By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, February 19, Gene Smith, owner of Hoover Tactical Firearms, denied allegations that US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) was involved in their decision to cancel the US Senate debate event at their facility in Hoover. Smith blamed poor planning and communication by the Rainy Day Patriots for the reason that the event was shut down.
Hoover Tactical Firearms released a statement in which they said that they, “Only discovered a candidate forum was going to be held at our facility yesterday when a kind person called to inquire. We attempted to contact someone from the organization but could not find a way to contact them. One of the organizers came to the store yesterday but still did not tell anyone of the forum. I am not even sure she identified herself. This group last held a forum in our facility two years ago. They then made sure we were aware of their intentions.”
The “group” they are referring to is the Rainy Day Patriots.
Hoover Tactical wrote, “We did not have the staff necessary on hand. At past events we also hire off duty police officers to patrol the parking lot and ensure everyone’s safety at events such as this.”
Hoover Tactical’s owner Gene Smith said, “The main organizer and myself worked out the conditions whereby the event would be permitted to continue. As those stipulations were being made one candidate (Jonathan McConnell) became disruptive as did numerous people in the audience. I again told them that as per the verbal agreement between myself and the organizers that if such conduct discontinue they would all be asked to leave. The organizer (Ann Eubank) also made a plea but she too was disrespected. At that time she closed the meeting before it ever started.”
Smith continued, “One male as he left the building was overheard calling 911 stating that people were fighting everywhere. Unfortunately this gentleman cause 6 police officers and three supervisors to come when they should have been permitted to work their beats and answer true emergencies.” “I expected there would be hating going on afterwards and online. However if you were there you know who around you acted out instead of respecting Ms Ann’s plea to control themselves.”
Smith emphasized, “As stated before the Rainy Day group know our requirement. They were permitted to conduct one two years ago. At that time they provided ample notice. Thus permitting us to be prepared for such a large and important event. This time they never provided any information until they started arriving tonight. They claimed they didn’t know. However they knew two years ago. They had no agreement to hold a candidate forum while inviting the public along with various news outlets. Since they knew and misrepresented what their meeting would entail I knew then we should have called off the event. Nothing else said. But the organizer was quite upset with herself and others that she continued to try to mediate an option until at one point I finally agreed but they had to be able to control the meeting. She said she would and could keep things in order.”
Present at the event were GOP US Senate candidates 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 alleged 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.”
Smith acknowledged to Leland Whaley on 101.1 FM that he is a Richard Shelby supporter; but said that he has not talked with Richard Shelby in over a year.
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 Bay Minette 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 including Richard Shelby’s on Friday, February 5. He never had any phone conversation with Richard Shelby about the proposed debate. 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.
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, “McConnell is a bit of a loose cannon” and that he feels “burned” by what happened on Thursday night.