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Rob McHugh Campaigning for House District 30 Seat

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Election campaigns are a lot of hard work.  Contested campaigns can be very demanding struggles.  Most people decide not to run for elected office because it is just too much of a struggle.  For Rob McHugh this election is far from the most difficult struggle that he has faced.

In 2003, the Steele Republican was the owner of his own electrical business but he was experiencing some muscle cramps and numbness in his hands which were interfering with his ability to do his job as an electrician. His doctors diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or simply ALS.  The most common of the motor neuron diseases is still considered a death sentence and McHugh’s doctor told him to get his affairs in order because he would be dead by 2005.

Rob McHugh would not accept the scientific fact that he had less than 24 months to live.  Slowly he lost use of both of his arms and eventually he lost the use of both his legs.  Typically that is followed by the loss of the ability to speak, the ability to swallow, difficulty breathing, which typically leads to death.  McHugh however is not typical.  Where most ALS patients wait in vain for a new drug that will cure the condition, McHugh took the bold alternative strategy of assuming personal responsibility for his own condition and fought to regain use of his limbs.  A herbalist and a chiropractor provided help.  Slowly, through a vigorous exercise and training effort he regained use of his arms and legs.  McHugh could no longer do his job as an electrician because he no longer had the fine motor skills necessary to perform at a high level so he went to work with his dad in the nursery business managing greenhouses on his family’s farm.  Eventually he was forced out of the nursery business because of repeated attacks on his greenhouses by metal thieves.  McHugh told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that they caught the last thief with $30,000 worth of greenhouse equipment at a metal yard where he had just received $900 for it.   McHugh has supplemented his income over the years as a singer/songwriter.

The Board member of the St. Clair County Farmer’s Federation knew he needed a job that he could perform at a high level despite his physical challenges.  To this day he has not restored all the strength in his hands but otherwise his health and full use of his limbs has been restored through hard work and either luck or divine assistance.  McHugh decided that he would become an ALFA agent and began the studies necessary to get his Alabama insurance license.  When he successfully finished all of his class work and passed the Alabama Insurance exam, ALFA (despite his long relationship with them) told him that he was not experienced enough to be an ALFA agent.  Undeterred, McHugh is now an agent for Farmer’s Insurance.

Rob McHugh told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that he is a longtime friend of former District 30 Representative Blaine Galiher and would never have run against the former Republican incumbent.  When Rep. Galiher resigned to become Governor Bentley’s Director of Legislative Affairs, many of McHugh’s friends urged the insurance agent to run for the vacant Alabama House District 30 seat.

McHugh said that he talked with his family and made the decision to run as a Republican for the House District 30 seat.  Rob McHugh told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that, “I am good at helping people figuring out things.  I will do what I can to help.”

Mr. McHugh said that he is pro-life, pro-gun, and opposes raising the tax burden on Alabama families. McHugh said that the state should pay back the money that was raided from the Alabama trust fund.  McHugh said that all the revenues from the internet sales tax that Gov. Bentley is lobbying for should be used to pay off the trust fund diversion when that money comes in.  McHugh said that the internet sales tax should bring in $130 million.

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McHugh told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ to save money, “We can streamline more programs” and that the state should, “quit spending what we don’t have.”  McHugh said that ending the DROP program will help the finances some.   McHugh said that he did favor Governor Bentley’s plan to offer incentives to coax veteran state employees to retire.  McHugh said that he is concerned about an Alabama Policy Iniative plan that would replace the state workers’ pensions with 401 (k)s. McHugh was concerned that the state would have a difficult time recruiting and retaining teachers and state workers when the economy turns around if surrounding states had a better benefits package.   Mr. McHugh said that he would need to get the opinions of the people in his district before making a big decision like that.

McHugh said, “I think we need to generate more revenues.”  McHugh however opposed the $2 a pack cigarette tax hike proposed by Rep. Joe Hubbard as being too large.  McHugh said that the state needed to be more careful with tax breaks and incentives packages.  He cited as an example the Sax distribution center built in Steele.  The company came for the incentives and then “just packed up and left” after just a few years costing tax payers millions.

