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Winners and Losers of Special Election

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama garnered national and global attention from the U.S. Senate special election which vaulted Doug Jones into the U.S. Senate. There are a number of winners and losers from this election.

The foremost winner is of course Doug Jones himself.  Jones has had a stellar legal career.  He has been a U.S. Attorney, an assistant U.S. attorney, a former aide to U.S. Senator Howell Heflin (D), the successful prosecutor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombers, and he is recognized as one of the foremost legal minds in the profession with a who’s who list of corporate and institutional clients.  He has had a stellar career; but now he is a Democrat rock star.  He walked into the heart of Trump country in the deep south and emerged victorious.  Nobody among Senate Democrats can match that accomplishment and the national press attention he has received gives him far wider popular name recognition than Senators who have served longer and have more political victories.

Social conservatives lost mightily and likely won’t ever recover from this defeat.  Roy Moore was their champion.  He denounced sodomy, abortion, same-sex marriage and urged America to “be good again.”  If elected, Moore would have been in position to influence judicial nominations that will be interpreting the Constitution for the next three decades; now Jones will be and clearly that will impact future decisions on same-sex marriage, abortion, the Second Amendment, immigration, transexuals, the role of the government, etc.  Only the President influences the future of the federal court system; than a “swing” Senator and now the GOP has just a one vote majority in the Senate.  The social conservatives (most of them from rural Alabama ) defeated the business/establishment Republicans (most of them from the suburbs and cities) in the GOP Primary and then were largely abandoned by the GOP elites on election day in the general election.

The LBGTQ community was triumphant.  Judge Roy Moore has been their nemesis for years; not just in Alabama but nationally as well.  They contributed mightily to getting him removed from his position on the Alabama Supreme Court and now they helped defeat his Senate aspirations.  Fewer and fewer preachers are denouncing sodomy from the pulpit and after Moore very few politicians will want to do it on the stump either and risk the wrath that they have been able to deliver to Moore.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) ended the night in the loser category.  Ivey was probably right to set the special election this year rather than leaving it for the next election cycle but she is being second guessed now over the decision.  She also looked foolish when she said that she believed Roy’s accusers; but was still voting for Roy Moore and did not remove him from the ticket.  The decision to schedule the state Senate District 26 special election on the same day as the U.S. Senate election now looms large as a potential contributing factor to why Republicans lost. She looked awkward through all of this and that the Republican Party lost a U.S. Senate seat just eight months into her tenure is an issue that may breathe new life into the campaigns of her many 2018 challengers.

The Black community in Alabama won. Republicans have ignored them, packed them into Black dominated legislative districts, and openly laughed at their complaints and problems.  Republicans are not laughing today.  The Black voters flexed their muscles all across Alabama.  The polls all had Moore ahead by three to eight points; but that was assuming that Black voters stayed home like they did in the 2016 and 2014 elections.  There was 44 percent voters turnout in Montgomery County, much of it generated by the SD26 race energy, versus 34 percent turnout across the state.  Moore did not really have a outreach program to Black voters.  If he had just gotten 22 percent of Black voters he would have easily beaten Jones.  NBA and TV star Charles Barkley openly campaigned for Jones.  President Barack H. Obama (D) did robo-calls for Jones.  Jones campaigned on the last days with Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Selma), Senator Corey Booker (D-New Jersey), and Deval Patrick (D-Massachusetts) while Moore made some inane comments about America being its greatest prior to the Civil War.  That was twisted by his opponents to mean that America was greatest when we had slaves, a charge Moore let go unanswered.  Black turnout flipped many reliably Republican counties blue and that should put fear in the hearts of everyone in the Republican Party.

Luther Strange managed to lose yet again.  Luther should never have accepted that tainted appointment from Governor Robert Bentley (R).  It is likely that Del Marsh or Mo Brooks could have beaten Moore in the Primary; but Luther used DC lobbyist dollars and Mitch McConnell to set up a runoff between him and Moore.  Then he and his buddys spent millions trashing Moore even though every pollster, including Luther’s own tracking polls, had Moore winning the GOP runoff and emerging as the GOP nominee.  Once he squandered a small fortune and whatever good will he had left in the state and LOST convincingly to Moore; Luther then petulantly refused to endorse Roy Moore.  There are claims that GOP operatives created the whole underage women narrative and then one of them Tim Miller planted it with WAPO.  Luther could have come out and publicly demanded that the RNC and RSLC support electing the Republican nominee; but no he either stayed out of it or undermined Moore from behind the scenes.  Luther went from being a generally likable political figure to perhaps the most polarizing figure in GOP politics in Alabama, outside of Moore himself.  Luther Strange managed not only to crash and burn his once promising political career, he took out a safe GOP Senate seat, imperil the President’s judicial nominees, and cost the GOP any chance to repeal and replace Obamacare.

