By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, November 4, Alabamians all over the State go to the polls to vote on who our leaders will be for the next four years. While campaigns have been going on for over a year, if you think some of the people on this ballot are unfamiliar to you, you are not alone. Some of these campaigns were more active than others and some office seekers were unable to get the money for the statewide media blitz we all have grown accustomed to.
For Governor of the great State of Alabama, incumbent Robert Bentley (R) is seeking a second term. Bentley is a former state Representative and is a retired doctor. Gov. Bentley inherited the post Great Recession economic meltdown and has had to cut over a $billion a year in state spending to bring expenditures in line with decreased post-recession revenues.
Gov. Bentley said in a recent speech, “Since I became Governor I have worked tirelessly to bring good-paying jobs to our state. Many of the jobs we recruited since 2011 are coming online as new plants are opening and people are going back to work. It is my goal that anyone who wants a job in Alabama can get a job.”
Former Congressman Parker Griffith is the Democratic Party candidate for Governor. Griffith is a former State Senator and was elected in 2008 to represent Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District as a Democrat. The moderate Griffith clashed repeatedly with the progressive Democratic leadership in the House and switched to the Republican Party, where he was unseated in the GOP Primary by Mo Brooks. Griffith has returned to the Democratic Party to lead this year’s ticket. Griffith favors expanding the troubled Alabama Medicaid Program to include 300,000 more people and wants an education lottery.
Griffith said on his webpage, “It is an embarrassment that Governor Bentley would lecture other states and the federal government on job creation while our state has lost 10,000 jobs over the past year. Bentley’s mistakes are catching up with him faster and faster, and it’s Alabama’s working families who are suffering as a result.”
Incumbent Lt. Governor Kay Ivey is the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Ivey is a former State Treasurer and is a longtime state employee. Ivey shocked many political observers when she defeated incumbent Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom in 2010.
Ivey said on Facebook on Thursday, “When I took office in 2011, Alabama was essentially broke. New leadership didn’t consider putting the burden on citizens by raising taxes. We focused on trimming the fat, streamlining state government, and growing the economy. As a result, we found more than $1 billion in savings annually, shrunk the size of government, and have experienced the highest job growth in five years. My commitment to streamlining state government is reflected in the way I manage my office. I have consistently operated the Office of Lieutenant Governor well under the budget of my predecessor. I am committed to continuing these practices and am optimistic that we will continue to meet future financial challenges in the same manner.”
Former State Representative James Fields is the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Fields is a retired State employee, working for 30 years as a supervisor in the AL Office of Industrial Relations. Fields despite being a Black Democrat in an overwhelmingly White Republican County (Cullman) was elected to the State legislature. Fields, like many of his rural Democrat colleagues, however was defeated in the Republican wave of 2010.
Fields wrote on his website: “Alabama: I care about you and a future that is bigger, brighter and bolder than our past–that radiates with trust and tolerance, solidarity and strength, purpose and prosperity. My vision for Alabama’s future engages everyone who strives for success in abundant opportunities to build it. The impossible seems unthinkable until we come together and make things possible. Give me your vote in November 2014, and we will build a better Alabama.”
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) is seeking a second term. Strange is an attorney and former lobbyist. Strange was defeated by former Governor Jim Folsom Jr. in a 2006 race for Lt. Governor, then unseated incumbent AG Troy King in the Republican Primary of 2010. Strange is widely viewed as the favorite to replace Bentley as Governor in 2018 (assuming both men win their 2014 races of course).
Strange says that his term as attorney general has been the most active in history. Whether it is fighting illegal gaming, investigating public corruption, fighting Obamacare, working on the BP settlement, opposing EPA regulations that will negatively affect Alabama industries the Alabama Attorney General’s office has been very active under Strange.
The Democratic Party candidate for Attorney General is Joe Hubbard. Joe Hubbard is an attorney and state Representative from Montgomery.
Joe Hubbard told WSFA TV, “He has seen little old ladies in bingo parlors as a threat to Alabama, while violent criminals have been walking the streets. The Attorney General of Alabama has simply not had protecting the people of Alabama from violent crimes and out of state drug rings as his priority. As Attorney General, I will make that my priority to see that Alabama is protected from those things.”
Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan (R) is seeking a second term. McMillan is a former Baldwin County Commissioner, former state Representative, former Commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and was the Executive Vice President of the Alabama Forestry Association for 20 years.
Commissioner McMillan wrote, “Our first year, 2011, began with a jolt as our budget was slashed by nearly one third. Because we had no cash reserve and very little in the way of overhead expenses that could be trimmed, we were forced into the unfortunate position of laying off a fourth of our employees. Since that time, we have been frugal with our finances and conserved wherever possible. This has resulted in our being able to accumulate funds to invest in upgrading old equipment to make our employees more productive. Instead of making government bigger, it has been my mission to make our department more responsive to the people we serve…If you elect me to a second term, you can be assured I will continue to build a better and more responsive Department of Agriculture & Industries.”
The Democratic candidate for Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries is Doug Smith. Doug Smith was the first head of the Alabama Development Office (ADO). Smith has served on the staff of two governors, two Congressmen, and a U.S. Senator. Smith is a former Commander in Headquarters of the Alabama National Guard.
Smith said on Facebook, “I put together 6 economic engines for Governors Lurleen & Albert Brewer, and we climbed for 35 years. The Neo-cons took the engines apart starting in 2002 before the Great Recession started and we have been going down hill ever since. We need to repair those engines and in the meantime we need a bank for new small business to kick-start the Alabama economy. While we start the engines again we can take intermediate measures by creating a bank for new small businesses which generate up to 80% of all new jobs.”
John Merrill is the Republican Candidate for Secretary of State. Merrill is a state Representative from Tuscaloosa, presently works for a bank, and is formerly employed by the Tuscaloosa County School System as a spokesman and coordinator of the after school care program.
Merrill told the Alabama Political Reporter, “I have been to all 67 counties (in Alabama) at least twice.” “I have been endorsed by more than 80 members of the state legislature and every association that has made an endorsement.” Merrill promised the people of Alabama fair and honest elections, that the office would do a better job handling adoptions and business filings.
Lula Albert-Kaigler is the Democratic Party Candidate for Secretary of State. In 2013 Kaigler ran for Congress as a Democrat when U.S. Representative Jo Bonner retired. Kaigler got 29.8% of the votes in the First Congressional District Democratic Primary, losing to Burton LeFlore. If elected, she would be the first Black woman elected as Alabama Secretary of State. Albert-Kaigler is retired after 37 years working for the U.S. Armed services. She is now self-employed.
The offices of Secretary of State and Auditor are the only two open statewide offices that are being contested by both major parties.
Jim Zeigler is the Republican candidate for State Auditor. Zeigler is an attorney and a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner. Zeigler has also run for a number of offices unsuccessfully in an up and down political career that has lasted for decades.
Zeigler said in a statement, “I am telling people that the State Auditor can be important. I have a plan to turn the State Auditor into something that it has not been a strong monitor of how our tax dollars are spent in Montgomery…State government has wasteful spending, unconstitutional spending, duplication, mismanagement, unauthorized spending and low priority spending.”
Commissioner Zeigler said that he has a way to serve as a monitor of spending in Montgomery, which the Auditor’s office does not now do. “There would be enough money for the employee pay raise and to fully fund our State prison system if we cut out unnecessary spending.”
Miranda Joseph is the Democratic Party’s candidate for State auditor. Joseph is a wife, mother, and auditor.
Joseph said in a statement on her website, “Alabama needs an auditor who has been certified and trained by our own Alabama schools and professional boards. Alabama needs an auditor who is not new to the demands of the State Auditor’s office. Alabama needs the knowledge and skills that come with experience. Experience Matters! I am the only candidate who is Certified in Internal Auditing (CIA) and Certified in Risk Management (CRMA) with years of experience.”
Joseph wrote, “Our State is facing tough economic times. Our families are struggling and working hard to make ends meet. Like you, I understand what it means to go over family finances to make every dollar count. It begins with taking responsibility for what is spent and making sure there is accountability for every dollar. I believe that Montgomery should do the same. My goal is to take our family values to Montgomery to ensure that we have an open and honest government.”
