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GOP gubernatorial candidates hold debate in Birmingham

From Left to Right: Scott Dawson, Tommy Battle and Sen. Bill Hightower.
Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, Scott Dawson, Bill Hightower and Tommy Battle were on stage at the historic Lyric Theatre in Birmingham for the Republican candidates debate sponsored by AL.com’s Reckon and ABC33/40. Gov. Kay Ivey declined to participate in the media event. An empty podium with Ivey’s name was placed on stage for her anyway.

Roy Johnson served as moderate while Lauren Walsh, Cameron Smith, and John Archibald served as the journalist panel asking the questions.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said of himself, “I am a family man and a businessman.” Battle said that he became Mayor ten years ago and education, roads and bridges, and recruiting good paying jobs were the issues, Now Huntsville is the seventh best city to live in America. I want to do the same for the state,

Birmingham-area evangelist Scott Dawson said that he grew up in Ensley, started working at 14, got a job at 16 and went into ministry.

“We love our state, but we have lost faith in our leaders in Montgomery,” Dawson said. “You can live days without food but you can’t carry on without hope and we have lost hope in our leaders.”

State Senator Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, said that he is involved in a number of small businesses in the Mobile area.

ABC 33/40’s top political correspondent Lauren Walsh asked: Alabama passed legislation making it illegal for high school teachers to have sex with students but that law’s constitutionality is being challenged in the courts arguing that is too broad and violates teachers’ rights. Since the age of consent in Alabama is 16, teachers should have the same rights to have sex with a 16 year or older student as any other adult in the state has. If the court overturns the law, would you support legislation raising the age of consent?

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Battle said that we have to look at it in context.

“There is a breakdown in morality across our country,” Dawson said. Dawson said that there were a lot of hypotheticals in the question but that he would support raising the age of consent if the court strikes the law down banning teacher-student sex.

Hightower said that he opposed any lowering of the age of consent.

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“You don’t allow it in a company,” Hightower said. “I have not studied the ramifications of that. I have talked to many people across Alabama who told me that they were sexually abused by the teachers and nothing is done. They should not be allowed to come back and teach.”

“This is such a serious issue,” Dawson said.

Many of the questions asked were about former Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Hightower was asked about a bill he sponsored that would have changed the law on how judges are removed to make Alabama like the federal government and for non-judicial constitutional offices where impeachment is done by the Senate and not by the Supreme Court.

“The judicial inquiry commission is not working right,” Hightower said. “It was not a fair trial. Let’s have impeachment of the judicial offices just like all the other constitutional offices. I don’t think the process was right. I did not like how the process was handled. It was a very one-sided argument. Judge Moore is not the only person who has a problem with the JIC.”

Battle disagreed. “I don’t want the legislature making political decisions about a judicial candidate.”

Dawson said, “I think he (Judge Moore) was right. I think he was railroaded.”

The panel demanded to know who the candidates voted for in the Senate election.

Battle said, “I supported the Republican candidate.”

“I did vote for Roy Moore,” Dawson said.

“I couldn’t vote for the other candidate,” Hightower said.

They were asked if they believed the women who alleged that Moore had underage relationships with them. (Actually, only Leigh Corfman alleges that she was below the age of consent when she dated Moore, but the panel just used “underage” for all of the accusers).

Dawson said that the allegations were troubling but that he talked with Moore’s pastor for the last forty years and he lived an upstanding life.

Hightower said that he was confident that the U.S. Senate could have determined what happened had it come to them.

The candidates were asked if they had ever challenged authority in their lives.

Dawson said that in his ministry he has had to sit down with other minister and lay the facts in front of them that they have fallen.

Battle said, “We have got to have ethics. We have got to have integrity and got to have honesty.” Three times as Mayor I have sent in ethics reports on other officials and each time I called the person and told them what I was doing and why.

The candidates were asked about HB317, which exempts economic developers from the ethics law.

Hightower defended his vote in favor of the bill in the senate.

“Fake news condemned this bill,” Hightower said. “When the Secretary of Commerce comes to me and says that we will lose projects without this bill passing, what do you expect me to do?”

Hightowers said that if site selectors had to register like lobbyists, “Toyota wouldn’t have come. Mercedes wouldn’t have come. I did not like the bill as it came to the Senate; but in ten months we will write a more robust ethics bill.”

