By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—According to state republican insiders, next week’s election of the ALGOP Chairman may be the closest in recent memory.
Matt Fridy (pronounced Friday) is running to unseat current Chairman Bill Armistead. Fridy has received the endorsement of Governor Robert Bentley, Lt. Governor Kay Ivey and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. This would indicate that the party establishment is solidly in Fridy’s corner.
However, this year the party is not solidly unified, as infighting among factions has taken center stage in the election of the next chairman.
Party unity seems to be the key message that the Governor and Mr. Fridy have given for their desire to change leadership at the ALGOP.
Fridy has also said that he is looking to bring fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency to the party.
Fridy’s youth and past leadership of the Shelby County GOP as well as being a member of the ALGOP executive committee and steering committee has served as recommendations for his candidacy.
Fridy has been reported as being a stalwart, Christian Conservative, a hard worker and an honest individual.
The test for Fridy will most likely be to convince the party leadership that he is his own man and not representative of one of the many factions fighting for the soul of the ALGOP.
The following is a partial transcript from an interview we recently conducted with Mr. Fridy.
APR: One of the main themes that has been reoccurring with you is party unity. Could you give us an idea of what you are thinking about when you say that?
Fridy: For a long time, there have been factions within the state party. There are always factions in large political organizations. However, the factions that have developed over the last several years are based more on personality than they are on policy. In my view, our job at the Republican Party is two-fold: To advance our conservative message and elect republicans. We can not spend time fighting among ourselves based on personality.
With that said I am absolutely open to a robust discussion on policy. i think that is an important function within the party is to debate, discuss and develop policy. But we should never be a part of the as the Alabama Republican Party is internal struggle over personality and retributions for perceived slights. As a party we have got to move past the internal struggles and present a united front against the Democrats
APR: The Governor has endorsed you and one of the things at least I was told is that he feels that your youth (now that we consider 30-something youthful). Some people might view youth as a negative and others might view it as a positive. Would you like to comment on that a little bit about how you feel, your enthusiasm, your drive?
Fridy: I think we can be energetic and enthusiastic at any age. I frankly don’t view age as an issue. I don’t think it is an issue, I don’t think it should be an issue. I was elected chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party when I was 29 and did that for 4 years. You can talk to anybody in Shelby County about my 4 years as chairman, I am not going to put words in their mouth, but I know we did some new things, some innovative things. We built the party. We added numbers. A lot of folks who had been involved with the party for a long time became more active and energized. They started knocking on doors and going door-to-door, making phone calls. We got younger folks involved as well and they are still plugged in to this day. So I don’t think age is an issue. I think what is important is energy, enthusiasm, the ability to manage personalities and the ability to move the party toward its goals, always mindful of pitfalls. And doing everything within one’s power to avoid those pitfalls.
I am 37 years old. if I’m not mistaken, and I could be, Riech Prievas was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee when he was 38. Paul Ryan, who I voted for as the vice-presidential candidate, was in his early 40s. We were prepared to make him next in line to the most powerful position in the world. Please don’t hear me saying that I have some sort of arrogant view that I am a Paul Ryan or Riech Prievas. It’s just that their age clearly wasn’t a factor and is not a factor and, frankly, it would be different if I were 22. I am 37. I have children. I am a general partner at my law firm. I am in a place now where it is possible for me to do this. I just don’t see age as an issue. Enthusiasm and energy are substantially more important, I think.
APR: One of the issues that has come up, especially in our reporting, and a little bit in some of the other reporting, has been transparency and accountability for the money that has been raised by the party. Everyone is aware of this audit and the controversy that has has caused. In light of that, how do you see accountability and transparency if you are elected chairman?
