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GOP Lawmakers And Candidates Speak At Train Depot

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Evoking images from an era long-ago, where the railroads were the primary method of travel, Republican candidates in Jefferson County spoke at the historic train depot in Leeds, AL.

State Representative Dickie Drake (R from Leeds) who represents Alabama House of Representatives District 45. Drake thanked everyone for coming to the event. Drake who was first elected in a special election for the office previously held by his brother, Owen Drake, said that he has no opponent on Tuesday, but urged everyone to vote on Tuesday, November 4.

Judge Suzanne Childers (R) told the crowd (estimated at 50), I have been a judge for 12 years now. I have been a private Circuit Judge, a Domestic relations judge, and a municipal judge. Childers said that she has enjoyed being a private Circuit Judge, but is running for office in Jefferson County again.

While most of Alabama has moved firmly into the Republican County, strong get out the vote efforts for President Obama has swept most Republican officeholders, including the judges, out of office in recent elections. Childers said that of the 40 Jefferson County Judges only 5 are from Jefferson County. Childers was one of the Republican judges who lost two years ago when Obama was re-elected.

Childers is a graduate of the University of Alabama, Nashville Judicial College, and the Birmingham School of law. Her daughter is an international lawyer in Boston. She is running for Place #1 on the Jefferson County bench.

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Childers said that Republicans need to take back the county. “Please vote for me. I am very much a Constitutional judge, particularly the Second Amendment. I am known as the pistol packing judge.”

Childers is also staunchly pro-animal and is endorsed by the Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation (AVRAL) who said on Facebook that they, “Enjoyed our visit with Elect Judge Suzanne Childers at Bark at the Moon Festival in Fultondale. Suzanne is on AVRAL’s list of endorsements.”

State Representative candidate Danny Garret (R) and AL state Senate candidate Shay Shelnutt (R) are both running from Trussville. Both are unopposed on the ballot.

Shelnutt is taking outgoing state Senator Scott Beason’s (R from Gardendale) seat representing St. Clair, Blount, Talladega, and Jefferson Counties.

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Shelnutt said that he and Garrett are, “Both Very conservative.”

Garrett said that he is running to take Arthur Payne’s place (House District 44).

Garrett said that he is looking forward to representing the people of District 44 and described himself as a, “Christian businessman.” “I am not moving to Montgomery.”

Garrett said that “Will Ainsworth (R) needs our support in Marshall County. He is an tough race against a former legislator.”

Davis Lawley is the Republican Candidate for District Court Judge place 2. That is the Judge for Jefferson County’s drug court. Lawley lost that position in the Presidential Election of 2008.

Lawley said that the drug court concept started in New York State and was started here (Jefferson County) by a Democrat. Lawley held the post until the Judges races became politicized in 2008.

Lawley said that it is key to talk to your friends about voting on Tuesday. “You are not getting the best quality Judges on the bench now. Lawley is urging Libertarians, democrats, and Republicans to vote for him.

Lawley is concerned that too many people are apathetic. People don’t feel like their vote matters.

Joel Blankenship said, “I am not running for judge. I am running for Jefferson County Tax Assessor I have been campaigning for 12 months.” Blankenship said he was born and raised in Trussville. He is a real estate attorney with a degree from the Cumberland School of law.

He has been doing real estate closings for the last 5 years and working with the Tax Assessor’s office has been difficult. You can’t just phone them to get something done. Blankenship said that he either has to go down there himself or send a secretary down there and it should not be that difficult.

The most dangerous word in politics is “taxes” but taxes have to be paid. “Your tax exemptions should not be hidden from you. I am running to fix a broken office.” Some people’s property is assessed too high currently and often their neighbor is assessed too low. Blankenship vowed to assess the taxes on people’s property accurately and take politics out of the process.

Blankenship said that all he is scared of is that the vote will not turn out. “The County is getting bluer and bluer. We keep losing judges. We keep losing county wide offices.” The incumbent is Richard Arrington’s niece. “I need voters to turnout.” Start on the back of the ticket and fill out those offices first and start with Blankenship for tax assessor. “On Tuesday, Jeff Sessions is going to win. Governor Bentley is going to vote. Vote to bring good government back to Jefferson County. Vote and then call your friends to come vote.

