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ALGOP Factions Divided on Strategy as Election Looms

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Late on Monday night Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee members received a lengthy email from Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead in which the ALGOP Chairman accused members of the Party Steering Committee of attempting to sabotage the Alabama Republican Party’s election plans in favor of their own thinking.

Chairman Armistead wrote, “Several members of the ALGOP Steering Committee seem determined to sabotage ALGOP’s 2014 political plan to suit their own personal preferences.  They want to disregard the work that has been done, and is being done, by our political team who has worked for nearly two years developing our plan based on demographics, voting history, polling data and viability of candidate.”

The Alabama Political Reporter talked to Chairman Armistead about the situation in a phone interview. We asked the conservative party chairman if this sort of friction was normal in political parties at election time.  Chairman Armistead said that it is not, but here in Alabama there are some on the steering committee who opposed his candidacy for Chairman in 2011 and 2013 so strongly that it makes them crazy.

bill-armisteadChairman Armistead said that he was elected both times by over 60 percent of the voters on the Republican Party Executive Committee and they will just have to deal with it. Chairman Armistead told APR that if his opponents want to fight this out publicly in the press he is good with that.

Armistead told APR that ALGOP has been working on their election plan for two years and was critical of steering committee members who ignore the advice of professionals on the advice of self-professed political gurus.

Chairman Armistead said in the email, “The bottom line is there are certain members of the Steering Committee who want to remove funding from races that were determined as “targeted races” under a plan that our political team has developed under the direction of Chief of Staff Harold Sachs and me. The worst part of what they want to do is spend money on races where our contribution will not affect the outcome whatsoever. These Steering Committee members want to spend the money that we have raised over the last two years but they refuse to raise any money to assist us in winning these races.”

The Alabama Political Reporter talked with Republican campaign consultant and former ALGOP steering committee member Chris Brown. Brown said that the narrow 11 to 10 decision by the current ALGOP Steering Committee to strip the ALGOP Chairman of his powers to decide how the money is spent in the last three weeks before the election and give that authority to a committee is “very ironic” because “I sided with Armistead four years ago on the ALGOP Steering Committee when he did the exact same thing to the previous Republican Party Chairman, Mike Hubbard (R from Auburn), four years ago, “Except we did it earlier…..in August.”

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Chairman Armistead wrote in his email, “National Committeeman Paul Reynolds has demanded that we take $30,000 from candidates that we have been preparing for the November 4th election to give to his personal friend who is running for the State House from his hometown in Greenville, AL. The Secretary of State’s website shows that this candidate has $103,881.12 cash on hand, and polling shows that the candidate has an 18 point lead in the polls: 51.1% to 33.3%. In addition, Speaker Mike Hubbard has told me that he is providing the support this candidate needs including “fundraising, mail, consulting and on-the-ground field reps”.  Speaker Hubbard has made it clear to me that he is handling this race, and there is no reason for ALGOP to get involved.  I suggested to Mr. Reynolds that if he wants to help his friend, he should raise money for his campaign rather than take it from one of the candidates that really needs it, but he declined to assist his friend.”  Paul Reynolds represents the Alabama Republican Party on the Republican National Committee (RNC) and through that office holds a seat on the ALGOP state steering committee.

The candidate in Greenville, Chris Sells denied the statement that Speaker Hubbard is providing field reps and support for his campaign.

The Alabama Political Reporter reached out to National Committeeman Paul Reynolds for his comments on the Chairman’s email.  Committeeman Reynolds said that when he saw the email, “It knocked my socks off.  I was floored.  I thought we left this in the Steering Committee.”  Reynolds said that he did not want to comment further on the situation before the election because he did not want to distract from Republican candidates.

Brown said that he and Armistead were together on one side of the vote four years ago, while Reynolds sided with then Chairman Hubbard. While the vote went against then Chairman Hubbard, Brown credited him with keeping the rift out of the press, unlike Chairman Armistead.

