By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Why would a self-described Conservative Republican Christian decide to toss his hat in the political ring to run against a Democrat, only to then suddenly bow out?
The short answer: political pressure.
The longer answer involves principle verses party and an individual’s desire to represent his district, as opposed to exercising blind loyalty to the party leadership.
This is what happened to Barbour County resident John Carroll.
Carroll considers himself a man of deep faith who has survived great personal misfortune only to see his life restored by his God, whom he believes has called him to help others.
One of the missions Carroll has championed is the news publication, Barbour County Reporter, a web-based community news organization.
Its masthead reads, “Conservative Faith Based Journalism.”
Under that banner, Carroll and his staff, comprised of young, inspiring writers and seasoned elders, offer news and insight into the events shaping their rural county.
Carroll said he was surprised when he was approached by several people who represent the, “highest level of the Republican party,” to run for Senate District 28 against incumbent Democrat Billy Beasley.
“I reluctantly agreed to run,” after week of “persistent” recruiting said Carroll. He said he informed the party chieftains that he would only seek the office if he was assured that there would be a serious effort to end widespread political corruption and that a serious effort was under taken to fight drug trafficking in the county.
Carroll said he made it very clear that he would not have, “any patience for corruption. I would vote how I believed.”
He said he told the leadership that he would always be open to reason but that he would do what was best for the people of the district and not follow in lock step with the party.
It was after qualifying as the Republican Senate candidate for district 28 that Carroll began to have trouble. “I was given an ultimatum by the chair of the party in this region, Jeannie Tillis, I was given a choice…I couldn’t be involved in a newspaper or news media organization and run for the Senate,” said Carroll. Carroll said that Tillis indicated that she was speaking on behalf of the State Republican leadership when she gave her ultimatum.
An attempt to reach Tillis was unsuccessful.
Carroll said that his efforts to give the young people of Barbour County a voice through the news site was not something he was willing to abandon at the whim of the party. “They did not feel that you could be in the truth telling business…so I sided with the young people I’ve tried to help…we all have an obligation to speak the truth as we know it…[even if] it’s political suicide,” Carroll said.
When asked to seek office, Carroll said he believes he has a good chance at raising the funds necessary to win the contest. He said another ominous event occurred when he was approached by those whom he referred to as “involved in gambling activities,” contacted him.
Carroll said he was offered a hefty $50,000 for his campaign coffers. “The problem I have with that,” said Carroll, “I believe the people should decide on the issue of the lottery…I believe subverting the system is wrong.”
He said that the confluence of events convinced him that he could not seek office under such circumstances.
Writing in the Barbour County Reporter, Carroll said, “My focus will be to build a non-partisan independent voice in our region and to continue the work of building a community newspaper where young and disadvantaged people have a voice. No temporary political office, or personal financial incentive, at any level, is more valuable than that.”
Carroll would not identify the party leaders or gaming interests who approached him.