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Elections

BCA big primary bet not paying off so well 

Bill Britt

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via BCAtoday.org

Once, an endorsement from the Business Council of Alabama was a clear indication of the frontrunner in a political race, but this changed dramatically during the June 5 primary with BCA losing several high profile races while squandering vast sums of money on losing candidates.

Embattled BCA CEO Billy Canary bet big but ended up with little more than winning incumbents who faced no challenge or a weak opponent who would have won with or without BCA’s backing. Other big-name races have BCA endorsed candidates in bare-knuckle runoffs with uncertain outcomes.

BCA made nearly $1.4 million in campaign contributions over the last six months, with over 20 percent going to the Attorney General’s battle. Sources close to BCA say Canary isn’t worried because Vice Chair of the Poarch Creek Indians Robbie McGhee is promising to keep gaming money flowing into the business organization’s account.

“We are BCA,” claims Indian Tribal Council Vice Chair

BCA put $260,000 behind Attorney General Steve Marshall, an appointee of disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley. Marshall will go head-to-head with former Attorney General Troy King in the Republican runoff on July 17. Several business leaders speaking on background say they are switching to King, expressing doubts about Marshall’s chances in July.

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In the Republican Lt. Governor’s race, BCA favored PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh over State Rep. Will Ainsworth, but Ainsworth came on strong at the end, leading to a runoff.

Rick Pate, BCA’s handpicked candidate to run against State Senator Gerald Dial for Agriculture and Industry Commissioner, finds himself in a runoff with the well-known senator.

BCA also funded Gov. Kay Ivey appointee Chief Justice Lyn Stuart, who was rejected by Republican voters in favor of Associate Justice Tom Parker. The same was true for Terri Thomas who lost her bid for the Court of Civil Appeals to Chad Hanson. The once unstoppable business group also took another shellacking for the State Board of Education District 8.

Perhaps the two more embarrassing defeats of the night were in the down-ballot contest, where BCA worked to defeat incumbent State Rep.Tim Wadsworth who bested BCA funded Richard “Bull” Corry in House District 14. Another humiliating defeat was in Senate District 25, where newcomer Will Barfoot trounced Montgomery County Commissioner Ronda Walker. BCA flamed out in other hotly contested legislative battles.

With losses in nine legislative contests and nearly a dozen BCA backed candidates facing runoffs, Canary is not having the kind of primary season he promised his board. Canary will need to drain BCA’s dwindling coffers further to post even a few wins in July. At a time when the once prominent organization faces defection from its most prominent members, Canary’s dismal showing in the primaries serves as a reminder of his diminished stature since his greatest ally, Speaker Mike Hubbard, was convicted on 12 felony counts of violating the State’s Ethics Act.

Canary and BCA President Perry Hand are dismissing calls for Canary’s removal, but growing dissatisfaction and an investigation into Hand’s engineering firm, Volkert Inc., may prove more than the pair can bear.

Charlie Walker contributed to this report. 

 

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Elections

Robert McKay sues to have Lipscomb removed from the ballot

Brandon Moseley

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On Thursday, Republican Primary House District 30 candidate Robert McKay filed suit in Etowah County asking the court to have his Republican primary runoff opponent, Brandon Craig Lipscomb removed from the November 6 general election ballot and that he be placed there instead.

Lipscomb beat McKay in the July Republican primary runoff election.

McKay is suing B. Craig Lipscomb, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan, Secretary of State John Merrill (R), Alabama Ethics Commission Director Thomas Albritton and any other individuals or companies that had some involvement in the decision to allow Lipscomb to remain on the ballot.

The plaintiff is contending that as candidates are required to file a Statement of Economic Interests form with the Alabama Ethics Commission and Lipscomb did not file his 2017 statement by the April 30 deadline he should be removed from the ballot by the court and that Robert McKay instead be placed on the ballot as the Republican nominee in House District 30.

House District 30 is composed of parts of St. Clair and Etowah Counties. Incumbent Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) is not running for another term.

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Etowah County Republican Party Chairman Phil Williams told the Alabama Political Reporter, ““As the Chairman for the Etowah County Republican Party I take great interest in Robert McKay’s attempt to manipulate the outcome of the recent election. Craig Lipscomb is a good candidate who ran a solid race to earn the right to be the GOP nominee for House District 30. He has been certified by the Alabama Ethics Commission and the State Republican Party. It is unfortunate that Mr. McKay would pursue such a fruitless action here at the 11th hour. But in the end I believe that the Court will affirm Craig Lipscomb’s standing as our candidate.”