One of the key points of contention is how much support the Republican Party is giving Dr. Larry Stutts who was named the GOP Candidate for Senate District 6 against incumbent State Senator Roger Bedford (D) from Russellville.

Chairman Armistead wrote, “AFRW (Alabama Federation of Republican Women) Chairman Frances Taylor led the effort to de-fund the Republican Senate candidate that Governor Bentley, Senator Del Marsh and I recruited to run against Senator Roger Bedford. There was no basis for her efforts to remove and/or reduce the funding for our Republican Candidate.  When it was explained to Ms. Taylor that we had worked closely with Sen. Marsh to determine where we should place our resources, she responded that she would not be told by Senator Marsh who to support. The proposed support for our candidate is to mail four direct mail pieces in the district just as we are doing for other targeted races.”

District 6 includes Franklin County and portions of Colbert, Marion, Lauderdale and Lawrence Counties. Dr. Stutts is an obstetrician and gynecologist in Sheffield and lives in Tuscumbia.

Chairman Armistead also criticized Senior Vice Chairman George Williams and Minority GOP Chairman Phillip Brown for demanding that ALGOP provide funding for some minority candidates.  Armistead said those candidates were not funded because they, “Have no campaign plan, no campaign organization, no money raised, and no evidence they are campaigning.” Armistead wrote that he has recruited 13 minority candidates, “And I have hired a full time Minority Outreach Director to help with this effort since Phillip Brown has not done this as Chairman of the Minority GOP.”

Chairman Armistead was also critical in his email of Second District Chairman Sue Neuwien and Seventh District Chairman Pierce Boyd by name.

Chairman Armistead wrote, “The ALGOP 2014 political plan is based on winning every statewide and congressional race and targeting certain legislative and local races. One of our underlying goals is to strengthen the party at the local level in order to establish the Party as the majority party at every level. Further details of the plan are explained in the attached overview of the plan. What you need to know is there are some on the Steering Committee who have opposed me at every turn, and I have dealt with this continually since I was elected Chairman almost 4 years ago.  Now, they have taken their personal opposition to me to a new low, and their attempt to run our political operation threatens to seriously damage the Party’s success on November 4th.”

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Chairman Armistead if he wanted to make an announcement or whether or not he wanted to run for another term as Chairman next year.  Chairman Armistead said the only race he is focused on right now are the elections in November.

Chris Brown said, “I ran Armistead’s race for Chairman four years ago.  I supported (then Shelby County Republican Party Chairman Matt) Fridy two year ago.  A third Armistead term would be horrible for the Alabama Republican Party.”

Chairman Armistead wrote, “The ALGOP political team has worked diligently to develop our 2014 political plan for the last 18 months. This plan should not be thrown out by a few people to satisfy their personal preferences. The ALGOP political team is very competent and is composed of Political Director Britney Garner, Voter Engagement Director Zach Bowman, Chief of Staff Harold Sachs, and Joe Domnanovich.”

Chairman Armistead said that he and Speaker Mike Hubbard, Senator Del Marsh, ALGOP Chief of Staff Harold Sachs, ALGOP Political Director Britney Garner met right after the June primary and determined that they would handle the campaigns of the incumbent legislators, and ALGOP would handle targeted House and Senate districts where there are no GOP incumbents.

Chairman Armistead wrote, “I do not believe that a select few members of the Steering Committee should step into this process during the last three weeks to dictate how campaigns will be managed and funded.”

 

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Elections

Alabama Farmers Federation endorses Jerry Carl

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, the Alabama Farmers Federation’s political action committee, FarmPAC, announced that they have endorsed Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl (R) for Alabama’s First Congressional District.

“We take pride in being a grassroots organization with local leaders driving the endorsement process,” said Federation President Jimmy Parnell. “After a careful consideration, county Federations in southwest Alabama made their recommendation, and I am pleased to announce the Alabama Farmers Federation has endorsed Jerry Carl. Alabama’s 1st Congressional district has a rich heritage rooted in agriculture and timber, and Jerry will be strong advocate from those industries in Washington.”

