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Senator Jabo Waggoner Chairing Newt Gingrich Alabama’s Campaign

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich (R) from Georgia is on a personal quest for the Presidency of the United States.  Before he can get the opportunity to face President Barack H. Obama on November 6 for the Presidency he has to win the Republican Party’s nomination.

To win the nomination at the Republican Convention he must win a majority of the delegates from the state primaries and caucuses. Sen. Santorum won Iowa. Gov. Romney won New Hampshire. Speaker Gingrich won South Carolina in a landslide.

Three states are done and there are 47 more states to go. In this election cycle, Alabama’s Republican Primary is on March 13 and already Speaker Gingrich has assembled much of his Alabama leadership team. Alabama State Senator Jabo Waggoner has accepted Speaker Gingrich’s invitation to serve as his Alabama State Chairman. The ‘Alabama Political Reporter’ has obtained an exclusive interview with Chairman Waggoner.

The first question we asked of the Chairman is why he is backing Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Sen. Waggoner’s response said that his relationship with Newt Gingrich goes back to 1984. Sen. Waggoner first met Gingrich when Newt was just a young Georgia Congressman and Waggoner himself was running for Congress against an incumbent Democrat in Alabama’s Sixth District.

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Then Vice President George H. Bush, former President Gerald Ford, and Rep. Newt Gingrich all came to Alabama to assist Waggoner in raising funds for that 1984 congressional race. Waggoner was ultimately unsuccessful in unseating then Democrat incumbent Benjamin Erdreich but he developed a friendship with the young congressman that has continued over the past 28 years since.

Sen. Waggoner admits that he has personal reasons for backing Speaker Gingrich; but Chairman Waggoner said “the ultimate goal is to beat Obama” and he is convinced that Gingrich is the Republican with the best chance of winning the general election. Waggoner said Gingrich’s “biggest strength is his intellect and knowledge of issues and his ability to debate and express his views.” Waggoner believes that Gingrich would make the best President.

Waggoner said that the Alabama Newt Gingrich team is still organizing and recruiting people to join their campaign, but the campaign released a preliminary organizational chart to the ‘Alabama Political Reporter,’ which includes people from all over the state of Alabama. Chairman Waggoner said that his goal is to eventually have a Newt 2012 Chairman in every county in Alabama. There will an announcement of the full leadership team at a press conference in the middle of February.

Sen. Waggoner says that he believes they can raise enough money to launch a statewide campaign. He says that the campaign is expecting that Gingrich could come to Alabama twice before the primary. The campaign is still organizing the events and working to get them scheduled.

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Waggoner said that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was Gingrich’s strongest opponent for the Republican nomination. Waggoner said that Romney is very popular with people who make more than $250,000 a year and Romney had so much personal wealth that he could afford to run a campaign deep into the primary season.

Waggoner said that he expects that former Senator Rick Santorum to drop out of the race and that his supporters will likely go to Speaker Gingrich. Waggoner said that Rep. Ron Paul has no chance of winning the White House but that Paul’s Libertarian supporters could tip the election to Obama if they backed a third party candidate instead of the eventual Republican nominee.

Waggoner said that support from Tea Party assisted Speaker Gingrich’s win in South Carolina and believes that they will support Gingrich in Alabama as well. He said that the Tea Party recognizes that “Newt Gingrich is a real conservative” that supports small government. Waggoner said that the campaign’s numbers are growing every day and he is confident of a victory for Speaker Gingrich in Alabama.

Waggoner said that Speaker Gingrich could carry Alabama and win by such a large margin that Gingrich gets all of the available Alabama delegates like he did in South Carolina. Waggoner acknowledged that Gingrich had some “baggage,” but that all of us “have sinned and fallen short” at points in our lives, whether it was recorded or not.

Chairman Jabo Waggoner is an attorney. He has served in the Alabama Senate since 1990 and before that served in the Alabama House of Representatives since 1966. He is the Republican Majority Leader in the Senate and recently became Chairman of the powerful Alabama Senate Rules Committee.

For more information about former Speaker Gingrich’s campaign:

http://www.newt.org/

 

Below is a preliminary organization chart of the Alabama Newt 2012 Leadership Team:

 

Alabama Newt 2012 Leadership Team

Senator Jabo Waggoner – Alabama State Chair Newt 2012

 

STATE REGIONAL CHAIRS

Central Alabama Chair– former State Sen. Larry Dixon

South Alabama Chair– former US Congressman Sonny Callahan

West Alabama Chair – Sen. Gerald Allen

North East Alabama Chair – Sen. Clay Scofield

East Alabama Chair – Sen. Gerald Dial

North West Alabama Chair – Sen. Greg Reed

South East Alabama Chair – Sen. Tom Whatley

 

