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Elections

Does it take a billionaire to beat a billionaire? Tom Steyer enters presidential race

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer announced that he is running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.

In 2015 sixteen Republican leaders including: governors, senators, congressmen, a doctor/writer, and a businesswoman announced that they were running for President of the United States. Then in the Summer of 2015 a popular billionaire announced that he was running for President and he went on to wipe the crowded field full of professional politicians to become the Republican nominee. Donald J. Trump then went on to beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) in an upset.

Is Tom Steyer the Democrats’ Donald J. Trump? Like Trump, he is a billionaire and like Trump he steps in to a divided field of candidates that include: senators, members of Congress, governors, mayors, a spiritual author/philanthropist, and a businessman. Like Trump he enters the field in the summer just six months before the primaries and like Trump he has talked about running for years but waffled on whether or not to do it. As recently as January, Steyer announced that he would not be a candidate. Like Trump he is campaigning against the political establishment and the donor class.

Steyer has an estimated net worth of $1.62 billion and according to campaign spokesman Alberto Lammers Steyer will unleash at least a $100 million of that vast fortune on winning the Democratic nomination for President.

“If we can reduce the influence of corporate money in our democracy, and start to address the devastating impacts of climate change, we can unlock the full potential of the American people and finally solve the many challenges facing our country,” Steyer said in a statement.

“The other Democratic candidates for President have many great ideas that will absolutely move our country forward, but we won’t be able to get any of those done until we end the hostile corporate takeover of our democracy,” Steyer said.

Steyer is a self-made billionaire. He and his wife Kathryn Taylor, known as “Kat,” were among the first to sign the Giving Pledge: a commitment to give away the bulk of their personal fortune during their lifetimes.

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In 2012 he stepped down from day to day management of his hedge fund empire, choosing to devote himself fulltime to his charitable and political pursuits. At its peak, Steyer’s firm managed $36 billion, much of it for foundations and universities.

In 2013, he founded NextGen America, a nonprofit group that combats climate change, promotes social justice and holds voter registration and grassroots organizing.

In 2017, Steyer founded, Need to Impeach, a PAC demanding that Donald Trump be impeached.

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Steyer was very active in the 2018 midterm elections, spending over $100 million to elect a Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In addition to his own money, Steyer has both of those organizations’ contact lists, which contains millions of email addresses of Democratic donors.

“We need the broadest democracy possible to take back our government from the corporations that now control it and have stolen the rights of everyday Americans,” Steyer said. “Only a broad-based grassroots movement can restore power, fairness and prosperity to the people.”

Steyer has laid out his vision for putting the people in charge of our democracy with a “21st century bill of rights” — a new set of five rights — that every American must have.

Steyer has been very active in the environmentalist movement. He helped protect California’s landmark clean-air laws, and he followed that up with wins for clean energy in Michigan and Nevada.

The Steyer’s charitable foundation powered the birth of “California Food for California Kids,” a program that now serves more than 300 million healthy meals yearly to the state’s school kids using natural food from California farms.

Another charitable project is Beneficial State Bank, which since 2007 has loaned money affordably to working people, small businesses and nonprofit community projects shut out by regular banks. Tom and Kat have given more than $120 million to building the bank, which reinvests any profits back into the communities it serves.

Tom Steyer grew up in New York City, the youngest of three brothers. His father, Roy Steyer, was an attorney and World War II veteran. His father served in the Navy and served on the legal team that prosecuted Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. His mother, Marnie, was a journalist and teacher who taught in the city schools and volunteered to tutor prisoners in a large city jail.

Steyer graduated from Yale and earned his MBA at Stanford. Steyer moved to San Francisco in 1986 and started his own small investment firm. Backed by two seasoned investors, Steyer started managing the new fund, which began with $9 million in investments. Over the years, Tom achieved double-digit returns for his investors.

Tom Steyer is 62. He and Kat have four grown children.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have both attacked Steyer.

Sanders told MSNBC that he is “a bit tired of seeing billionaires trying to buy political power.”

“The Democratic primary shouldn’t be decided by billionaires, whether they’re funding Super PACs or funding themselves,” Warren’s campaign said in a fundraising email. “If you’re a billionaire, you can already buy yourself a mansion, a private island and even a yacht to get yourself there.”

Congressman Eric Swalwell, D-California, dropped out of the race on Tuesday; so Tom Steyer’s entry brings the number of democratic candidates in the field back to 24.

To see Tom Steyer’s campaign announcement video:

Original reporting by CNBC, Fox News, the New York Times, Politico’s Caitlin Oprysko and Mother Jones News contributed to this report.

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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Congress

AFL-CIO endorses Adia Winfrey for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Adia Winfrey. (VIA WINFREY CAMPAIGN)

Monday, the Dr. Adia Winfrey for Congress campaign announces that she has received the endorsement of the Alabama AFL-CIO in her campaign for Congress.

At their annual convention last week, union leaders from across the state recognized Dr. Winfrey’s passion, ability to lead, and attentiveness to the issues affecting working men and women, as reasons to endorse Dr. Winfrey, the Democratic challenger, in Alabama’s Third Congressional District race.

“Labor unions have long been a leading force in our nation’s economy,” Dr. Winfrey wrote. “Workplace safety standards, employee benefits, equal pay for women, non-discrimination policies, and so much more can be attributed to directly to union members who were willing to speak up for what is right. I look forward to being a voice for Alabama’s hard working men and women in Congress.”