It has been recently reported that certain candidates did not file their 2017 statements by the deadline. Under Alabama law failure to file a Statement of Economic Interests means removal from the ballot. On Saturday, the Republican Party told the Alabama Republican Reporter that they will not be removing any candidates from the November 6 ballot.

“There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation disseminated on this topic,” Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan told APR in a statement. “The ALGOP has received compliance clearance for all of our candidates from the Alabama Ethics Commission. There will be nonec removed by our Party as they have met our qualifications.”

“If an official filed late, after April 30 while they had a form already on file with the Alabama Ethics Commission, it is not ballot removal,” Lathan added. “They may incur a small fine but that is a decision the Commission may or not make. There is also a grace period for filing.”

Brandon Craig Lipscomb is a Gadsden architect.

Robert McKay is the former Mayor of Ashville.

Secretary of State John Merrill told APR that Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden (R), State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) and State Representative Dimitri Polizos (R-Montgomery) all also did not file their 2017 Statement of Economic Interests by the April 30th deadline and were given the opportunity to file late recently.

This lawsuit does not directly impact those candidates.

Lipscomb is being represented by former Assistant Alabama Attorney General and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Algert S. Agricola Jr. with the Montgomery based firm of Ryals, Donaldson, and Agricola, He has 40 years of legal experience.

Merrill said that the candidates could be subject to a fine of $5 a day at the Discretion of the Ethics Commission; but that missing the deadline did not rise to the level of removal as long as the candidate filed the current statement within ten days of receiving a notice that the filing needed to be made. Merrill said that all of the candidates were approved by the Alabama Ethics Commission.

In Gadsden’s City election three candidates (two council candidates and a mayoral candidate) were recently disqualified because they did not file their Statement of Economic Interests when they qualified.

The Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said, “The certification date is Wednesday, August 22. There can be no ballot changes, edits or deletions after 5:00 pm CST.”

The general election will be on November 6.  The Republican nominee, whoever  that is, will face Jared Vaughn (D).

Editorial note: This article has been edited to changed the certification date.  An earlier version of this article erroneously had August 25th.

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Elections

Ivey appoints Kelly Butler acting director of finance

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Governor Kay Ivey (R) announced that she has named Kelly Butler as Acting Director of the Alabama Department of Finance.

“Kelly Butler has more than two decades of experience working with the state’s budgets and more than three decades experience as a fiscal analyst,” Gov. Ivey said. “I know he will do an excellent job leading the Alabama Department of Finance during this interim period. I appreciate him stepping up as acting director and his commitment to my administration.”

Butler went to work with the Alabama Department of Revenue more than thirty years ago. He later worked for the Legislative Fiscal Office before joining the Alabama Department of Finance as Assistant State Budget Officer in 2012. Since that time, Butler most recently as Assistant Finance Director for Fiscal Operations.

As Assistant Finance Director, Butler oversees the State Comptroller’s Office, the State Purchasing Division, the State Debt Management Division, and the State Business Systems Division.

“I am honored that Governor Ivey has asked me to lead the Department of Finance,” Butler said. “The department has many talented employees who work hard to provide excellent services to other state agencies and to the people of Alabama. I look forward to working with them to continue those excellent services.”

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Butler’s appointment will be effective today, August 15, 2018. Former Director of Finance Clinton Carter has left to accept a position with the University of North Carolina system.

In addition to his new duties, Butler will continue his work on building the governor’s budget proposals leading up to the 2019 Legislative Session. Butler will serve in this position until a thorough search for a permanent Finance Director can be conducted.

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Elections

Ivey visits Mobile for opening of newest Walmart distribution center

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was in Mobile County for the opening of a new Wal-Mart Distribution Center.

“Excited to be in Mobile Co. for the grand opening of @Walmart’s newest distribution center,” Ivey said on Twitter. “Walmart invested $135 million to build this facility, creating 750 jobs! I know that these folks will play a major role in fulfilling Mr. Sam Walton’s vision to serve the customer.”

Economic Developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Distribution centers, one of the State of Alabama’s foundational business targets, provide products and services that support a myriad of industries within our state. The Walmart Distribution Center in Irvington, one of six distribution centers in the United States, will be a significant addition to the estimated $22.4 billion economic impact generated last year by the Alabama State Port Authority.”

Nicole Jones explained to APR, “At last week’s economic development conference hosted by the EDAA, Port Authority CEO Jimmy Lyons shared with us that empty shipping containers are a much-needed commodity in Alabama. When fully operational, Walmart will carry in approximately 50,000 containers per year, which will thus create a surplus of empty cargo containers that exporters can use (and therefore reduce their costs). As a result, Alabama’s port will retain business that would otherwise divert to alternate ports due to a lack of containers. Keeping more business at home – this great news for Mobile County, The Port, and our entire state.”