Battle said, “I did not need HB317 to lure 24,000 jobs,” to Huntsville.

Battle said that he supports protecting site selectors, but he was opposed to the section in HB317 allowing economic developers to work for contingency fees

“Ethics bills are not written to protect lobbyists but to protect the people of Alabama,” Dawson said. “Why not wait and get it right, especially in the wake of yet another indictment.”

“I was disappointed that we adjourned without addressing ethics reform,” Hightower said.

The candidates were asked about school security.

Battle said that in Huntsville, “We hardened the site,” where there is only one place to come in or out have to be buzzed in and buzzed out and put a police officer in every school.

“You have to protect the kids,” Dawson said. “I am not opposed to arming our teacher, but I don’t want it to be the wild wild west.” “We need to pay a stipend to those teachers who are protecting our students on the front lines.”

Hightower said, “We know who the problem kids are. In Mobile 1,700 families generate about 78 percent of the crime.”

Walsh asked the candidates about entering into an agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians to allow casino style gambling at their facilities in exchange for taxes on the revenues.

Battle said, “That is not a financial tool I would jump into quickly.”

Dawson said if you legislate stuff just to raise money all you will do is keep legalizing more stuff to raise more money. “It is not a good economic decision for Alabama.”

The candidates were asked if they support raising the gas taxes to fund more infrastructure.

Battle said that we need to have more revenue to make infrastructure improvements and could be in favor of that but said that was just one option.

“Roads and bridges have to be addressed,” Hightower said. “We also have to address waterways and broad band. The bridge in Mobile is going to be a toll road. We already have money.”

Hightower said that we need to remove earmarks and re-prioritize money and should consider privatizing the Alabama Department of Transportation.

“Right now we are transferring $65 million out of ALDOT,” Hightower said.

Dawson said that there is a rumor that Kay Ivey would call a special session after the Republican primary to raise fuel taxes for infrastructure.

Hightower said, “I have heard that. It is no rumor that if certain people are elected they will raise taxes.”

Dawson said that Kay Ivey said that she would end task forces but has since created a school safety task force and is about to form an opioid task force. “You have to wonder if we have a flip flop governor.”

Battle said, “There is probably a consortium running the government. She is on jets going here and there passing out more checks than the publishers clearing house folks. When do you have time to govern?”

Dawson said, “She is coach because we fired our previous head coach and we have an interim coach while we look for a head coach that can win a national championship.”

Hightower said, “She is no Nick Saban,”

The candidates were asked about protecting Confederate monuments.

Dawson said, “I am going to protect the monuments.”

Hightower said that nobody is talking about taking down Auschwitz..

Battle said that when he was in Maine he saw memorials to Civil War veterans like we have, except they were to Union veterans.

The candidates were asked about legalizing marijuana.

Hightower said that we are already fighting opioids.

Dawson said, “I don’t care if it did bring money into this state, I am not going to support it.”

The Republican primary is on June 5.

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Congressional candidates call on Sessions, Byrne to stand up for South Alabama

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At a rare joint press conference, the Democratic Candidates for the First Congressional District called on Rep. Bradley Byrne and former Sen. Jeff Sessions to stand up for South Alabama following the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut nearly $300 million slated for projects awarded to Austal.

“The current administration’s decision to divert that funding from Austal to build the border wall is harmful to our community and will potentially put good jobs at risk,” said Dr. James Averhart, CW05, USMC retired. “This is nothing more than a political stunt on the backs of the hard-working men and women of South Alabama.”

Over the years, South Alabama has become a hub for shipbuilding and defense projects developing ships and planes for the United States military.

“While the President may be comfortable playing political games with our communities, our representatives must stand strong against this disastrous decision,” said Dr. Kiani Gardner, a scientist and professor. “We are grateful Senator Jones is speaking out against it and the devastating impacts it could have on our communities.”

This matter transcends partisan politics, our Republican representatives must stand with Senator Jones and tell President Trump to find a better way to protect our Southern border,” said Rick Collins, a longtime Mobile businessman.