McHugh said that he represents the people on two state boards and serves on ten committees and boards throughout the district.   When state prison farms were selling produce at just $2 a box, McHugh said that the tomato farmers called him and he worked successfully to prevent the prison farms from competing with Alabama farmers.

Mr. McHugh said, “I will represent the people of the district” and said that he “wants to do what is right for people.”  McHugh said even though he lives in St. Clair County he has family and friends in Etowah County as well and he is, “not biased towards one county or the other.”

McHugh said that he has not been asking for campaign contributions because he doesn’t want to be beholden to anyone when he gets to Montgomery.  “I don’t want to owe any favors,”

McHugh’s wife is a PE teacher and they have two children a 9 year old and a 5 year old.

Rob McHugh faces former Etowah County School Board President Mack Butler in the special election Republican Primary on Tuesday, October 23.  House District 30 is composed of parts of Etowah and St. Clair Counties.

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Gov. Kay Ivey addresses death of former Auburn coach Pat Dye

Eddie Burkhalter

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via Madison Ogletree / The Auburn Plainsman

Gov. Kay Ivey in a statement Monday expressed sadness over the death of former Auburn head football coach Pat Dye, who died Monday after being hospitalized for kidney problems. He had also been diagnosed with COVID-19. 

Dye, 80, was being treated for kidney problems when he tested positive for COVID-19, although he was asymptomatic, his family said at the time. 

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Pat Dye — a great man, coach and member of the Auburn family,” Ivey said. “Not only was he a phenomenal football coach, but an even better person. For years, I have known Pat personally and have always valued his friendship and colorful commentary. He had great takes on both football and life. Coach Dye truly embodied the Auburn spirit. He will be missed not only by the Auburn family, but the entire state of Alabama. War Eagle, Coach. Your life and legacy lives on.”

Ivey graduated from Auburn University, where Dye served as head football coach from 1981 to 1992. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

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Crime

Alabama Democratic Party chair: “Where systemic racism endures there are no winners”

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Chair of the Alabama Democratic Party on Monday called for Alabamians to come together to address systemic racism and inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. 

“I am angry and I am hurt. Unfortunately, I am not shocked,” said state Representative and  Chair of the Alabama Democratic Party Chris England, in a statement. 

“Inequality pervades every facet of our society. Confronting this truth is difficult, especially for those who have never experienced their race as an issue. For Black people, watching George Floyd be killed on camera felt not only horrifying, but familiar. It felt familiar because we know what it is like to be harassed by an officer or made to feel unwelcome in a certain part of town. We know what it is like for our schools, neighborhoods, and economic concerns to be ignored outright,” England continued. 

“I stand with each person who is fighting for the just and fair treatment of every Alabamian. Until ideologies rooted in racism and hate are confronted head-on, communities of color will suffer. Until we expose the lies keeping us divided, communities who do not experience their race as an issue will continue misdirecting their frustrations, and scapegoat communities of color. Where systemic racism endures there are no winners, only losers. 

“Unity demands justice. I call on every Alabamian, especially people of faith, to be on the frontlines of love and compassion. We have not come this far to only come this far.”

Two days of peaceful protests in Birmingham turned violent early Sunday morning, and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin declared a state of emergency and enacted  a city-wide curfew to prevent a repeat of the rioting that saw numerous business burned and at least two reporters attacked.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced the authorization of Alabama National Guard members, but said it was no immediate need to activate them.

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Quinton Ross: What should we tell our youth on the death of George Floyd?

Quinton Ross

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The following is Alabama State University President Quinton T. Ross Jr.’s statement in full on the death of George Floyd. 

For the past few days, I, like many others have been viewing through the lens of the media, the reaction of our country to the deplorable and senseless death of yet another defenseless black person at the hands of a white police officer, a tragic mockery to the truth that Black Lives Matter. Similar to other Americans, I am overcome with a range of emotions.

