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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.

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.

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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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Alabama secretary of state releases updates on crossover voting

Brandon Moseley

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The Secretary of State’s office announced Thursday that it has discovered 398 violations of Alabama’s new crossover voting rules in the 2018 election cycle.

At the conclusion of the 2017 United States Senate Special Election Run-off, the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office reviewed a formal, routine election report indicating that 140 individuals had been given credit for voting in the Democrat primary election on August 15th and then voting in the Republican run-off election on September 26. This action, termed crossover voting, is an action which would violate the State’s new crossover voting law (Act No. 2017-340).

After reviewing the report, Secretary of State John Merrill (R) identified the local chief election official – the Probate Judge, as the proper authority to determine whether those listed were willful in their intent, negligent, or whether these findings were listed in error in each county where the incident occurred. In each of the 41 counties, the probate judges determined it was not necessary to prosecute any of the 140 individuals found to have violated the crossover voting law.

Following the conclusion of the 2018 Run-Off Election, Secretary Merrill directed the Elections Division to review the list of 398 voters that were found to be in violation of the crossover voting law and compare that list with the list of 140 voters from the 2017 Senate Special Election. Once this review was completed, it was determined that only one voter was found to have potentially violated the law in both 2017 and 2018.
Secretary Merrill then personally visited with and interviewed the person found to have potentially violated the law. At the conclusion of that visit, it became clear to Secretary Merrill that either the poll workers or a county registrar improperly marked the wrong political party in processing the voters’ primary voter participation credit. Due to this information, Secretary Merrill determined further legal action was not necessary, at this time.

No one has been prosecuted for crossover voting, however, under Alabama law it is illegal to vote in both a party primary and then vote in another party’s primary runoff. In the general election, voters are allowed to vote for candidates from both parties and/or independent or minor party candidates. 66 percent of Alabamians straight party voted in the 2018 election. Alabama does not have party registration, so any voter is allowed to participate in the party primary of their choice.

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In the 2017 special election, former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) faced appointed U.S. Senator Luther Strange for the U.S. Senate. In 2018, there were Republican runoffs for Lt. Governor, Attorney General and other offices.

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Secretary of State initiates legal action to recover unpaid campaign finance fines

Chip Brownlee

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The Secretary of State’s Office has begun legal action to recover unpaid campaign finance fines incurred by political action committees and candidate committees during the 2018 election cycle, Secretary of State John Merrill said Tuesday.

The Secretary’s office has issued 1,180 penalties over the course of the election cycle for a total amount of $201,893.28. About $106,000 has been collected so far, the secretary’s office said. Fines that have not yet been paid have either been waived by the Ethics Commission or the Secretary of State is still trying to collect those fines from committees.

Of the penalties that haven’t been paid, 20 committees have exceeded the statutory period in which they can pay the fine, which allowed for Merrill to begin legal action to recover the funds. That process has begun, Merrill said.

Any fines paid by committees are deposited into the state’s General Fund budget.

The Secretary of State’s Office did not release specific political action committees and campaign committees that are facing legal action for fine recovery.

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Updates to Alabama’s campaign finance laws were passed in the state Legislature in 2015 and went into effect with the start of the 2018 Election Cycle.

Those changes require the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office to issue penalties to Political Action Committees and Principle Campaign Committees, the latter more commonly known as candidates, that do not file monthly, weekly or daily campaign finance reports on time.

Fines are issued when a committee doesn’t file campaign finance reports by midnight on the date the report is due.

Generally, reports are due on the second business day of each month, but some campaigns are required to file weekly or daily reports depending on the amount raised during those periods.

Committees are required to report all contributions and expenditures incurred by their campaign during the specified time period.

Penalty amounts increase as the number of late reports increase from the committee.

When a committee files a report late, but within 48 hours of the date the report is due, the committee is issued a warning. That first late report does not count against them or require a fine be paid, and the campaign finance laws state that those warnings are not a violation of the law.

 

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Hyde-Smith wins Mississippi Senate race

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, appointed U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) easily won her own term in the U.S. Senate defeating Clinton era Secretary of Agriculture and former Congressman Mike Espy (D) 53.9 percent to 46.1 percent in the runoff for U.S. Senate there. The race results were not as close as some politicos had been predicting.

