By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, Republican voters in Alabama state House District 104 go to the polls to elect a representative to replace Rep. Jim Barton who resigned to take a job as a lobbyist.
Competing in the special election are: Susan Hightower, Nathan Davis, Margie Wilcox, Ralph Carmichael, and Charlie Plyler.
Susan Hightower is a realtor, small business owner, and the wife of state Senator Bill Hightower (R). Hightower has been endorsed by the Alabama Forestry Association, the Alabama Alliance Against Abortion, and the Alabama Retail Association.
Susan Hightower is the owner of: Wee Exchange and Little Monkey Toes. She is also a licensed real estate broker. In July, Little Monkey Toes was awarded the 2013 Nappie Award for Mobile’s Best Children’s Clothing Store.
On her campaign website, Hightower said that she believes there are many viable options to educate our children, and parents should be able to decide which alternative is the best choice for their child and their family. Hightower promises that some of the issues she will address as a legislator include: coastal Insurance Reform, facilitating community action groups such as Southern Skyline Community, bringing more industry into South Mobile County, nurturing small businesses, decrease government, and education.
Ralph Carmichael is a small businessman, a retired pastor, and former missionary. He has also worked for Ford and for the West Bay Christian Center. Carmichael is among a growing number of Black conservatives who are running as Republicans in Alabama. The Alabama Republican Party is hopeful that that translates into more Alabama Blacks voting Republican in future elections.
Carmichael said on Facebook, “The special election for House District 104 is Tuesday, October 15. If you want a balanced budget, a representative who will represent ALL the residents of House District 104; cast your vote for me. I believe my experience in business, education background and desire to serve the residents of this district makes me the right choice. A vote for me, is a vote for you.”
Margie Wilcox owns several cab and transit companies in South Alabama and West Florida.
Wilcox said on her website that for more than 20 years she Margie has served on the government relations committees of the Business Council of Alabama, Chamber, and transportation organizations.
If elected Wilcox promises to reduce the size of government, publish most government documents on the web, and strengthen Alabama’s ethic laws. Wilcox said on her website: “Just a few years ago our republican leadership did a great job in passing new laws to improve our trust and confidence in elected leadership. Unfortunately the loop holes have been found. Double dippers are still double dipping and the old revolving door is spinning even faster. I am a cheerleader for the conservative leadership in our state and I want to join them with a push to close those holes and keep the promise to be the most honest and transparent leadership in the history of Alabama!”
Margie Wilcox went to work for Mobile Bay Enterprises as a bookkeeper in 1977. She worked her way to management and eventually bought a division of the company in 1992. In 2001 she formed Pensacola Bay Transportation, L.L.C., purchased Yellow Cab of Mobile in January 2007 and purchased Yellow Cab of Baldwin County in August 2007.
Margie Wilcox was raised in Theodore, is pro-life and pro-family. Margie is a charter member of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. On her website Wilcox said, “As a practicing Catholic she believes that we shouldn’t be afraid to pray to God. Margie believes that we should embrace our faith and acknowledge that our country was founded recognizing a higher power. Praying at home, in church, at school, or in the car is a way of life which we should embrace. We need more prayer, not less.”
Charlie Plyler was a manager of a successful Honda dealership. Plyler said on his website, “I am optimistic with Alabama’s economic outlook. Unemployment it still too high at 6.4%, but trending in the right direction. Our leaders must remain focused on the economy.” “I will be an advocate for the small business owner and fight excessive regulations. Small businesses account for 49.3% of all private-sector jobs in Alabama according to a recent report. What is good for small business is good for Alabama.”
Plyler said that, “Larger Companies locating in Alabama are also essential to the long-term economic growth of the state. The economic impact of large companies like EADS and Airbus locating in Mobile extends far beyond their initial expenditures and economic output from the main company. Separate small business support -companies and local vendors almost immediately come on the scene. Alabama must work to remain a business-friendly state. We also know that we must have an educated workforce, as well as, an adequate infrastructure to attract these large companies.”
Plyler said. “With a high Quality of Life and low taxes, we can bring people and businesses into the state. – Alabama is a beautiful, friendly state. If we give people a reason to visit Alabama, they will come back. Some of these areas include the Alabama State Park system with its 22 state parks.”
On improving Alabama’s National Public Image, Plyler wrote, “It is extremely important that the State’s leaders continue to work to improve Alabama’s national public image. Too many politicians try to “grandstand” in order to draw attention to themselves while bringing negative press towards the great state of Alabama.”
