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Democratic legislative candidates express concern about St. Clair Democratic Executive Committee

Brandon Moseley

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The three candidates who are running as Democrats for legislative seats representing St. Clair County released a joint statement of concern with the leadership of the St. Clair County Democratic Party.

Carl Carter is running for Alabama State Senate District 11. Nicki Arnold-Swindle is running for State House District 36, and Jared Vaughn is running for State House District 30. The only Democratic incumbent representing St. Clair County at this time is U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, who was elected statewide.

“As Democratic nominees who are running for Alabama Legislature in parts of St. Clair County, we have encountered a pattern of disturbing behavior that we believe has created a toxic atmosphere between the St. Clair Democratic Executive Committee (SCDEC) and the candidates running for legislative seats within the county,” Carter, Arnold-Swindle, and Vaughn wrote in their joint statement.

“Nicki Arnold-Swindle, candidate for State House District 36, received a hostile telephone call in February from Sherry Kuntz, county executive committee secretary and wife of chairman Herb Kuntz,” the three candidates charged. “(Swindle also qualified for the SDEC place held by Mrs. Kuntz in District 36.) Mrs. Kuntz said Arnold-Swindle had no right to run for “her” seat on the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) and demanded that she withdraw. In a separate conversation later, Mr. Kuntz informed Senate 11 Candidate Carl Carter that he would not allow Arnold-Swindle to address the St. Clair Democratic Club before June 5 because “that would take votes away from Sherry.” This would appear to be a conflict of interest.”

“Jared Vaughn, candidate for State House District 30, attended the June 11 meeting of the SCDEC, and was literally yelled at by members of committee that the meeting was closed and that he had no right to attend,” the candidates claimed. “Ultimately, Chairman Kuntz affirmed that meetings are now open (a matter resolved recently but not communicated to members) and allowed Vaughn five minutes to address the committee. When Vaughn expressed dismay at the contentious atmosphere he found, he was sternly dressed down by Mrs. Kuntz in a display so egregious that nearly every member, including Mr. Kuntz, expressed apologies on the committee’s behalf. Finally, in the same meeting, the committee was unable to approve minutes because committee members Carl Carter and Jared Arnold objected to mischaracterizations of parts of the May meeting. This calls into question the role of Mrs. Kuntz, long known for her combative approach, as a suitable keeper of the committee’s official records.”

“Carl Carter and Committee Member Jared Arnold had pointed out in a previous meeting that members of the committee have not had proper elections at least since 2010, and that no candidates had qualified for the primary scheduled for June 5, as required by the Alabama Democratic Party Bylaws,” the candidates continued. “Mr. Kuntz interrupted Carter so many times that Carter had to hand off the reading of the provisions to Arnold. Ultimately, however, the rules were so clear that the committee voted unanimously to proceed with elections in August, after the organizational meeting of the SDEC. On May 31, an article in the St. Clair Times (quoting both Carter and Kuntz) resulted in a derogatory email from Mr. Kuntz to an unknown and private list of Democrats in and outside the county, misquoting the article and defending the SCDEC’s failure to have elections on the grounds that election requirements are ignored by many county committees. To help recruit Democrats into the party, Arnold and Carter launched a new Facebook group, St. Clair Dems, to generate dialogue and create interest, especially in underserved areas of Moody, Odenville, Springville, Argo, and Ashville. In some posts, Carter has pointed out that the party has not elected a Democrat in more than a decade, and that attendance at Democratic Club meetings is generally 50 or less. During the recent Avondale Mills Block Party, Carter and Mr. Kuntz engaged in a protracted conversation resulting in a tentative agreement to a statement that the party would support Democratic candidates and Carter would refrain from criticizing members of the committee, but the conversation ended with Mr. Kuntz threatening that if Carter further mentioned the party’s failures, “I’m coming for you.” Subsequently, on the late evening of June 10, hours before the June 11 SCDEC meeting, Mrs. Kuntz emailed the committee a proposed set of new bylaws with one provision that “a member may be terminated by the majority vote of those present at any regular or called meeting.” These proposed bylaws were tabled and never formally introduced into the record.”

