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In Case You Missed It

Democrat Doug Jones’ win is one for the history books

Chip Brownlee



By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama politics did the only thing Alabama politics knows how to do: take the unexpected and make it into a reality, with Democratic candidate Doug Jones pulling off a historic upset. The election places a Democratic Senator from the Yellowhammer State in Congress for the first time in a quarter-century.

The newly elected senator and his campaign, built on an unlikely alliance of crossover Republicans, women, black voters and millennials, delivered a shockingly solid defeat to Republican candidate former Chief Justice Roy Moore, who, just a few months ago, was thought to be a shoe-in.

With higher-than-expected turnout, Alabamians’ decision to send Jones to Washington served as a stunning rebuke to Moore, a firebrand conservative judge who has long been a divisive figure in Alabama politics — from his stand for the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and courthouses to his unflinching opposition to same-sex marriage.

While Moore built his campaign on that same rhetoric, a defining characteristic of his decades in public life that built him a national following, Jones provided an antithesis, shaping his campaign around what he called “common decency and common respect.”

“Folks, and you have all heard me say this at one point or another in this campaign, I have always believed that the people of Alabama have more in common than divides us,” Jones said at an electric victory party. “We have shown not just around the state of Alabama but we have shown the country the way that we can be unified.”


Jones’ stunning upset is the first time Alabama has voted for a Democratic senator since 1992, when then-Democratic Sen. Richard Shelby was re-elected to his second term. Just two years later, Shelby would become a Republican as the state continued on a shift toward the red.

A barrage of sexual assault allegations and questions about Moore’s pursuit of young women when he was in his 30s delivered a death blow to his campaign amid a national conversation about sexual misconduct, uniting moderate crossover Republicans with blacks, women and young voters who showed up and showed out for Jones. But Moore, who has a history of underperforming in statewide general elections, having come close to losing an election to the Supreme Court in 2012, was already a vulnerable candidate.

Polls early in the campaign showed a potentially competitive race between Jones, who prosecuted two former Klansmen for the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, and Moore, a hero for social conservatives who stood up to federal and state courts alike in his battle against LGBT rights. A judicial panel twice booted Moore from his seat atop the Supreme Court for defying federal court orders, and his second effective removal in September 2016 gave him an opening and a following that prompted him to run for the Senate.

The combination of the allegations and Moore’s treatment by some prominent Republicans and the national GOP offered up a landscape that would prove to be a perfect storm of opportunity for Jones, who had the full backing of a rarely unified Alabama Democratic Party and an energized Democratic electorate.

“This campaign has been about the rule of law,” Jones said. “This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state, regardless of which ZIP code you live in, is going to get a fair shake in life.”

This race was a tale of two campaigns: one focused and energized, and another that struggled to fill positions and stumbled over a series of missteps that likely cost 70-year-old Moore a seat in the Senate.

While Moore and his staff eschewed traditional campaign practices and struggled to agree on a common path forward, Jones activated a network of liberal organizers and black activists who knocked on more than 300,000 doors and made more than 1.2 million phone calls in the weeks leading up the campaign. Moore took off almost the entire final week of the campaign while Jones crisscrossed the state to energize voters with prominent Democrats like former Massachusetts Gov. Devall Patrick and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Moore returned to the campaign trail after nearly a week Monday night in Midland City, when he held a campaign rally with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon painted the race as a referendum on the establishment during his third visit to the state during the campaign. Tuesday night he slid past reporters into his SUV without addressing the result.

Rep. Terri Sewell, who was for years Alabama’s sole Democrat in Washington, also played a hefty role for Jones, serving as an advocate and surrogate for Jones. Rep. John Lewis, a Civil Rights icon and Alabama native, also lent an air of authority to Jones. Sewell, who spent the final week with Jones, stood by him on stage Tuesday night as confetti fell from the ceiling.

