By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, February 18, the Rainy Day Patriots met for a US Senate candidate’s forum at Hoover Tactical Firearms when they were told by Hoover Tactical Firearms owner Gene Smith that this meeting was outside of the bounds of their agreement and could not be held. The Senate debate had to be cancelled.
Present at the event were Jonathan McConnell, former State Senator Shadrack McGill, Marcus Bowman, and John Martin. The incumbent, US Senator Richard Shelby (R) was not there, neither were the two Democrats; Ron Crumpton and Charles Nana.
Jonathan McConnell said in a statement, “You’ll never believe what just happened. Just as we were ready to start tonight’s debate, Richard Shelby sent in one of his cronies to shut it down. It’s bad enough that he didn’t have the courage to face me in the first place, but it’s an insult to democracy that he and his cronies decided to suppress free speech that I, and many others, fought to defend as a Marine. Every Alabamian should be as furious as I am that Senator Shelby believes this election can be stolen and he will continue to get rich off of the taxpayers’ dime. He exemplifies everything that is wrong with politicians — we must put an end to it.”
The Alabama Political Reporter spoke with Senator Shelby’s spokesperson, Katy Britt. Mrs. Britt said that the Shelby campaign was not involved in shutting down the event and did not put pressure on or ask Hoover Tactical Firearms to do anything. Mrs. Britt said that they received no invitation to any debate by the Rainy Day Patriots and only found out about the event days earlier incidentally online. Senator Shelby she said was already scheduled for another event in a different region of the state so could not have attended.
The Alabama Political Reporter spoke with Marcus Bowman on Thursday night. He said that the debate was, “My idea from the get go.” He said that he emailed all of the campaigns on Friday, February 5. Martin, McConnell, and McGill all agreed to hold it on Monday, February 15. They had no venue, no moderator, and no rules. Bowman said that he then met Ann Eubank who is co-director of the Rainy Day Patriots. Eubank said that the Rainy Day Patriots could host the event at their already scheduled Thursday, February 18th meeting. She would find a moderator and the other details.
Former talk radio host Lee Davis was named the moderator; but Bowman said that he had no rules and no format when he arrived at Hoover Tactical on Thursday. In the parking lot he met McConnell spokeswoman Elizabeth “Liz” BeShears. Mrs. BeShears said that they wouldn’t be able to hold the event after all because of objections from Mr. Gene Smith who supports Senator Shelby’s re-election.
Bowman said that he, Eubank, Smith, and the other candidates including McConnell then held an impromptu conference and Smith agreed to allow the forum to proceed if nothing negative was said about Senator Shelby. “We all agreed under those rules.” The candidates would just discuss the issues.
Bowman said that once the forum began though, McConnell stood up and interjected ‘what about his negative ads against me.’ Smith threatened to call the police. Bowman said that McConnell’s campaign manager Rick Renshaw said, ‘That’s it we are leaving.’ Bowman said that McConnell’s behavior was “childish” and that the whole scene was a “circus.”
Bowman said that he still wants to hold a debate before the March 1, Primary and that all of the challengers including the two Democrats have tentatively agreed to debate on February 26, in Huntsville; but was worried because, “McConnell is a bit of a loose cannon” and he feels “burned” by what happened Thursday night.
Bowman said that he, Martin, and McGill all had to drive over an hour to get there and stay at motels, while “McConnell was only two minutes from his house.” Bowman said that Smith was within his rights as a property owner and blamed McConnell for violating the rules that everyone had agreed on.
One witness said that there were five Hoover Police Units there afterwards escorting people off of the property.
The Rainy Day Patriots acknowledged that the events happened but declined to make a statement on the record at this time.