“Based on these and other incidents, as well as the county party’s failure to field candidates and elect Democrats over more than a decade, we feel that we have no choice but to express grave concern for the state of the county party, and to call for installation of a neutral party as an interim chair until the completion of SCDEC elections and organizational meeting of the new committee, which will elect new officers,” the candidates continued. “Put simply, we feel that when the county party leadership has shown hostility to all three legislative candidates running in the county, something is badly wrong and will impede our chances of success on Nov. 6. We believe that a majority of the committee members will be supportive and will work toward our mutual goal with a more positive interim leadership. This would be in the best interests of the party as we engage in our necessary course corrections and conduct our campaigns. The committee has several members who have been supportive of candidates and would be suitable interim leaders.”

Monday, the Alabama Political Reporter recently talked with Carl Carter, who is running for state Senate district 11.

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Carter told APR that while a St. Clair County executive committee meeting to elect committee members has been scheduled for August 18, the Chairman of the St. Clair County Democratic Party, Herb Kuntz, has not yet informed any of them of the time or the place for the meeting of the St. Clair County Executive Committee.

“We have a new generation of Democrats who have come out of hiding in St. Clair, and they’re already working for my Senate campaign,” Carter said. “Some want to run for office themselves. They’re eager to serve in the county party. It’s flat out wrong for them to be frustrated and blocked by the current chair’s refusal to do his job and schedule a time and place for the seating of a new committee.”

Carter says that the St. Clair Democrats often have meetings during the work day in the back room of a library and that it has been difficult for interested Democrats to attend. Carter said that he knows candidates who would like to run for executive committee, “Everything is hung up waiting for time and a place.”

Carter is running against incumbent State Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville. Senate District 11 includes most of the southern half of St. Clair County, much of Talladega County, Sylacauga, Wilsonville, and much of Shelby County to Alabaster.

Carter said that he had a number of volunteers out Saturday and that they knocked on approximately 400 doors. Carter expressed enthusiasm about his campaign, money is starting to come in and he believes that Democrats can be competitive in St. Clair County despite their recent lack of success.

In 2014 McClendon beat prominent marijuana legalization activist Ron Crumpton (D) 24,318 (77.6 percent) to 6,981 (22.3 percent).

Carter was not deterred by Crumpton’s 2014 loss, “I have a much broader message.”

“That there aren’t any Democrats out here is hokum,” Carter said. “The Doug Jones campaign did a lot to rejuvenate Democrats state wide. I am hoping that my candidacy will rejuvenate Democrats in St. Clair County. I may win or I may lose but we are going to compete.”

In the 2016 Presidential election, Donald J. Trump beat Hillary R. Clinton 83.2 percent to 14.6 percent in St. Clair County.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Tallassee mayor endorses Jeff Coleman

Brandon Moseley

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Republican Congressional candidate Jeff Coleman has received the endorsement of Tallassee Mayor Johnny Hammock. Coleman is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the July 14 Republican primary runoff.

“Alabama needs a strong conservative candidate who will not back down from a challenge, and will represent the voice, people, and values of those who live in Alabama and District 2,” Hammock said. “Jeff Coleman has my full support and endorsement.”

Coleman thanked Hammock for the endorsement.

“Mayor Hammock’s leadership is evident by the respect the community has for him,” Coleman said. “He is a leader not just for Tallassee but for the surrounding area as a whole. It is an honor to have the support and endorsement of Mayor Hammock and many more in the Tallassee community!”

Tallassee is on the Tallapoosa River and is in both Elmore and Tallapoosa Counties. The city has a population of 4,581 in 2018, which is down from its peak in 1999 of 5,858.

Coleman now has the endorsements of the mayors of Luverne, Dothan, Millbrook, Geneva, and Florala.

Coleman is a native of Dothan. He is the fifth generation of his family to head the family business, Coleman Worldwide Moving, based in Dothan. He recently stepped down as President and CEO in order to run for Congress. Coleman is a former Chairman of the Business Council of Alabama. Coleman is one of the wealthiest people in Alabama.