The new Distribution Center will be 60 acres under one roof.

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“Mobile’s Walmart Distribution Center is officially open for business!” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said on Facebook. “They have already hired 575 people with plans to be at 750 once fully operational. Fun fact: this 2.6 million square ft facility can fit 30 USS Alabama ships.”

“Walmart proves to be a great corporate partner to the state of Alabama, year after year, by investing in its stores, its employees and the surrounding community,” Gov. Ivey said. “Their commitment cannot be better proven than by the opening of this new Distribution Center, which, when fully operational, will provide approximately 750 quality jobs in the Mobile area. We are grateful to Walmart for supporting the economic health of the Port City, and for the large role they play in propelling our great state forward.”

The new distribution center will supply 700 Wal-Mart stores.

“We are excited about how this facility will help us better serve our customers across the South and beyond, while creating a positive economic impact locally through job creation and future development,” said Jeff Breazeale, Walmart Vice President, Direct Import Logistics. “We are grateful to the State of Alabama, Mobile County, the City of Mobile, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and the Alabama State Port Authority for the warm welcome we have received here, and we look forward to a strong partnership with the community for years to come.”

Mobile is Alabama’s port city. It is also the oldest City in Alabama, having been founded as a French colony in 1702, 31 years before the English founded the Georgia colony.

Since rising to the office of Governor, Kay Ivey has presided over an unprecedented period of job market improvement. June unemployment was 3.9 percent and the state has seen its total workforce rise to pre-Great Recession levels.

Ivey is running for her own term as Governor in the general election on November 6. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox is her Democratic opponent.

(Original reporting by Berkshire Hathaway’s Business Wire contributed to this report.)

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Elections

Sewell, Gowdy, others introduce bill to strengthen election infrastructure against cyberattacks

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, four members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) introduced the Secure Elections Act, which would provide local communities and state governments with the resources needed to strengthen election systems against cyberattacks.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Tom Rooney (R-Florida), Terri Sewell (D-Selma), Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), and Jim Himes (D-Connecticut). All four of them have played a role in the HPSCI investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“Our democracy is our nation’s greatest asset and it is our job to protect its integrity,” said Rep. Sewell. “We know from our Intelligence Community that Russian entities launched cyberattacks against our election infrastructure in 2016, exploiting at least 21 state election systems. As the 2018 elections approach, action is urgently needed to protect our democracy against another attack. Today’s bipartisan bill takes a huge step forward by providing election officials with the resources and information they need to keep our democracy safe.”

“Although the Russian government didn’t change the outcome of the 2016 election, they certainly interfered with the intention of sowing discord and undermining Americans’ faith in our democratic process,” Rep. Rooney said. “There’s no doubt in my mind they will continue to meddle in our elections this year and in the future.”

The sponsors say that the Secure Elections Act would allow states and local jurisdictions to voluntarily apply for grants to replace outdated voting machines and modernize their elections systems. The bill also streamlines the process the federal government uses to share relevant cybersecurity threat information with state and local governments.

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The Senate version of the Secure Elections Act was introduced in March by Sens. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota).

Sen. Lankford addressed the U.S. Senate on the Secure Elections Act.

“We have to be able to have better communication between the federal government and states, a better cybersecurity system, and the ability to be able to audit that,” Lankford said. “That is why Senator Klobuchar and I have worked for months on a piece of legislation called the Secure Elections Act. That piece of legislation has worked its way through every state looking at it and their election authorities. We’ve worked it through multiple committee hearings. In fact, recently just in the last month, two different hearings with the Rules Committee. It is now ready to be marked up and finalized to try to bring to this body.”

“I have zero doubt the Russians tried to destabilize our nation in 2016 by attacking the core of our democracy,” Lankford said. “Anyone who believes they will not do it again has missed the basic information that is how day, after day, after day, in our intelligence briefings. The Russians have done it the first time. They showed the rest of the world the lesson in what could be done. It could be the North Koreans next time. It could be the Iranians next time. It could be a domestic activist group next time. We should learn that lesson, close that vulnerability, and make sure that we protect our systems in the days ahead.”

Rep. Sewell is also the lead sponsor of the SHIELD Act and the E-Fellows Security Act, two bills which would strengthen cybersecurity on federal, state, and local campaigns.

Rep. Terri A. Sewell is serving her fourth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional district. She sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and was recently appointed to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Sewell is a Chief Deputy Whip and serves on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee of the Democratic Caucus. She is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and serves as Vice Chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, and Vice Chair of Outreach for the New Democrat Coalition.

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BCA big primary bet not paying off so well 

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