Steve Ammons spoke next. He is running for Jefferson County tax collector as a Republican. Ammons said that when you run for office you learn that Jefferson County is a huge huge county. “I have enjoyed meeting new people.” Ammons said, the county has been broken and is just beginning to turn around under the current county commission.

Taxes have to be paid. The Birmingham race course has not paid its taxes in years. They ought to bring back horse racing then maybe they can pay their back taxes. There are lots of properties in Jefferson County where taxes are overdue but collecting those taxes has to go through the court process.

Ammons said, “It has been frustrating. We know the county needs all the revenue it can get but because of politics taxes are not collected.” Ammons is a member of the Vestavia City Council and understands the problems this poses to cities. Both Leeds and Homewood both have each missed out on over a million in ad valorum taxes each year. The tax collector’s office did not collect the money and would not tell the cities where those properties are for them to try to collect the money.

Ammons said that there is presently a lack of transparency and lack of accountability. The process has got to be more clear, got to become more transparent. Just collect what is there. Vote for me and vote for Joel Blankenship as well.

Ammons said we have to get the vote out. 59 percent of straight ticket voters in Jefferson County vote straight Democratic. Only 41 percent vote straight Republican. We have got to change that percentage.

Gary Palmer is running for Congress. Palmer said, “This election is about whether we still believe in the ideas of the Revolution….This is a pivotal election.”

John Merrill who is running for Secretary of State also addressed the Constitutional Conservatives of Alabama at this event.

Deanna Frankowski thanked all the candidates for coming and urged everyone in attendance to join their Facebook page.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Health

“We’re not going to get a do-over:” Alabama health officer on Thanksgiving and COVID-19

There were 1,427 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama on Monday, the most since Aug. 11.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Monday pleaded with the public to avoid gatherings over Thanksgiving as COVID-19 continues to surge in Alabama and hospitals statewide are filling with coronavirus patients. 

“We don’t want this to be the last ever Thanksgiving for someone in your family, like your parents or your grandparents,” Harris said during a press conference Monday. 

Harris said Alabama’s numbers aren’t headed in the right direction and more than 230,000 Alabamians — roughly 4 percent of the state’s population — have been infected by the coronavirus. 

“We are adding a couple of thousand new cases a day, at least, that we are aware,” Harris said. “This is a time for people to be vigilant. This is a time to be careful and to think about what you’re going to be doing.” 

Alabama added 1,574 new coronavirus cases on Monday, and the state’s 14-day average for new daily cases was at a record high 2,087. In the last two weeks, the state has added 29,223 cases, the most cases in any two week period since the pandemic arrived in Alabama in March.

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There were 1,427 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama on Monday. The last time so many were hospitalized in the state was on Aug. 11, during Alabama’s summer surge. 

Harris said that he and his wife will be staying home for Thanksgiving instead of having his family’s regular large, intergenerational gathering. What happens with Alabama’s COVID-19 numbers over Thanksgiving will impact what the state’s December holiday and Christmas season will look like, Harris said. 

“Are we gonna be here a month from now trying to have the same conversation? I really, really hope not,” Harris said. 

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Dr. Mary McIntyre, the Alabama Department of Public Health’s chief medical officer, said during the briefing that her home usually sees between 15 and 20 family members arriving for Thanksgiving. They’ve limited this year’s Thanksgiving to three additional people from out of their household, for a total of seven people, she said.

Everyone must wear masks and have temperatures checked at the door, she said. 

Everyone will be seated six feet from one another and a Zoom video conference will be set up for those family members who won’t be attending in person, McIntyre said. They’ll use disposable plates, cups and utensils and have the ability, weather permitting, to eat outdoors.

“If we want to live to see another Thanksgiving, and I do, that it may mean stepping back this Thanksgiving and really limiting the number of people, and some of the things that we do,” McIntyre said. “Now is not the time to get out to do Black Friday shopping.” 

Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a separate press briefing Monday echoed concern over the possibility of spikes following Thanksgiving and Christmas if the public doesn’t do what’s needed to keep themselves and others safe.

