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Secretary of State announces minor party, independent candidates

Brandon Moseley

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Monday, the Secretary of State’s office released a final list of minor parties and Independent candidates who have qualified for the November 6 general election ballot. No Independent or third party candidates will be running for any statewide races on the fall general election ballot. There were, however, several state Senate and state House candidates who qualified as Independents or minor party candidates.

In Senate District 10, Craig Ford is running as an Independent against Cherokee cattle farmer Andrew Jones (R). There is no Democratic Party candidate on the ballot. Ford is a state representative from Gadsden who was elected as a Democrat but now has switched to Independent. Incumbent Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) is not seeking another term.

In Senate District 23, two independent candidates qualified. Mark Story and J. Cooper Holmes are running against Malika Sanders-Fortier. There is no Republican on the ballot. Sanders-Fortier (D) is seeking to succeed her father, incumbent Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma), who is retiring.

In House District 1, – Bobby James Dolan III has qualified as an independent. He faces incumbent Phillip Pettus (R) and Caroline Self (D) in the fall.

In House District 4, Polan “Pete” Willis is running against state Rep. Parker Duncan Moore (R) and Juanita Allen Healy (D). Moore won the seat in a special election in May. The seat was vacated by former House Majority Leader Mickey Hammon (R-Decatur) after he pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges.

In House District 10, Libertarian Elijah Boyd is running against incumbent Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, and J.B. King (D).

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In House District 54, independent Joseph Casper Baker III is running against Neil Rafferty (D).

In House District 78, independent Tijuanna Adetunji is running against Kirk Hatcher. Hatcher recently defeated 44-year incumbent Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) in the Democratic primary runoff.

In House District 96, Jason Shelby, a Libertarian, is running against Matt Simpson (R) and Maurice Horsey (D). Incumbent Rep. Randy Davis is not running for re-election.

Independent Crystal Leverett qualified to run for Circuit Clerk from Choctaw County.

Independent Robert Blankenship qualified to run for Circuit Clerk from Butler County.

While the Libertarians had two candidates qualify, the Constitution Party, Green Party, Reform Party, Whig Party and Communist Party all failed to qualify a single candidate.

A number of other campaigns were attempting to get ballot access; but ultimately failed for one reason or another. Independents and third parties have long complained that Alabama’s ballot access requirement are too difficult for an Independent or a third party candidate to get ballot access in Alabama, especially for statewide office.

Elections

Gadsden voters choose an elected school board in local referendum

Brandon Moseley

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Gadsden voters voted Tuesday in favor of an elected school board.

The next Gadsden school board will be an elected board. Currently Gadsden has an appointed school board, where the City Council picks the members of the board school board.

Former state Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) sponsored legislation to allow the voters to decide on whether or not they want an elected board. Butler formerly served on the Etowah County School board which is elected. The Attalla School Board is also an elected board.

“I am very pleased that the elected school board referendum in Gadsden passed tonight by a better than 2 to 1 margin,” Butler said on social media. “I was confident in its passing because I know all parents want to be invested in their children’s education, and this allows every parent a voice. Next step is for talent from all walks of life to step up and run for a seat on the City of Gadsden Board of Education.”

1,244 voters voted in favor of an elected school board, while only 562 voted in favor of keeping an appointed board. The result were 68.9 percent in favor of the elected board to just 31.1 percent opposed.

Alabama has a mixture of school board arrangements. St. Clair County for example has an elected school board and an elected school superintendent. Leeds has an appointed school board and an appointed superintendent. Birmingham has an elected school board, which appointed the school superintendent. In St. Clair County the school board members and the superintendent run in partisan political races where most candidates go through the Republican or Democratic party primaries. In Birmingham, the school board candidates like the council candidates run in municipal elections and do not have to align with a political party.

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Original reporting by the Gadsden Times contributed to this report.

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Leeds voters resoundingly reject property tax increase

Brandon Moseley

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Leeds voters went to the polls Tuesday and overwhelmingly voted to reject a property tax increase.