Coleman has been endorsed by BCA and the Alabama Farmers Federation, as well as the Alabama Realtors Association, Alabama Home Builders Association, Alabama Retail Association, Alabama Trucking Association, Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Coleman is a graduate from Northview High School where he was a member of the 1981 Football team that won the Alabama High School Football State Championship. He has a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama and a Master’s in Business Administration from Troy University in Dothan. He is an Eagle Scout, a 2011 Graduate of Leadership Alabama and a 2015 Graduate of the Air War College National Security Forum. Coleman served two terms as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama.

Coleman is running in the Republican primary runoff against former State Rep. Barry Moore on July 14. The eventual Republican nominee for the open 2nd Congressional District seat will face Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall in the November general election.

 

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Alabama Republican Assembly endorses Barry Moore

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidates Barry Moore’s campaign on Wednesday said the Alabama Republican Assembly has endorsed him for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.

Jennifer Montrose is the President of the Alabama Republican Assembly.

“We must have elected leaders who are committed to governing honestly and ethically and believe Barry Moore can best help our state and nation move forward in the November election,” Montrose said. “We hope you will agree with us and vote for this outstanding individual who we believe is committed to Life, Liberty and Family.”

Moore thanked the group in a statement.

“I want to thank the Alabama Republican Assembly for the vote of confidence this endorsement represents,” Moore said. “It’s an honor to be recognized in this way by this fine group of Conservatives.”

“I’ve always been committed to the conservative values I share with the ARA, and I’ll continue to fight for our Constitution, our rights, and our freedoms when I’m in Congress,” Moore continued. “I’ll do this not only to justify the faith groups like the ARA have in me but because it’s what I believe is right. The ARA knows I have a proven conservative voting record and I will always protect our 2nd amendment, take a pro-life stance, support term limits, and stand with President Trump.”

The Alabama Republican Assembly calls itself “the Republican Wing of the Republican Party.”

Moore continues to receive endorsements from prominent Alabama politicians and groups from across the state in his bid to go to the United States Congress.

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Moore faces Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. Moore served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 2010 until 2018 and has been endorsed by both current and former members who served with him there.

Rep. Mike Holmes (R-Wetumpka) said, “I have served in the Alabama House with Rep. Barry Moore; and found him to be one of our Top Five Conservatives every year. I served with him at the RNC Convention in 2016 when Rep. Moore was one of the first to endorse Trump. He is still strongly aligned with Trump. I enthusiastically endorse Barry Moore for Congressional District 2!.”

Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery) said, “When Rep. Barry Moore served in the State House he chaired the Military and Veterans Affairs committee. He was instrumental in bringing the F-35 to Montgomery and he well understands the needs of our Veterans and the importance of our military bases to Alabama. He will always work to support both. I am proud to support Barry Moore for our next Congressman.”

Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur)said, “Barry Moore is a man of integrity and honor. He will represent Alabama well.”

Former Rep. Barry Mask (R-Alexander City) said, “Barry Moore is a fighting conservative who has been through the fire. As a veteran, he stands with our country and will fight to preserve it. He was a Trump man early on and has earned our trust.”

“It’s humbling to have so many leading Alabama Republicans endorse me in this race,” Moore said. “These are the people I served within the Alabama House, and they know me and what I stand for. I appreciate their endorsements, and I will do everything I can to honor their trust by continuing to represent the people of our District and our conservative values in Congress. I thank everyone who’s endorsed me, and those who have supported me in this race. I look forward to serving the people of Alabama and District 2 as their next Congressman.”

Moore has been endorsed by the Eagle Forum, Conservative Christians of Alabama, the American Workers Coalition, the Club for Growth, and the House Freedom Fund. He is a former member of the Alabama Legislature, a small businessman, a veteran, a husband, and a father of four from Enterprise.

Moore and his wife Heather own a waste disposal company. Moore is a small businessman, a veteran, a husband, and a father of four from Enterprise. He has a degree from Auburn University.

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U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorses Jerry Carl

Brandon Moseley

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl in the race for Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.

The U.S. Chamber said in a statement that it is proud to endorse Carl, in an effort to promote free enterprise and job-creating policies for businesses across all regions and sectors.

