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Jeff Sessions is reportedly eyeing a return to Alabama politics

Chip Brownlee

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Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly eyeing a return to politics in the Yellowhammer State.

After Sessions announced his forced resignation Wednesday, two people familiar with his thinking told Politico that he is considering a run for his old seat as Alabama’s junior senator.

The seat is up for another election in 2020.

The embattled attorney general sent a long-awaited resignation letter to President Donald Trump Wednesday. The first line of the letter: “At your request, I am submitting my resignation.”

Session — one of Trump’s first allies among the upper echelons of American politics — has been on the receiving end of Trump’s attacks and criticism for more than a year.

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Trump has publicly hit Sessions for his decision to recuse from the investigation into potential ties between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.

He’s also attacked Sessions for apparently refusing to launch investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats whom Trump has, without evidence, accused of violating the law.

After representing Alabama for two decades, Sessions left the Senate in 2017 when Trump chose him to lead the Justice Department as the attorney general.

Sessions’ tenure as attorney general has been tumultuous, to say the least. Only a month after taking office, Sessions was accused of committing perjury during his confirmation hearings after he told Senators he had not had any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In March, press reports revealed that Sessions had, in fact, met twice with a senior Russian diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, in 2016. The accusations led to Sessions’ recusal.

While Sessions has been on the wrong side of Trump when it comes to the Russia investigation, he has been one of Trump’s most effective cabinet members, enacting a number of Trump-backed priorities and hard-line immigration policies — including family separation.

He’s been hard-lined against so-called sanctuary cities, reversed an Obama-era memo intended to relax mandatory sentencing requirements and backed civil asset forfeiture.

Sessions’ resignation came the day after Democrats won back the House of Representatives on Nov. 6. Democrats now plan to ramp back up investigations in the House that were dampened by Republican Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California.

Reports have suggested that Trump was waiting until after the midterms to fire Jeff Sessions as to avoid affecting the outcome of the elections. Democrats have alleged that Trump was seeking to fire Sessions as a way to take more control over the Russia investigation.

Sessions chief of staff, Matthew Whitaker, is now replacing Sessions on an acting basis until the Senate can consider a new nomination. In the meantime, Whitaker, who has been openly critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, will assume authority over the probe.

Because Sessions was recused, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who also has a tumultuous relationship with Trump, was overseeing the investigation. The normal chain of command would have seen Rosenstein assume the acting attorney general role.

In Alabama, Sessions remained extremely popular throughout his tenure in the Senate, winning re-election in 2008 with 68 percent of the vote and running unopposed in 2014.

After Sessions left his Senate seat, Democrat Doug Jones won an upset special election against Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Though Jones has attempted to walk a moderate line in a deeply red state, he’s widely viewed as one of the most vulnerable senators facing re-election in 2020.

There are already a number of rumors about who could be seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Jones. Among the potential hopefuls is U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, who represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.

Luther Strange, who was temporarily appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley to replace Sessions, sent out an eerily predictive tweet early Wednesday morning.

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Greg Reed re-elected Alabama State Senate majority leader

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the twenty-seven Republican members of the Alabama Senate met in Montgomery for their first caucus meeting as a group following their election victory on Tuesday. The Alabama Senate Republican Caucus re-elected Greg Reed of Jasper to serve as the Senate Majority Leader. The election was unanimous.

Reed was first elected to the State Senate in 2010, and was chosen as Majority Leader in 2014 by his Republican colleagues. He was un-opposed in both this year’s Republican primary and in Tuesday’s general election.

“It is an honor to serve as the Republican leader in the Alabama State Senate, and I am deeply humbled by the trust by colleagues have given me,” Reed remarked in a statement. “Since the conservative Republican majority was elected in 2010, we have steadily reformed state government to save taxpayers money, we fought for a Constitutional Amendment to declare Alabama a pro-life state, and earlier this year, we passed the largest tax cut for Alabama’s working families in a decade.”