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The Alabama Democratic Party got a win.  They have not won any statewide election since 2008 and really have not seen an energized Democratic base since that election.  Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley largely remained behind the scenes; but she inherits an energized base, a new generation of grassroots Democratic organizers that are dedicated to progressive principles and ideas, and a Republican Party that appears divided and beaten down.  Whether or not she and Democratic Candidates like Judge Sue Bell Cobb, James Fields and Walt Maddox can capitalize on this momentum is open to question.

President Donald J Trump (R) suffered a massive blow in this race.  First he opposed Moore, then he embraced Moore, then he distanced himself from Moore, and then he finally embraced Moore again.  Now he is distancing himself from Moore again; but he lost a reliable Senate vote in Luther Strange and a lot of Presidential prestige.  His support arguably did as much to energize Black voters for Jones as it did conservative voters for Moore.

This was a big win for the ‘Washington Post’.  The aging legacy newspaper has a big reputation; but a lot of that had become ancient history rather than current reality; until Amazon exec Jeff Bezos bought it for a discount a year ago.  Moore was cruising toward what should have been an easy win, until WAPO got involved by dredging up women who claimed to have been previously involved with Moore.  The move flipped the script on the election from Making America Great Again to what happened in 1979.  I find that sort of gotcha journalism sleazy and unprofessional; but the Democrats got this Senate seat largely because of their efforts.

The biggest loser had to be Judge Roy Moore himself.  If you run for office enough you will normally lose an election.  There has to be a winner and there has to be a loser in any contest, and if you count the primaries, a lot of people lost in their bid to win back this Senate seat.  Moore lost more than a cushy job.  He has been called “pedophile”, “pervert”, “child molester”, and faced a level of national ridicule and scrutiny in his personal life that far more powerful men have never experienced.  After 70 years of service in the Army, in the Vietnam War, as a prosecutor, as a judge, as Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, as the head of his Foundation, as a father, a grandfather; whatever he does in this life Moore will always be best known for the two most serious accusations against him, that if true were one time incidents 38 and 40 years ago, and if not true amounted to slander.  Few men and women would want for their lives on this Earth to be known for and judged by what they did in their darkest moments and certainly not for the worst lies their political enemies can concoct.  Judge Moore lost an election; but he also lost his good name and reputation and that might not be fixable in this life.  This kind of intensely personal attacks and charged negative political attacks is why many people do not want to go into politics.

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Opinion | Tough times show what makes our country great

Bradley Byrne

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This year, during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Memorial Day provided an even more unique opportunity to reflect upon what makes our nation great and the shared values we hold as a people.  Though our celebrations may have been scaled down, the greatness of our country is, in many ways, more apparent in challenging times like these.

The struggles we are going through together as a nation are real and impactful.  The coronavirus overwhelmingly targets seniors and those with preexisting conditions.  As a result, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have been hit hard.  More than 36,000 residents and staff have died after coming down with Covid-19, more than a third of all deaths in our country that have been attributed to the virus.  Sadly, many of our cherished veterans have been among those lost to the virus.  Of all the tributes to those we have lost, the stories of our veterans are especially moving.

But there are bright spots in coronavirus medical research.  Testing quality and access has improved significantly.  And as we learn more about the virus, we are better able to prevent and treat Covid-19.  The hospitalization rate for those diagnosed with the virus is 3.4 percent, and the CDC estimates that 35 percent of all infected people are asymptomatic.  Taking this into account, the infection fatality rate is likely around 0.2 percent or 0.3 percent.  While that is still 2 to 3 times higher than the flu, the coronavirus is nothing like the killer some predicted early on.

Without question, the economy has taken a hit.  Unemployment levels are higher than any time since the Great Depression.  Our small businesses shed more than 11 million jobs in April.  That’s more than half of the 20 million private sector jobs lost last month.  

