By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter
Today, voters will head to the polls in Mobile, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa to cast ballots in crucial municipal elections. Below, catch the rundown on the major races and candidates on the ballot in each city.
The Mobile mayor’s race is a nonpartisan race between incumbent Mayor Sam Jones and challengers Sandy Stimpson and Doris J.W. Brown.
Jones is Mobile’s first African-American mayor who previously served four terms as a Mobile county commissioner. Stimpson is an executive with Scotch Gulf Lumber and once served as chair of the Business Council of Alabama. Brown is a Michigan native who served on the Wages and Deviation Board under then-Michigan Governor John Engler. She moved to Mobile in 2005.
Mobile City Council districts two, three and four are also on the ballot.
In district two, Lakeshia Dotson, Levon C. Manzie, Florence Marie McElroy, Karlos Turner and Greg Vaughan will compete for the seat. In district three, Kimberly Evans and C. J. Small will be on the ballot. In district four, voters will choose between Tim O. Burnett, Milton Morrow, Labarron Wiley and John C. Williams.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If necessary, a run off election will be Tuesday, October 8.
In Birmingham several municipal offices are on the ballot, including mayor, city council and school board.
Incumbent Birmingham Mayor William Bell is seeking his first full four-year term. He was elected in a special election in 2009 and reelected in 2011. Before serving as mayor, he was President Pro Tem of the Jefferson County Commission. He will be challenged by Kamau Afrika, Pat Bell, Stephannie Huey and Adlai Trone.
Afrika is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College and was appointed to Mayor Kincaid’s Public Safety Transition Team in 2001.
Pat Bell is the founder and executive director of Pat Bell Innovations Organization. She has worked in multiple media advertising positions.
Huey is a math teacher in the Birmingham City School System. She is also a pastor at God’s Holy Tabernacle Church.
Trone is also a Birmingham math teacher who started an “Independent Financial Planning Center” in Auburn.
All of Birmingham’s city council seats and school board seats are on the ballot today, too.
In council district one, incumbent Lashunda Scales is being challenged by Pat Davis and Keith Rice.
In the second council district, incumbent Kim Rafferty is being challenged by Richard Rutledge, Neil Shah, Bart Slawson, Rollando Hollis and Everett W. Wess.
Incumbent Valerie A. Abbott is unopposed for the third council district seat.
Incumbent Maxine Herring Parker will face challenger Edward Maddox in council district four.
Robert Walker is challenging incumbent Johnathan Austin in the fifth council district.
Council district six will be a vote between Keith Aaron, John (JC) Harris, Willis H. (Buddy) (Mickey Mouse) Hendrix, Latonya Millhouse, Michael R. Morrison, James Stewart and Sheila Tyson.
Gary Bruce Lavender and incumbent James Roberson Jr. (Jay) will face off for the seventh council district.
Incumbent Steven W. Hoyt will face challenger Gerri Robinson in the eighth council district.
Council district nine will be a vote between Leroy Bandy, Angene Coleman, Eric Hall, Marcus Lundy, David Russell and Ellen H. Spencer.
As far as Birmingham City School Board, all nine districts are also up for election.
In school board district one, incumbent Tyrone H. Belcher Sr., will be challenged by Green E. Calhoun Jr., Sherman Collins Jr., Douglas Lee Ragland and Jerry Tate.
Lyord Watson will challenge incumbent Virginia Volker for the district two seat on the school board.
Brian Giattina is unopposed for the seat in district three.
The district four race will be between three new candidates: Rodney Huntley, Daagye Hendricks and Gwen P. Sykes
Randall Woodfin and Martha Casey McDowell will run for the fifth district.
District six has the largest race between six candidates: Cheri A. Gardner, Ervin Philemon Hill, Sr., Joy A. Smith, Lavon Beard and Gwendolyn Thomas Bell.
In district seven, Wardine T. Alexander, Darius Moore and Laurence Jackson will compete for the seat formerly held by Alana Hayes.
