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Merrill to run for Senate

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill announced Tuesday on the state capitol steps that he would run for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2020.

“This is not something that I have pursued,” Merrill said. “This is something that pursued me.”

Merrill said people have come to him and said, “We need to have a conservative reformer that is a proven winner who has offered himself as a candidate for this seat.”

Merrill said he has wanted to be a U.S. senator since he was a college student at the University of Alabama running for president of the Student Government Association, but ultimately, it was all the support that he was getting from people all over the state encouraging him to run that led him to become a candidate.

“I am the person that the people of Alabama need to get behind and to move forward supporting so that we can make sure that we take this Senate seat back and give it to the people of Alabama,” Merrill stated.

“We have to have someone go to Washington, D.C. that is going to support the president and help the president build the wall to stop the immigration fiasco that is currently ongoing in our nation,” Merrill said.

Merrill said he is going to continue to serve as secretary of state during the election. He also said he was secretary of state last year while he was a candidate for secretary of state. He said the local election officials are responsible for hiring the poll workers and canvassing the results.

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“That’s the way the process works,” Merrill said. “And anybody that wants to make anything more than that is obviously somebody that’s trying to do it for political purposes.”

Merrill said a friend came to him last week asked if it is worth running for what he will have to go through and whether he thinks it is worth it for the commitment he will have to make. Merrill said he replied by asking whether the Republic worth it.

“Because I can tell you something — the Republic is worth it to me,” Merrill said. “The Republic is worth it to the 150 people that are gathered here behind me and the people that are gathered here today.”

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“As far as the other candidates are concerned, each one of those candidates brings certain strengths to the table,” Merrill said. “Each one of those candidates has certain benefits that they can offer to the people of Alabama, but if I thought that any one of those people could do a better job of representing me or representing you in the United States Senate, I would not be here declaring my candidacy today.”

“Until we decide that Democrats are going to quit using the immigration conversation as a cash cow and until republicans stop using the immigration issue as a cash cow to raise money for campaigns we are not going to get anything done on immigration reform,” Merrill said.

“We have people who need to have support in business and industry and agriculture in our state and we have people who want to come work here,” Merrill said. “We want anybody who wants to come to the United States or the state of Alabama to come, but we want them to come the right way. We have got to make sure that these laws are working for people that want to come here and want to be a part of our culture not change our culture, but people who want to assimilate into the United States and people who want make a positive difference for themselves and their family.”

Merrill said he talked with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, about this seat in February right before McConnell went to hear the president’s State of the Union address.

Alabama Political Reporter asked whether Merrill would like to respond to Sen. Doug Jones’ comment that his Republican opponent was going to either be a conservative extremist, like Roy Moore, or the hand-picked candidate of Mitch McConnell.

“Well if by that statement, Sen. Jones means that the Republican nominee will be someone who will follow the Constitution, someone who will represent Alabama thinking, someone who will represent Alabama values, someone who will vote to confirm conservative judges, someone who will work with the president to build the wall and to stop the flow of illegal immigrants who are coming here to do us harm — if that is what Doug Jones means by a conservative extremist, then count me in, coach,” Merrill said.

Merrill said Sen. Richard Shelby has been a friend and a mentor of his since 1984 when he was an intern in Congress and Shelby asked him to come by and speak to him before he left.

“I will continue to rely on him for guidance and counsel because of his experience and the things he’s done,” Merrill said.

Merrill was then asked whether he was prepared for the same level of scrutiny as Roy Moore when he ran for the Senate seat.

“If I was not ready for that same level of scrutiny, I would not be a candidate for this office,” Merrill answered.

Merrill also said Medicaid expansion is a local issue and if that is what Gov. Kay Ivey decides to do, she will have his support.

Merrill told reporters that there has been climate change and weather change since God created the world after seven days, and there will be climate change and weather change until he comes back again.

Merrill said he has been to China and talked with the Chinese, and they have no interest in doing anything to lower their emissions. He said the air there comes over here, and he is not interested in doing anything that would put business and industry over here at a competitive disadvantage with them.

Reporters asked Merrill what he would do if former Sen. Jeff Sessions entered the race.

Merrill said Sessions was one of his personal heroes, and if that were to happen, he would have a discussion with Sessions about the path moving forward.

Last week, former Chief Justice Roy Moore announced that he was going to run for the U.S. Senate seat again.

Judge Moore has offered himself up as a candidate for Alabama chief justice twice, for governor twice, and for U.S. Senate once.

State Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, endorsed Merrill at the state of the event. State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, former State Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, and Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell were also there supporting Merrill’s candidacy for Senate.

The Republican primary will be on March 3.

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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Elections

Mimi Penhale, Russell Bedsole advance to GOP runoff in HD49

Brandon Moseley

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Miriam "Mimi" Penhale, left, and Russell Bedsole, right, are vying for the vacant Alabama House District 49 seat.