Jones managed to turn out massive numbers of black voters, nearly matching President Barack Obama’s turn out in 2008 and 2012 while creating a coalition that for the first time in years actually allowed black voters to join a statewide majority. Black Belt counties, home to a large portion of the state’s black population, ran up his vote tally, including counties like Dallas County, home to Selma, where Jones won 80 percent of the vote; Montgomery County, where he won 72 percent of the vote; and Birmingham, where he won 68 percent of the vote.

In traditionally Republican-leaning counties like Mobile and Madison, Jones also outperformed Moore. In Madison, which went to Trump in 2016 by 16 percentage points, Jones won by nearly 17 percentage points, and in Mobile, Jones won by 14.

In counties with large college-educated voting populations like Lee County, home to Auburn University, and Tuscaloosa County, home to the University of Alabama, Jones also pulled ahead, winning both by 17 percentage points. Winning those counties was Jones’ only path to victory, and he accomplished it.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said interim Sen. Luther Strange will serve until the end of the session this month, potentially giving Republicans a few more weeks to pass a sweeping tax reform package before Jones is expected to arrive in Washington next month. By the time he is seated by Vice President Mike Pence, his victory will have narrowed the Republican majority by one, giving Democrats more leverage in an already seesaw Senate that has failed thus far to pass any major portion of President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Moore’s defeat in itself offered a blow to Trump even before his agenda could be affected by an emboldened and expanded Democratic caucus.

But a Jones victory could be a sigh of relief for national Republicans who have feared his controversial candidacy, cratered by allegations of sexual assault, would turn into a term in Washington that could have been a predicament for Republicans running in more competitive states.

“This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running,” said Steven Law, CEO of the Senate Leadership Fund, a PAC aligned with McConnell and Republican Senate leadership. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco.”

Trump in recent weeks split from most other members of his own party nationally and offered a full-throated endorsement of Moore, tweeting in his support, defending him against the sexual assault allegations and attacking his Democratic opponent. The president, choosing to wade into a divisive election, recorded robocalls for Moore and even held a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Florida, just miles from the Alabama border and within a major Alabama media market.

But Tuesday night, Trump, who won Alabama with 62.1 percent of the vote in 2016, tweeted subdued congratulations to Jones.

“Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory,” he wrote. “The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!”

Moore has refused to concede defeat, saying he expects a recount.

“I really want to thank you for coming tonight and realize when the vote is this close that it’s not over,” Moore said at a subdued election night party after the Associated Press and other media outlets called the race. “And we still got to go by the rules about this recount provision.”

An automatic recount will only occur if the spread between Moore and Jones is less than 0.5 percentage points. With only military and provisional votes outstanding, Jones leads Moore by 1.5 percentage points. Secretary of State John Merrill said Tuesday that those votes are unlikely to alter the results.

“That’s what we’ve got to do is wait on God and let this process play out,” Moore said. “I know it’s late. We can’t wait and have everybody wait until after 11:00. But the votes are still coming in and we’re looking at that.”

Once the votes are officially certified later this month, Moore could request a recount, but to do so, he will have to fork over a check. Alabama law requires a candidate requesting a recount to pay for the cost.


Chip Brownlee is a political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

In Case You Missed It

House passes General Fund Budget

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.

The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.

Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”

Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.

The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.


Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.

Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.

The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.

Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.

The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.

Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.

The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.

In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.

SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.

Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”

State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”

The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.

The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.

The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.

The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.

Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.

SB185 passed 101-0.

Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.

Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1  for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.

SB215 passed the House 87-0.

The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.

State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.

SB231 passed 87-2.

The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.

The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.

The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.

Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.

Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.

Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.


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Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday

Sam Mattison



By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.

Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.

Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.

The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.

Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.


Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.

Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.

Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.

Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.

Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.

The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.

Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.

It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.

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In Case You Missed It

Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

Sam Mattison



By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.

The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.

Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.

Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.

Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.


The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.

Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.

The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.

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House OKs bill to clarify consulting contracts by state legislators

Brandon Moseley



By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to try to clarify how legislators accept consulting contracts under Alabama’s 2010 ethics law. Some pundits have suggested that House Bill 387 is actually designed to weaken the existing ethics law.

