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Gubernatorial candidates attend Vestavia Hills forum

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Saturday, February 10, 2018, the Mid Alabama Republican Club held the first Republican primary gubernatorial forum at their regular meeting in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

“This is what Alabama is about,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “We believe in starting meeting with prayer, with the pledge.  We have the fifth largest National Guard in the country.”

Battle said that he moved to Huntsville in 1980, and then started his first restaurant.

“I learned that small business has to work hand in hand with government and government has to work with them to succeed,” Battle said.

Battle then got into local politic by election to the city council.

“I have been Mayor of Huntsville for ten years,” Battle said.  “I started working on education and on infrastructure.”

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Over that 10-year period we have made tremendous progress and have recruited new jobs and new companies to Huntsville.

“We have got to have good ethics,” Battle said. “We have to to be transparent.  We must have an open government

“Jobs are the most important thing we can do,” Battle said, “If we had 24,000 jobs in each congressional district we would have 168,000 new jobs state wide.”

Battle said that he wanted to bring change.

“If you want the same thing that is always happening in Montgomery I am not your candidate,” Battle said. “We can’t have Montgomery holding us back.”

Evangelist Scott Dawson said, “This is the first day that we are locked and loaded for the Republican nomination.”  “I am a son, I am a husband – married for 26 years.  I am a dad I am a nonprofit leader I have been in ministry for the last 30 years.”

“Ethics does matter,” Dawson said.  “Two of the last three governors have been arrested.”

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Of ethics, Dawson said that he follows a policy of, “Don’t allow there to be a question about you.”

On education, Dawson said, “It is time to get rid of Common Core and bring back common sense.”

“Pre-K should be optional but should never be mandatory,” Dawson said. “We have got to have mentorship.  In middle school we have got to start teaching about attitude, leadership and economics.”

Dawson said students should be taught that we can use money not let money use us.  He advocated for, “Mandatory drug testing starting at the 9th grade for every student in extracurricular activities.”

Dawson advocated for expanding drug rehab including opening up the door to faith-based rehab programs.

“We better be recruiting industry in our state,” Dawson said.  “But my son tried to start a new business her in Alabama but the regulation were too cumbersome.  He eventually threw up his hands and gave up.  He and his fellow businessmen would joke that they should move to Georgia and then get incentives to move from Georgia.

“Cut the regulation and set business free.”

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State Sen. Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, said, “I am on the Republican executive committee for Mobile and am on the state Republican executive committee.”

Hightower said that he grew up in South Alabama and then went to work for large international companies, some with budgets as large as the state of Alabama’s with as many employees.  He lived in a number of places including overseas.  There he learned about businesses around the world.  When the 9-11 terror attacks happened he and his wife were living just fifty miles away from the World Trade Center.

“We asked ourselves what are we doing and then moved back to Mobile,” Hightower said of the experience.

He and his wife have had several businesses there.  Then he ran for the state Senate.

“Montgomery spend a $million to defeat me and I won anyway,” Hightower said. “I  have remained outside of the Montgomery bubble. Mike Hubbard’s right hand guy.  That is who I ran against.”

“I want Alabama to have a Rick Perry, a Nikki Haley, a Scott Walker,” Hightower said.  “I am a conservative.  I passed the law that made it illegal to sell baby body parts.”  I have worked to bring Amazon into Mobile, worked on Airbus, and I have worked to bring industries to other parts of Alabama including on Remington and Toyota.”

Hightower said he believes their to be  a “vacuum of leadership” in Alabama.

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“I worked on tax reform, the flat tax,” Hightower said.  “Thirty states have reformed their taxes to make them more competitive.  We haven’t done anything ninety percent of our budget is earmarked.  Nick Saban would not play the whole game substituting just two people.”

“Alabama has an image problem nationally,” Hightower said.  “I want to be your governor.  Elect me and I promise I will honor you.”

“This is the first time I have had the honor of standing before you as the governor of Alabama,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “It is my honor to serve you and all the people of Alabama as your governor.  Most governors have three months to prepare their transition I had three hours.”

Ivey said that while she has been governor the unemployment rate has dropped from 5.4 percent to 3.5 percent in November, a record in state history.

In December, Alabama’s total number of people employed reach 2.1 million, the highest number in state history.

“What we are doing is working,” Ivey said.  “Our economy is doing quite well.  We are moving forward.”

“Alabama received a C on our education report card,” Ivey said.  “We can do better we must do better. Since coming to office I have focused on education and have recently released my strong start strong finish initiative that includes $23 million more for early childhood education.  We are also focused on pre high school and post high school.  In K through grade three the goal is to have all of our children reading at grade level by the end of the third grade.  Students who read at grade level by the end of third grade have a much better chance of finishing high school.  We need to put coding and computing in the middle school.  Thousands of jobs go unfilled because there are not enough computer science students.

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“The jobs of tomorrow are going to take a post high school certificate or a degree,” Ivey said.

Ivey said that she wants to combat the “summer slide” where teachers report that after summer vacation teachers have to re-teach students things they have forgotten over the summer months to combat that, Ivey wants to fund a six-week education program during the summers.

“I am taking seriously my job as head of the state school board,” Ivey said.  “I am also proud that we submitted the largest education budget in a decade.”

That includes $23 million more for Pre-K and $50 million for higher education.

Ivey compared being governor to being Alabama’s head football coach.

“I am the only person who has actually coached at this level,” Ivey said. “Alabama has won every game with me as head coach  Alabama is undefeated, we are on the path to prosperity. Why would you consider a coach who has never coached a single game at this level?”

MARC President and former State Rep. Paul DeMarco thanked the candidates for being there and said next month the lieutenant governor candidates will be there.

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State Sen. J.T. “Jabo” Wagoner, R-Vestavia, told the group that State Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia, could not be there because he has been very ill and has been in and out of  Brookwood Hospital with recurring flu and pneumonia.

They Drained a liter of fluid of fluid from around his lungs and heart last week.  He has missed the last two weeks of the legislature and will miss this next week as well.

DeMarco warned, “There is a record number of Democrats running.  They have been emboldened by what happened in December.”

Steve Schaub, an attorney who specializes on ethics, spoke to candidates.  He told them to go to their post office boxes every day and make copies of those campaign contribution checks.

“Sometimes people inadvertently send you checks that they should not,” Schaub said. “Keep up with your checking account and if you have an event where cash contributions are coming in at the door be sure to have two people at the door whenever money is coming in.”

MARC meets on the second Saturday of each month at 8:30 a.m. at the Vestavia Public Library.


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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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