Every Republican statewide candidate was elected on Tuesday and the party grew its already commanding supermajorities in both the Alabama House of Representatives and the Senate. Over 1.7 million people voted on Tuesday. 661,898 voted straight ticket Republican. Kay Ivey, Will Ainsworth, John Merrill, Jay Mitchell, and Jim Zeigler all received over a million votes.

“On Tuesday, the people of Alabama resoundingly endorsed the course that we have set—and Republicans in the State Senate will continue to focus on policies that will improve Alabama’s schools and bring economic prosperity to every corner of the state, as we seek to catapult Alabama forward into a position of strength for the twenty-first century,” Reed said.

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Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) praised Reed’s leadership and vision for Alabama.

“It was a great honor for me at yesterday’s caucus meeting to second the nomination of Greg Reed to serve again as the Majority Leader of the Alabama Senate,” Waggoner said. “Greg is one of the hardest-working elected officials I have served with. His principled commitment to conservative ideals and his integrity and ability to work with people of all perspectives make him a unique leader who gets results. He has a clear vision for a prosperous Alabama, and I look forward to working alongside Senator Reed in this next term to accomplish that vision for the people of our great state.”

Greg Reed is the Alabama Senate Majority Leader and represents Senate District 5, which is comprised of all or parts of Winston, Walker, Tuscaloosa, Jefferson, and Fayette counties.

The Alabama Democratic Party controlled the Alabama state Senate for 135 years. That ended in the election of 2010. Reed was part of that historic 2010 class. In 2014 Republicans built on their supermajority. After this election, that grew from 26 to 27 of the 35 members of the Alabama Senate.

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All four statewide amendments approved by voters

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Alabama voters went to the polls and overwhelmingly voted for Republican leadership for the next four years. Also on the ballot were four proposed amendments to Alabama’s 1901 Constitution.

Amendment one dealt with allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed in state buildings.

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, providing for certain religious rights and liberties; authorizing the display of the Ten Commandments on state property and property owned or administrated by a public school or public body; and prohibiting the expenditure of public funds in defense of the constitutionality of this amendment.”

Amendment One was sponsored by State Senator Gerald Dial (R-Lineville).

This was the most popular of the amendments. It got more votes than even any of the candidates. 1,091,181 Alabama voters voted yes on Amendment One. It got 72 percent of the votes. Only 431,568 voted no, 28 percent.

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According to the Alabama Fair Ballot Commission, “Amendment 1 does two things. First, it provides that a person is free to worship God as he or she chooses, and that a person’s religious beliefs will have no effect on his or her civil or political rights. Second, it makes clear that the Ten Commandments may be displayed on public property so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items. Amendment 1 also provides that no public funds may be used to defend this amendment in court.”

Amendment Two reaffirms that Alabama is a prolife state and opposes abortion.

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended; to declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

The bill was sponsored by state Representative Matt Fridy (R-Montevallo).

Planned Parenthood and abortion supporters spent nearly a million into defeating Amendment Two. Their efforts had little effect. 913,224 people voted in favor of Amendment Two, 59 percent. 634,122 people voted no, 41 percent.

According to the Fair Ballot Commission, “Under current law, the state constitution does not include any language that directly relates to the importance of unborn life or the rights of unborn children, nor does it include any language that directly relates to abortion or the funding of abortions using state funds. Amendment 2 provides that it would be the public policy of the state to recognize and support the importance of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life; and to protect the rights of unborn children. Additionally, the amendment would make clear that the state constitution does not include a right to abortion or require the funding of an abortion using public funds. The proposed amendment does not identify any specific actions or activities as unlawful. It expresses a public policy that supports broad protections for the rights of unborn children as long as the protections are lawful.”

Amendment Three dealt with the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama.

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, relating to the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama, to specify that the congressional districts from which members are appointed continue to reflect those as constituted on January 1, 2018, to remove the State Superintendent of Education from membership, and to delete the requirement that members vacate office at the annual meeting of the board following their seventieth birthday.”

Amendment three received 832,940 votes, 60 percent. 548,387 people voted no, 40 percent.