Joseph ran unsuccessfully in 2010 against incumbent Auditor Samantha Shaw (R).
In other statewide races, the struggling Alabama Democratic Party was unable to find candidates to challenge the Alabama GOP. U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R) faces no Democratic Party opposition. Neither does Alabama Treasurer Young Boozer (R), Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden (R), incoming Public Service Commissioner Chip Beeker (R), or any statewide judicial candidates. Alabama Supreme Court Justice Greg Shaw (R), Court of Criminal Appeals J. Elizabeth Kellum (R), Court of Criminal Appeals Mary Windom (R), Court of Civil Appeals Scott Donaldson (R), and Court of Civil Appeals William Thompson (R) all face no General Election opposition.
Voters go to the polls on Tuesday, October 4, to select the candidates that best will represent them and their families for the next four years. There are also five statewide amendments to the Alabama Constitution on the ballot.
Alabama DHR announces grants providing temporary assistance for stabilizing child care
The Alabama Department of Human Resources announced on Friday a new grant program to provide assistance to licensed child care providers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Temporary Assistance for Stabilizing Child Care, or TASCC, grant program’s purpose is to stabilize the number of child care providers that are open and providing services, as well as encourage providers to reopen.
DHR is now accepting applications for TASCC grants. The deadline to apply is August 7, 2020. The total grant amounts will be based on each provider’s daytime licensed capacity with a base rate of $300 per child.
To be eligible for a grant, licensed providers must be open or plan to reopen no later than August 17, 2020, and continue to remain open for a period of one year from the date of receiving the grant award. As of this week, 1,306 of Alabama’s 2,448 child care facilities were open in the state.
“We are proud to offer this program as a support and an incentive to an important sector of our economy. These grants will give the support many providers need to reopen and assist those already open,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “This program is going to be vital for our child care numbers to reach the level required to provide adequate services as parents return to work. We have already made significant strides in reopening facilities over the past several months; in April only 14 percent were open while now 53 percent are open.”
These grants will provide support for paying employees, purchasing classroom materials, providing meals, purchasing cleaning supplies, providing tuition relief for families, as well as other facility expenses.
DHR recommends child care providers read all guidance prior to submitting a TASCC application. Child care providers need to complete the application to determine the estimated grant amount. Grant applications will be processed as they are received and grants awarded once approved.
An online fillable application is available for the TASCC grant at www.dhr.alabama.gov/child-care/. The application must include an Alabama STAARS Vendor Code in order to be processed. For questions regarding the application, please email DHR at [email protected].
Gov. Ivey awards grant for new system to aid child abuse victims
Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded a $375,000 grant to establish a statewide network that will ensure that victims of child abuse receive immediate and professional medical care and other assistance.
The grant will enable the Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics to collaborate with the Alabama Network of Children Advocacy Centers in creating the Child Abuse Medical System.
“Child abuse is a horrendous crime that robs children of their youth and can negatively affect their future if victims do not receive the proper professional assistance,” Ivey said. “I am thankful for this network that will ensure children get the professional attention they need and deserve.”
The medical system will be a coordinated statewide resource that includes pediatric physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and other medical professionals along with specialized sexual assault nurse examiners.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant.
“ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey and those dedicated people who are part of the Child Abuse Medical System to support these children at a time they need it most,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.
Ivey notified Tom Shufflebarger, CEO of Children’s of Alabama, that the grant had been approved.
ADECA manages a range of programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town announces resignation
Jay Town, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, on Friday announced his resignation and plans to work at a Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company.
Town’s resignation will be effective Wednesday, July 15, according to a press release.
“After much thoughtful prayer and great personal consideration, I have made the decision to resign as the United States Attorney of the Northern District of Alabama. I have tendered my resignation to Attorney General William Barr. General Barr expressed his gratitude for my service to the Department of Justice and to the Northern District and, despite having hoped I would continue in my role, understood and respected my decision,” Town said in a statement.