Incumbent April Myers Williams will face challengers Antwon B Womack and Patricia Bozeman-Henderson in district eight.
Emanuel B. Ford and Sandra K. Brown will face off in district nine.
Polls will be open in Birmingham from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Given the number of candidates, a runoff election will likely be necessary in several races. If the runoff is required, it will also be held October 8.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is running unopposed for his third term as mayor of Tuscaloosa. Several city council and school board seats have only one qualifier, while others have been hotly contested.
The uncontested seats for Tuscaloosa City Council are incumbent Harrison “Mailman” Taylor in district two, incumbent Cynthia Lee Almond in district three, Matt Calderone in district four and incumbent Kip Tyner in district five.
The contested city council seats are in district one, where incumbent Bobby Earl Howard is being challenged by Panganena “Panga” Wilson, Burrell G. Odom and Gregory “Greg” Stallworth, district six, where incumbent Bob Lundell is being challenged by Eddie Pugh and Patricia Evans Mokolo, and district seven, where incumbent William Tinker will face Sonya McKinstry and Albert G. “Big Al” Stinson Jr.
Two of the Tuscaloosa School Board seats are also uncontested: incumbent Earnestine Tucker in district two and Norman Crow in district three.
The race board of education chair is between Lee Garrison and Denise Hills.
In district one, incumbent James Minyard will face Earnestine “Stine” Young.
In district four, incumbent Kelly Horwitz is being challenged by Cason Kirby.
In district five, incumbent Harry C. Lee will face Joe Gattozzi. In district six, incumbent Marvin L. Lucas will face John Lollar.
And in district seven, incumbent Erskine Simmons will face challenger Renwick Jones.
Tuscaloosa polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuscaloosa’s runoff election, if necessary, will also be October 8.
ACLU joins lawsuit over Alabama voting amid COVID-19 pandemic
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19.
The American Civil Liberties Union and its Alabama chapter have joined in a lawsuit attempting to make it easier for some voters to cast their ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Alabama joined in the lawsuit filed in May by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program against Gov. Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill.
The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision last week blocked U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s order that would have allowed curbside voting statewide and waived certain absentee ballot requirements for voters in at least Jefferson, Mobile and Lee Counties.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19.
The lawsuit was also brought on behalf of People First of Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute.
With the Supreme Court’s decision, voters in the upcoming July 14 Republican runoff election will have to submit a copy of their photo ID and have either two adult witnesses sign their absentee ballot requests or have it notarized.
“Alabama is in the middle of a deadly and ongoing pandemic but is refusing to take common-sense steps to protect the public’s health and their right to vote for all elections in 2020. That’s why we are taking legal action,” said Alora Thomas-Lundborg, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project in a statement.
“In the midst of an out-of-control pandemic, Alabama officials should be doing everything they can to ensure that all voters have a safe, fair, and equal opportunity to cast a ballot. Instead, officials have chosen politics over public health and safety. They are fighting to make it harder to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted. This litigation is crucial to ensure safe, fair, and equal opportunity to vote,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, in a statement.
“As we head into preparations for the November general election with COVID-19 cases rising in Alabama, it is critical that our election officials take seriously the protection of voters, poll workers, and our democracy,” said Caren Short, senior staff attorney for SPLC in a statement. “In this critical election season, we are grateful to have Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Alabama join this effort to ensure that every voter is heard. No voter should have to choose between exercising their fundamental right to vote and their health or the health of a loved one.”
Deuel Ross, NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund senior counsel, said in a statement that over the July 4th weekend, Alabama reported nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases.
“Yet, state leaders insist on enforcing draconian restrictions on in-person and absentee voting that no other state finds necessary to combat the almost nonexistent issue of voter fraud,” Ross said. “These restrictions are needless in normal circumstances. They are deadly in a pandemic. At trial in September, we will work to make sure that state leaders comply with their constitutional duty to protect the rights and safety of all voters.”
In a Tweet on July 2, Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill expressed gratitude for the Supreme Court’s decision.
