By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Candidates were at Alabama Republican Party Headquarters early in the business day and were in and out of ALGOP’s building all day. Before noon ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ had talked with over a dozen freshly qualified candidates.
State Auditor Candidate Adam Thompson was the first to file papers with the Alabama Republican Party for the office of State Auditor.
In a written statement, Thompson said that he has crisscrossed the state as a candidate, having travelled approximately 25,000 miles and attended more than 70 GOP meetings since first announcing his candidacy last year.
Thompson said, “I’m proud to be the first one to qualify. I’ve been honored to work for the people of Alabama and I hope they will allow me to continue to do so as the next State Auditor.”
Thompson is opposed to any effort to eliminate the State Auditor’s Office, saying, “I will fight any effort to eliminate the only independent watchdog the citizens of Alabama have in their government. Your tax dollars are too important not to be carefully watched.” Thompson pledged to appoint qualified, conservative people to the Boards of Registrars, the entity charged with registering voters across the state.
Former Shelby County Republican Party Chairman Matt Fridy qualified for Alabama House District 73. House District 73 is a new district in Shelby County, which gained population in the past decade.
Bob Fincher qualified for that Alabama House of Representatives in District 37, where incumbent Rep. Laird is retiring.
Attorney General Luther Strange also filed candidate paperwork and paid the accompanying fee to the Alabama Republican Party, officially qualifying him as a candidate for Alabama Attorney General. While Strange is pleased with what he has accomplished in his first term, he said that there is still a lot of work to be done:
“Our most basic freedoms are currently under attack from a federal government that has gotten out of control, and as Attorney General I’ve fought back against these assaults on our liberty. This country was built on the rule of law, and I took an oath to uphold the US Constitution and laws passed by the state of Alabama. Whether it is the Obama administration’s attempted takeover of our country’s health care system, overly burdensome regulations from the EPA, or infringements on our right to live our lives in accordance with our religious beliefs, I have put the full power of my office into protecting Alabama’s citizens…I am dedicated to protect every Alabama citizen and every Alabama business, so that our state and its economy can continue to prosper.”
Amie Beth Shaver formally qualified to run for State Representative from Alabama House District 43. Shaver said that her campaign has been going well and that she has a busy schedule of activities planned over the next two months. Shaver is a former Miss Alabama, a wife, a mother, and a conservative activist who has a long record of speaking in favor of abstinence. She is pro-life and is opposed to the controversial Common Core standards.
Doug Clark, Arnold Mooney, and Cheryl Ciamarra also filed their qualification papers for District 43 where popular incumbent, Mary Sue McClurkin has announced that she will not seek re-election.
One of the first candidates to file the necessary paperwork at Alabama Republican Party headquarters in Hoover was former Montgomery County Probate Judge Resse Mckinney, Jr. Judge McKinney is running for the position of Alabama Secretary of State.
Judge McKinney said, “I believe government should be responsive to the needs of the public, and I will work tirelessly as your next Secretary of State to advance our conservative principals in Montgomery.”
The Alabama Political Reporter also talked with retired St. Clair County Presiding Judge Jim Hill. Hill is running for state representative in District 50 where the incumbent representative, Jim McClendon, has announced that he is vacating the position to pursue a seat in the State Senate. Prior to serving in the St. Clair County Courts, Judge Hill was the attorney for St. Clair County government as well as city attorney for the City of Moody.
Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden also qualified for re-election on Monday. Oden is a long time state representative who was appointed to the PSC by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) to fill the unexpired term of Twinkle Cavanaugh Andress who was elected PSC President in 2012.
State Representative David Standridge similarly filed papers to run for re-election in House District 34. The former Blount County Probate Judge had a long career in law enforcement prior to his service in county and later state government. Standridge is asking voters for a second term in the Alabama legislature.
Republican Sixth District Congressional Candidate Dr. Chad Mathis also officially filed his qualifying paperwork. In addition to qualifying on Monday, Dr. Mathis announced that he raised $356,097.82 since launching his campaign in October. Dr. Mathis said in a written statement, “Thanks in large part to the generosity of friends, family and supporters who have contributed to our campaign, I feel we are on our way to victory. Starting the 1st quarter of 2014 with more than $305,000.00 cash-on-hand shows the strength of this campaign.” Dr. Mathis is an orthopedic surgeon from Indian Springs.
Dr. Mathis said “The impressive financial report we plan to file shows the support I have to repeal and replace Obamacare – and it will be my mission to achieve this the moment I’m sworn into office.”
Alabama Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey was one of the first candidates to file her qualification papers on Monday. Ivey is seeking a second term as Alabama’s Lieutenant Governor. Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan also qualified on Monday to run for a second term.
Others to qualify on Monday included: U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions qualified for re-election. U.S. Representative Mike Rogers is seeking another term in Congressional District Three. Peggy P. Miller Lacher qualified for the seventh judicial circuit judgeship (Calhoun and Cleburne Counties). William C “Bill” Thompson for Court of Civil Appeals Judge.
In the State Senate J.T. “Jabo” Wagoner and Greg Reed both qualified for re-election. Rep. Kerry Rich qualified for re-election in state House District 26. Rep. Bill Roberts in District 13. In House District 24 Nathaniel Ledbetter qualified. In state House District 42 James M. Martin filed. In House District 46 Pamela Blackmore-Jenkins qualified. Mary Scott Hunter qualified for re-election to the Alabama Board of Education. Judge qualifiers: Wes Mobley (Cherokee County), Melody Walker (Cleburne County), Glea Sarrell (Cleburne County), Suzanne Childers (Jefferson County), John “Jay” M Mastin (Marshall County), Brent Craig (Morgan County), Charles B. Langham (Morgan County), and Daniel A. Crowson (Shelby County).
The Alabama Republican Party’s Chairman Bill Armistead wrote in a statement, “Not only will we qualify a record number of Republican candidates this year, but we will elect a record number of Republicans if we all work together for the good of the party. Once the primary is over in June, we must all rally around the victors and give them the support they need to win in the general election in November.”
Chairman Armistead continued, “Everyone at ALGOP headquarters has been working tirelessly to prepare for the qualifying period. We had anticipated opening qualifying on February 3, but the Department of Justice required us to close qualifying on February 7 in order to insure adequate time for the overseas military personnel return their ballots. We look forward to having candidates for state offices come to our new state Republican headquarters to qualify over the next four weeks.” Qualifying is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 PM at party headquarters at 3505 Lorna Road in Hoover on weekdays. Some of the Republican Party staff will be in Montgomery on Wednesday, January 15 at the RSA Plaza from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM to qualify candidates from our state’s capital.
The Alabama Democratic Party is also reportedly actively qualifying candidates.
The deadline for qualifying for office from either of the major parties this year is February 7th. The deadline had been April 4th, but was moved up by Sec. of State Bennett in response to U.S. Department of Justice litigation on behalf of Americans serving overseas.
The party Primaries will be Tuesday, June 3. Most of the eventual Republican nominees will then have to face Democratic and/or minor party or independent opponents in the November election.
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 have some limitations on working directly with inmates without correctional officers present.
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.