As the father of two sons and as a black man myself, I can assure you that I am furious and deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd, as I am by every senseless killing of black males and females in America. It could have been either of my sons, my brothers, my nephews or nieces, my friends or even one of my students who lay on the ground, pleading for mercy on that horrific day.

Looking into the eyes of my 11-year-old son and trying to help him comprehend what happened and what is happening in our nation, I am cognizant of the fact that I am old enough only to have read about the many civil rights protests and nonviolent demonstrations that have afforded me the opportunities that I have enjoyed during my lifetime.

While I was not an eyewitness to the protests, I do try to paint a picture for my son, drawing from my exposure to many civil rights icons and their recounting of historic events of the past, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the march from Selma to Montgomery, the brutality of law enforcement officers such as Bull Connor and the story of Ruby Bridges. I am emotionally distraught about the stark parallel of our nation’s present state of affairs and our nation’s historical past.

I have been giving thought to this national crisis, especially as it relates to Alabama State University’s rich history and her overwhelming contributions to the advancement of civil rights in the nation.  I am one of thousands of students who have matriculated and emerged from ASU with purpose and a true understanding of social justice and responsibility. At ASU, we learned the importance and the power of the vote.  The call to public service and advocacy was ingrained in our DNA by O’ Mother Dear.

While I attempt to give some sensible explanation to the most recent senseless acts of brutality, I have reflected on my first real encounter with the reality of racist police violence against blacks in America.  It was the spring of 1991, just prior to my senior year in college, and I had just been elected President of the Student Government Association.

This was the time that our nation witnessed Rodney King being brutally beaten by Los Angeles law enforcement officers after he led them on a high-speed chase.  I remember asking myself, “Is this what would happen to me as a black man if I found myself in a similar situation with authorities?”  I vividly recall how the nation erupted into protests because of Rodney King’s mistreatment, just like the protests that have erupted nationally because of the senseless death of George Floyd and others.

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Each incident is similar to the protests that happened across this nation in the 1960s due to social injustice.  As a young student, I was confused and enraged by what I witnessed. I remember the rumbling of unrest within our student body regarding Rodney King. We were all ready to act on our anger and frustration by taking to the streets of Montgomery to let our voices be heard.  Word of our intentions reached our President, the late Dr. C. C. Baker, who later became one of my mentors.

My SGA leadership team and I were summoned to Dr. Baker’s office, and it was there that I learned what social protesting was really all about. It is not about the destruction of property, looting or acting disorderly; it is about banding together peacefully with a common goal, with a purpose and a plan for change.  During the meeting, we discussed our desire to be heard and our passion for change, and emerged with a plan for a peaceful protest on the campus that historically has been a beacon for change—our home, our haven—Alabama State University.

This focusing event allowed me to lead my first press conference. It would be the first time I had ever spoken in front of news cameras. Every news outlet in the city was on campus that day as students gathered with community stakeholders in great numbers. I led the protest with a speech. Students and local elected officials were also able to have their voices heard as the media captured our impassioned sentiments and broadcast the event.  I share this personal experience not only to highlight the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in providing a platform for change, but also to emphasize the need to protest peacefully and with a purpose.

I offer that advice while understanding and even relating to the rage that has been unleashed across the nation by the infection of racism that is more potent than ever in America. Our nation has a new and improved infection of racism when George Floyd can plead for mercy while dying publicly under the force of a racist man’s knee just as his forefathers died publicly hanging from a noose.

There is a new and improved infection of racism when a young man by the name of Michael Brown can hold his hands up in surrender and still be shot to death in broad daylight in Ferguson, Missouri. There is a new and improved infection of racism when a man by the name of Eric Garner in New York City can tell authorities “I can’t breathe” as he is choked to death.