Republican voters in House District 49 went to the polls Tuesday to nominate their next representative. Miriam “Mimi” Penhale and Russell Bedsole received the most votes and will advance on to the special Republican primary runoff scheduled for Sept. 1.

“What an incredible day!” Bedsole said. “Thank you friends and family for your love, support, and prayers. We had a great showing today and we are on to a runoff. Looking forward to getting back out and winning this thing on September 1st.”

“THANK YOU Bibb, Chilton and Shelby County!” Penhale said on social media. “I’m looking forward to earning your vote, again, on September 1 in the runoff.”

The election was very tight between the two. Mimi Penhale received 829 votes, or 31.4 percent of the votes. Russell Bedsole received 919 votes, or 34.8 percent.

The rest of the votes was split among the other four candidates. James Dean received less than 1 percent, Chuck Martin received 24.3 percent, Jackson McNeely received 2.16 percent and Donna Strong received 6.71 percent.

There were 2,639 votes cast on Tuesday. Voter turnout was 8.88 percent.

Bedsole serves on the Alabaster City Council, Pemhale is the director of the Shelby County Legislative office.

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The eventual winner of the Republican nomination will face Democrat Cheryl Patton in the special general election on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

The vacancy in House District 49 was created when State Rep. April Weaver, R-Briarfield, announced her resignation to accept an appointment as a regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

House District 49 consists of portions of Bibb, Shelby and Chilton Counties. The winner will serve the remainder of Weaver’s term, which ends in late 2022.

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Jimmy Reynolds, Ben Robbins qualify as Republicans for Alabama House District 33

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Republican Party on Tuesday closed its candidate qualifying period for the Alabama House of Representatives District 33 special primary election scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Jimmy Reynolds Jr. and Ben Robbins have qualified to run for the District 33 seat in the special Republican primary.

“Our district is a wonderful place to raise a family,” Robbins said in a statement. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave them with more opportunities than we had, and I believe fresh ideas, bold leadership and true conservative values are the foundation of that success.”

Robbins serves on multiple community boards, including Habitat for Humanity, as co-president of Leadership Sylacauga and serves the Talladega Rotary Club as a past-president. He is also active with several local Chambers of Commerce and the Sylacauga Young Professionals. He is a seventh-generation Talladega County resident and the grandson of former Childersburg Mayor Robert Limbaugh. He and his wife Melanie have one son.

Jimmy Reynolds Jr. is a visual arts teacher at Sylacauga City School System. He previously worked for HHGregg Inc. and Tweeter Home Entertainment. Reynolds has a business management degree from Auburn University and lives in Hollins.

The Republican Special Primary Election will be held on Oct. 6, 2020, with the General Election scheduled for Jan. 19, 2021.

The vacancy in House District 33 occurred following the sudden passing of State Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, in July.

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House District 33 consists of portions of Clay, Coosa and Talladega Counties.

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Elections

New poll: Tuberville has big lead over Jones in Senate race

Josh Moon

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tubberville, right.

Team voting still rules in Alabama. According to a new Morning Consult poll of Alabama voters, Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville has a double-digit lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, virtually mirroring the advantage President Donald Trump has over Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the state.

The poll of approximately 650 likely Alabama voters shows Tuberville leading 52-35, with a large number of purported “independent” voters still undecided. 

Trump’s lead in that same poll is 58-36. 

The big lead for Tuberville would be a bit of a surprise, given that most polling up to this point has shown Jones performing favorably against both an unnamed Republican challenger and Tuberville specifically. 

Many of the polls documented on the polling tracking website FiveThirtyEight through June and July had Jones trailing Tuberville consistently, but typically falling somewhere between 3 and 10 percentage points behind. Only a Cygnal poll in late June showed him trailing by 14 points — his largest deficit by far at the time. 

While the Morning Consult poll was mostly negative for Jones, the breakdown of responses and the difference between loyalties in the presidential race and the Senate race could prove worrisome for Tuberville’s camp. 

A much higher percentage of respondents in the Senate race identified as “independents,” and 23 percent of that group said they had yet to make up their mind. In fact, among Republicans, while Trump pulled 96 percent of those voters, Tuberville managed just 87 percent. 

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Among those independent voters, Tuberville held just a 7-point lead, 34-27. 

Overall, 9 percent of the respondents were undecided or didn’t plan to vote in the Senate race.

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Elections

Republicans vote today in House District 49 primary

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The special Republican primary for House District 49 is Tuesday. Republican voters in portions of Bibb, Chilton and Shelby Counties are voting to determine who will represent them in the Alabama House of Representatives.

There is no special Democratic primary because Cheryl Patton is the only Democrat who qualified.