However, Congressional action to cushion the blow has helped.  More than 4.4 million small businesses have been approved for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, and over $511 billion has been processed in aid.  In Alabama, at least 60,457 loans have been made for a whopping $6,136,772,466.  The bulk of this aid to small businesses must go towards employee paychecks, ensuring that more Americans are able to keep their jobs.  In addition to the Paycheck Protection Program, nearly 431,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loans have been processed to assist small businesses during this crisis.  Alabama businesses have received 4,728 EIDL loans for $376,897,450.

There is no question that small businesses will face new challenges going forward.  Evolving ways we interact with one another and patronize businesses, including new occupancy limitations, will make staying in business more difficult.  That’s why it is so important for our economy to continue opening sooner rather than later.  You and I can do our part by visiting businesses and restaurants in our community.  Importantly, the foundation of our economy was strong before coronavirus spread prevention measures were enacted nationwide.  So, the country can and will rebound from this.  Prosperity will return.

One only needs to look at what is happening on the other side of the globe to be thankful for our nation.  The brutal Chinese Communist Party, whose mismanagement and dishonesty during the initial outbreak of the virus cost countless lives across the globe, is using the pandemic as an excuse to ramp up authoritarian measures.  The people of Hong Kong are suffering a loss of freedom that dwarfs the sacrifices we have made to stop the spread.

The American people have responded to crisis after crisis with resilience and togetherness, and we will do so again.  We may not have participated in all of our Memorial Day traditions, but we can still honor the fallen by treasuring the country and values they sacrificed to preserve.  That’s what makes our country great.

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Opinion | With COVID-19 policy, don’t blame your umbrella. The rain got you wet

Monica S. Aswani, DrPH, and Ellen Eaton, M.D.

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Monica S. Aswani, DrPH, is an assistant professor of health services administration and Ellen Eaton, M.D., is an assistant professor of infectious diseases.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this perspective are those of the authors.


As states re-open for business, many governors cite the devastating impact of physical distancing policies on local and state economies. Concerns have reached a fever pitch. Many Americans believe the risk of restrictive policies limiting business and social events outweighs the benefit of containing the spread of COVID-19.

But the proposed solution to bolster the economy — re-opening businesses, restaurants and even athletic events — does not address the source of the problem.

A closer look at the origins of our economic distress reminds us that it is COVID-19, not shelter-in-place policy, that is the real culprit. And until we have real solutions to this devastating illness, the threat of economic fallout persists.

Hastily transitioning from stay-at-home to safer-at-home policy is akin to throwing away your umbrella because you are not getting wet.

The novelty of this virus means there are limited strategies to prevent or treat it. Since humans have no immunity to it, and to date, there are no approved vaccines and only limited treatments, we need to leverage the one major tool at our disposal currently: public health practices including physical distancing, hand-washing and masks.

As early hot spots like New York experienced alarming death tolls, states in the Midwest and South benefited from their lessons learned.

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Indeed, following aggressive mandates around physical distancing, the number of cases and hospitalizations observed across the U.S. were initially lower than projected. Similarly, the use of masks has been associated with a reduction in cases globally.

As the death toll surpasses 100,000, the U.S. is reeling from COVID-19 morbidity and mortality. In addition, the U.S. has turned its attention to “hot spots” in Southern states that have an older, sicker and poorer population. And to date, minority and impoverished patients bear the brunt of COVID-19 in the South.

Following the first COVID-19 case in Alabama on March 13, the state has experienced 14,730 confirmed cases, 1,629 hospitalizations and 562 deaths, according to health department data as of Monday afternoon.

Rural areas face an impossible task as many lack a robust health care infrastructure to contend with outbreaks, especially in the wake of recent hospital closures. And severe weather events like tornadoes threaten to divert scarce resources to competing emergencies.

Because public health interventions are the only effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19, all but essential businesses were shuttered in many states. State governments are struggling to process the revenue shortfalls and record surge in unemployment claims that have resulted.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, allocated $150 billion to state governments, with a minimum of $1.25 billion per state. Because the funds were distributed according to population size, 21 states with smaller populations received the minimum of $1.25 billion.

Although states with larger populations, such as Alabama and Louisiana, received higher appropriations in absolute terms, they received less in relative terms given their COVID-19 related medical and financial strain: the CARES Act appropriations do not align resources with state need.

As unemployment trust funds rapidly deplete, these states have a perverse incentive to reopen the economy.