Carl expressed his appreciation for the Federation’s endorsement.

“It is an incredible honor to have the endorsement of the Alabama Farmers Federation,” Carl said. “With agriculture being our state’s largest industry, our farmers are the backbone of our state and our economy. They represent the hard-working interests of the district that I will fight for in Congress as we work to get our economy back on track. \The Federation knows I will fight tirelessly for the president’s agenda and will do what is needed to support the hard-working men and women who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs.”

Congressional endorsements are recommended by county Federations in each district based on the candidates’ positions on key issues impacting farmers and rural Alabama. Carl is running in the Republican primary runoff against former State Senator Bill Hightower. The First Congressional District is open because incumbent Rep. Bradley Byrne is not seeking re-election. The eventual winner of the Republican nomination will face the winner of the Democratic Party primary runoff in the November 3 general election. The Democratic runoff is between Kiani Gardner and James Averhart.

Other candidates in the July 14 runoff races endorsed by the Federation include: Tommy Tuberville (R) for U.S. Senate, Jeff Coleman (R) in Alabama Congressional District 2, and incumbent Judge Beth Kellum (R) for Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 2.

The Federation encourages voters concerned about casting a vote in person to follow guidance from Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill (R).

“Amid coronavirus concerns, it is important to remember that Alabamians who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness have the opportunity to avoid the polls on Election Day by casting an absentee ballot,” said Merrill. “Alabamians can access the application online or by visiting or calling their local Absentee Election Manager’s office.”

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Elections

35 days left to apply for an absentee ballot for primary runoff election

Staff

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Ahead of the July 14 Primary Runoff Election, Secretary Merrill reminds Alabama voters that there are 35 days left to apply for an absentee ballot.

In order to protect the safety and well-being of our voters, Secretary Merrill encourages those who are concerned about contracting or spreading the coronavirus to apply for and cast an absentee ballot.

Absentee ballot applications can be downloaded online or requested by visiting or calling the local Absentee Election Manager’s office.

Voters may also contact the Secretary of State’s Office at (334) 242-7210 to request an absentee ballot application.

Due to the declared states of emergency, any qualified voter who determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their polling place shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that is most applicable to that individual. In the case none of the boxes are appropriate, voters can check the box which reads as follows:

“I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]”

For the July 14 Primary Runoff Election, the deadline to register to vote is Monday, June 29, the deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is Thursday, July 9, the deadline to return an absentee ballot to the Absentee Election Manager is the close of business Monday, July 13, and the last day to postmark an absentee ballot is Monday, July 13.

Voters who are eligible to vote pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act will have until Tuesday, July 14 to postmark an absentee ballot.

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The following video walks voters through applying for an absentee ballot:

How to Apply for an Absentee Ballot for the July 14, 2020 Primary Runoff Election

To learn more about testing locations and options related to the coronavirus, please call 1-888-264-2256 or visit CDC.gov.

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Crime

Seven inmates, seven workers test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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The Alabama Department of Corrections on Tuesday said in a statement that seven more prison workers and seven additional inmates have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Four workers and one woman serving at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women all tested positive for coronavirus, according to an ADOC press release. There are 16 confirmed cases among staff at the facility. 

The woman serving at Tutwiler prison continues to be asymptomatic and was tested pre-operation for a scheduled surgery, according to the release, which states she has been moved to “medical isolation” and the dormitory where she was housed has been placed on on level-one quarantine, meaning inmates will be monitored for symptoms and have temperature checks twice daily. 

Other positive test results came back for a worker at Ventress Correctional Facility, another at the Alex City Community Based Facility and Community Work Center and one at the Birmingham Community Based Facility and Community Work Center, according to ADOC. 