“I am extremely grateful to President Trump, to whom I also tendered a letter, for his special trust and confidence in me to serve as the U.S. Attorney. It was an honor to be a part of this Administration with an unrivaled class of United States Attorneys from around the nation. I will forever remain thankful to those who supported my nomination and my tenure as the U.S. Attorney,” Town continued.
Town said his job with the unnamed Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company is to begin later this year, and the company is to announce his position “in a few weeks.”
“The Attorney General of the United States will announce my replacement in the coming days or weeks,” Town said in the release.
Town has served in his position since confirmation by the U.S. Senate in August 2017. Prior to that appointment, Town was a prosecutor in the Madison County District Attorney’s office from 2005 until 2017.
Attorney General William Barr in a statement Friday offered gratitude for Town’s three years of service.
“Jay’s leadership in his District has been immense. His contributions to the Department of Justice have been extensive, especially his work on the China Initiative and most recently as a Working Group Chair on the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. I appreciate his service to our nation and to the Justice Department, and I wish him the very best,” Barr said in a statement.
The U.S. Justice Department in April 2019 notified Gov. Kay Ivey that the department’s lengthy investigation into the state’s prisons for men found systemic problems of violence, sexual assaults, drugs and corruption which are likely violations of the inmates’ Constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment.
Town’s office leads the discussions between the U.S Department of Justice and the state on the prison conditions.
Problems with violence, deaths and drugs in Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons have not markedly improved in the year’s since the U.S. Department of Justice released its report.
Alabama’s daily COVID-19 deaths second highest since start of pandemic
In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
Alabama saw 35 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, the second highest daily number of deaths since the pandemic began.
The previous record daily high was May 12, when the state recorded 37 coronavirus deaths. Prior to that, the high was on April 22, when Alabama saw 35 deaths from the virus. In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
While cases have been surging since mid-June, deaths have largely remained stable. Deaths are considered a lagging indicator, meaning that it takes longer for deaths to begin rising after cases and hospitalizations begin rising.
“The fact that we’re seeing these sharp increases and hospitalization in cases over the past week or two is really concerning,” said UAB expert Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom earlier this week. “And we expect, given the lag that we know there is between cases and hospitalization — about a two-week lag, and a three-week lag between cases and deaths — that we’re on a part of the curve that we just don’t want to be on in our state.”
It’s unclear whether this new rise in deaths will become a trend, or whether it is a one-day anomaly, but the 14-day average of deaths per day is now nearly as high as the previous peak on May 14 — weeks after the state hit its first “peak” in cases per day in late April. The previous high of the 14-day average of deaths per day was 16 on May 14. The average is now at 14 deaths per day, on average.
The uptick in deaths comes after days of record-high new daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The state added 1,304 new COVID-19 cases Friday, down from Thursday’s record-high of 2,164, but the trend of rising daily cases has continued largely unabated since early June.
The 14-day average of daily tests was at an all-time high Friday, at 8,125, which was 308 more tests than the previous high, set Wednesday. The percent of tests that were positive also increased, however, so the new cases can’t be attributed solely to more testing.
The 14-day average of the percent positivity was 14.22 on Friday. Excluding Thursday’s figure, because the Alabama Department of Public Health didn’t publish total tests administered on Thursday, which threw off percent positive figures, Friday’s 14-day average was the highest it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were a few higher 14-day average percent positivity days in April, but those numbers were skewed as well, because ADPH wasn’t able to collect all testing data from commercial labs during that time period.
Along with surging new cases, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday was higher than it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic. On Thursday 1,125 coronavirus patients were being treated in state hospitals, which was the fifth straight day of record current hospitalizations.
UAB Hospital’s COVID-19 Intensive care units were nearing their existing capacity earlier this week. The hospital has both a COVID ICU and a COVID acute care unit designated to keep patients separated from those who don’t have the virus, but it has more space in other non-COVID units should it need to add additional bed space.
Hospitals in Madison County this week are also seeing a surge of COVID-19 patients. Paul Finley, the mayor of the city of Madison, told reporters Wednesday that local hospitals were reporting record numbers.