“We are very much worried about the potential spike in numbers. We’ve also seen some of our own staff getting sick,” Kennedy said. “And unfortunately that’s not been at work. It’s been because we are just like you. We’re tired. We’re lonely. We want to try to socialize, and some of us have let our guards down and, as a result, have gotten sick.”

Kennedy said while there’s is concern over future spikes following the upcoming holidays “there is a way for all of us to help prevent that from happening.”

Kennedy said when Gov. Kay Ivey first issued her statewide mask order and social distancing requirements, the public masked up, businesses enforced the orders, and coronavirus numbers improved.

“It didn’t get nearly as bad as we thought, and we are really hopeful that the community is going to come together and do that again for us,” Kennedy said. “Because it’s more than just not having enough space for the COVID patients. It’s also those patients who do not have COVID that have other conditions. They rely on us for routine care, and we want to make sure that we’re available to provide that.”

Kenedy said UAB has an incredible group of staff members, who’ve proven themselves to be quite resilient, but that “the group is tired.”

“We’ve been doing this every single day since March, and so as you can imagine, people are very tired. It’s very emotional, especially as we see younger patients getting sick with this and getting sick in ways that we weren’t expecting,” she said.

Harris again urged the public to make smart decisions that will help slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’re not going to get a do-over on this,” Harris said. “This is a big national holiday, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and our numbers are worse than they have ever been during this entire response. Please be careful. Please be safe. And please try to take care of those people who are most vulnerable.”

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Health

Governor allocates $3.6 million in CARES Act funds to food banks

The money is to go to the nonprofit Alabama Food Bank Association, which will administer the funds.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced that $3.6 million in federal CARES Act money will be used to reimburse food banks for COVID-19-related expenses. 

“Alabama is a state where neighbors help neighbors, even in the most difficult times,” Ivey said in a statement. “The Coronavirus pandemic presented significant challenges around the world, as well as here at home in our own state. Food banks in communities across Alabama have been a lifeline for those in need, and I am proud to be able to put these funds toward the Alabama Feeding Initiative. I have told Alabamians that I remain committed to getting these CARES Act funds into the hands of those who need it.”

The funds are to go to the nonprofit Alabama Food Bank Association, according to the memorandum of understanding. The association will administer the funds to eight participating food banks across the state, which can be reimbursed for the following: 

  • The purchase of food, packaging and related supplies to meet increased demand.
  • operational expenses, including fuel and maintenance, incurred due to handling a higher amount for food, as well as open-air distribution events. 
  • Rental costs of storage space and vehicles to handle increased volumes of food. 
  • To purchase PPE, screening equipment and decontamination services to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Unless Congress extends the deadline, Alabama and other states have until Dec. 30 to spend CARES Act funds or the money reverts back to the federal government. Ivey has just under $1 billion left to spend before the deadline.

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Education

Alabama Education Association, Board of Medical Examiners meet over excuses to break COVID-19 quarantines

Prior to the meeting, the AEA on Nov. 5 threatened legal action against the board over the matter. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Officials with the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners met on Thursday to discuss a concern the association has with doctors who write excuses to allow students to return to school before their mandated COVID-19 quarantine periods expire.

At the meeting between Theron Stokes, associate executive director of the Alabama Education Association, and William Perkins, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners, Stokes learned that the board wasn’t aware of the problem, the AEA said in a press release. 

“Both groups agreed to set up a meeting with educational and medical organizations on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic in Alabama,” the AEA said in the release. “A meeting should be held before the end of the year and will allow the AEA and the Board of Medical Examiners, as well as other educational and medical organizations, to review existing guidelines issued by the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and ensure conformity in following those guidelines.” 

In a letter to Perkins on Thursday, Stokes wrote that it was AEA’s understanding that the board was aware of the problem, but he wrote that during their meeting he became aware that neither the board nor Perkins was aware of the problem. 

“It was not the intent of AEA to cause any unnecessary problems for you, the doctors you represent, or your organization regarding this matter,” Stokes wrote. 

Prior to the meeting, the AEA on Nov. 5 threatened legal action against the board over the matter. 