Unemployment claimants who do not return to work due to COVID-19 fears, per the Alabama Department of Labor, can be disqualified from benefits, perpetuating the myth of welfare fraud to vilify those in need.

The United States Department of Labor also emphasized that unemployment fraud is a “top priority” in guidance to states recently.

Prematurely opening the economy before a sustained decline in transmission is likely to refuel the pandemic and, therefore, prolong the recession. Moreover, it compromises the health of those who rely most heavily on public benefits to safely stay home and flatten the curve.

Some would counter this is precisely why we should reopen — for the most vulnerable, who were disproportionately impacted by stay-at-home orders.

The sad reality, however, is that long-standing barriers for vulnerable workers in access to health care, paid sick leave and social mobility pre-date this crisis and persist. And we know that many vulnerable Americans work on the frontlines of foodservice and health care support where the risk from COVID-19 is heightened.

A return to the status quo without addressing this systemic disadvantage will only perpetuate, rather than improve, these unjust social and economic conditions.

COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in our state and nation, and re-opening businesses will not provide a simple solution to our complex economic problems.

No one would toss out their umbrella after several sunny days so why should America abandon public health measures now? After all, rain is unpredictable and inevitable just like the current COVID-19 crisis.

The threat of COVID-19 resurgence will persist until we have effective preventive and treatment options for this novel infectious disease.

So let’s not blame or, worse, discard the umbrella. Instead, peek out cautiously, survey the sky and start planning now to protect the vulnerable, who will be the first to get wet.

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Opinion | Cleaner air during pandemic shows need for alternative fuels, electric vehicles

Mark Bentley and Phillip Wiedmeyer

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Photos of a smogless Los Angeles skyline set against a brilliant blue sky have emerged as an iconic image to showcase the impact of decreased air pollution during America’s COVID-19 quarantine.

Similar photos from around the world, including what are usually smog-filled cities in India, China and Europe, provide a glimpse of a world with improved air quality.

It’s no secret that poor air quality has historically been caused by traffic, but due to tighter regulations by the federal government, industries’ contribution to pollution has decreased significantly. Scientific research is beginning to show how social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders have created an unintended consequence of improving worldwide air quality.

For nearly two decades, the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition has been advocating to improve Alabama’s air quality by increasing the use of cleaner alternative fuels and expanding the market for advanced technology vehicles. Cleaner burning alternative transportation fuel options like biodiesel, ethanol, propane and natural gas also reduce pollution just like electric vehicles.

Air pollution remains a global public health crisis, as the World Health Organization estimates it kills seven million people worldwide annually.

But is the COVID-19 pandemic showing us the wisdom of transitioning to cleaner vehicles, whether electric vehicles with drastically lower emissions or vehicles using cleaner-burning alternative fuels? The answer is an emphatic yes.

Recent research shows global carbon dioxide emission had fallen by 17 percent by early April when compared to mean 2019 levels. In some areas, including the United States and the United Kingdom, emissions have fallen by a third, thanks largely to people driving less, according to research published in Nature Climate Change.

Numerous organizations, including NASA, continue to study the environmental, societal and economic impacts of the pandemic, and researchers view recent air quality gains as promising evidence that the use of alternative vehicles could have long-term positive impacts.

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“If I could wave my magic wand and we all had electric cars tomorrow, I think this is what the air would look like,” Ronald Cohen, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at UC Berkeley who studies the effects of the stay-at-home orders on air quality, told the Los Angeles Times.

Wider use of electric vehicles and the other domestically produced alternative fuels would lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil while also helping our environment. Poor air quality already causes negative consequences for millions of Americans.

Alabama could also see economic benefits from increased production of electric vehicles, with Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz operating plants in the state and working hard to produce the next wave of electric vehicles. As part of a $1 billion investment in Alabama, Mercedes began construction of a high-voltage battery plant in Bibb County in 2018 for its all-electric EQ brand of vehicles, as well as batteries for its hybrid plug-ins.

“This is a teaching moment,” Viney Aneja, an air quality professor in the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at North Carolina State University told the Raleigh News and Observer. “We should learn from it. We should promote behavior that will allow air quality to be as good as it is outside right now.”

This is a prime opportunity for America to embrace alternative and cleaner-burning transportation fuels, as well as electric vehicles, while also decreasing reliance on foreign oil and creating jobs here at home.

It could also make those picturesque photos of the big-city skylines become commonplace instead of a rarity.