Competing in the special Republican primary are Miriam “Mimi” Penhale, Russell Bedsole, Donna Strong, James Dean, Chuck Martin and Jackson McNeely.

Miriam “Mimi” Penhale

Penhale wrote in her campaign flyer: “I’ll fight to protect our unborn, and believe my Christian faith provides a path for my life.”

“I’ll lead the efforts to keep Alabama taxes low on hardworking families and small businesses,” Penhale promised. “I believe in the 2nd Amendment, and I’ll support legislation that protects hunters and law-abiding gun owners.”

“Government mandates are killing our rural hospitals and healthcare providers,” Penhale continued. “We need to provide better access to care by letting the healthcare community make decisions for themselves.”

“I’ll work hard to make sure our k-12 schools have the funding they need, and I’ll support an expansion of career technical and agricultural programs in our 2-year college system and in traditional higher ed,” she said. “Penhale is a proud conservative, and believes in limited government, low taxes and cutting unnecessary government regulations,” the Penahale campaign wrote.

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Penhale grew up on her family’s bison ranch in Troy and has worked as the Shelby County legislative director.

Jackson McNeely

Jackson McNeely says that she has worked as a teacher, small business owner and economic development specialist — and that she has the “real Experience to move Bibb, Chilton and Shelby Counties forward.”

“I ask for your vote on August 4th,” McNeely said.

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“I am an average person, a Christian wife and mother,” McNeely said in a statement. McNeely and her husband have four children — two grown sons, a daughter that attends the University of Montevallo and a youngest daughter who is a junior in high school. They have lived in the small community of Brierfield in Bibb County for 17 years.

“My husband of 20 years, Tommy and I are the shop keepers of a small veteran-owned business in Alabaster,” McNeely continued. “I was a teacher at Kingwood Christian School for 12 years. We were small business owners in the trucking industry. Before that, I traveled the country working in Economic Development helping communities to grow and prosper.”

“I am not a politician,” McNeely added. “I am the average resident that wants to make a difference in their community. I want to be your representative to do that, with common sense and compassion.”

McNeely supports President Donald Trump’s apprenticeship program.

“This! It is time to grow,” McNeely said on Facebook. “It is time to give our citizens an opportunity for a future. It is time to stop pushing everyone into the college path. Thank you to President Trump for last month’s executive order that will make this more available. We need our mechanics, our dental assistants, our truckers … the workers that are the backbone of this great country!”

McNeely is opposed to human trafficking and said on Facebook, “This must stop! Increase police funding. Increase imprisonment time for the predators. Prosecute complacent media platforms. Protect the victims with the ‘rape shield’ law.”

Chuck Martin

Chuck Martin said on social media, “I’m not running for office because I need a job, I’m a businessman and the only candidate in this race with deep roots in all corners of the District. That’s why I’ll fight for the taxpayers of Bibb, Chilton and Shelby Counties as a staunch conservative.”

Martin’s wife said August marks 42 years that the couple has lived in Centreville, Alabama.

“Chuck and I both grew up in Montevallo, graduated from Shelby Academy, and were married at Wilton Baptist Church,” Martin’s wife said. “My late father, Billy Rockco, purchased a funeral home in Centreville in 1978. He asked Chuck if he would be willing to change careers and move to Centreville and help run his new business. We prayed about the decision and felt that Centreville was the best place for our new home. It has been our privilege and honor to celebrate the lives of loved ones in Bibb, Shelby, and Chilton Counties these past 42 years.”

“I have a long track record of leadership and success in my professional career and with my civic, community and political endeavors,” Chuck Martin wrote. “My conservative philosophy will best represent the residents of District 49. As a staunch conservative, I will be a strong advocate for the citizens of Bibb, Chilton and Shelby Counties.”

Russell Bedsole

Russell Bedsole worked for nearly 22 years with the Shelby County Sheriff’s office and has been elected twice by the citizens of Alabaster to represent Ward 5 on the Alabaster City Council.

“During his time on the council, the City of Alabaster has enjoyed positive economic growth, a first-class school system, and high quality of life,” the Bedsole campaign wrote.

Bedsole is married to Dena Dixon Bedsole, who is a graduate of Alabaster’s Thompson High School. They are the parents of two children who are active in the Alabaster Parks and Rec sports.

“As the only current public sector employee serving on the current council, Russell has been able to fight to enhance the benefits of city employees thus creating a very professional workforce,” Bedsole’s campaign said. “Russell is dedicated to service of the citizens of District 49.”

“I’m ready to serve your family on day one!” Bedsole said on social media. “I’ve served my community already as a Law Enforcement Officer for 22 years and I’m ready to get to work for you!”