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“It is our firm belief that there exists no medical scenario under which these students could be written out of quarantine and that to do so is violative of ADPH and CDC quarantine recommendations,” Stokes wrote in the Nov. 5 letter. 

Stokes in his recent letter notes that both agreed in the meeting to bring together representatives of the other organizations to come up with a uniform procedure for following state and federal guidelines. 

“I agree with your plan to conduct this meeting and finalize our goals before the holidays,” Stokes wrote.

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Legislature

Caravan to honor the life of longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes

The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There is a car ride caravan honoring the life and service of Rep. Alvin Holmes in Montgomery at 2 p.m. Monday. The caravan is being organized by community activists Ja’Mel Brown and William Boyd.

On Saturday, Holmes passed away at age 81. He was born in 1939 into a very segregated Montgomery and spent his life battling in favor of civil rights causes. He was one of the first Black state representatives to serve in the Alabama Legislature after implementation of the Voting Rights Act.

There had been Black legislators during Reconstruction in the 1870s, but Jim Crow segregation during much of the 20th Century had effectively disenfranchised millions of Black Alabamians for generations.

Holmes served in the Alabama House of Representatives, representing House District 78 from 1974 to 2018. Holmes participated in the civil rights movement. He was a professor and a real estate broker.

The chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, released a statement mourning Holmes’s passing.

“Representative Alvin Holmes was a great Democrat and a fighter,” England said. “He stood on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights and was willing to sacrifice everything in his fight for justice for all. He not only had a long and distinguished career as a civil rights leader, but also as a member of the Legislature, serving his constituents faithfully and dutifully for 44 years. Alabama has lost a giant, whose wit, intelligence, fearlessness, selfless determination, and leadership will be sorely missed. My prayers are with his friends, family, and colleagues.”

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State Rep. Kirk Hatcher, D-Montgomery, fondly remembered Holmes, whom he defeated in the 2018 Democratic primary.

“Today we lost a dedicated warrior for social justice. Representative Alvin Holmes was a true public servant,” Hatcher said. “What an amazing legacy he has left us! He could always be seen waging the good fight for equality in all aspects of state government and beyond. His public service is legendary and without peer.”

“In recent years, I am profoundly grateful for the grace he showed me in his willingness to share with me his blueprint for effectively serving our people—and by extension the larger community,” Hatcher said. “Today, my fervent prayers are with his beloved daughter Veronica, her precious mom (and his best friend), as well as other cherished members of his family and friends as they mourn his passing. I humbly join the many voices who offer a sincere ‘Thank You’ to Mr. Alvin Holmes for his dedicated service to our Montgomery community and our state. ‘May angels sing thee to thy rest.’”

State Rep. Tashina Morris, D-Montgomery, also fondly remembered Holmes.

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“Sending Prayers to The Holmes family,” Morris said. “Alvin Holmes was the epitome of greatness working for his people!! May you Rest Well !!!”

Republican insider and former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr. also served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives and the Montgomery legislative delegation.

“I served with Alvin for 20 years in the Alabama Legislature,” Hooper said. “We often disagreed on the issues, but even after a heated floor debate, we could shake hands at the end of the day. I always considered him a friend. He loved Montgomery and he was a great representative of his district and its issues. He was always willing to go the extra mile for one of his constituents. When I served as Chairman of the Contract Review Committee, he was one of the committee’s most conscientious members. He was always questioning contracts so he could be assured that the contract represented a good use of taxpayer’s dollars which as Chairman I greatly appreciated. He was one of a kind pioneer in the Alabama Legislature and will be sorely missed.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill served with Holmes in the Alabama House of Representatives prior to his election as secretary of state.

“I just learned that former State Rep. Alvin Holmes passed away today,” Merrill said on social media. “I enjoyed the privilege of serving with him from 2010-14. There was never a dull moment whenever he was in the Chamber. I appreciated him for his candor & for his desire to work on behalf of his constituents!”

Holmes was a member of the Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Montgomery Improvement Association, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Alabama Southern Christian Leadership Conference Board, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He has one daughter, Veronica.

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