This is only the latest Trump Administration proposals that could have devastating impacts for the local economy. Recently, the administration proposed new tariffs that would have a significant impact on Airbus’ local operation.

 

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Sanders campaign seeking Bernie Victory Captains in Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Saturday the Bernie Sanders for President campaign announced that they are seeking Bernie Victory Captains in Alabama who will host at least one Bernie event every week between now and the Alabama presidential primary on March 3.

“As a Bernie Victory Captain, you will host voter contact events like phone banks and Bernie Journeys to the states that vote before us that are vital to securing support for Bernie and our movement,” the Sanders campaign wrote in recruiting emails. “You will be working with world-class organizers and dedicated supporters across the country.”

“Voting for the Democratic nominee who will take on Trump is well underway,” the campaign continued. “We won Iowa and New Hampshire, and mail-in and early voting ballots are being cast across the country. Before we know it, it will be your state’s turn to vote! So we’re looking for supporters in Alabama to join our Bernie Victory Captain program. Bernie Victory Captains are supporters who can commit to hosting one event a week between now and the Alabama primary.”

Bernie Victory Captains are leading teams of people canvassing neighborhoods. They also played important roles in Sanders’ win in New Hampshire and close second place finish in Iowa. Sanders had more votes in Iowa than South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg; but the Iowa Democratic Party ruled that because Buttigieg won more caucuses that he was the winner of Iowa and not Sanders.

“A volunteer I hosted on a Bernie Journey to New Hampshire this weekend just emailed to tell me she wouldn’t have volunteered if she didn’t see the event near her. Heartwarming,” on Bernie Victory Captain wrote.

“Conquered my fear of canvassing. Hosted my third canvass yesterday and it went GREAT!!” another wrote.

Sanders is a U.S. Senator from Vermont. Though Sanders is an independent and a self-proclaimed socialist he caucuses with Senate Democrats.

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The pro-Bernie group: Our Revolution wrote in an email: “The corporate media and the billionaire class have escalated their propaganda against Bernie and our movement.”

“Chris Matthews had a near hysterical breakdown on MSNBC about being “executed” in Central Park if Bernie is elected,” the group continued. “The former head of Goldman Sachs said that Bernie would “ruin” the American economy. MSNBC pretended that Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Biden are one candidate to justify not admitting that Bernie is the frontrunner in the presidential primary race.”

“As our vision of a just government that represents working people continues to gain momentum, their attacks will only become more vicious,” the group continued. “Our Revolution is organizing all over America to support Bernie and a wave of progressive candidates who share our values. Rush a donation now to help us fight back against increasingly desperate corporate propaganda and organize to win in Nevada and all over the country!”

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Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) had appeared to be the Democratic frontrunner; but his campaign was rocked by disappointing finishes in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Biden has been stung by GOP criticism that his son Hunter Biden profited from lucrative overseas deal in Ukraine and China off of Biden’s tenure as Vice President.

Former New York City Mayor billionaire Michael Bloomberg has assembled a large campaign apparatus that includes hundreds of the Democratic Party’s top operatives and strategists. He has spent more than $350 million of his own fortune into a months-long national advertising campaign that has lifted him in the polls as Biden has struggled in the early contests that Bloomberg ignored.

Bloomberg needs one more national poll sanctioned by the Democratic Party to show that he has ten percent support or more for him to participate in the next Democratic debate on Wednesday in Los Vegas. Sanders, Buttigieg, Biden, and U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) have already qualified to be on the debate stage.

Congresswoman Terri A Sewell, D-Selma, and U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D) have both endorsed VP Biden. The Alabama Democratic Conference and its leader Alabama Democratic Party Vice Chair for Minority Affairs Joe Reed has endorsed Bloomberg.

The Alabama Democratic Presidential primary will be on March 3.

People in states like California and South Carolina with early voting are already casting their ballots.

Original reporting by the Hill contributed to this report.

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John Merrill elected Chair of Republican Secretaries of State Committee

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At this year’s annual National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Winter Conference, Secretary of State John H. Merrill had the privilege of meeting with the Republican Secretaries of State Committee (RSSC), where he was then elected by his 28 other peers to lead the delegation as its Chair.