COUNTY CHAIRS

Jefferson County Chair – Rep. Jim Carns

Jefferson County Vice Chair – former State Sen. Steve French

North Jefferson County Chair – former State Sen. Jack Biddle

Walker County Co-Chairs – former State Sen. Curt Lee & Jeff Grice

Elmore County Chair – Mike Holmes

Madison County Chair – Sam H. Givhan

Blount County Co-Chairs – Kristi Beavers & Mike Currier

Marshall & Jackson County Chair – Randy Jones

Colbert County Chair – Jim Bonner

Franklin County Chair – Bart Moss

St. Clair County – Ren Wheeler

Sumter County Chair – Billy McFarland

Talladega County Chair – Steve Dean

Crenshaw & Pike County Chairs – former Alabama Supreme Court Justice                Terry Butts & Suze Butts

Geneva County Chair – Chris Bowden

Escambia, Baldwin County Chair – Danny Joyner

Tuscaloosa County Chair – Rep. John Merrill

Trussville Coordinator – City Councilman Wayne Taylor

City of Leeds Coordinators – Rep. Dickie Drake & Anita Drake

City of Adamsville Coordinator – Mayor Pam Palmer

Pinson & Clay Coordinator – former Clay Mayor Dr. Charles Hart

 

 

STATE FINANCE CHAIR

Sen. Slade Blackwell

 

COALITIONS & OPERATIONS

Communications & Campaign Coordinator – Michael Ciamarra

County & Grassroots Campaign Coordinator

Statewide Prayer Coordinator – Judy Carns

Lawyers With Newt – Co-Chairs Matt Lembke & Johnny Amari

Republican Women Co-Chairs – Margie George & Diane Zaragoza

Young Republicans Co-Chairs – Brooklyn Roberts & Jim Entrekin

College Republicans Co-Chairs – Cliff Sims & Jon Waggoner

UAB Campus Co-Chairs – Bradley Watts & Andrew Hays

Veterans with Newt – Sen. Bryan Taylor

Coalition with Newt to Repeal Obamacare Chair – Rep. Jim McClendon

 

ALABAMA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Rep. Jack Williams, Chairman of House Republicans for Newt

Rep. Jim McClendon, Springville

Rep. Jim Patterson, Meridianville

Rep. Wes Long, Guntersville

Rep. Barry Moore, Enterprise

Rep. Dickie Drake, Leeds

Rep. Randy Davis, Daphne

Rep. Kurt Wallace, Maplesville

Rep. April Weaver, Brierfield

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Jones says Senate race a choice between “substance and leadership, and nothing”

“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones speaks at a rally in Anniston. (EDDIE BURKHALTER/APR)

Speaking outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters in Anniston on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, told a group of supporters that Alabamians haven’t gotten a look at what his Republican opponent might do if he wins the Nov. 3 election. 

“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said. “They’re getting a choice between substance and leadership, and nothing — nothing. We have not heard anything from Tommy Tuberville about what he really wants to do.” 

While Jones has held numerous interviews with the media, and regular web briefings over the summer and in recent weeks, Tuberville’s campaign seems to prefer the safety of keeping Tuberville from making possible gaffs or damaging statements in interviews. 

Tuberville hasn’t agreed to interviews with traditional media outlets, or to debate Jones, and instead has focused on conservative talk radio spots, speaking to smaller Republican groups and at private parties.

Tuberville’s campaign has ignored or denied our numerous attempts to interview Tuberville, including another request on Friday. He also declined to attend a student forum held at Auburn University on Wednesday, which Jones attended. The forum was sponsored by the Auburn College Republicans and College Democrats.

“If you ever hear something Tommy Tuberville says, it is just simply this: ‘Build a wall. No amnesty. Drain the swamp.’ That ain’t him. That’s Donald Trump,” Jones said. “He cannot think for himself. He doesn’t think for himself.” 

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Jones spoke of his record of working to help veterans through legislation. And he referred to Tuberville’s nonprofit for veterans and reporting that indicates, through tax records, that less than a third of the money raised for Tuberville’s charity went to help veterans. 

“I don’t just create charities and send only pennies on the dollar. I do things for the veterans of this state and this country,” Jones said. 

Jones also made a case for Alabamians to remember the contributions past Democrats made in the state. Jones said it was Democratic Sen. John Sparkman who helped build Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal. 

“It was a Democrat, Lester Hill, who built the rural hospitals around here that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Tommy Tuberville are trying to destroy,” Jones said. “It was Howell Heflin who built up agriculture in this state. Those are the Democrats. It was Franklin Rosevelt that put electricity in this state. We’re going to do the same thing for broadband. People forget those things. They forget those things because we’ve let other people define us with lies.”

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Jones plans to visit Jefferson County on Saturday, then on to the Black Belt and Mobile on Sunday with another stop in Birmingham on Monday afternoon. 