“In difficult times, we are reminded of the importance of having leaders that understand the genius of the American system of government and free enterprise and who are willing to tackle the hard problems that confront our nation,” said U.S. Chamber CEO Thomas J. Donohue. “As our country faces many challenges and is collectively working to not just reopen our economy, but return to growth and expanded opportunities for all Americans, we need leaders like Jerry Carl. He has a proven track record of leading responsibly and standing up for good policies. The U.S. Chamber is proud to endorse Jerry and looks forward to partnering with him in the future.”

“THANK YOU, U.S. Chamber for the endorsement!” Carl wrote on social media. “I’m proud to be endorsed by the U.S. Chamber! I look forward to working with President Trump and the Chamber to get our economy roaring again!”

The United States Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business advocacy organization and represents more than three million business interests. The Chamber has been leading the business community for 108 years.

The Chamber’s Alabama affiliate, the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) endorsed Carl last month.

BCA had endorsed State Rep. Chris Pringle in the March 3 Republican primary; but Pringle finished third and did not advance to the runoff.

Commissioner Carl faces former State Senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The eventual Republican nominee will face the winner of the Democratic party runoff between Kiani Gardner and James Averhart.

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Incumbent Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) is not seeking re-election. Byrne has endorsed Carl.

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Alabama appeals COVID-19 voting decision to U.S. Supreme Court

Eddie Burkhalter

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Alabama has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s decision allowing curbside voting during the July 14 Republican runoff amid the COVID-19 pandemic. *Correction: This story previously stated that the runoff was on July 12. That was an error. The primary runoff is on July 14. This story has been updated to correct that mistake, and we regret the error.

Edmund LaCour Jr., solicitor general with the state attorney general’s office, filed an emergency application for stay with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday, arguing that the Supreme Court has previously ruled that lower courts should not alter election rules on the eve of an election. 

U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon on June 15 approved, in part, a preliminary injunction filed by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc., the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program. 

Those groups sued Gov. Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill seeking to implement curbside voting for at-risk citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic and to remove requirements for voters to submit photocopies of IDs and that witnesses sign absentee ballot requests. 

The state appealed Kallon’s ruling, but on June 25, judges on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down the state of Alabama’s appeal. 

“Appellants fail to explain why voter confidence is not negatively affected by their enforcement of voting restrictions that force Alabamians to choose between voting and potentially contracting a severe or deadly case of COVID-19,” the judge’s wrote in the ruling. 

The 11th circuit judges, in denying the state’s appeal, also found the state’s argument that Alabama’s photo ID and witness requirements are meant to combat voting fraud were without merit, and wrote that “according to Plaintiffs’ evidence from the Heritage Foundation, Alabama has prosecuted a total of only sixteen people for absentee-ballot voter fraud” in the past two decades.

“That suggests that Alabama has not found itself in recent years to have a significant absentee-ballot fraud problem,” the order reads.

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The state, in its filing to the Supreme Court, argues again that the requirement for voters to submit photocopies of a photo ID and witness requirements to vote absentee are to prevent voter fraud. 

As the State explained in 1996 when successfully seeking preclearance for strengthening the witness requirement, the protection was enacted in direct response to ‘systematic absentee ballot fraud and abuse’ that had likely altered the results in several statewide races in 1994,”  LaCour Jr. wrote to the Supreme Court. “These provisions remain vital for preventing absentee voter fraud.” 

The state also argues to the Supreme Court that requirements to obtain copies of photo ID’s and have ballots signed by witnesses is not overly burdensome, and that perhaps family members can take photo ID’s to have copies made if a person doesn’t wish to leave their home during the pandemic for fear of contracting COVID-19. 

“No precedent of this Court indicates that the mere possibility that some voters may need to ask someone else for help making a photocopy imposes an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote,” the state’s filing reads.

The state’s decision to appeal to the Supreme Court comes as the number of new cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in recent days have both been record high, and the state’s health officer expressed concern that the virus is spreading too widely for contact tracing to be effective.

Alabama on Monday saw a new record number of patients in hospitals with COVID-19, and the seven-day and 14-day rolling averages of new cases on Monday were also at record highs.

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