By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tom Vigneulle is running for Congress in Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District. On Monday, April 7, Vigneulle took some time out from his busy campaign to talk in depth with the Alabama Political Reporter.
Vigneulle said that his campaign was building some momentum. Tom Vigneulle is a businessman who owns Royal Mattress Manufacturing on Highway 31 in Pelham.
Vigneulle supports switching our federal taxing system from a complex mix of payroll, death, gift, capital gains, excise, dividend, corporate, and hidden taxes to the Fair Tax. Vigneulle said that the Fair Tax is a sales tax on consumption not an income tax. Some tax reformers favor a flat tax where everyone would pay a flat income tax rate. Vigneulle’s fair tax plan has no tax at all on income.
Vigneulle said the Fair Tax is a 23 percent consumption tax that would apply only on to on retail new products sold retail to the end user. The more of your income that you spend, the more taxes that you pay. The Fair Tax also takes care of the poor because every American would get a prebate from the government every month regardless of income large enough to take care of everyone’s bare necessities. For a typical family of four the prebate would be nearly $600 a month. A family of four would receive almost $7200 a year back from the government.
According to the Alabama Political Reporter’s math, families making that which spent every penny of their income on new merchandise would essentially have $31,000 in income before they started paying more in taxes than they get back. Poorer families would actually make money on this system.
Vigneulle said that he supports the Fair Tax because it gets rid of the odorous IRS and their 71,000 rules and regulations including the threat of audit. Vigneulle said that the Fair Tax is a common sense solution that transfers power from politicians and lobbyists to the people. Vigneulle said that this is not a new idea. The Fair Tax already has 74 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Fair Tax will cause the underground economy to share in the tax burden. There will be no more taxes on labor, hard work, savings or investments.
Mr. Vigneulle said the Fair Tax is revenue neutral. “Most people are going to pay less overall except for the ones who have been cheating.” The Fair Tax would end all the payroll tax withholdings. “If they (taxpayers) make a $1000 a week they will actually take home $1000 a week.”
Vigneulle favors repealing and replacing Obamacare (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010). The Democrats keep saying that Republicans have no plan, but there are a number of great proposals out there. The Heritage Foundation has one. Dr. Carson has one.
Vigneulle said that Obamacare, “Has taken over 20% of our economy that didn’t need to be replaced.” Vigneulle says he has seen his own healthcare insurance premiums jump from $684 a month to $1524 a month. His family had no coverage at all in January for the first time in his life due to the changes due to Obamacare. He has coverage now, but as a small businessman he has seen how Obamacare has harmed the healthcare insurance market personally.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked if a Republican Congress will be able to sit down with President Obama and work out a compromise. Vigneulle said, “With this President there will not be a compromise.”
Vigneulle said that President Obama is not acting under the restrictions placed on the President by the U.S. Constitution. “Why our leadership is not taking a stand on those issue is beyond me.” “We are not getting strong leadership from the House.” It is frustrating to most Americans.
They want the Republicans to take a stand.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked Vigneulle if he would support John Boehner (R) from Ohio for another term as Speaker of the House.
“I will not vote for Boehner as the House leadership,” Vigneulle said. “I think we are very close to getting a change at the top.”
The Alabama Political Reporter asked if the abortion debate is ‘settled law’ and we need to accept it and move on.
Tom Vignuelle said, “My opinion is that it isn’t settled. I believe that life begins at conception.”
The Alabama Political Reporter asked about how the present poverty situation has resulted from a decline of the family within the culture and the dramatic increase in broken families and unwed mothers.
Vigneulle said, “The Church has abandoned the government. There needs to be a partnership between government and churches.” We need to have moms and dads in the same home. The Churches have allowed that to happen. We don’t need to beat up people, but Churches should be providing mentorship programs to teach young people and train them so that they have a strong family home.
Vigneulle believes that implementing the Fair Tax program will put more money into people’s hands. The economy is really going to grow and the federal government will have more money to balance the budget and to begin to pay down the debt due to the increase in economic activity as well as capturing the money in the underground economy.