“The goal is to get everybody out. That’s the thing if we want to continue to ensure Alabama moves forward — moves forward and not backwards, to continue to have somebody, if I do say so myself, somebody that’s just not going to damn embarrass us,” Jones said.

Supporters of Democratic Sen. Doug Jones rally in Anniston on Oct. 30, 2020. (EDDIE BURKHALTER/APR)

“We’ve had too much of that in Alabama,” Jones said, “and I bet you it won’t be a year that Tommy Tuberville would be an embarrassment to this state because he doesn’t know the issues. He doesn’t know what to do, and he’s dang sure not going to know what to do when Donald Trump is not president of the United States.” 

Jones encouraged supporters to be skeptical of recent polling. One such recent poll, by Auburn University at Montgomery, puts Tuberville ahead of Jones by 12 percentage points, 54 to 42.1. An internal poll by Tuberville’s campaign puts Tuberville ahead by 15 percentage points, while an internal poll from the Jones camp put Jones ahead by one percentage point. 

“Don’t listen to these polling folks that come in, and they don’t know Alabama, and they don’t know what they’re doing. We’re tracking this race, and I can tell you, everything has been moving in our direction the last two months,” Jones said. 

People standing along roadsides holding his signs and showing support, Jones said, is “the energy we’ve got out there. That’s what you can’t poll.”

Ellen Bass of Anniston, standing outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters just after Jones spoke, told APR that she has numerous Republican friends who are voting for Jones.

“My hat’s off to them because they’re coming out,” Bass said. “They recognize that he is a better candidate.”

Ciara Smith, 21, newly elected to the Anniston City Council, told APR outside the headquarters building that Jones is the better candidate.

“I think that he’s educated. I think that he speaks with passion and heart,” Smith said. “And he knows what he’s talking about, which is important, and which is more than we can say about the other candidate.”

Speaking to APR after his speech to supporters, Jones said that he feels very good about the state of his campaign.

“Everything we’re seeing is moving in our direction,” Jones said. “And the more he stays hidden, the better it is for us.”

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Crime

Inmate assault injures two St. Clair prison correctional officers

The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Two correctional officers at St. Clair Correctional Facility were injured in an inmate-on-officer assault on Monday, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed to APR.

Among the two officers who sustained non-life-threatening injuries was a basic correctional officer (BCO), a position created in May 2019, who are not Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (APOST) certified and who have some limitations on working directly with inmates without correctional officers present.

The other officer injured was a full correctional officer, Alabama Department of Corrections spokeswoman Samantha Rose told APR in a message Friday. The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries and subsequently released, according to Rose.

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the actions taken by the inmate against ADOC staff are being thoroughly investigated,” Rose said. “As the investigation into this incident is ongoing, we cannot provide additional detail at this time. More information will be available upon the conclusion of our investigation.”

The ADOC created the new basic correctional officer position to bolster the state’s woefully understaffed prisons. The creation of the position was also at the suggestion of experts ordered by a federal court to study the department’s staffing problems, ADOC attorneys wrote to the court in a filing in 2019.

The ongoing lawsuit is over the state’s handling of mental health in prisons.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disability Advocacy Program filed the 2014 suit arguing the state was indifferent to the health of inmates dying by suicide in greater and greater numbers.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in June argued that ADOC was far behind on the court-ordered hiring new additional officers. It has been more than two years since U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to hire an additional 2,000 correctional officers by 2022.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in a previous opinion wrote that prison understaffing “has been a persistent, systemic problem that leaves many ADOC facilities incredibly dangerous and out of control.”

“Taken together, ADOC’s low correctional-staffing level, in the context of its severely overcrowded prisons, creates a substantial risk of serious harm to mentally ill prisoners, including continued pain and suffering, decompensation, self-injury, and suicide,” Thompson’s previous opinion continued.

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The SPLC in court filings late last year expressed concern over the use of basic correctional officers in Alabama’s overcrowded and understaffed prisons. ADOC attorneys have argued to the court, however, that BCO’s are adequately trained to do their jobs and are needed for the department to hire the necessary number of officers per the court’s timeline.

In a court filing on Thursday, attorneys for the plaintiffs asked the court not to again delay site visits to Alabama prisons by two experts who are tasked by the court to determine which positions should be filled by correctional officers and which by BCO’s and which by another new position, called cubical correctional officers, who are to have no direct interaction with inmates.

Those visits were to begin in May, but both parties in the suit agree to wait due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat it posed to the experts, who are particularly vulnerable to the disease due to “age and other factors,” according to court records.

Both parties again agreed to postpone those visits in June for those same reasons, those records show. ADOC seeks a third extension but attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the experts can visit the prisons while keeping themselves, prison staff and inmates safe from harm of COVID-19 and that thousands of employees and contractors enter Alabama prisons daily.

