By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, March 20, 2014, Alabama Secretary of State Candidate Reese McKinney (R) was in Moody to speak to members of the St. Clair County Republican Party. The Alabama Political Reporter was there to cover the event.
Reese McKinney said, “It is an honor to be here. I want to be your Secretary of State.” “It is a very important position for you and for the state.”
McKinney was the Probate Judge in Montgomery County. Probate Judge “Is a big big job and I took it very seriously.”
As Probate Judge McKinney said that he set up a no fee electronic filing for license tag renewals. “We did a lot to modernize the probate judge. We would have people in line six or seven hours.” McKinney said it was difficult to convince County Commissioners to get rid of the “convenience fees,” but eventually the government entities understand that time was money. “That worked for us in Montgomery.” He said that he enjoyed being Montgomery Probate judge and served for 15 years. He was appointed to finish his predecessor’s term and was then elected for two terms. He has been out of office for the last two years.
McKinney said, “Being a public servant is serious and I treat it seriously.”
McKinney was also a longtime member of the Alabama National Guard. “The Guard made a huge difference in my life.”
McKinney has two advanced degrees. He graduated from Huntington College, then started a family and moved to New York City where he got a second degree.
McKinney said he cherished his time in Montgomery working for Montgomery Mayor Emory Fulmer (R). “Fulmer is a great great guy and was truly a war hero in Korea. He did a lot for the country in that war.”
McKinney said that the two most important things that a Probate Judge does are: elections and handling business filings.
McKinney said that he has had had a small business since coming out of school. McKinney acknowledged that it was shaky at times.
Judge McKinney said that polling officials and the board of registrars are the foundation for honest elections. They are paid a small little stipend and go through extensive training.
McKinney said, “When I first got there in Montgomery I went to the Civic center and there were 8,000 people there to see a video. I immediately said we will never have this again.” McKinney said that he never trained more that 40 or 50 poll workers at a time.
McKinney stressed that it is important to do everything you can to have honest elections. “I was recognized nationally for the way we handle elections in Montgomery.”
Judge McKinney reminisced, “Election officials brought me some absentee ballots that seemed to have the same cursive handwriting.” McKinney asked his workers if this had happened before and they said yes but did not know what to do about it. “I took it to my district attorney.” Some of the people were brought in for questioning before the grand jury. Nothing could be proven. “They may have gotten smarter, but we never had that problem again.”
McKinney said that his office routinely turned in unused funds to the county general fund. McKinney said, “When I left office I left $1.7 million for the probate office.” McKinney inherited 99% of his employees in Montgomery County, but they bought in to the changes he was making. “Most employees are good employees with the right leadership,” McKinney said.
Judge McKinney said that business filings with the Sec. of State office can be handled electronically. McKinney said that business filings that now takes months can easily be handled quickly and efficiently without companies having to wait to do business in this state.
McKinney said that he is married to Beverely Gordy and is a Sunday School Teacher at Trinity Presbyterian Church. “I have really enjoyed my Church,” McKinney said.
McKinney said, “I am the only lifelong Republican, lifelong conservative in this race.” McKinney asked members present to compare the candidates. “I look forward to standing with you in the Secretary of State’s office.”
McKinney is running against state Representative John Merrill (R) from Tuscaloosa and Crenshaw County Probate Judge Jim Perdue.
Alabama’s COVID-19 hospitalizations surge over July 4th weekend
The new high of 919 patients in hospitals being treated for COVID-19 on Sunday was 41 percent higher than the number of patients a week ago on June 28.
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alabama hit another record high on Sunday, jumping over 900 for the first time since the pandemic began, and while the state’s supply of intensive care beds and ventilators are currently adequate, there’s concern that usage of both could spike in the coming weeks.
The new high of 919 patients in hospitals being treated for COVID-19 on Sunday was 41 percent higher than the number of patients a week ago on June 28, and the seven-day average of hospitalizations was also at a record high on Sunday at 818. Over the last week, Alabama saw five record highs in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association and a former state health officer, told APR on Monday that 893, or 57 percent of the state’s supply of ventilators, were available Monday morning, while 309 of 1,669 ICU beds, or 18.5 percent, were available.
Williamson said while those two indicators are encouraging, it may take several weeks to learn whether many of those hospitalized will worsen and require ICUs and ventilators, and possibly lead to a rise in deaths. He said another possibility is that younger people are being admitted for COVID-19 but may not become sick enough to require more of the hospitals’ resources, and doctors are getting better at caring for coronavirus patients.
“We just don’t know yet. We don’t know which way we’re going to go,” Williamson said. “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.”
Williamson said that from the week beginning June 29 to the week starting July 5, the average number of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by 140, rising from 658 hospitalizations to 798 hospitalizations on average during that time. He believes the number of confirmed cases will continue to spike after Fourth of July celebrations.
For six straight days, Alabama has added more than 900 new COVID-19 cases daily, and on Monday the state recorded 925 new cases, and the 14-day average of new cases was also higher than it’s been since the pandemic began, at 1,025.
While testing has increased in Alabama, so too has the percent of tests that are positive, a marker public health experts say shows that there still isn’t enough testing and many cases are going undetected.
“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.”
The 14-day average of percent positivity was 13.5 percent on Monday, and taking into account incomplete data on negative tests in April, which inflated the positivity percentage, the data Monday was at a record high. Public health experts say the number should be at or below five percent.
The seven-day and 14-day average of daily COVID-19 deaths both were at 11 on Monday, and the numbers have remained largely steady for most of May, June and July.
In the last week, there have been 79 COVID-19 deaths in the state. Since the pandemic began, there have been 984 deaths in Alabama attributed to the virus, and the Alabama Department of Public Health estimates that 23 more deaths are likely due to COVID-19.