“With the news that we have received a Stay in this process, I am excited that the United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of those who believe in strict interpretation of the Constitution and has decided to grant the Stay and not endorse legislating from the bench,” Merrill said in the tweet.
Fauci calls on governors in states with surging cases to issue mask orders
As COVID-19 deaths in Alabama passed 1,000 on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci called on governors to issue face mask orders to slow the spread of the virus.
As COVID-19 deaths in Alabama passed 1,000 on Tuesday, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force called on governors to issue face mask orders to slow the spread of the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, when asked by APR whether he’d like to see governors in states with surging cases institute statewide orders to wear masks, said yes.
“I do believe a statewide mask order is important because there is a variability in people taking seriously or even understanding the benefit of masks,” Fauci said during a press conference, hosted by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama on Tuesday. “Masks make a difference. It is one of the primary fundamental tools we have.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on June 30 extended her “safer-at-home” order until July 31, but declined to institute any further mandates despite surging new cases and hospitalizations.
Fauci also said that social distancing and the closure of bars are important to communities looking to slow the spread.
“Fundamental things like masking, distancing, washing hands, closing bars — if you do that, I think it will be a giant step toward interfering with the spread in your community,” Fauci said.
At least 1,007 people have died statewide from COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
New daily COVID-19 cases in Alabama dipped below 900 for the first time in six days, but just barely, with 888 new cases on Tuesday. Thirty-one percent of the state’s total confirmed cases have come within the last two weeks.
Alabama’s hospitals on Monday were caring for more COVID-19 patients than at any time since the pandemic began.
UAB Hospital had 86 coronavirus patients on Monday, the highest the hospital had seen. Huntsville Hospital had 72 COVID-19 patients on Monday, and the surge in cases prompted the hospital to cancel elective surgeries and convert three surgical floors to COVID-19 care, according to AL.com.
At East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika there were 41 COVID-19 patients on Monday, which was the highest the hospital has seen in weeks and not far from the hospital’s peak of 54 patients on April 11.
The average age of those becoming infected with coronavirus has dropped by 15 years since the beginning of the pandemic, Fauci said, which has lowered the overall death rate due to the virus, as younger people usually fair better, but not if that young person has an underlying medical condition.
“We are now getting multiple examples of young people who are getting sick, getting hospitalized and some of them even requiring intensive care,” Fauci said, adding that even those young people who have coronavirus but are asymptomatic can spread the virus to others, who may be more compromised.
Fauci warned against pointing to the overall declining death rate and becoming lax about coronavirus, and said that “it’s a false narrative to take comfort in a lower rate of death.”
“There’s so many other things that are very dangerous and bad about this virus. Don’t get yourself into false complacency,” Fauci said.
Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told APR on Monday that it may take several weeks to learn whether the increasing number of those hospitalized in Alabama will worsen and require ICUs and ventilators, and possibly lead to a rise in deaths.
“We just don’t know yet. We don’t know which way we’re going to go,” Williamson said Monday. “We just know we got a whole lot more cases than we had a month ago, and we’ve got a lot more hospitalizations than we had a month ago.”
Asked about his thoughts on the state of the virus in Alabama, Fauci said that what’s alarming is the slope of the curve of new daily cases.
“When you see a slope that goes up like that you’ve got to be careful that you don’t get into what’s called an exponential phase, where every day it can even double, or more,” Fauci said. “You’re not there yet, so you have an opportunity, a window to get your arms around this, and to prevent it from getting worse.”
Speaking on what’s become the politicization of the wearing of face masks, Fauci said that politicization of any public health matter has negative consequences. President Donald Trump does not wear face masks in public, prompting concern from many that by doing so he’s suggesting to the public that masks aren’t needed. The issue is divided rather sharply along partisan lines.
In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, two-thirds of voters, 67 percent, said Trump should wear a face mask when he is out in public, but while 90 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents say the president should wear a mask in public, just 38 percent of Republicans said the same.
