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Alabama Republicans embrace Davis as speaker at GOP convention

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WASHINGTON — So far, the most high-profile Alabamian at this year’s Republican National Convention is someone who didn’t declare himself a Republican until late May, and hasn’t lived in Alabama for the last two years. Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Artur Davis was named Thursday as one of the headliners at the GOP convention, making him this cycle’s political turncoat — someone who changed teams since the last election and will make the case for other Democratic voters to do the same.

While Republicans in Alabama are publicly cheering the switch and Davis’ message of disillusionment with President Barack Obama, there is some hesitation about embracing someone who so recently was working to defeat Republicans across the country. Davis represented the 7th Congressional District of west Alabama and parts of Birmingham for eight years and lost a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010. But there was even more to his Democratic credentials: He worked with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to recruit and mentor candidates for Congress; he was a leading critic of the Republican administration of former President George W. Bush, especially the justice department that he believed was too politically motivated; and he was a Kennedy-quoting Democrat who was among the first to endorse then-Sen. Barack Obama’s primary campaign in early 2007. In what is likely a preview of his remarks at the convention, Davis issued the following statement through the RNC Thursday: “The talk and inspiration moved so many of us four years ago, but unfortunately we haven’t seen the action to back it up. We were promised jobs and we got job-killing mandates and regulations. We were promised a fiscally responsible government, and we got trillion dollar deficits, debt that has never been seen, and small business burdened with new taxes and threatened with more taxes. The time for talk is over.

At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Republicans take a step to undo the mismanagement and nominate Mitt Romney as the next president of the United States.” Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said he and most Republicans he’s spoken with, especially those in the business community, are wholeheartedly welcoming Davis’ appearance at the podium, but that a handful in the state GOP have expressed suspicion. “Maybe 1 percent aren’t so sure he isn’t just doing this as a political ploy, but it’s been a very, very small number,” Armistead said Thursday. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said Thursday that Davis will be among the headliners at the convention Aug. 27-30. “Former Congressman Davis especially will give voice to the frustration and disappointment felt among those who supported President Obama in 2008 and are now hungry for a new direction,” Priebus said. Alabama has a complicated history with party-switchers. For example, former U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith of Huntsville was elected to Congress as a Democrat, switched to the Republican Party, and then lost in the next primary, a clear rejection by Republicans in that north Alabama district.

Armistead said Davis’ case is different because he’s not running for office. “I see him as rolling up his sleeves and wanting to work for Mitt Romney and the ticket and that’s pretty impressive,” Armistead said. “I would have different thoughts if he switched and immediately ran for office.” State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, remembers four years ago when he and Davis squared off at Alabama political events as advocates for then-GOP nominee John McCain and Obama, respectively. He said he is happy to have Davis aboard alongside him on the Romney team this time and that he doesn’t think Davis’ party-switch was either sudden or suspect. Ward pinpoints Davis’ vote against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 as the beginning of his shift out of the Democratic Party, which became official in late May of this year. Davis lost the 2010 Democratic primary for governor by a landslide, including most counties in his congressional district, and his vote on the health care bill was a major issue. “Any time any of us .¤.¤. takes a stand contrary to where we once stood before, there’s going to be a suspicion,” Ward said. “People are naturally suspicious of politicians and they always will be.” A Virginia-based Democratic consultant said Thursday that Davis as recently as December talked about running for office in Northern Virginia as a Democrat, where Davis has lived since late 2010.

Mo Elleithee, a partner at Hilltop Public Solutions, said he told Davis it would be difficult because he was a newcomer to the area and had not yet spent time getting to know the people and the politics of the region. “Without having been involved in local politics, to expect he could just parachute in and win an election, would be difficult,” Elleithee said Thursday. Davis, in an email, disputed the time of his phone conversation with Elleithee, saying it was summer or fall of last year. “I asked him about the ideological direction of the Virginia Democratic Party and he confirmed my sense that it was as left-leaning and interest group driven as I suspected. We never followed up and never met,” Davis said. The chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party called Davis a “sore loser.” “The only part of the electorate Artur Davis is giving a voice to are former candidates who lost their races and then go on to blame it on everyone but themselves,” said Mark Kennedy. “With that said, between his penchant for changing his party and positions regularly, and for not taking responsibility for his own actions, Artur Davis seems a great addition to the Romney campaign.”