Fridy: I think that we, as the Alabama Republican Party, have to redouble our efforts towards being as transparent as possible. Our donors have to feel comfortable that the money that they donate is being spent wisely. Our members have to feel comfortable (and by the way, all of our members are also donors, that is part of the membership, supporting the party) that the state party is spending our resources wisely. A couple of days ago, I released the first in a series of pledges that I am making. If I am elected chairman, one of them is that when we, as a party, file an FEC report or a FCPA form, some sort of financial report, at least on a monthly basis we are going to let the executive committee members know that it has been released. We are going to make it available by email, of course we are determining how that will be rolled out. But every month, it is going to be possible for executive committee members to easily access all of the financial information for the party. Every penny that has come in, every penny that has gone out. I think transparency is critical.
Another thing that I pledge to do, and that we are going to do if I am elected chairman, is that all of the supporting documents for every expenditure are going to be made available. For example if there is a reimbursement to a staff member, to the chairman or to the executive director, any executive committee member, upon request, will be able to see the receipts that support that expenditure, and I don’t mean a credit card bill that supports the expenditure but the actual receipt itself.
We have to be up front, we have to be honest. We have to be transparent if we are going to be effective.
APR: That leads me to my next question which is on fundraising itself. One of the responsibilities of the chairman is the ability to attract donors. At least since 2010 there have been several PACs organized by parts of the Republican Party that seem to be rivals for the campaign funds that would normally come into the party itself. You can say that there are two republican funds, or maybe three. Is there anything you would like to say about that? That certainly is a concern that I hear often and one that I have that there seem to be rival fundraising efforts within the party.
Fridy: There are always rival fundraising efforts within and around the political party. In this sense, every candidate that is running is raising money at the same time that the state party is raising money. Oftentimes groups of individuals will form a political action committee to raise money for a specific purpose and that will compete directly with the fact that the party is attempting to raise money as well.
The fundraising landscape is very, very competitive. If we, as a party, are struggling to raise money against one or two other PACs that are out there, also raising money, then how in the world are we going to be effective at fundraising in the 2013-2014 election cycle when not only are there some PACs out there raising money but an incumbent governor is raising money, an incumbent Lt. governor is raising money. There will be an incumbent attorney general raising money. There will be an open secretarial seat race so you have at least one person that will be running and raising money for that if not others. You’ve got 140 legislative seats up, so all of those legislators and the republicans in those seats will be raising money. There will be more PACs, the BCA will be raising money. ALFA will be raising money. Forestry will be raising money. All of the traditional PACs out of Montgomery will be raising money. So, I don’t think we can attribute any fundraising issues that we are presently having to competition directly. Now, there is a perception that there are one or more PACs that are competing directly with the party. In my view, this perception goes back to the infighting within the party. It is not helpful, it is not healthy for the party. We have got to get to a place where even if multiple groups are raising money we can still get along, not work at cross purposes and work to advance our common conservative message.
APR: Can you give me a view of your vision?
Fridy: My vision for the party can be summed up as unity, transparency and results. If we unify as a party, if we are transparent in what we do, if we focus our effort with a targeted message that articulates all conservative principles, we will be successful in 2014 and that is my goal if I am elected chairman. That is my vision for the party.
APR: It seems to me that the party has in someways lately been more concerned about wining than winning on principles. Do not principles matter most?
Fridy: principles are why I got involved in politics at all. It was the Pro-life movement. It got me involved in politics. It got me interested in politics. My parents got involved with it when I was a teenager, I became involved in it. I stayed involved in the Pro-live movement. To me that was an extremely important issue. My parents are very conservative. I come from a very conservative family. I consider myself a religious conservative. So everything that you are saying about principle, that resonates with me because I feel the same way.
Trump Truck and boat parades this weekend
As Election Day draws near, Alabama Republicans are excited about promoting the re-election of Donald J. Trump as President and the election of Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate. This weekend two pro-President Trump events are happening in the state. There will be a truck parade from Ashland to Phenix City on Saturday sponsored by the Clay County Republican Party, while there will also be a boat parade on Wilson Lake in the Shoals sponsored by the Colbert County Republican Party on Sunday.