“I mean, obviously today, it’s no secret to anybody who lives in the United States that we have a great deal of polarization in our country, unfortunately,” Fauci said. “We hope that changes, but there’s no place for that when you’re making public health recommendations, analysis of data, or any policies that are made. That will always be a detriment to do that.”
Governor awards $18 million for COVID-19 testing in nursing homes
Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday awarded $18.27 million of federal COVID-19 relief money to the Alabama Nursing Home Association Education Foundation for coronavirus testing and surveillance in the state’s nursing homes. The Coronavirus Relief Fund money is to be used to test and monitor both nursing home staff and residents, according to a press release from Ivey’s office Tuesday.
“During the pandemic, it is critical we take care of our seniors and most vulnerable residents,” Ivey said in a statement. “Some of our largest outbreaks of COVID-19 were within nursing homes, and we must do everything possible to contain the spread within their walls. Protecting these vital members of the community, as well as the dedicated staff who take care of them, is precisely the intent of the Coronavirus Relief Fund.”
The $18.27 million for testing in nursing homes comes from Alabama’s approximately $1.9 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds.
“I am extremely grateful to Governor Kay Ivey and her administration for supporting the ongoing testing of residents and staff in our facilities,” said Brandon Farmer, president and CEO of the Alabama Nursing Home Association, in a statement. “This virus is not like anything we’ve ever seen and has hit our nursing homes and staff exceptionally hard. I am relieved to know we will have assistance to contain the spread of this virus and hopefully be able to eliminate it from our nursing homes.”
John Matson, communications director for the Alabama Nursing Home Association, told APR by phone Tuesday that testing for COVID-19 has been a financial burden on nursing homes “and this will go a long way in helping cover that and relieve that strain that our members are experiencing.”
There’s already been a great deal of testing among staff and residents across Alabama’s nursing homes, and the federal aid will only increase that testing and ensure that the cost of future tests will be reimbursed, Matson said. The organization continues to work out details of a plan to implement the testing and surveillance, and once those plans are ready the association will reach out to all nursing homes statewide to communicate that information, he said.
The nonprofit Alabama Nursing Home Association Education Foundation, is to provide a testing strategy and screening protocols and administer the federal aid, according to the release.
There had been 1,794 confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents in Alabama nursing homes as of June 21, the latest data made available by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Of those cases, 336 residents have died, according to the federal agency.
GOP candidate Tommy Tuberville leads Trump “boat parade” in Orange Beach
Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville rode in the lead boat in a “boat parade” on Sunday in Orange Beach, celebrating Independence Day and the launch of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Hundreds of boats participated in the Trump parade in the Perdido Pass area. WKRG TV estimates that more than 8,000 people joined. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores boats joined boats from Pensacola and Dauphin Island.
Trump supporter and Alabama Republican Executive Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. was also present.
“It was Awesome having Coach Tommy Tuberville on The TRUMP Boat at Orange Beach Alabama,” Hooper said. “Tommy was a Great Coach and he will be a Great US Senator. It’s Great To Be A TRUMP/ TUBERVILLE AMERICAN. Everybody was so Happy cheering for The President and Tommy on! Fun Day!”
Hooper is a former state representative from Montgomery.
Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. The Arkansas native lives in Auburn.
President Donald Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday.
“Today we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt,” Trump said. “I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defamed, their legacy will never ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”
Trump accused opponents of trying to dismantle America.
“Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” Trump alleged. “In so doing they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.”
“President Trump has given several good Speeches,” Hooper said. “This Speech was by far his best! It was straight up AWESOME! His speech was all about the Greatness of America! President Trump loves our Country and its great History. President Reagan has given some of the best speeches ever. This speech topped Reagan’s best. As for Perry O. Hooper Jr., I would get in a foxhole and fight for him to the end. God Bless President Donald J. Trump and GOD BLESS THE USA!”
Trump faces a stiff challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading in the polling.
Tuberville has been endorsed by Trump in the July 14 Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate. Tuberville faces former Sen. Jeff Sessions.