Vigneulle said that the Federal Reserve needs to have a single purpose of maintaining the strength of the dollar. Vigneulle does not favor attacking the debt by devaluing the dollar and paying back the debt with a weaker dollar. “There are 60 seconds in a minute and there should be one hundred cents in the dollar.” Vigneulle believes that a stable dollar is necessary to motivate businessmen to take risks. The dollar should be worth approximately the same value a year from now.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked if the country should go back to the gold standard.
Vigneulle said it can not happen overnight, but yes he could support that though it would be a high task to accomplish.
Vigneulle said, “We have got to change the philosophy that this president has moved in. The federal government is passing 3000 new regulations per year on top of all the things they have already done. Every rule, regulation, or tax needs to be passed by the House of Representatives and approved by the Senate for it to become law. We have got to get these regulatory agencies under control.”
Vigneulle favors aiding Americans in need of assistance but persons receiving assistance need to have to do some sort of work in order to receive that assistance. There are exceptions for those who really can’t take care of themselves.
Vigneulle said that the main reason that Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea is that we lied to our allies. We promised Poland and our eastern European allies that we would build a missile defense shield then we didn’t do it under this President. “We have a president that punishes our allies and rewards our enemies.” “We did not keep our promises to the Ukraine.” We need a President whose word is his bond. We are breaking promises that were made to our own military. “We need to reestablish that our word is our bond.”
Vigneulle said that he supports the Ronald Reagan philosophy of ‘Peace through strength.’ The current administration has weakened us and emboldened our enemies. “We have things going on that didn’t happen when we had strong leadership in the Whitehouse.” Vigneulle cited the Ukraine crisis, the situation in Syria, and Iran as examples.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked if his lack of legislative experience would be a disadvantage for him if he were to win this race.
Vigneulle said, “This is an even table.” “They haven’t been at the federal level. They will do the same thing I will do,” and that is to hire someone to help him get his congressional office up and running at speed.
Vigneulle said that his competitors lack his small businesses experience. “I have dealt personally with the way regulation affects us. I understand what small businesses face because I am a small business owner.” Any new regulation should come back under the House of Representatives.
Vigneulle said regulations are a way for the progressives to take control so that they can have the pie. He said that he supports common sense regulations.
Mr. Vignueulle said that he is running a clean campaign. “I am trying to be the quarterback of the team. I am not taking pot shots at the other candidates.” Voters have to learn why I am the best candidate. “I don’t need to take pot shots at these candidates.” Vigneulle believes that if he wins the Republican Primary that he will be able to unite the various Republican factions for the November election.
Vigneulle said that he relates to people in the district because he is a small business owner. “I am one of them financially” and am part of the community. “I believe I can relate to their stories in a better way.” Vigneulle is appealing to the hearts and minds of the constituents in the Sixth District.
Vigneulle supports term limits. “There is a bill that has been proposed that only six Republicans have signed.” It would limit Congressmen to just six terms in the House or two terms in the Senate. He would prefer even shorter terms but he wants to pass a bill on term limits.
Vigneulle raises beef cattle on his family farm and has a better understanding of farming than some candidates in this race. “I have a better grasp of the basic (agricultural) issues than some of the other candidates.”
Vigneulle said that having small business experience is a big asset in this race. “I understand how to live under regulation and taxation.”
“We have to take the boot of the federal government off the throat of the American people,” Vigneulle said.
Vigneulle is running in a crowded Republican field that includes: the co-founder and longtime CEO of the Birmingham based Alabama Policy Institute (API), Gary Palmer; longtime Harbert executive, Will Brooke; Indian Springs orthopedist Chad Mathis (R); state Senator Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale, Robert Shattuck, and state Representative Paul Demarco from Homewood. The Sixth Congressional District is one of the most conservative districts in the entire country.
The winner of the Republican Primary will still have to face Democrat Avery Vice in November.
The Republican Primary is June 3rd.
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.