“I want everybody to know, no matter who you voted for today, I’m gonna always represent every Mississippian,” Hyde-Smith said at her victory party. “Being on that MAGA-wagon, the Make American Great Again bus, we have bonded, we have persevered.”

“She has my prayers as she goes to Washington to lead a very divided Mississippi,” Espy said in his speech to supporters conceding the race. “While this is not the result we were hoping for, I am proud of the historic campaign we ran and grateful for the support we received across Mississippi,” Espy said in a Tuesday night statement.”

Democrats went shockingly negative down the stretch of the campaign focusing on a comment by Hyde-Smith that she would attend public hangings if they were legal and footage of her wearing a Confederate hat while visiting a museum.

Hyde-Smith apologized for the comment.

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The attack strategy was similar to tactics used by Democrats to defeat Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate special election in 2017. Unlike the Alabama special election however where national Republicans distanced themselves from Moore, the Republican National Committee embraced Sen. Hyde-Smith and made a maximum effort sending over 100 political operatives and $3 million to the state to get out the Republic vote in the special election. Senator Roger Wicker (R) held rallies with Sen. Hyde Smith where Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said he would never vote for Judge Moore. Donald Trump and Senator Lindsey Graham both held rallies with Hyde-Smith in the days before the election.

Mississippi Governor Phillip Bryant (R) appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith, age 59, to the seat after longtime incumbent Thad Cochran retired in April citing his deteriorating health. Hyde-Smith fills the remainder of Cochran’s term and will have to run again in 2020. Since it was a special election there were no party primaries. Instead there was an open ballot. Conservative Senator Chris McDaniel (R) also ran for the seat finishing third in the November six general election, but pulling enough votes that a runoff between Hyde-Smith and Espy was needed.

The win in the deep south for Republicans make the GOP even more confident about their prospects of retaking the Alabama seat in 2020. Jones is the only Democrat to win a statewide election since 2008.

The Republican in the House suffered tremendous defeats in the 2018 midterms; but Senate Republicans grew their majority from 51 Republican Senators to 53.

(Original reporting by the Hill and Fox News contributed to this report.)

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Elections

Zeigler: Kasich would lose every primary if he challenges Trump

Brandon Moseley

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Outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) announced that he was thinking seriously about running for President of the United States, challenging President Donald J. Trump in the Republican primary. Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler was critical of Kasich’s prospects of beating the President in 2020.

“If Gov. John Kasich runs against President Trump, I predict Kasich will lose every primary, including his own state of Ohio,” Zeigler said on social media. “Remember last time, the Alabama campaign head for Kasich was Gov Robert Bentley.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign, then Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) did formally endorse Governor Kasich for President of the United States. Bentley knew Kasich through their work in the Republican Governor’s Association. Gov. Bentley also withdrew his later endorsement of Donald Trump in the 2016 general election. Neither action seemed to matter as Trump won the Alabama Presidential primary in a landslide and carried the state in the general election by a larger percentage margin than any Republican since Richard M. Nixon’s victory over George McGovern in 1972.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been a fierce critic of President Donald Trump. Kasich said that is thinking “very seriously” about another run for president in 2020.

Kasich said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” that he is having “earnest conversations that go on virtually every day” with his friends and family about running in 2020.

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“We need different leadership, there isn’t a question about it,” Kasich said. “I’m not only just worried about the tone and the name-calling and the division in our country and the partisanship, but I also worry about the policies.”

Kasich said that he is concerned about: the rising national debt, the inability to find a solution to the immigration problem, isolationism, and the “rotten deal with the Saudis to look the other way” after the murder of Washington Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

“I’m worried about our country in the long term. So, the question for me is, ‘What do I do about this?'” he said. Kasich said that he would run only if he thought he could win or if it would be worth it to run to “send a message that can disrupt the political system in this country.”

Kasich is 66 and is a former member of Congress. Zeigler did not rule out running as a third party candidate and said that he was keeping all of his options open.

Zeigler was just re-elected as state Auditor with over a million votes. He is reportedly considering a run for the U.S. Senate challenging incumbent Doug Jones (D). Jones is the only Democratic candidate to win a statewide race in Alabama since 2008, when he upset former Chief Justice Roy Moore a year ago.

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A case of mistaken candidate identity could embarrass the ALGOP

by Josh Moon Read Time: 3 min
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