The plaintiff’s attorneys argue in the court filing that the expert guidance is needed because ADOC wishes to use BCO’s and cubical correctional officers to comply with the court-ordered hiring of additional staff by Feb. 20, 2022.

“Ensuring adequate staffing is of upmost importance to address the constitutional violations underlying mental health care within ADOC,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote to the court Thursday.

ADOC in May was employing 494 BCO’s, a 57 percent increase in the number of BCO’s employed in Oct. 2019, according to ADOC’s staffing numbers. The number of correctional officers working in Alabama prisons fell by two percent during that time, dropping from 1,319 to 1,287.

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Elections

Slow absentee voting in Tuscaloosa sparks outrage, possible legal action

Among the issues were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours. 

Josh Moon

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Long lines and slow absentee ballot processing in Tuscaloosa County have left voters outraged and incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’s campaign threatening legal action. 

On Wednesday, Jones’s campaign attorney, Adam Plant, sent a letter to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Clerk Magaria Bobo, outlining a number of issues with ongoing absentee voting and promising to take legal action if Bobo doesn’t improve the process on the final day, Friday. Among the issues documented by Plant were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours. 

Additionally, Plant noted that Bobo has hired her family members to help process absentee ballots and at least one family member had made disparaging remarks on social media about voters. 

“You and those acting on your behalf are suppressing the vote of qualified Alabama voters,” Plant wrote in the letter. “If you are unable or unwilling to execute your duties competently, and allow Tuscaloosa voters to exercise their voting rights without undue burdens, we will take further action.”

In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday, Bobo noted that her office had received more than 13,000 requests for absentee ballots — a remarkable uptick from the 3,000 or so her office usually receives — and there had been problems in managing that number of ballots while also adhering to social distancing guidelines within the office. 

However, as Plant’s letter notes, the massive increase in absentee ballots for this election shouldn’t have been a surprise. Also, Secretary of State John Merrill had made additional funds available to absentee managers to facilitate hiring extra staff, purchasing additional computers and staying open for longer hours to accommodate the anticipated increase. 

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In a press release on Wednesday, the Alabama Democratic Party criticized Bobo and her family members, and the release included screenshots of Facebook posts from Bobo’s daughter lashing out at voters who complained about the long wait times. 

“No voter should have to wait in line for hours to exercise their rights,” said ADP executive director Wade Perry. “We should leverage every tool we have to make voting easier, not harder. Also, it should go without saying that election workers should not insult the very people they are employed to serve. If Ms. Bobo is incapable of processing voters quickly, someone else needs to do the job.”

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Elections

Jones campaign calls Tuberville a “coward” after no-show at Auburn forum

“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” Jones’s campaign said.

Brandon Moseley

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

There are only four days left before election day, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign is slamming Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville, accusing him of “hiding” and calling him a “coward.”

On Wednesday, Jones addressed an Auburn University forum. Tuberville did not attend.

“Tonight, the College Democrats and College Republicans at Auburn University co-hosted a debate between Doug Jones and Tommy Tuberville, offering students a chance to ask the candidates about the issues that matter most to Alabama,” the Jones campaign said in an email to supporters. “But Tuberville never showed up – he’s too scared to face Doug… even on his own home turf. Tuberville has repeatedly refused to debate Doug Jones. He’s consistently refused to be interviewed by the press. He’s refused to tell Alabama the truth about who and what they’re voting for – and it’s clear why.”

“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” the campaign continued. “If he won’t tell the truth, we will. Tuberville expects to win this race off of his blind allegiance to the President and his party affiliation. But Alabamians know better.”

“People deserve to know who they’re really voting for if they vote for Tuberville: someone who … won’t protect our health care, doesn’t believe in science, has no idea what the Voting Rights Act is, and doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of Alabamians,” the Jones campaign concluded. “Alabama will never elect a coward. Pitch in now and help us spread the truth about the man hiding behind the ballot.”

“I am disappointed that Tommy Tuberville is not here,” Jones said. “I think it is important that people see two candidates side by side answering the same questions.”

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Tuberville meanwhile is canvassing the state, speaking to rallies and Republican groups to turn out the Republican vote for himself and President Donald Trump. Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest in Madison County on Thursday and at the Trump Truck Parade rally in Phenix City.

“It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who represents our conservative beliefs and traditional values,” Tuberville said in Phenix City. “It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who supports the Second Amendment, the right to life, and putting God back in the classroom.”

Polling consistently shows Tuberville with a commanding lead over Jones. Real Clear Politics lists the race on their current board as a likely Republican win. FiveThirtyEight’s election model gives Tuberville a 79 percent chance of defeating Jones.

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