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GOP party split may soon show in AL-01 race

By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Last week, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) joined Quin Hillyer on a media call to offer Hillyer his endorsement in the first Congressional district special election to fill the seat vacated by Jo Bonner.

Santorum discussed his support for Hillyer’s platform, and even stated that Hillyer helped form his platform on zeroing out the corporate tax rate. Santorum also mentioned that his platform did not go quite as far as Hillyer had advised that it should. Hillyer did not express many of his policy ideas on the media call, and, as of this writing, his campaign website did not include any of his positions on the issues. Most of what is known about Hillyer’s political views is inferred from Santroum’s endorsement or from the various editorials Hillyer has authored throughout his journalism career.

Background information available on Hillyer’s website and other online sources shows that he is a senior editor of The American Spectator and a senior fellow at the Center for Individual Freedom.
The Center for Individual Freedom is a 501(c) organization that received $2.75 million from Crossroads GPS, a 501(c)4 that works alongside the 527 PAC American Crossroads. Both of these organizations are lead by Karl Rove.

Santorum’s endorsement could be a major boost to Hillyer’s campaign in the Republican primary. During his presidential campaign, Santorum received the support of the Alabama Tea Party, a major voting block in Republican primaries. Santorum’s endorsement could significantly boost Hillyer’s chances of receiving the Tea Party’s support in the race for Alabama’s first congressional district.

Shifting gears into state politics, the 2013 legislative session revealed a growing split between the grassroots efforts of the Tea Party and the financial interests of the Business Council of Alabama.

The split first manifested itself in the debate over the “gun bill.” While Tea Party activists supported stronger pro-second amendment positions, the Business Council fought to ensure that company liabilities were protected and that businesses could limit gun owners’ rights to keep and store firearms while on company property. The split re-emerged during debate over several education issues, including the Common Core Curriculum, the Tim Tebow bill that would have allowed home-schooled children to participate in extra-curricular activities at local public schools and the Accountability Act.

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It is not clear if this divide between business interests and grassroots activists in the Tea party will continue or have any affect on the special election for Alabama’s first congressional district.

State Representative Randy Davis (R-Daphne), Orange Beach businessman Dean Young and Mobile Realtor Jessica James have announced they will seek the Republican nomination for this seat. While the seat is favored for Republican, Democratic Party leaders have said they believe this seat is winnable and plan to field a competitive candidate. So far, Representative Napoleon Bracy (D-Prichard), who announced on Facebook that he will be forming an exploratory committee to determine if he will seek the Democratic nomination, is the only Democrat to publicly express an interest in the special election.

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