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Heading into the finish: Republicans look strong as Democrats hope for momentum

Bill Britt

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Mere hours ahead of election results, state Democrats are hoping some of the national momentum shows up in the Heart of Dixie.

According to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO Poll, Democrats are motivated and angry, but in Alabama, so are Republicans.

“Roughly three in five (59 percent) Democrats say they feel angry about the midterms, compared to 30 percent of Republicans who say the same,” according to the Morning Consult survey released November 5.

But Republicans in Alabama are expressing similar anger over the confirmation hearings of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh in which Democrats used a guilty until proven innocent strategy in hopes of denying President Trump another conservative pick for the Supreme Court.

Republican judicial candidates in the state saw a jump in support following the Kavanaugh hearing, according to private polling.

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While there are a few competitive races, there are few signs of any significant upsets this evening.

In the northwest part of the state, Democrat Johnny Mac Morrow is expected to give incumbent Republican Dr. Larry Stutts fierce competition for Senate District 6.

The same is expected in Etowah County where Craig Ford, an Independent, is looking to defeat newcomer Andrew Jones, a Republican, for Senate District 10.

In an interview with APR, Secretary of State John Merrill also cited, “heavily contested State House races in Jefferson County, as well as in south Alabama, as potential drivers of voter turnout. We have pockets that might pull some people out; otherwise, you’re just going to have people that come out because it’s the general and they have a chance to vote between the Democrats and the Republicans.”

Republican lawmakers sought to ensure robust conservative voter participation by adding two constitutional amendments to the general election ballots that appeal to voters.

Amendment One allows for the Ten Commandments to be displayed on public property so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items.

Amendment Two reaffirms that Alabama is a pro-life state and opposes abortion.

Having these two hot-button issues on the ballot will drive evangelicals and like-minded supporters to the polls.

According to Morning Consult, “a majority of voters are thinking about Trump when casting their vote: When asked how much they have been thinking about certain political figures when considering how to vote, 51 percent of voters said they’re thinking ‘a lot’ about Trump when casting their midterm vote.”

President Trump holds a 62 percent approval rating with just 34 percent saying they disapprove of the president, according to Morning Consult tracking poll.

With 57 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of Democrats saying they are thinking about Trump “a lot” when casting their vote, Republicans should finish the night with strong wins across the board in Alabama.

The full results are also available at morningconsult.com.

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Elections

More than $100,000 campaign finance penalties collected during 2018 election season

Chip Brownlee

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More than $100,000 in campaign finance fines and fees have been collected during the 2018 campaign season in Alabama.

The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office said Friday that $197,657.84 in Fair Campaign Practices Act penalties have been issued, and $102,249.05 of those fees have been paid by political action committees and principal campaign committees.

The Secretary of State is required to issue penalties to PACs and PCCs when they do not file their monthly, weekly or daily campaign finance reports on time or at all.

The office said money that hasn’t been paid of the $197,000 total have either been waived by the Alabama Ethics Commission or the Secretary of State’s Office is still waiting to collect the funds from the committees. There were a total 1,166 penalties or warnings this campaign season.

The requirements are part of act 2015-495, which was passed by the legislature in 2015, and went into effect with the start of the 2018 Election Cycle.

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Committees are required to file their campaign finance report by midnight on the date the report is due. Most reports are due by 12:00 p.m. on the second day of each month. Committees are required to report all contributions and expenditures incurred by their campaign during the previous month.

The first report a candidate files late — if it’s within 48 hours of the date the report is due — leads to a warning, which does not count against them or require a fine be paid. Further, the code specifically states that warnings are not violations of the law.

Penalties amounts increase as the number of late reports increases from the candidate.

Committees also have the ability to appeal their penalty to the Alabama Ethics Commission, which has been lenient in overturning violations for a number of reasons.

Of the 1,166 penalties and warnings, 166 have been overturned.

Fines paid by committees are deposited directly into the state general fund.

 

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Secretary Merrill orders election workers not to count write-in votes

Brandon Moseley

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The Secretary of State’s office announced Thursday that no county needs to count the write-in ballots for the general election.

In a statement the Secretary of State’s office wrote: “State law requires the Secretary of State’s Office to review county vote totals and compare those totals to the number of write-in votes cast in each statewide race involving a Federal or State office. Following the completion of that review, the Secretary of State’s Office is tasked with determining whether the total number of write in votes is less than the difference in votes between the candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for that office.”

“Secretary Merrill and his team have completed a review of the offices and it has been determined that no county is required by law to count and report write-in votes for any State or Federal office as provided in Alabama Code Section 17-6-28.”

County election officials must still make this determination for any county offices not included in the Secretary of State’s review.

The final vote totals as certified by the County Canvassing Board are due to the Secretary of State’s Office by Friday, November 16, 2018.

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Chad “Chig” Martin and Chris Countryman both ran write-in campaigns for governor.

Allowing write-in votes slows the process of counting the votes down considerably as those ballots would have to be pulled out and counted manually.

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Ivey launches inaugural committee

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey officially launched the Inaugural Committee and announced Cathy Randall and Jimmy Rane as the Co-Chairs who will oversee the festivities surrounding the inauguration along with committee staff.

“I am excited to officially launch the Inaugural Committee, which will be led by Dr. Cathy Randall and Jimmy Rane,” said Governor Ivey. “Cathy and Jimmy have embodied a spirit of service, in both their professional and personal life, and they have played a major role in the fight to keep Alabama working. I am proud to call them both longtime friends, and I am grateful for their willingness to lend their expertise and support as we prepare to usher in a new era for Alabama.”

