

“Not in my opinion,” Smalley said. “Politics really shouldn’t have any place in the review of elected races at all. I have practiced with judges who have been both Democrats and Republicans in different points in their careers; but they ruled the same way.”

Smalley said that running judicial races without the party affiliations would be very difficult; but there needs to be some campaign finance reform by the legislature. Our current system has no limits on dark money and allows unlimited donations from businesses and individuals. The appearance of impropriety should be avoided in judicial races.”

APR asked: There is a wide range in caseloads from circuit to circuit across the state. Should the legislature reallocate the judges from areas that have experienced population declines to areas that have experienced growth?

Smalley said no, that we should be adding judges to those areas of the state that are growing faster than other areas not taking judges away. “Getting more judges across the state would streamline how fast cases could come to trial. Justice delayed is justice denies.”

APR asked: Do the poor get treated fairly in our court system, or is there two sets of laws? One for people with money to have the best representation and another system for those who can’t afford the same defense.

“No, the poor are not treated fairly in our court system,” Smalley said. “I don’t know of anyone who can seriously argue otherwise. That is a problem we continue to struggle with, and that is not just a criminal court matter but also in the civil courts.”

APR asked: Do poor people get trapped in the court system being assigned penalties and court costs they can not afford and then additional fines and fees for not paying the previous fines?

“Absolutely, yes, people do get trapped in that system and in my opinion it is indefensible,” Smalley said. “Some agencies like the courts are not supposed to be self supporting. They are supposed to be supported by all of us so that everyone regardless of their station in life can seek justice for wrongs created by others. Justice for all is a basic tenant of our society. It is depressing how the poor are treated in our state and our country.”

APR asked: Republicans have dominated Alabama judicial races for well over a decade because there is a perception that Democrats are soft on crime. Are you strong enough to punish criminals and get justice for victims of crime?

“I don’t think that is why Republicans have dominated judicial races,” Smalley said. “That is a false premise. Republicans have dominated judicial races because they have spent more money to influence the voters. Democrats are like Republicans: they don’t want crime in their families or neighborhoods,” Smalley continued. “We need to do some of the things that we know will reduce crime. We need to be spending more money on early childhood education, job training, and mental health. They all dramatically reduce crime. That is where we need to be focusing instead of creating a cottage industry of private prisons. My hope is that everyone including Republicans will join in solving the problems. Republicans have had the House the Senate the executive branch, the courts, and their approach has not worked. People are still concerned about crime.”

APR asked: Alabama recently executed a man in his eighties. Is there something administratively the courts can do to expedite the appeals process so that death penalties can be performed in less than 20 years of sentencing?

“If there were enough judges and a better system for providing competent defense attorneys, that would streamline it some,” Smalley said. “I don’t think we should change the defendants’ protections.”

“Sometimes justice delayed is justice denied,” Smalley said. “We know it is less costly to have life without parole than the death penalty.”

APR asked: Does the state legislature need to find more funding for the Alabama Court System, particularly the circuit clerks offices?

“It is ridiculous,” Smalley said. “They lost manpower consistently. There is a third of the manpower that they had when I started practicing. ”

APR asked: There has been a popular perception, that in the past, some of the Justices on the Alabama Supreme Court have been a little lazy. If you are elected to the state’s highest court, can the public trust you to put in a full week’s work and not get behind on your work?

“Yes, and I pledge to write opinions,” Smalley said. “One of the things that I have heard across the state, particularly from lawyers, is that they don’t receive a reason written response on their filings. They deserve that much from the appellate courts.”

APR asked: There is a perception that whoever wins the GOP nomination for a statewide judicial race will win the office. Is that making it hard for you to fund raise in this race?

“I just don’t believe that paradigm is true anymore,” Smalley said. “The pendulum has begun to swing, and I don’t really need for somebody to give me hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy my vote. I intend to work my campaign at the grass roots level. That will win voters over.”

Smalley said, “I am confident that I am the most qualified candidate in this particular race. I am 62 years old, and I have been practicing law for 40 years. I have a breadth of experience that my opponent lacks. Most of his work has been with lobbying and governmental affairs. Most of my work has been with real people with real problems.”

“I don’t think either party should have every appellate judgeship, and that is what we have now.”

Donna Wesson Smalley (D) is running against James “Jay” Mitchell (R) for state Supreme Court Justice Place 4.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. (D) is running for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court against Associate Justice Tom Parker (R).

Smalley and Vance are the only Democrats running for any of the statewide judicial offices.

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Former State Health Department employee pleads guilty to ethics violations

Brandon Moseley



Tuesday, a former employee of the Alabama Department of Public Health pleaded guilty for using her official position for personal gain and felony ethics violation.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) announced that Yoskio Denise Givner, age 32, of Montgomery, pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Circuit Court. The case was prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division.

Givner admitted in her guilty plea to using her former position as an administrative assistant for the Alabama Department of Public Health to falsify travel vouchers, forging her supervisor’s name on documents requesting payment for per diem and mileage she did not earn because she did not travel. Between October 2013 and August 2016, Givner used this scheme to steal more than $15,000 from the State of Alabama.

“Public employees are entrusted to conduct themselves in the service of the people of Alabama with integrity and honor, and when that trust is violated as it was by this defendant, I am committed to prosecuting those who use their positions for illegal personal gain,” said Attorney General Marshall.

Marshall thanked the Alabama Department of Public Health for its vigilance in reviewing the illegal vouchers and its assistance in the investigation and prosecution of this case. The AG commended the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division, noting in particular Assistant Attorney General Peggy Rossmanith and Special Agents for their outstanding work to achieve this conviction.


Steve Marshall is a longtime district attorney in Marshall County. He was appointed as AG by then Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) after Bentley appointed then AG Luther Strange (R) to the U.S. Senate seat held by Jeff Sessions.  Sessions was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Donald J Trump (R).

Marshall is running for his own term as AG in the Republican primary runoff election on July 17 against former AG Troy King (R).

The eventual winner of the Republican nomination will face Joseph Siegelman (D) in the general election on November 6.

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GOP candidates speak to Huntsville Tea Party

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 6 min