“We need to ensure that District 49 has the proper training resources to develop workforce needs of the future,” Bedsole said of his position on job training and workforce development. “District 49 is full of hardworking citizens who could help the area flourish with proper job training.”

“I know it has been hard for my family and me not to be able to visit with loved ones during this pandemic,” Bedsole said in a statement on rural broadband. “Being connected is more important now than it ever has been. With families not being able to visit and workplaces meeting online, district 49 must get high-speed, high-capacity, and affordable broadband access.”

Donna Strong

The Donna Strong campaign said in a campaign flyer, “Working together we will: Support local businesses, make our schools safer, provide better mental health care, protect children from abuse, and safeguard our environment.”

Strong is a graduate of Chelsea High School and has a B.S. and M.Ed. from Auburn University, as well as a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Penn State University. Strong’s campaign said that she has been a dedicated teacher for 31 years, proud wife of retired U.S. Navy veteran and proud mother of three wonderful children.

“Did you know, Alabama state code actually prohibits educators from serving in the House and Senate? If elected I would have to end my 31-year career as an educator to serve as a representative,” Strong said in a statement on social media. “A sheriff, nurse, lawyer or business owner can maintain their career and become a legislator.

“While I believe this is unjust, it does mean that I will be a full-time representative for my constituents. I will work to ensure I am available to answer phone calls, respond to emails, and attend all meetings, celebrations and ceremonies important in the communities I serve. I also believe that transparency and debate are critical elements in government to ensure that the will of the people is upheld and to prevent corruption. Alabamians have the right to know what is being planned, discussed and implemented in their House and Senate. Debate in government is the essence of a democratic process. The voices of all voters should be heard and all the votes should then be cast.”

“I am running on the Republican ticket, but all voters can vote on Aug. 4 and in the Sept. 1 run-off if needed,” Strong continued. “Because this is a special election to fill a vacant seat, this would not interfere with anyone’s ability to vote for Democrats or Independents in the November elections.”

“Why am I running for Representative for House District 49?” Strong wrote. “Like all candidates running for this office, I want a better Alabama. I am a Christian with conservative values. I am proud to be pro-life! I will work hard to reduce government influences and keep our taxes low for the benefit of both consumers and businesses. I believe wholeheartedly in our first and second amendment rights, and that individuals are responsible for their actions. I fully support our first responders and want to see adequate physical and mental health care for every community. I want better roads, repaired bridges and widespread wireless access for all of Alabama. I want us all to treasure and protect our beautiful, natural environment.”

“Most Alabamians don’t realize the degree to which politics controls our public education system,” Strong wrote. “When everything from class sizes, curriculum programs, school calendars, lunchroom menus, educator salaries, and standardized testing are legislatively mandated, public schooling is largely dictated by career politicians who have never walked in an educator’s shoes. There is an enormous amount of wasteful spending in public education. Every year millions are spent on purchasing new curriculum kits and inventing new testing for our students, and yet we are still at the bottom of the curve in national learning and academic achievement statistics! Our money needs to go to lowering class sizes and reducing unnecessary paperwork, so that classroom teachers can actually spend more quality, individualized time helping all students reach their maximum potential.”

James Dean

James Dean works in computing services and was elected a Trump delegate in March.

“Let’s talk about November,” Dean wrote. “This election feels different to me, and it does for millions of other Americans, too. That’s because we aren’t just voting for candidates—we’re voting for the future of our country. Whether we’re going to live in chaos, disarray, and division, or truth, prosperity, and unity as one nation under God.”

“Typically by this time in an election cycle, we’ve heard all about the major candidates’ platforms and why they’re the better candidate from debates & the media,” Dean continued.

“Unfortunately, with everything happening in the world, that hasn’t happened, so independent content creators are responsible for sharing that information with you all. Here are just a few of the reasons I’m voting for President Donald J. Trump for a second time, and why I think you should, too. I am not interested in name calling & division, I’m interested in living United in these nearly divided States of America. For that reason, each and every trip to the voting booth this November counts — and I hope you’ll join me there!”

“There comes a time when we all must step in the ring and FIGHT!” Dean wrote on social media. “That time for me is NOW! Please Vote for James Dean August 4th. GOD BLESS AMERICA!”

The Dean campaign wrote, “James Dean an American Patriot & Family Man Fighting for You. The Time is Now To Take Back Our Country. To Stand Up for All and to Let Liberty Ring. God Bless America and Alabama District 49.”

Election

The eventual Republican nominee will face Cheryl Patton in the special general election on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

The vacancy in House District 49 was created when State Rep. April Weaver, R-Briarfield, announced her resignation to accept an appointment as a regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

House District 49 consists of portions of Bibb, Shelby and Chilton Counties. The winner will serve the remainder of April Weaver’s term, which ends in late 2022.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. You must vote at your assigned polling place and have a valid photo ID.

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