Sponsor state Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, argues that the legislation is merely a clarification and is intended to prevent legislators from inadvertently crossing the line into illegality.

Wingo said that his bill would require legislators to notify the Alabama Ethics Commission that they have entered into a consulting agreement in an area outside of their normal scope of work.

State Rep. Paul Beckman, R-Prattville, said, “I have never understood why members of this body were allowed to take contracts as consultants or counselors.”

Wingo said, “Never do I use the word counselor in my bill; it is consulting.”


Beckman asked, “Are we going to be getting into an area where  every time we turn around we create a bureaucratic nightmare where we have to go get an opinion. These opinions whether it is orally or written don’t hold up in a court of law.” Beckman said, “We are serving the people here but we get this admonition that we can still be a consultant if we get an opinion.”

Wingo said, “This does not apply to professions where a member is currently licensed.”

Beckman said, “I would like to see more opinions coming out of the Ethics Commission. Right now we have the Ethics Commission competing with the Attorney General’s office over who has more authority.”

State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said,”This happened to a friend of mine. He just got out of prison. He was a state senator and had a written letter from the Ethics Commission which his lawyer read at trial and the jury convicted him anyway.”

Rogers never named his friend, but reporters think he was talking about former state Sen. Edward Browning ‘E. B.’ McClain who spent over 22 years in the legislature until he was convicted on 47 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, bribery, and money laundry in 2009.

A federal jury found that McClain and the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue were guilty in a scheme where McClain would secure public funds for Pettagrue’s community programs and then receive a kickback once the funds were in hand. McClain was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison. McClain was not prosecuted under the Alabama ethics law as the state has a much weaker ethics statute then. The current ethics law was passed in 2010.

Rogers said, “If they offer me a consulting contract for a field like aerospace engineering that I know nothing about they are trying to pay me off. If you can already be a consultant for something you know about why would you seek a consulting contract for something you don’t know about.

Rogers this is how they can pay you off for your vote.”

State Rep. Artis “A.J.” McCampbell said, “I don’t like making changes to things like this because we get into things called unintended consequences.”

McCampbell was reading from the bill and Wingo said, “You are reading from the original version it has completely changed.” “We worked tirelessly on this bill with the Ethics Commission this is not a fly by night bill.”

“If a member of the legislature enters into a contract to do a consulting contract outside of their normal field of work this bill requires that they consult with the Ethics Commission first,” Wingo said. “It is up to the member to notify the Ethics Commission not to the company or person offering them the money.”

State Representative Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said, “Everybody but legislators are allowed to do contract work up to $30,000.”

Rep. Wingo said, “This is not intended to be a roadblock.”

State Representative Arnold Mooney, R-Indian Springs, said, “The whole purpose of this is not to prevent members from doing work in your field.” “What you are doing is offering to protect me.”

State Representative John Knight, D-Montgomery, asked Wingo what the Alabama Attorney General said about this legislation.

Wingo replied, “I have not contacted the Attorney General.”

Knight responded, “Something from the Ethics Commission does not carry a lot of protection from the Attorney General. We have seen that in the past. I think the Attorney General and the Ethics Commission should be in agreement in the working on this.”

Wingo answered, “Maybe this is a first step.”

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, asked, “Do we have anybody doing work outside of their regular scope of work?”

Wingo answered, “Yes I think so.”

Wingo said, “If we had had this bill four or five years ago maybe we could have been spared the embarrassment that this body experienced with the former Speaker.”

Wingo was referring to former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard who was convicted of 12 counts of felony ethics violations in June 2016. Ironically, Hubbard is largely responsible for creating the ethics law that he was found guilty of violating 11 times in his relentless pursuit of outside contracts and personal wealth.

Unlike McClain, however, Hubbard has not yet served any of this sentence.

House Bill 387 passed 67-0 with 26 legislators abstaining.

The bill now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

(Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group’s Lisa Osborn in 2009 was consulted in this report.)

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Democrat Doug Jones’ win is one for the history books

by Chip Brownlee Read Time: 8 min