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Fastest growth in Alabama: Baldwin, Lee Counties and the Greater Huntsville area

Brandon Moseley

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There are 383 metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) in the country. The Census Bureau estimates that only seven of the twelves MSAs in Alabama have experienced any growth since the 2010 census.

From 2010 to 2017 the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley MSA has grown from just 182,265 in 2010 to 212,612 people in 2017. That is an incredible 16.68 percent increase. That makes the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley MSA in Baldwin County the thirteenth fastest growing MSA on a growth rate basis nationally.

The Auburn-Opelika MSA has grown from 140,247 to 161,604. That is a 15.23 percent growth rate and is number 19 in growth rate in the nation.

The Huntsville MSA has grown from 417,953 people in 2010 to 445,448 people in 2017. That is a 9.07 percent growth over that time period.

The three county Tuscaloosa metro area has grown from 230,262 people in 2010 to 242,299 persons in 2017. That is a 5.49 percent increase.

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The Birmingham-Hoover metro area is the largest MSA in the state. It has grown from 1,128,047 persons in 2010 to 1,149,807 people in 2017. That is a 1.93 percent increase. Birmingham-Hoover is the 49th largest MSA in the country; but is only number 245 in growth rate nationally.

The Dothan MSA has a 2017 population of 147,914, up from 145,639 persons in 2010. That is a 1.56 percent increase.

The Mobile MSA increased from 412,993 people in 2010 to 413,955 in 2017. That is an increase of just .23 percent.

The Florence-Muscle Shoals MSA has an estimated 2017 population of 147,038. That is a decline from 147,137 persons in 2010. That is a .07 percent decline.

The four county Montgomery MSA had a 2010 population of 374,536. The Census Bureau estimated that that population has declined to 373,903. That is a .17 percent decline.

The Decatur MSA has a 2010 population of 153,829. The Census Bureau estimates that the MSA has declined to just 151,867 in 2017. That would be a 1.28 percent decline.

The Gadsden MSA which consists of just Etowah County had a 2010 population of just 104,430. The Census Bureau estimates that Etowah County has dropped to just 102,755 people. That is a decline of 1.60 percent since the last census.

The Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville MSA which consists of just Calhoun County had a 2010 population of just 118,582 people. The Census Bureau estimates that the Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville MSA has a population in 2017 of just 114,728. That is a decline of 3.24 percent which would rank Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville at number 361 out of 383 MSAs in terms of growth rate.

The state was hit extremely hard in the Great Recession, which was exacerbated by the confusion and chaos surrounded the Jefferson County bankruptcy. Jefferson County is by far the largest county in the state; but experienced several post recession years where financial issues surrounding the massive sewer system debt made it difficult for the state’s largest county to compete to recruit new employers. As a result, a lot of jobs and young people entering the prime of their working careers left the Birmingham-Hoover MSA to pursue greater opportunities elsewhere. The Birmingham area has also been hard hit by gang violence and the opioid crisis.

Huntsville on the other hand grew despite cuts in military spending during the presidency of Barack H. Obama (D). Now, President Donald J. Trump (R) is President and there is strong bipartisan support for increased defense spending. As the home of Redstone Arsenal and numerous defense contractors, Huntsville is uniquely positioned to benefit from increased spending on military research and weapon systems. Additionally Huntsville has grown their manufacturing and high tech sectors.  According to the Census Bureau, Huntsville passed Mobile in population in 2016 for the position as the third largest city in the state. There are projections showing that Huntsville will surpass Birmingham as the largest city in Alabama within five years.

The Census estimates that 4,875,000 people lived in Alabama in 2017, up from 4,785,000 in 2010. 2,383,113 Alabamians live in the four largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas, Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery MSAs. That is over 48.88 percent of the state.

Governor Kay Ivey (R) is encouraging everyone to participate in the 2020 Census that congressional reapportionment is based on. At this point, there appears to be a strong likelihood that Alabama could go from the current Seven Congressional Districts to just six based on early population growth estimates.

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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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Elections

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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Fastest growth in Alabama: Baldwin, Lee Counties and the Greater Huntsville area

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 3 min
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