According to the Fair Ballot Commission, “Under current law, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees is composed of 16 people: three members from the congressional district in which the Tuscaloosa campus is located, two members from each of the other six congressional districts in the state, the Governor, and the State Superintendent of Education. So, if the number of congressional districts in Alabama increased or decreased in the future, the number of trustees would also increase or decrease. Additionally, other than the Governor and the State Superintendent of Education, current law requires a trustee to retire from the board following his or her seventieth birthday. Amendment 3 does three things. First, it provides that the board will be composed of members from congressional districts as those districts existed on January 1, 2018, meaning any future changes to the number of congressional districts in Alabama would not impact the number of board members. Second, it removes the State Superintendent of Education from automatically having a seat on the board. Third, it allows a trustee to serve after his or her seventieth birthday.”

Amendment three was sponsored by Sen. Greg Reed (R-Jasper).

Amendment Four dealt with vacancies in state legislative seats.

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to provide that, if a vacancy in either the House of Representatives or the Senate occurs on or after October 1 of the third year of a quadrennium, the seat would remain vacant until a successor is elected at the next succeeding general election.”

Amendment Four received 970,817 yes votes, 66 percent. 497,181 people vote no, 34 percent.

According to the Fair Ballot Commission, “Under current law, members of the state legislature are elected to four-year terms of office that begin and end on Election Day in November. This four-year period is known as a quadrennium. When a person who was elected to serve in the state legislature is unable to complete his or her term, a vacancy is created. When this vacancy occurs, the Governor is required to schedule a special election. The winner of the special election fills the vacancy for the rest of the term. Amendment 4 provides that when a vacancy occurs in the state legislature on or after October 1 of year three of the four-year term, the seat will remain vacant until the next general election, which occurs in November of the fourth year of the term. The Governor would no longer have the power to schedule a special election to fill a vacancy in these circumstances, and public funds that would have been spent on the special election would be saved.”

Amendment four was sponsored by state Senator Rusty Glover (R-Semmes).

The 1901 Constitution of Alabama is the longest constitution in the entire world.

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Alabama GOP House super majority grows by five

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Republicans won five more seats in the Alabama House of Representatives, building on a supermajority that was already filibuster-proof. Alabama Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R – Monrovia) said that shows that the people of Alabama have strong support for the reform minded agenda that Alabama House Republicans have pursued since taking control of the Alabama House in 2010.

“With their vote on Tuesday, the citizens of Alabama signaled their strong support for the conservative, reform-minded agenda that Republicans have pursued since gaining control of the Legislature, and we are thankful for their continuing confidence,” Speaker McCutcheon said. “Much progress has been made over the course of the past eight years, but Alabama still has endemic problems that must be addressed.”

McCutcheon seemed to signal in his statement that this legislature is likely to raise taxes, particularly fuel taxes.

“Our infrastructure is in decay, and our roads and bridges must be given much-needed attention,” McCutcheon continued. “Our public schools are in need of further improvement, and we must invest in security measures that ensure children who are sent to school in the morning return home safely in the afternoon. And our ethics laws must continue to ensure that elected officials who violate the public’s trust feel the firm hand of justice and the sting of substantial punishment. Our mission is clear and well-defined, and it’s now our job to accomplish it.”

“The men and women who offer themselves for public service make great sacrifices,” McCutcheon said. “Time away from jobs and family, frequent and long hours of travel to and from Montgomery, and the often unpleasant criticism that comes with life in the public spotlight are just a few examples. I thank everyone who stepped forward and displayed the courage to place their names on the ballot, and I look forward to serving with those who won their hard-fought House races.”

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McCutcheon said, “Serving as Speaker of the Alabama House has been the greatest professional honor of my life, and I hope to continue in that role as we move our state toward even greater heights.”

House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R – Rainsville) added, “At the beginning of the general election cycle, I coined a slogan that guided us during our efforts to keep and build upon our House Republican majority – ‘Win’em all in the Fall.’ I’m proud to say we accomplished that goal, and the House will remain in conservative Republican hands for the next four years.”

“Under the leadership of Speaker McCutcheon and working with a team of proven political professionals, we engaged in perhaps the most aggressive, transparent, and well-funded legislative campaign effort in Alabama history,” Ledbetter continued. “The success of that effort is evident.”