This was a very highly controversial proposal from the beginning and ultimately voters decided that they were taxed enough already.

Leeds Mayor David Miller had said that the money would have been used for a new athletics complex at the high school, a new football stadium at Leeds High School, a new library, a senior center, city hall, and other improvements.

City officials claimed that two-thirds of the money would have gone to the city school system and one third to the city government.

The voters defeated the proposal 1506 to just 971. 60.8 percent of Leeds voters were opposed, while only 39.2 percent voted in favor of the proposal despite a well-funded effort to sway voters.  The vote No effort, however, was extremely active on social media.

The proposal would have raised property taxes by 9 mills. The owners of a $100,000 home would have to pay $90 more a year in annual property taxes. The owners of a $300,000 home would have been forced to pay an additional $270 a year.

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Mayor Miller promised before the referendum, “If the referendum passes, we will build what we have guaranteed to build. If not, we will build what we can as we can.”

When Leeds built a new high school four miles away from their old high school, which became a middle school they did not build a new football stadium. The Leeds Green Wave sports teams still play at the old fields, that date to the 1950s behind the middle school. After the failure of the referendum, they will continue to play at the old field for the foreseeable future.

Leeds is located east of Birmingham on Interstate 20. Approximately sixty percent of Leeds is in Jefferson County, almost thirty percent is in St. Clair County, and about ten percent in Shelby County. Leeds has a Bass Pro Shoppe store, the Grand River outlet mall, and has been the home of Lehigh Cement for over a hundred years.

While state legislators keep bringing bills authorizing tax increases, voters increasingly reject them. Tuesday’s failure of the Leeds property tax increase; follows recent rejections of tax increases by St. Clair County voters, Muscle Shoals voters, Baldwin County voters, and others.

State legislators are mulling an increase in fuel taxes to pay for more road projects.

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Elections

Former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis officially announces run for Montgomery mayor

Chip Brownlee

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Former U.S. Congressman Artur Davis has officially announced a run for Montgomery mayor.

He announced his decision in a video posted on Twitter Monday.

Davis has tried for the position before. He finished second in a five-candidate field in the 2015 mayoral race.

He said he will emphasize his own roots in Montgomery public education and his commitment to reviving the local school system, which includes 12 failing schools and has been the subject of an emergency state intervention.

“I know what the Montgomery school system used to be capable of achieving,” Davis said. “I used an education at traditional schools like Jeff Davis High and Dannelly as a springboard to win awards at Harvard and become a congressman by age 35. As Mayor, I will have one major mission: to build a community-wide coalition of our new school board, teachers, parents and businesses that will return Montgomery public schools to being a foundation to succeed anywhere in America.”

Opinion | What the next mayor needs

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Davis addressed the issue in an op-ed he authored in December 2018.

“The next mayor must join forces with the new school board to extricate the schools from the state takeover, a mismanaged event that creates the kind of uncertain chain of command that makes it impossible to attract a national caliber superintendent,” Davis wrote.

Davis was born and raised in Montgomery.

“I do agree that this city is on the edge of making history,” Artur wrote in 2018. “But the test for candidates is not how well we represent one community or satisfy that community’s insiders and gatekeepers. It is whether any of us has what it takes to make Montgomery a trendsetter in repairing failing schools and blighted neighborhoods and in forging a more prosperous, more equitable future.”

He spent 35 years of his life in the city, where he started his career as a federal prosecutor in Alabama’s Middle District.

He said his experience fighting crime will guide his approach to making Montgomery safer.

“I learned as a prosecutor that there are two kinds of criminal offenders,” Davis said. “First, the ones devoted to wrecking their own communities and who have no respect for their own neighbors. To take them on, we need to commit to a larger police force and an aggressive plan to confront gang violence and the rise in gun and property crimes. But there are also people in the criminal justice system whose lives can be turned around. I want Montgomery to become known as a model for finding work and dignity for ex-offenders who want rehabilitation.”

Davis served four terms as a congressman in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.

