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St. Clair County Democratic Party chairman disputes accusations

Tuesday the Alabama Political Reporter had a discussion with St. Clair County Democratic Party Chairman Herb Kuntz about recent accusations against the current St. Clair County Executive Committee by the three candidates running for the state legislature seats in the county.

Kuntz said in a written statement that the statements by the three disgruntled candidates, “Appears simply to be a personal attack on the Chair of the St. Clair County Democratic Executive Committee and his wife based on unsubstantiated and distorted claims.”

Monday APR talked with Carl Carter: the Democratic Candidate for the Alabama Senate District 11 seat.
“Jared Arnold is his (Carter’s) advisor and legal Council,” Kuntz said. “Before deciding that the St. Clair County Executive Committee was ineffective and exhibiting “disturbing behavior”, Carter had served on the Committee for one month. However, Arnold had been a member for approximately a year and had raised no objections or red flags concerning the functioning of the Committee. Carter had not been on the Committee long enough to know the history of the Committee, including the election of members and officers and their efforts to expand the Party within the County. In his tenure on the Committee, Arnold had not participated or assisted in any of the events or functions of the Committee or the Club other than to Chair a Young Democrats Committee which held one meeting in a year’s time. Therefore their sudden allegations concerning the activities of the Committee came as a surprise for all members who have worked long and hard to further the Party in the County.”

“Now, one has to ask why a political professional like Carter and an attorney like Arnold would do what they have done. What do they hope to accomplish?” Kuntz charged. “The purported purpose of the subject article will not exist after August 18. The St. Clair County Democratic Executive Committee (CDEC) on that date will seat a new CDEC that hopefully better reflects the geographic diversity of the county, and then that newly seated CDEC will elect new officers.

Three months before the November Mid-Term elections why would they, or for that matter why would Swindle and Vaughn, demean and alienate the loyal Democratic base in St. Clair County, those Democrats they are hoping will vote in their favor? According to Carl’s comments in your supplemental piece, these are the people whose support he most needs. One possible explanation is that when your campaign is floundering and not getting any traction, you create an issue to get you some exposure. If truth be known, that may be the real reason for the article. Let’s start from today and work backward to get a better understanding of what the CDEC is and has been.”

“St. Clair County is one of the reddest counties in red state Alabama. Hence maintaining and building the base and fielding good candidates is and has always been a challenge,” Kuntz stated. “The situation with Jared Vaughn and Nikki Arnold Swindle is a manufactured situation by Carl Carter and Jared Arnold, who are both relatively new to the Democratic effort in St. Clair County. Something they obviously do not understand is that there are two separate organizations in St. Clair County: the County Democratic Executive Committee and the St. Clair County Democratic Club. It is the Club and not the CDEC that invites speakers and stages events.”

Kuntz said that, “The event Jared Arnold refers to in his comments was an event that appears to have been staged to disrupt one of our monthly CDEC meetings.” “We don’t and haven’t in the past invited candidates to speak at these meetings. If a candidate did request to speak, he or she would be invited, put on the agenda and allowed a specific amount of time to speak.” ”Mr. Vaughn showed up with Mr. Arnold, asked to speak ten minutes before we had to relinquish the room, and was lecturing the CDEC on what we were doing wrong and what Etowah County was doing right, continuing past his allotted time and refusing to yield the floor.”

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Kuntz said that CDEC only invited candidates who had primary opposition to speak prior to the primary.
Kuntz said the Club has been very busy and had had a number of Democratic candidates speak including: Dr. Will Boyd, Democratic Candidate for Lt Gov; Miranda Joseph, State Auditor; Dr. Adia Winfrey, Congressional District 3; James Fields, Governor; Mallory Hagan, Congressional District 3; Sue Bell Cobb, Governor; Walt Maddox, Governor; and Chris Christie, Attorney General.

“It should be obvious that the SCCD, as a separate organization supported by the CDEC, has been very active in St Clair County trying to inform and rally the vote,” Kuntz continued. “It should also be obvious that the Executive Committee and the Club are doing their jobs exposing Democrats to Democratic Party ideas and principles.”

Kuntz said that the CDEC supports and essentially shepherds the Club in its activities. It also has been active within the community registering voters, including going into the high schools and registering young voters, offering scholarships to nursing students, supporting the St. Clair County Literacy Council and the YWCA’S St. Clair County Shelter for Abused Women and Children and its Purse & Passion initiative. Kuntz said that the CDEC has made numerous attempts to expand the CDEC into other parts of the county, holding meetings in Springville, Ashville and Ragland. They have also held fundraisers for Democratic candidates including Doug Jones, and Joseph Siegelman.

“We have supported Carl Carter’s campaign to the best of our ability, including assisting in staging a fundraiser in Pell City at the home of one of our members early in his campaign, and supporting him financially by contributing to his campaign,” Kuntz stated. “Apparently, Mr. Carter fails to understand that the CDEC and the Club are not his personal campaign committee but rather our purpose is to support all Democratic candidates.”

Kuntz told APR that he thought the three candidates complaint was “old news” and that the whole thing was resolved with the decision to hold CDEC elections on August 18 and called Carter’s attack on him as “Vicious.”

Kuntz acknowledged that Is it true that no Democrat has carried St. Clair County for any office in over ten years; but said that the current executive committee has worked very hard for Democrats.

Kuntz said that the County Democratic Executive Committee has eight representatives from each of the four county commission districts. There are not also two young Democrats (under age 40) and two minorities from each of the four commission districts. Ideally the CDEC is composed of 48 in number but that they have had a hard time recruiting people who would agree to serve much less regularly attend the CDEC meetings.

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Kuntz told APR that in reality they have had a hard time getting a good geographic representation. We are proud to have 20 members who attend regularly and another 10 that attend periodically; but we have a good group that works hard and is committed and has a good racial mix.

Kuntz said that there is going to be an election for the CDEC on August 18 in Ashville. Kuntz said, “Jared Arnold is the impetus. He has an agenda

Kuntz told APR that he is in a “very awkward position as chairman”; but that he has to respond to such a vicious attack against himself and his wife and said that this attack was taken “Right out of the Trump playbook.”

Carl Carter is running against incumbent State Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville.

“If I were Carl I would be spending every minute going face to face with as many voters as I could telling them why I am better that Jim McClendon,” Kuntz said.

“This is fake news,” Kuntz said. Kuntz said that he has been chairman of the CDEC for ten years, has served on the CDEC for 12 years and has been active in the county party for 20 years.

“This situation is unique and unfortunate,” Kuntz said and that the three candidates’ statement was full of “half truths and innuendo.”

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Kuntz said the St. Clair Democratic Party will be holding informational meetings ahead of the election meeting. These three meetings will be at: the Moody Civic Center, at the Lakeside Landing conference room in Pell City and in Ashville at the Ashville Ballroom on Saturday August 4th from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.  There prospective candidates for the St. Clair County Democratic Executive Committee can learn more about the CDEC ahead of the election on August 18 in Ashville at the Ashville Ballroom.

The three candidates are:

Nicki Arnold-Swindle, candidate for State House District 36, running against incumbent Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston.

Jared Vaughn, candidate for State House District 30, running against Gadsden architect Craig Lipscomb (R) for the open seat.

Carl Carter, candidate for State Senate District 11, running against incumbent Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville.

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

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