Charlie Plyler favors auditing state-supported college and Universities to make sure that tuition increases are justified. Plyler also promised to be an advocate for the autistic, adoption rights, and Pro Life legislation. Other issues important to Plyler include: housing and coastal Insurance reform, protecting private property rights, second amendment rights, term limits, and energy. Plyler wrote, “Alabama has been blessed with a number of natural resources including Natural Gas and Coal. The EPA is making it life much more difficult on Coal companies and Coal-fired power plant. This is going to affect jobs and will raise the cost of power to Alabama customers. We must make sure that these companies are environmentally aware, but do what we can on a state level to make sure these regulations do not go too far.”
Nathan Davis is an operations manager for an air conditioning distributor. Davis is a vocal critic of the controversial common core standards. According to original reporting by al.com, Davis called common core “a top down, one-size-fits-all program for all children.”
Davis supports the Alabama Accountability Act. Davis said that if a school is ot viable then it should close. “Why keep a stone school afloat with taxpayer money when we can send them to a school more qualified to teach them?”
Davis has been married for three years and has a new child with his current wife and a son from a previous marriage.
Nathan Davis was Rep. Jim Barton’s primary challenger in 2010 and won over 34% of the vote.
Davis said, “I’m running for the exact same reason I ran last time,” he said. “I’m seriously worried about the future of my children and our country. I’m an optimist and a realist. I cannot ignore Washington and the national debt and as a state representative, you should represent voters of 104 and the state of Alabama. I’m a big believer in the 10th Amendment and Constitution and it’s going to be my priority to do as much as I can to refute federal mandates and intrusions in our lives.
Polls will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm on Tuesday.
The winner of the Republican Primary will still have to face Democrat Stephen Carr II.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
Inmate assault injures two St. Clair prison correctional officers
The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries.
Two correctional officers at St. Clair Correctional Facility were injured in an inmate-on-officer assault on Monday, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed to APR.
Among the two officers who sustained non-life-threatening injuries was a basic correctional officer (BCO), a position created in May 2019, who are not Alabama Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (APOST) certified and who cannot transport inmates, work perimeter fencing or in towers.
The other officer injured was a full correctional officer, Alabama Department of Corrections spokeswoman Samantha Rose told APR in a message Friday. The assaults happened at approximately 7:30 p.m. and both officers were taken to a local hospital and treated for those non-life-threatening injuries and subsequently released, according to Rose.
“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the actions taken by the inmate against ADOC staff are being thoroughly investigated,” Rose said. “As the investigation into this incident is ongoing, we cannot provide additional detail at this time. More information will be available upon the conclusion of our investigation.”
The ADOC created the new basic correctional officer position to bolster the state’s woefully understaffed prisons. The creation of the position was also at the suggestion of experts ordered by a federal court to study the department’s staffing problems, ADOC attorneys wrote to the court in a filing in 2019.
The ongoing lawsuit is over the state’s handling of mental health in prisons.
The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disability Advocacy Program filed the 2014 suit arguing the state was indifferent to the health of inmates dying by suicide in greater and greater numbers.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in June argued that ADOC was far behind on the court-ordered hiring new additional officers. It has been more than two years since U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to hire an additional 2,000 correctional officers by 2022.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in a previous opinion wrote that prison understaffing “has been a persistent, systemic problem that leaves many ADOC facilities incredibly dangerous and out of control.”
“Taken together, ADOC’s low correctional-staffing level, in the context of its severely overcrowded prisons, creates a substantial risk of serious harm to mentally ill prisoners, including continued pain and suffering, decompensation, self-injury, and suicide,” Thompson’s previous opinion continued.
The SPLC in court filings late last year expressed concern over the use of basic correctional officers in Alabama’s overcrowded and understaffed prisons. ADOC attorneys have argued to the court, however, that BCO’s are adequately trained to do their jobs and are needed for the department to hire the necessary number of officers per the court’s timeline.
In a court filing on Thursday, attorneys for the plaintiffs asked the court not to again delay site visits to Alabama prisons by two experts who are tasked by the court to determine which positions should be filled by correctional officers and which by BCO’s and which by another new position, called cubical correctional officers, who are to have no direct interaction with inmates.
Those visits were to begin in May, but both parties in the suit agree to wait due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat it posed to the experts, who are particularly vulnerable to the disease due to “age and other factors,” according to court records.
Both parties again agreed to postpone those visits in June for those same reasons, those records show. ADOC seeks a third extension but attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the experts can visit the prisons while keeping themselves, prison staff and inmates safe from harm of COVID-19 and that thousands of employees and contractors enter Alabama prisons daily.