The pickup trucks will assemble at the Ashland Industrial Park in Clay County, 8240 Hwy 9, Ashland. There is a pre-departure rally at 10:00 a.m. central standard time. The trucks will depart at 11:00 a.m. and then proceed on a parade route that will take them into the bitterly contested swing state of Georgia. The Trump Pickup Parade will wind through east Alabama and West Georgia traveling through LaGrange and Columbus before concluding near the Alabama/Georgia line in Phenix City, 332 Woodland Drive, Phenix City at approximately 2:00 p.m. central time. Speakers will begin at 3:00. Trump flags will be on sale at the event.
The Phenix Motorsports Park will be hosting what sponsor hope could possibly the world’s largest Pickup Tuck parade in U.S. history that is routing over 50 mile through Georgia in effort to “pickup” President Trump’s numbers in GA.
A number dignitaries have been invited to address the Phenix City rally, including Coach Tuberville. Former State Sen. Shadrack McGill, Trump Victory Finance Committee member former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr., and Paul Wellborn, the President and CEO of the largest Family owned Kitchen Cabinet manufacture in the USA are among the featured speakers who have committed to speak at the event.
Entertainment will be provided by: Charity Bowden, an up and coming country music singer who was the runner up on “The Voice”. Charity will sing ‘I am Proud to be an American’ as well as songs from her Voice performances. The McGill Girls will also perform. The three beautiful and talented sisters will be singing patriotic songs in three part harmony. Geoff Carlisle, a professional DJ will be keeping the crowd pumped with music and entertainment.
Following the speakers and the entertainment there will Trump truck-vs- Joe Bidden truck races down the drag strip for the finale.
The Northwest Alabama boat parade will be on Sunday. The boats will gather at 2:00 p.m. near Turtle Point and then the flotilla will parade around the open waters of Wilson Lake til 3_00 p.m.. There will be a contest for best decorated Trump boats.
Trump supporters have held a number of large boat parades across the state to show their support for the re-election of Pres. Trump.
Boat parade sponsors say that this parade will be: pro-American, pro-law enforcement, pro-military.
COVID-19 hospitalizations, new cases continue to rise
The number of rising hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama is a concerning sign of a possible coming surge of the disease, state health experts said Friday. Alabama hospitals were caring for 888 coronavirus patients Friday, the highest number since Sept 9.
UAB Hospital was caring for around 80 COVID-19 inpatients Friday afternoon, said Dr. Rachael Lee, an infectious disease specialist at UAB, speaking to reporters Friday. UAB Hospital hasn’t had that many coronavirus inpatients since Aug. 18, when the disease was surging statewide.
“We have been dealing with this since March, and I think it’s easy for us to drop our guard,” Lee said.
Alabama added 3,852 new coronavirus cases on Friday, but 1,287 of them were older positive antigen tests, conducted in June through October and submitted to ADPH by a facility in Mobile, according to the department. Still, Alabama’s daily case count has been increasing, concerning health officials already worried that as the weather turns colder and the flu season ramps up, Alabama could see a surge like the state had in July.
Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily cases was 1,247 on Friday, the highest it’s been since Sept 4. Over the last 14 days, Alabama has added 17,451 new COVID-19 cases.
Friday’s inclusion of those older positive test results throws off the day’s percent positivity, by Thursday the state’s percent of tests that were positive was nearly 16 percent. Public health officials say it should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected.
The state added 16 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing to total confirmed deaths statewide to 2,859. Over the last two weeks, 206 deaths were reported in the state. Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily deaths on Friday was 15.
Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris told APR by phone Friday called the rising new cases and hospitalizations “worrisome.”
Harris noted the data dump of older confirmed cases in Friday’s data, but said “but nevertheless, I think it’s clear our numbers are going up.”
Harris said it’s not yet clear what’s causing the continued spread, but said it may be due at least in part to larger private gatherings. ADPH staff has mentioned a few outbreaks association with such gatherings, but Harris said it’s hard to know for certain if that’s the major driver in the state’s rising numbers.
“It’s football season and the holidays are coming up and school is back in session,” Harris said. “I think people are just not being as safe as they were.”
Harris noted that on ADPH’s color-coded, risk indicator dashboard, red counties, which denotes counties with rising cases and percent positivity, the 17 red counties on Friday were distributed across the state.