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The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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Governor

Governor meets with VIP

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey and fourth grade student Cate McGriff. Photo Credit: Governor's office.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey invited a special guest to meet with her in the Governor’s office on Friday.

Fourth grade student Cate McGriff met with Governor Ivey Friday afternoon. The discussion was described as wide-ranging and productive. The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.

Gov. Ivey asked Miss. McGriff what her favorite subject in school is.

McGriff replied that it was math. She also told the governor that she wanted to attend Auburn University just like Gov. Ivey did.

Ivey asked Cate what she wanted to be when she grows up, after she attends Auburn.

McGriff said that she wanted to be an engineer.

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Ivey advised her to keep working hard on her math.

Ivey shared that when she was a young intern for Governor Lurleen Wallace, the only other woman to serve as Governor in Alabama history, she had the opportunity to sit behind the governor’s desk. Ivey then asked Cate if she wanted to sit behind the desk, and they recreated the governor’s own photo behind Governor Wallace’s desk.

Cate and Governor Ivey both were wearing their red power suits and Auburn masks.

McGriff was joined by her parents and two siblings, Claire and Sam.

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The McGriff family frequently tune in to the governor’s regular COVID press conferences. Cate also was given the chance to stand behind the lectern in the Old House Chamber.

Governors frequently meet with very important people including: Presidents, CEOs, congressmen, Senators, scientists, University presidents, state legislators, county commissioners, economic developers, and fourth graders.

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Health

CDC issues Halloween guidance

Brandon Moseley

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Today is Halloween. Many people are celebrating this year’s holiday at home as a nuclear family due to the coronavirus global pandemic. If you are going to still trick or treat this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidance on trick or treating.

“Traditional Halloween activities are fun, but some can increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or influenza,” the CDC warned. “Plan alternate ways to participate in Halloween.”

To make trick-or-treating safer: avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters, give out treats outdoors, if possible, set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take, wash your hands before handling treats, wear a mask or cloth face covering.

The CDC has also issued guidance on proper mask wearing. Make your cloth mask part of your costume. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult. Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of two or anyone who has trouble breathing.

Remember to always stay at least six feet away from others who do not live with you. Indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time.

Don’t let excitement about the holiday distract you from proper COVID-19 procedures. Wash your hands. Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Parents should supervise young children using hand sanitizer. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats.

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Other suggestions for enjoying Halloween activities during the global COVID-19 pandemic include: decorating and carving pumpkins, decorate your home for Halloween, and you can walk from house to house, admiring Halloween decorations at a distance. You could also visit an orchard, forest, or corn maze. You can also go on an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt. Visit a pumpkin patch or orchard. Whatever you do or wherever you go be sure to remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after touching frequently touched surfaces, pumpkins, or apples.

The CDC also suggested that you can hide Halloween treats in and around your house and hold a Halloween treat hunt with household members. The CDC suggested that you can hold an outdoor costume parade or contest so everyone can show off their costumes. Another suggestion is that you host an outdoor Halloween movie night with friends or neighbors or an indoor movie night with just your household members.

 

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Elections

Etowah County Republicans rally for Trump

Brandon Moseley

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The Etowah County Republican Party and the Trump campaign will be holding a Celebrate America rally and prayer meeting on Sunday in anticipation of Tuesday’s general election.

“We the People plan to peacefully assemble at our town square Tomorrow, November 1st at 2:00 PM to rally around President Trump and pray for our nation, our first responders, and for our President,” organizers said.

Remarks will be made by special guest Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.

Singer songwriters Camille and Haley will perform.

Pastors Mark Gidley, Joey Jones and Bruce Word will be speaking.

“Bring your friends and family as we pray, celebrate and rally for America!” organizers said. “Our outdoor program and rally will be an amazing hour that you will not want to miss! Please mark your calendars and please share.”

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Patriotic attire, American flags, and Trump flags are welcome. The event will be in the Rainbow City Town hall parking lot.

Robert Aderholt is in his twelfth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District. Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District is where Trump had his greatest margin of victory in the entire country in 2016.

President Trump and Congressman Aderholt both face Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s general election.

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News

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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