“During the 136 years that Democrats controlled the Legislature, Alabama lagged behind the rest of the nation in every important metric,” Ledbetter wrote. “Since 2010, the Republican Legislature has put our state on the path to greatness, and with a unified and determined GOP majority, Alabama will continue on that historic and game-changing journey.”

Before the 2010 election Democrats had held control of the Alabama House of Representatives for 136 years dating back to Reconstruction following the War Between the States. Led by then Republican Party Chairman and House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) and profound disagreement with then President Barack H. Obama (D) the Republican minority won 21 seats in the Alabama House to gain a filibuster proof super majority. That number grew in 2011 with Democratic defections. In 2014 Republicans gained six more seats building their majority from 66 to 37 to 72 to 33. On Tuesday the GOP won five more seats, some of them seats that had not been in Republican hands since Reconstruction. This grew the GOP majority to 77 to 28.

All 77 of the incoming Republican House members are White. 27 of the 28 Democrats are Black and represent majority minority districts. There were only five White Democrats left in the House at the start of this year. Marcel Black, Patricia Todd, and Richard Lindsey retired. Craig Ford switched to an independent and ran for the state Senate ultimately losing to Andrew Jones (R). Johnny Mack Morrow ran for the Senate ultimately losing to incumbent Dr. Larry Stutts (R). Only Elaine Beech ran for re-election to her House seat. She was narrowly defeated Tuesday by Brett Easterbrook (R). The last White Democrat in the Alabama House of Representatives will be Neil Rafferty from Birmingham who won Todd’s seat. Rafferty is also the first openly gay man to serve in the Alabama House of Representatives.

The Alabama Democratic Party had targeted a number of suburban incumbents follow a strategy of targeting women and young people in suburban communities including: Hoover, Pelham, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills, Montevallo, Leeds, McCalla, and Fairhope as well as targeting historically Democratic areas like the Shoals area. All of their efforts failed. The only seats the Democrats held on to in 2018 were the majority minority districts, which the Republicans did not seriously target in this election.

This election was particularly important for Republicans because it will be the legislature that redistricts the state following the 2020 census.

A number of House Republicans retired from the Alabama House this year. All of those seats were retained by the GOP. Every incumbent Republican in the House who sought reelection was successful in that effort.

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Zeigler mulls run for US Senate

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, state Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) was re-elected to another term as state Auditor. Zeigler received 1.015,662 votes in his re-election bid. Zeigler defeated perennial auditor candidate Miranda Karrin Joseph 61 percent to 39 percent.

“The election results are a confirmation of my mission to add an additional role to the State Auditor’s office,” Zeigler said. “I will continue my new service as a watchman against waste and mismanagement in government.”

“In the basic duty of the State Auditor, we remain current on all property inventory audits of the 176 state agencies,” Zeigler said. “That is despite suffering a 28.5% cut to the auditing budget and a halving of our auditing staff. Those cuts were done in the last two Bentley administration budgets. The good news is that the first Ivey administration budget restored about half of the Bentley cuts. That restoration took effect Oct. 1.”

“I will continue to improve both the property inventory audits and the new watchman role against waste and mismanagement,” Zeigler stated. “We are now adding a high-tech auditing tool – Radio Frequency Identification.”

Pondering what to do next, Zeigler said. “I ask for your prayers as I consider running against Doug Jones in 2020. We need a watchman against waste in Washington.”

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Eleven months ago, Democrats in Alabama were jubilant when Jones narrowly won the special election for U.S. Senate over former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R). On Tuesday, voters went to the polls and rejected Democratic candidates all across the ballot. There are a number of counties where every Democrat was defeated on Tuesday. Doug Jones endorsed Mallory Hagan for Congress and other Democrats. That did not help them.

The Alabama Republican Party badly wants to defeat Jones to take back that Senate seat in the coming 2020 election.

Zeigler is retired attorney who specialized in elder law. He previously served on the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC).

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Jeff Sessions is reportedly eyeing a return to Alabama politics

by Chip Brownlee Read Time: 3 min
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