Governor awards $48 million to Department of Education, up to $50 million for higher education
Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday awarded $48 million of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEERF) to the Alabama State Department of Education in response to challenges related to COVID-19. This allocation will enable schools to enact policies established in the Alabama State Department of Education’s Roadmap to Reopening Schools.
As schools across Alabama are navigating increased challenges related to COVID-19, this initial investment will assist by providing budget stability, enable distance learning for any student that seeks it, and get additional resources to students most in need.
The allocation will be used as follows:
- $10 million to equip all school buses with WiFi capabilities to increase internet connectivity and help bridge the digital divide
- $4 million to improve remote learning opportunities by providing digital textbook and library resources for all students
- $26 million to provide additional academic support to bridge learning and achievement gaps
- $9 million to support intensive before and after school tutoring resources for learning and remediation in schools
Additionally, Alabama institutions of higher education will be able to submit requests for a combined reimbursement of up to $50 million of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 designated up to $118.3 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for any lawful purpose as provided by the United States Congress, the United States Treasury Department, or any other federal entity of competent jurisdiction.
“I am pleased to invest in our state’s greatest asset – our students,” Governor Ivey said. “As we respond and adapt to COVID-19, we must ensure that our local school districts and institutions of higher education receive necessary support and provide our students full access to their educational opportunities. Closing school during the pandemic disproportionately impacts students who are already struggling, and it is our obligation to provide as much stability and access possible in these uncertain times.”
Tuberville should release fraud victims from NDAs, Sessions says
GOP Senate candidate and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions on Monday called on his primary opponent, former Auburn football head coach Tommy Tuberville, to release victims of a fraud scheme from non-disclosure agreements they signed as part of a court settlement.
“If Tommy Tuberville has nothing to hide, why does he continue to refuse to release the victims from the secrecy agreements that he made them sign, so that they could share exactly what happened?” Sessions said. “Tuberville and his lawyers must release the victims immediately, so we can get the full truth about this issue. Tommy’s hedge fund scheme bilked investors out of large sums of money, and now he’s trying to gag the victims to keep them quiet — and hope that Alabama voters don’t notice.”
Following the end of his coaching tenure at Auburn, Tuberville and former Lehman Brothers broker John David Stroud formed a hedge fund, which later went broke, costing the investors to lose their investments. Stroud went to prison and some investors sued Tuberville, who maintains he was the biggest victim of the fraud.
“If Tuberville was truly just an innocent investor and victim of the fraudulent hedge fund, as his campaign handlers now claim, why did he hand out business cards calling himself the ‘managing partner’ of the firm?” Sessions asked. “Why did the hedge fund’s offering documents that he gave to potential investors say that he was personally ‘responsible for the investment direction, capital raising, and the day-to-day oversight of business decisions’ of the fraudulent hedge fund? We need to know exactly what happened, and Tuberville must immediately give a full accounting of his scandals.”
Sessions has made the case that he is the known and vetted candidate and will be best able to withstand an onslaught of negative ads from Democrats who want to hold on to Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ Senate seat, which some analysts view as the most vulnerable seat in the 2020 election and a key pickup if Republicans hope to hold their narrow Senate majority.
“If this is just coming out now, we have to wonder what other skeletons are hiding in Tommy Tuberville’s closet,” Sessions said. “The truth is that he’s an unvetted candidate, and Alabama voters can’t afford to send a question mark into the race against Doug Jones and the millions of dollars of out-of-state money at his disposal.”
According to The New York Times’ reporting and court documents, the victims include a married couple from Wetumpka, a bookkeeper and a retired teacher, who invested $800,000 with TS Capital. The other victims include a married couple from Auburn, who transferred over $100,000 from their retirement accounts to invest with TS Capital.
After more than a year of fighting the lawsuit, Tuberville settled the case by paying a secret amount. All the parties involved signed non-disclosure agreements that prohibit them from speaking about the fraud allegations.
The Sessions campaign claims that it appears that none of the victims were made whole. “Meanwhile, Tuberville filmed videos for ESPN, bragging about his house on the white, sandy beaches of Florida,” the Sessions campaign said in a parting shot.
Tuberville and Sessions are running in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The winner will then face Jones in the Nov. 3 general election. Tuberville had the most votes in the March 3 Republican primary and has led Sessions in polling throughout the runoff race.
Judge refuses to dismiss Roy Moore lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen
A federal judge last week refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS filed by former Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Federal Judge Andrew Carter last week refused to dismiss a lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS. The lawsuit was filed by former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore and his wife Kayla Moore, who claim that Cohen slandered Moore as a pedophile on his now-canceled show “Who is America?”
After the judge denied Cohen’s request to dismiss the $95 million lawsuit, the case will now proceed to discovery, where the Moores announced that they intend to take the depositions of and obtain evidence from Cohen and other relevant individuals at Showtime, CBS and their related entities.
The Moores had put the defendants on notice that if they aired the offensive and defamatory interview by Cohen, who posed in disguise as an Israeli Mossad agent, that they would be sued for large damages. When the defendants did not heed the warning and aired the interview anyway, the Moores brought their lawsuit.
The case is being litigated in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York after it was transferred over a year ago from a federal court in Washington D.C.
“We are gratified that the Court is allowing the Moores’ case to go forward and we look forward to putting Cohen and the other defendants under oath,” said Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch, and a former federal prosecutor. “The alleged defamation of Chief Justice Moore was malicious and despicable and it is time that a jury of the parties’ peers allow justice to be done. Great harm has been caused to my clients, which must be addressed and remedied.”
In 2017, Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme court, was the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. The Washington Post released an investigation that alleged Moore sexually abused young women in the 1970s. Moore denied the accusations.