Since 2015, he has also served as the executive director of the state’s civil legal aid program and as a policy consultant on issues including barriers to occupational licensing and criminal justice reform.

His wife is Tara Johnson Davis, who is a nonprofit executive running two homeless shelters in Montgomery.

The election will be held Aug. 27, 2019.

Montgomery County Commission President Eltron Dean and 25-year-old political newcomer Marcus McNeal have all announced plans to run. Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven read is also reportedly considering the option.

 

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Leeds votes Tuesday on a tax increase referendum

Brandon Moseley

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Leeds voters are going to the polls Tuesday to vote on whether or not to raise property taxes in order to finance a number of improvements to the city: including a new football stadium, new library, new city hall, senior center and other improvements.

This has been a highly controversial proposal with very vocal people on both sides.

“No one is trying to force the citizenry to impose an Ad Valorem increase not wanted by the majority. However, numerous requests for a new library, better senior facilities with added services, a meeting facility large enough to accommodate big events, suitable space for our police department, easily accessible downtown city hall and utility company offices and competitive sports facilities at our High School, have led to this offer to the citizens of Leeds of an opportunity to vote as to whether these items are of sufficient importance to a majority of voters to warrant a modest Ad Valorem increase,” Leeds Mayor David Miller said on social media.

“The City was in good financial shape when this administration took office and is in even better shape now,” Miller said. “The City has a large cash reserve for emergencies and revenue more than sufficient to make all bond payments, payroll etc., without this tax. This referendum is needed for new facilities, not day-to-day expenses. Our financial strength was recently certified by Standard and Poors of New York and our bond rating reconfirmed as “AA” (Double A), up from an A+ rating during the previous administration.”

“The City has stated long and often what the money would be spent for. In response to this claim, the City, however, not only listed the uses of the money in writing, but passed a resolution guaranteeing that the money would, as a minimum, be spent on a new City Complex located downtown on the block owned by the City across from Windstream,” Miller continued. “Only one Council member voted against providing this guarantee to the citizens. The facilities to be included in the complex were specified in the resolution and included a new library, senior center, gym, court/council space, large meeting space, convenient administrative offices for the BOE and Water Works and of course, City Hall administrative space. This will allow the Police Department to have much needed additional space when the City Hall admin. moves out of its present location. Likewise, the BOE also provided a specific, detailed listing of the sports facilities and programs to be provided. An additional beneficiary of the move will be the Leeds Outreach program, so vital to so many in our community. The additional space created by the departure of the senior center, court/council and workout equipment from the Civic Center will allow the Outreach to have much needed additional room. The City is also investigating repairs to the Civic Center to allow its use well into the future.”

“This administration is committed to building a new library as part of the Municipal Complex, if funded,” Miller stated. “Each citizen should vote his or her conscience, but base their decision on facts, not false allegations. If the referendum passes, we will build what we have guaranteed to build. If not, we will build what we can as we can.”

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The tax increase will be 9 mills. The owners of a $100,000 home can expect to pay $90 more in annual property taxes than they pay already. The owners of a $300,000 home can expect to pay an additional $270 a year.

City School Superintendent John Moore told WBRC Fox 6 TV that two thirds of the money will go to the city school system and that one third will go to the city government.

Opponents have questioned the need for a new football stadium, city hall, and many specifics in the plan. Others simply say that they are taxed enough and don’t want to pay any more.

Polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m. Remember to bring a valid photo ID to the polls.

Leeds is located east of Birmingham on Interstate 20. Approximately sixty percent of

Leeds is in Jefferson County, almost thirty percent is in St. Clair County, and about ten percent in Shelby County. Leeds has a Bass Pro Shoppe store, the Grand River outlet mall, and has been the home of Lehigh Cement for over a hundred years.

Tax votes, even tax votes for schools, have not done well in Alabama in recent years. Many spectators in Montgomery are watching how this tax increase effort, which has been well financed and well led, performs with the voters.

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Secretary of State announces minor party, independent candidates

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 2 min
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