Cathy Randall is the Chairman of the Board of Tuscaloosa-based Pettus Randall Holdings LLC and the former Chairman of the Board of Randall Publishing Company. Dr. Randall currently serves on the Alabama Power Board of Directors. She is a former director of the University Honors Programs at the University of Alabama, where she earned two Ph.D. degrees. Dr. Randall also served as director of Alabama Girls State, where she first met Governor Ivey.

Jimmy Rane is best known as “the Yella Fella” from his TV commercials. Rane is the Cofounder and CEO of Great Southern Wood Preserving and the wealthiest man in the state of Alabama. Since 1999, Rane has served as a Trustee at Auburn University, where he first met Governor Ivey while earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Rane also has a law degree from Samford Univesity’s Cumberland School of Law. Rane lives in Abbeville, Alabama and is well known for his charitable efforts to raise money to fund college scholarships through the Jimmy Rane Foundation.

Governor Ivey also announced several of her key campaign staffers will serve on the inaugural committee, including: Mike Lukach, Executive Director; Debbee Hancock, Communications Director; Anne-Allen Welden, Finance Director; Julia McNair, Deputy Finance Director; Julia Pickle, Director of Ticketing; Jonathan Hester, Director of Events and Production; Lenze Morris; Ryan Sanford; and Henry Thornton.

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The Governor added that more information about the inaugural theme and events will be announced in the coming weeks.

Kay Ivey became Governor in April 2017 when then Governor Robert Bentley (R) resigned. Ivey was easily elected as Alabama’s first Republican woman to serve as Governor. Lurleen Wallace (D) in 1966 was the only other female elected Alabama Governor. Ivey received more than a million votes, more than any governor since 1986.

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New Alabama House Republican Caucus meets to select leadership

Brandon Moseley

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The 77 members of the House Republican Caucus were sworn in by Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) during the group’s organizational meeting in Montgomery on Tuesday. This is the largest Republican supermajority in Alabama history.

Following the swearing-in ceremony, the Caucus selected McCutcheon as its candidate for House Speaker for the next four years and state Representative Victor Gaston (R – Mobile) as its choice for Speaker Pro Tem. State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville) was elected as House Majority Leader, State Rep. Connie Rowe (R – Jasper) was chosen as the Caucus Vice Chair, and State Rep. Phillip Pettus (R – Killen) was elected to serve as secretary/treasurer.
The 77 members of the Caucus on Tuesday unanimously affirmed that McCutcheon will once again serve as the group’s nominee for Speaker of the House when lawmakers convene for the Legislature’s organizational session in January. Because Republicans currently hold such a commanding supermajority in the 105-member Alabama House, being selected as the GOP Caucus nominee means there is little likelihood of any other outcome when the full body meets in January.

“Serving as Speaker of the Alabama House has been the greatest professional honor of my life, and I’m humbled that my fellow Republicans have chosen me to continue serving in that role,” McCutcheon said. “If elected during the organizational session in January, I will continue presiding in a manner that gives all members of both parties a voice in the legislative process. Our state faces many challenges, and finding needed solutions will require all of us to work together.”

McCutcheon was first elected as House Speaker during an August 2016 special session after former Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) was convicted of twelve counts of violating Alabama’s ethics law.

Prior to retiring after a 25-year career, McCutcheon was a law enforcement officer in the Huntsville Police Department and worked in areas like hostage negotiation, major crimes investigation, probation oversight and others. He has also worked as a farmer and as associate pastor at the College Park Church of God.

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This will be Victor Gaston’s third term as Speaker Pro Tem.

“My thanks go out to both the new and returning members of the House Republican Caucus for re-nominating me as the body’s second-in-command,” Gaston said. “I am excited for the opportunities that Alabama’s future holds and will continue working to make our state an even better place for all of its citizens.

Gaston was elected to the House in 1982 as one of only eight Republicans in the entire Alabama Legislature at the time. He served as Acting Speaker of the House for a period of months in 2016 following the Hubbard conviction.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville) will once again serve as House Majority Leader and State Rep. Connie Rowe (R – Jasper) as its vice chair. The two leaders will hold their positions throughout the 2018 – 2022 quadrennium.

“I am deeply grateful for the trust and confidence that my Republican colleagues have continued to place in me, and I look forward to continuing my service as their leader for the next four years,” Ledbetter said. “Republicans added to our already impressive supermajority in the general election cycle, and I will work to ensure that the bills, measures, and resolutions passed by the House reflect the same conservative beliefs and traditional values that Alabama’s voters share.”

Ledbetter is a former mayor and city council member in Rainsville, who was elected to the Alabama House in 2014. Ledbetter was elected as House Majority Leader in 2017. he was the first freshman member to serve in that post in modern times.

Ledbetter and his wife, Teresa, are the owners of a small business and have two children and four grandchildren.

Prior to her election to the Alabama House in 2014, Rowe served as the police chief in Jasper, Alabama and was previously employed as an investigator for the Walker County District Attorney’s Office for more than 20 years.

“I look forward to being a part of the Republican leadership team as we work to enact the conservative agenda that voters overwhelmingly endorsed at the polls,” Rowe said. “By sticking together and offering a unified front, House Republicans have a tremendous opportunity to move Alabama forward over the next four years.”

State Rep. Phillip Pettus (R – Killen) is a retired state trooper serving his second term in office. He was elected to serve as the secretary/treasurer for the Caucus.

Democrats will only have 28 seats in the Alabama House of Representatives, down from 33. Republicans will also have a 27 to 8 supermajority in the Alabama Senate.

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Heading into the finish: Republicans look strong as Democrats hope for momentum

by Bill Britt Read Time: 2 min
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