Four inmates at the St. Clair Correctional Facility who also tested positive for COVID-19 were living in the same small area within the prison’s infirmary as an inmate who previously tested positive for the virus, according to the release. That living area remains on level-two quarantine, meaning inmates remain there for all daily activities, and the entire infirmary at St. Clair remains on level-one quarantine.

One inmate at the Kilby Correctional Facility and another at the Frank Lee Community Based Facility/Community Work Center also tested positive for  COVID-19. 

The man serving at Kilby prison was housed in the facility’s infirmary, and was transferred to a local hospital after showing symptoms of the virus, where he tested positive, according to ADOC. Kilby’s infirmary has been placed on level-one quarantine.

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The inmate at Frank Lee developed symptoms of COVID-19 and was taken to the Staton Correctional Facility to an area under level-two quarantine, where he subsequently tested positive, according to the department. He was then taken to medical isolation at Kilby prison,  and the facility was placed on level-one quarantine. 

There have been 68 confirmed cases among prison workers in the state, while 17 have since been cleared to return to work. 

Ten of the 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates remain active, according to ADOC. As of Monday the state has tested 176 of Alabama’s approximately 22,000 inmates, according to the department.

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State files lawsuit against Birmingham for removing Confederate monument

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a new lawsuit against the city of Birmingham Tuesday for removing a Confederate monument in Linn Park.

Local officials in Alabama’s largest city, which has a majority black population, removed a 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in the city’s Linn Park after protestors and demonstrators vandalized it Sunday.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered the monument removed during the waning hours of Jefferson Davis day Monday, a state holiday honoring the Confederate leader.

“This action is a very, very powerful symbol of our city’s desire to move beyond the pain of the past and uniting into the future,” Woodfin said Tuesday, adding that the city would not disclose the monument’s new location due to security concerns and to protect it from further vandalism.

The city paid $1 to remove the monument, Woodfin said, adding that the city council would need to vote on whether to accept public donations to pay off any fines imposed by the state for removing the monument.

One public fundraiser has raised more than $60,000 in a day to support the city in removing the monument.

The monument has been at the center of a years-long legal battle between Alabama’s majority-white, GOP-led Legislature and predominately black local officials in Birmingham.

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Marshall filing the lawsuit seeking the $25,000 fine, if imposed, would effectively end the legal showdown over the monument.

“In balancing between the costs of civil unrest versus the costs of a civil fine, I think most would agree with me: the city should pay the cost of that civil fine to make sure that there is not any more unrest in our city,” Woodfin said.

Marshall filed the lawsuit against Birmingham for violating the state’s Memorial Preservation Act, which prohibits the removal of historic monuments including Confederate monuments.

This is the second lawsuit filed by the Alabama attorney general against the city of Birmingham over the Linn Park monument.

The lawsuit seeks additional penalties after the city lost a similar lawsuit filed by the state in 2017.

The Memorial Preservation Act was passed in 2017 by the Alabama Legislature to protect architecturally significant buildings, memorial buildings, memorial streets and monuments located on public property for 40 or more years.

The law effectively prohibited municipalities from removing Confederate monuments.

“The State of Alabama first filed suit against the City of Birmingham in 2017 after the City erected barriers around the monument in Linn Park. In November 2019, the Alabama Supreme Court sided with the State and determined that the City of Birmingham had violated the law and was subject to the Act’s penalties. However, the Court held that any violation of the Act was punishable only by a one-time fine of $25,000 per violation,” Marshall said in a statement.

Woodfin, amid nationwide protests, demonstrations and unrest over the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, said he was willing to pay the fine to remove the monument, directing city workers to remove it Monday evening.

Legislation was filed in the 2020 session that would have amended the penalties provision of the act in response to the court’s ruling, but that legislation failed to become law.

“On Monday, I advised Mayor Woodfin that the removal of the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Birmingham’s Linn Park would violate the law and that I would fulfill my duty to enforce it,” Marshall said.

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