“So there’s not one event, or even a handful of events. It seems like there’s just a lot of things happening in a lot of places,” Harris said.
Alabama’s rising numbers are mirrored in many states. The U.S. reported more than 71,600 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, nearing the country’s record highs, set in July.
Birmingham approves $1.3 million contract for real-time crime center technology
Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.
The Birmingham City Council approved a five-year, $1.3 million contract with Motorola this week to provide new technology for the police department’s real-time crime center amid unease and public concern over the potential use of facial recognition software within the new systems.
Mayor Randall Woodfin insisted in his remarks made before the council that the new technology is meant to integrate existing hardware and technology inside the real-time crime center. “You’re not buying any additional new equipment,” he said, “You’re buying something to integrate all those systems.”
The software suite includes Motorola Solutions’s CommandCentral Aware, a system that aggregates video, image and other data information into one interface, and BriefCam, a “video synopsis” system that will further integrate and analyze information from Birmingham’s ShotSpotter systems, public cameras and police body cameras.
Briefcam offers facial recognition capabilities, which was the main concern of community members speaking before the council, and the risk that use of the technology could disproportionately affect Black people. Facial recognition technology has a record of racial bias and misidentifies Black people at rates five to 10 times higher than white people.
“Despite assurances that there will not be facial recognition implemented at this phase that does not prevent it from being implemented in the future,” said Joseph Baker, Founder of I Believe in Birmingham and one of the Birmingham residents voicing concern on the proposal. “I believe that this software, if fully implemented, can easily lead to violations of unreasonable searches.”
Another resident who spoke against the resolution was Byron Lagrone, director of engineering at medical software solutions company Abel Healthcare Enterprises. Lagrone pointed to IBM and Amazon as examples of companies that have halted or abandoned facial recognition and object tracking software altogether over racial bias concerns.
“The prevailing attitude, among technical people is this technology is not effective, and it causes high amounts of harm for next to no gain,” Lagrone said.
Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.
“It’s explicit in this contract that facial recognition will not be used,” Woodfin said, “[If] facial recognition wants to be used in the future of this city. It would have to be approved by this body. … The mayor’s office or the police department doesn’t have unilateral power to use facial recognition. That is not part of what our contractual relationship is with Motorola.”
Woodfin also clarified that the total $1.3 million price of the contract will not be paid as a lump sum but spread out over the five-year commitment.
The city council voted 8 to 1 to approve the contract, with District 8 Councilman Steven Hoyt speaking in favor of the use of facial recognition capabilities.
“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to build a house but I’m not going to use the restroom,’” Hoyt said. “If it’s in the house, you’re going to use the restroom. … If it has the capability of facial recognition, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to use it. I’m going to vote for it because I know we’ve got to have every tool we can garner to fight crime, because it’s out of hand.”
Hoyt also suggested a review of the information collected by the new system apparatus.
“I do think, for the public’s sake, we need to have some way we review that and see how it’s being used,” Hoyt said. “We need that to go along with this.”
District 3 Councilwoman Valerie A. Abbott — who said she was the victim of a burglary the day before the vote — echoed the mayor’s insistence that the facial recognition capabilities would not be deployed unless authorized by the city council, reading a letter from Motorola stating “in order to enable facial recognition, Motorola will require an addendum or change order to the contract,” which would have to come before a public meeting of the city council.
“I too would not want facial recognition,” Abbot said, “I’m voting in favor of this because the majority of my constituents are telling me they want more and better policing, capture of criminals, prevention of crime.”
District 5 Councilman Darrell O’Quinn was the lone no vote among the near-unanimous city council, stating that he had “some reservations about how we’re doing this and will vote my conscience.” Later, O’Quinn was quoted in BirminghamWatch, saying his vote reflected his concerns about “taking on a new debt obligation in the midst of a projected $63 million shortfall in revenue.”
Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies
Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C.
Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.
But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump.
“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”
Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”
Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home.
“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat.
“I rest my case.”
You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.