“At our meeting in Washington, we solidified our goals for the upcoming term and identified new ways in which we can better ourselves as Secretaries of State. Our chief objective is to protect the integrity and credibility of the elections process in every state.” emphasized Secretary Merrill.

Merrill will be working alongside Vice Chair Frank LaRose, Ohio’s Secretary of State.

“Secretary LaRose is a proven leader among our colleagues at NASS. He has made significant progress in securing the state of elections in Ohio, and I am excited to continue our work together to ensure our colleagues are up-to-date with important information and aware of new ways in which we can protect the integrity of the electoral process,” stated Merrill.

In their commitment to maintaining fair and secure elections that are inclusive of all eligible citizens, the Republican Secretaries of State Committee will continue to work to modernize the systems in which Americans use each and every day, as well as cut down on all forms of voter fraud.

“Our Republican secretaries of state are second to none,” said RSLC President Austin Chambers. “Secretaries Merrill and LaRose are brilliant leaders who will play a key role in getting Republicans elected to secretary of state offices in every corner of the country. We are thankful for their willingness to lead and know they will have an enormous positive impact on this year’s elections.

 

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Buttigieg’s campaign announces Dixon, Rice will lead on the ground efforts in Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Pete Buttigieg’s campaign announced that starting on Monday, Stephenie Dixon and Matthew Rice will lead the Buttigieg campaign’s on-the-ground efforts in Alabama.

The Alabama presidential primary is less than three weeks away and the 38 year-old South Bend, Indiana Mayor is locked in a tight race with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) after Iowa and New Hampshire. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) is in third. Former New York City and mega billionaire Michael Bloomberg skipped the early states and is pouring millions of his own money into the race. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) are struggling to resurrect their campaigns after disappointing finishes in the first two contest. Bloomberg and Sanders both been actively organizing in Alabama.

“We are building the campaign that will not only win this nomination but will defeat Donald Trump in November,” said Samantha Steelman, Pete for America Organizing Director for Super Tuesday States. “To compete in all the states on Super Tuesday, you need a massive network of grassroots volunteers. For months, we have had a team that has been building that organization by harnessing the energy and grassroots momentum behind Pete and turning it into real organizing work. This ramp up will provide more staff and resources to train, resource, and guide our 25,000 volunteers in Super Tuesday states that will push our campaign across the finish line on March 3rd.”

Dixon and Rice have been tasked with helping further resource and train grassroots volunteer networks in Alabama’s seven congressional districts who have shared Pete’s message across the state since last year.

Buttigieg has visited Alabama already but the Pete for America campaign has not announced another Alabama visit. Buttigieg will make five upcoming trips in the next two weeks that will take Mayor Buttigieg to Super Tuesday states: California, Colorado, North Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

The campaign has also announced a six-figure digital buy in several Super Tuesday states.

Buttigieg’s campaign claims that their message of belonging has inspired a grassroots campaign across the country. The campaign has built up volunteer leadership teams that are working in every single congressional district in all Super Tuesday states. Buttigieg’s volunteer-led teams are already hosting events and recruiting more volunteers for door knocking, phone banks, and other volunteer action in Super Tuesday states.

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In addition to staff on the ground, Pete for America is also activating and ramping up activity in coalition groups like Students for Pete and Veterans & Military Community for Pete. The campaign has over 80 Students for Pete chapters in Super Tuesday states including Troy University and Jefferson State Community College, to name a few. Chapter leaders have been trained on all aspects of the campaign, including digital organizing, field, and policy advocacy. As part of this ramp-up, Pete for America is engaging student groups to have organizing meetings to welcome new staff. Veterans & Military Community for Pete has more than 1,600 active members in Super Tuesday states that will ramp up organizing activities as well.

Pete for America is also organizing online in Alabama. The campaign has over 150 digital captains, with a presence in every Super Tuesday state who are engaging supporters and bringing them into its relational organizing program. The campaign’s digital Welcome teams and Local teams will be finding and identifying new supporters online, welcoming them into the Pete community, and then connecting them to local resources both online and on the ground to get involved – translating online support to offline action.

Buttigieg is a veteran and if elected would be the youngest President in American history. He would also be the first openly gay president.

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The Alabama presidential primary is March 3.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination for President will face incumbent President Donald J. Trump (R) on November 3.

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