Mark Bentley has served as the executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition since August 2006.

Phillip Wiedmeyer serves as the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition’s chairman of the board of directors and president and is one of the ACFC’s original founders. He also serves as the executive director of the Applied Research Center of Alabama, a non-profit dedicated to public policy issues impacting Alabama’s growth, economic development and business climate.

About the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition

Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition serves as the principal coordinating point for clean, alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicle activities in Alabama. ACFC was incorporated in 2002 as an Alabama 501c3 non-profit, received designation U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program in 2009 and was re-designated in 2014. A national network of nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions brings together stakeholders in the public and private sectors to deploy alternative and renewable fuels, idle-reduction measures, fuel economy improvements and emerging transportation technologies. To learn more, visit www.alabamacleanfuels.com.

 

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Opinion | Electric vehicles next wave to drive Alabama’s continued auto-manufacturing success

Gerald Allen

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Alabama has long been a leader in the automotive manufacturing sector in the United States and, now, we have the opportunity to sustain that momentum for years to come through significant investments in the electric vehicle (EV) industry.

Dating back to 1993 when Mercedes-Benz announced their opening of their only U.S.-based assembly plant in Tuscaloosa County, our state has continued to provide a favorable business climate that has helped recruit Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Mazda. The substantial investments of these companies have only furthered economic activity through the numerous tier 1 and tier 2 automotive suppliers that have also located to our state.

Combined, these Alabama-based automakers and suppliers produced nearly 1.6 million engines in 2018 and created over 40,000 automotive manufacturing jobs. Alabama currentlyranks as the number three autoexporting state in the country, andexports of Alabama-made vehicles and parts totaled $7.5 billion in 2018.

Now, as we continue toward a 21stcentury transportation system and economy, we must acknowledge – and prepare for – the electric vehicle wave that is coming.

Significant research shows that consumer interest in electric vehicles is exponentially on the rise and so is theproduction of EVs by manufacturers. Globally, total EV sales surpassed 1 million vehicles in 2017, then quickly doubled to cruise past 2 million in 2018 and that number is expected to double again in 2020 to reach 4 million total sales. According to a Deloitte report, it is expected that global EV sales will top 21 million by 2031.

In recognition of the growth in EV sales, Mercedes-Benz broke ground in the fall of 2018 in Bibb County to build a plant producing high-voltage batteries for the all-electric EQ brand of Mercedes vehicles, as well as batteries for Mercedes hybrid plug-ins. This project alone is well over a billion-dollar investment in Bibb County and, with it, Mercedes has now invested more than $6 billion in its operations here in the state.

We know that expanding EV sales andproduction in Alabama will require anumber of investments from the industry, the legislature and eventually theconsumers of this state. To cement our reputation as a forward-leaning automotive leader, we must prepare for the future of electric vehicles, production of electric vehicles parts and ensure the necessary EV infrastructure is in place to be competitive for generations. Doing so will show that our state supports this burgeoning sector of automotive manufacturing and help recruit even more of these projects that will provide numerous high-paying jobs and produce significant economic benefits.

The Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan, approved legislatively in 2019, provided a foundational first step as it included a provision that helps propel Alabama toward the cutting-edge of EV infrastructure. The landmark legislation established a grant program that proactively facilitates the installation of new EV charging stations across the state. These stations will supplement the Electrify America charging stations currently being installed in the state and add to Alabama’s EV infrastructure.

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Additionally, the full body of the state Senate and our colleagues in the House have shown a commitment to the expansion of EV production in Alabama with a $2 million investment in this year’s budgets to educate and promote the use of electric vehicles to the public. We believe this will further Alabama’s reputation as a premier automotive manufacturing state as these funds will go toward developing an EV industry educational website with mapping of charging stations and other useful resources, as well as funding to further build out  Alabama’s EV charging infrastructure.

Mercedes-Benz has been a game changer for our state. With their initial investment in 1993 to their significant investments in EV batteries, it’s clear the electric vehicle wave is coming and, with it, significant opportunities for automotive manufacturing growth in Alabama. Now is the time for us to show our state’s ongoing ingenuity by supporting this sector’s transformation to electric vehicle production with these significant investments and overall support of the growing EV industry.

Gerald Allen is a member of the Alabama State Senate, R-Tuscaloosa, representing District 21. Senator Allen can be reached at [email protected].

 

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