The infection of racism is new and improved when a young man by the name of Trayvon Martin is gunned down in cold blood while walking from the store to his home. Racism is new and improved when Ahmaud Arbery can be gunned down while jogging not far from his home. There is a new and improved infection of racism when Breonna Taylor can be shot and killed by police officers as she lay sleeping in her apartment in Louisville, Kentucky. Let us not forget the infection of racism that related to the death of Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in a jail cell in Walker County, Texas, after being arrested for a minor traffic stop.

Here in Montgomery, there is a new and improved infection of racism when a man by the name of Greg Gunn, who attended ASU, is chased and killed by a police officer just a few steps from his mother’s front door. Their tragic deaths made headlines, but across this nation and even in this city, we could easily add more names to the rolls of those whose lives have been so tragically cut short with no cell phone cameras to capture their last, painful breaths.

With this in mind, we struggle with the question, “What should we tell our students?” The answer that I offer you is the same that I give to my sons. I ask that you find ways to protest peacefully, including exercising your personal responsibility to register to vote and then go vote, and committing yourself to continuing your education so that you are prepared to emerge as this nation’s next generation of leaders.

I ask that you resist the temptation to channel your anger into destruction; instead, channel your energy into the very thing that disturbs and disrupts those who would oppress you: Education.

Our nonviolent stand proved successful in the past, and I believe it could be the catalyst for real and impactful change today. Let peace be at the core of all of our actions.

While it seems as though remaining calm in the midst of a racist storm is a signal to be disrespected, disregarded and endangered, remember the lives that were lost to get us to this day. Remember the examples of those who were brutally beaten and rose up from that brutality to walk the halls of congress, to become mayors, governors, state legislators and community leaders.

They are the ones upon whose shoulders we stand. Their sacrifices have afforded us the opportunity to stand and take up the mantle of peace, justice and equality for all.

Stay in the fight against injustice my children and my students, with peace, purpose and a plan that saves us from self-destruction and allows us all to “breathe” freely.

 

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Crime

Alabama attorney general signals end to fight over Birmingham’s Confederate monument

Eddie Burkhalter

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Monday said the city of Birmingham would get a one-time $25,000 fine if city officials remove the Confederate monument in the city’s Linn Park, which, if done, would bring an end to a years-long battle between state lawmakers and local officials in Alabama’s largest city.

The monument was at the epicenter of a riotous protest early Monday morning, following peaceful protests in the city late Sunday over the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

Rioters attempted unsuccessfully to tear down the monument, and later burned businesses and attacked at least two journalists.

“The Alabama Monuments Preservation Act provides a singular avenue for enforcement — the filing of a civil complaint in pursuit of a fine, which the Alabama Supreme Court has determined to be a one-time assessment of $25,000. The Act authorizes no additional relief,” Marshall said in a statement Monday. 

“Should the City of Birmingham proceed with the removal of the monument in question, based upon multiple conversations I have had today, city leaders understand I will perform the duties assigned to me by the Act to pursue a new civil complaint against the City,” Marshall continued. “In the aftermath of last night’s violent outbreak, I have offered the City of Birmingham the support and resources of my office to restore peace to the City.”

Marshall’s statement came after Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin earlier on Monday said that he planned to remove the Confederate monument and pay a fine rather than witness more chaos.

Woodfin on Monday also declared a state of emergency and a city-wide curfew. 

Following the white supremacist rally in Virginia in 2017, some Birmingham City Council members wanted the Confederate monument in the park torn down. 

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Instead, former Birmingham Mayor William Bell had the monument covered by plywood, and a year later, after Randall Woodfin replaced Bell as mayor, the Alabama Legislature passed a law forbidding the city — and all municipalities in the state — from removing or altering a Confederate monument.

The law imposes a $25,000 fine for each violation. 

Comedian Jermaine “Funnymaine” Johnson on Sunday called for demonstrators to tear down the monument.

Johnson told Al.com on Monday that he hated to see the protest turn violent, and said he never encouraged violence but does still call for the monument’s removal. 

“If you think I incited violence, you don’t think monuments like this and the policies behind it haven’t incited violence for decades, you just need to think again,” Johnson told Al.com.

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