The plaintiff’s attorneys argue in the court filing that the expert guidance is needed because ADOC wishes to use BCO’s and cubical correctional officers to comply with the court-ordered hiring of additional staff by Feb. 20, 2022.
“Ensuring adequate staffing is of upmost importance to address the constitutional violations underlying mental health care within ADOC,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote to the court Thursday.
ADOC in May was employing 494 BCO’s, a 57 percent increase in the number of BCO’s employed in Oct. 2019, according to ADOC’s staffing numbers. The number of correctional officers working in Alabama prisons fell by two percent during that time, dropping from 1,319 to 1,287.
Slow absentee voting in Tuscaloosa sparks outrage, possible legal action
Among the issues were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Long lines and slow absentee ballot processing in Tuscaloosa County have left voters outraged and incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’s campaign threatening legal action.
On Wednesday, Jones’s campaign attorney, Adam Plant, sent a letter to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Clerk Magaria Bobo, outlining a number of issues with ongoing absentee voting and promising to take legal action if Bobo doesn’t improve the process on the final day, Friday. Among the issues documented by Plant were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours.
Additionally, Plant noted that Bobo has hired her family members to help process absentee ballots and at least one family member had made disparaging remarks on social media about voters.
“You and those acting on your behalf are suppressing the vote of qualified Alabama voters,” Plant wrote in the letter. “If you are unable or unwilling to execute your duties competently, and allow Tuscaloosa voters to exercise their voting rights without undue burdens, we will take further action.”
In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday, Bobo noted that her office had received more than 13,000 requests for absentee ballots — a remarkable uptick from the 3,000 or so her office usually receives — and there had been problems in managing that number of ballots while also adhering to social distancing guidelines within the office.
However, as Plant’s letter notes, the massive increase in absentee ballots for this election shouldn’t have been a surprise. Also, Secretary of State John Merrill had made additional funds available to absentee managers to facilitate hiring extra staff, purchasing additional computers and staying open for longer hours to accommodate the anticipated increase.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Alabama Democratic Party criticized Bobo and her family members, and the release included screenshots of Facebook posts from Bobo’s daughter lashing out at voters who complained about the long wait times.
“No voter should have to wait in line for hours to exercise their rights,” said ADP executive director Wade Perry. “We should leverage every tool we have to make voting easier, not harder. Also, it should go without saying that election workers should not insult the very people they are employed to serve. If Ms. Bobo is incapable of processing voters quickly, someone else needs to do the job.”
Jones campaign calls Tuberville a “coward” after no-show at Auburn forum
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” Jones’s campaign said.
There are only four days left before election day, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign is slamming Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville, accusing him of “hiding” and calling him a “coward.”
On Wednesday, Jones addressed an Auburn University forum. Tuberville did not attend.
“Tonight, the College Democrats and College Republicans at Auburn University co-hosted a debate between Doug Jones and Tommy Tuberville, offering students a chance to ask the candidates about the issues that matter most to Alabama,” the Jones campaign said in an email to supporters. “But Tuberville never showed up – he’s too scared to face Doug… even on his own home turf. Tuberville has repeatedly refused to debate Doug Jones. He’s consistently refused to be interviewed by the press. He’s refused to tell Alabama the truth about who and what they’re voting for – and it’s clear why.”
“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” the campaign continued. “If he won’t tell the truth, we will. Tuberville expects to win this race off of his blind allegiance to the President and his party affiliation. But Alabamians know better.”
“People deserve to know who they’re really voting for if they vote for Tuberville: someone who … won’t protect our health care, doesn’t believe in science, has no idea what the Voting Rights Act is, and doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of Alabamians,” the Jones campaign concluded. “Alabama will never elect a coward. Pitch in now and help us spread the truth about the man hiding behind the ballot.”
“I am disappointed that Tommy Tuberville is not here,” Jones said. “I think it is important that people see two candidates side by side answering the same questions.”
Tuberville meanwhile is canvassing the state, speaking to rallies and Republican groups to turn out the Republican vote for himself and President Donald Trump. Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest in Madison County on Thursday and at the Trump Truck Parade rally in Phenix City.
“It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who represents our conservative beliefs and traditional values,” Tuberville said in Phenix City. “It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who supports the Second Amendment, the right to life, and putting God back in the classroom.”
Polling consistently shows Tuberville with a commanding lead over Jones. Real Clear Politics lists the race on their current board as a likely Republican win. FiveThirtyEight’s election model gives Tuberville a 79 percent chance of defeating Jones.