Dr. Winfrey is challenging nine term incumbent Mike Rogers (R-Saks) in the November 3 general election. During his 18 years in Congress, Mike Rogers has earned only a 16 percent lifetime rating by the AFL-CIO for his votes.

“For 7 generations my family has called Talladega, Alabama home,” Winfrey said. “I am the mother of four amazing children, a Doctor of Psychology, author, founder of the H.Y.P.E. (Healing Young People thru Empowerment) Movement, and…I am running for Congress in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District! I believe in the future of our beautiful state and nation. It is time for leadership with a new vision which is #FocusedOnAlabama.”

Winfrey has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wilberforce University and a doctorate of clinical psychology degree from the Wright State University School of Professional Psychology. She is the founder of the H.Y.P.E. (Healing Young People thru Empowerment) Movement.

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Courts

Plaintiffs ask for panel of judges to reconsider ruling on Alabama voter ID law

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Plaintiffs suing Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill alleging the state’s voter ID law discriminates against minorities on Monday asked a panel of judges to reconsider an appeals court decision that affirmed the law. 

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on Monday filed a petition Monday asking that all of the judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reconsider the July 21 decision by a panel of three judges that fell 2-1 in favor of the state’s voter ID law. 

The 2011 law requires voters in Alabama to show a valid, government-issued photo ID to vote. The NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries and several minority voters sued, arguing that lawmakers knowingly crafted the law to prevent Black people and other minorities, who are less likely to have such photo IDs, from voting. 

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in its July 21 opinion found that the burden of Alabama’s voter ID law is minimal, and does not“violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, nor does it violate the Voting Rights Act.”

Merrill has argued that the state’s voter ID law is meant to deter in-person voting fraud and that the state makes available mobile photo ID units able to provide voters with the necessary IDs.

District Judge Darrin Gayles in his dissenting opinion wrote that voter fraud in Alabama is rare, and that “while there have been some limited cases of absentee voter fraud, in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent.”

Gayles wrote that Merrill presented evidence of just two instances of in-person voter fraud in Alabama’s history.

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“Despite the lack of in-person voter fraud, Secretary Merrill claims Alabama enacted the Photo ID Law to combat voter fraud and to restore confidence in elections — a dubious position in light of the facts,” Gayles wrote.

Gayles noted that former State Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, before his retirement in 2010, sponsored similar voter ID bills.

“During this time, Senator Dixon made repeated comments linking photo identification legislation to race, including ‘the fact you don’t have to show an ID is very beneficial to the Black power structure and the rest of the Democrats’ and that voting without photo identification ‘benefits Black elected leaders, and that’s why they’re opposed to it,'” Gayles wrote in his dissenting opinion.

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“It is clear from the statements of the legislators who enacted Alabama’s photo ID law that they passed it for the unconstitutional purpose of discriminating against voters of color,” said LDF senior counsel Natasha Merle in a statement Monday. “As long as this law is intact, Black and Latinx Alabamians will continue to be disproportionately excluded from the state’s electoral process.”

Attorneys in the filing Monday told the court that “roughly 118,000 Alabamians lack qualifying photo ID, and Black and Latinx voters are twice as likely to lack qualifying ID as compared to white voters. Given this evidence, a trial was required to determine whether HB19 violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.”

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Congress

Voting rights activist calls for federal Department of Democracy

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

Micah Danney

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(VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The co-founder of an organization that is working to mobilize Black voters in Alabama and elsewhere used the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to call for a new federal agency to protect voting rights nationwide.

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans,” Brown said.

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the law in a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eliminating federal oversight that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get approval before they changed voting rules.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced, we need a federal agency at the cabinet level, just like the Department of Defense,” Brown said. “A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.”

She cited excessively long lines, poll site closings and voter ID laws in the recent primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas as voter suppression techniques that disproportionately affect Black and other communities of color.

Brown said that the July 17 passing of Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma in 1965, has amplified calls for the Voting Rights Act to be strengthened. That’s the right direction, she said, but it isn’t enough.

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“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades,” Brown said.

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Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Jerry Carl

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Jerry Carl.

The Alabama Forestry Association on Thursday announced its endorsement of Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Jerry Carl.

“Jerry Carl has experience working closely with the forest products industry in his role as County Commissioner and will carry that knowledge to Washington,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “Throughout his career, he has been a strong advocate for limited government and free markets and will continue to promote those same values in Congress. We are proud to endorse him.”

Carl is a small businessman who has started more than 10 small businesses in South Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs. He is currently serving on the Mobile County Commission.

“I am thrilled to earn the endorsement of ForestPAC,” Carl said. “Alabama has a thriving network of hard-working men and women in all aspects of the forestry community, and I look forward to being a strong, pro-business voice for them in Congress. As a lifelong businessman and an owner of timberland, I understand firsthand the needs and concerns of the forestry community, and I will be a tireless advocate in Washington for Alabama’s forest industry.”

Carl said that he was inspired to run for the Mobile County Commission when he became frustrated with the local government.

He and his wife, Tina, have been married for 39 years. They have three children and two grandchildren.

Carl faces Democratic nominee James Averhart in the Nov. 3 general election. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, who currently represents the 1st Congressional District, did not run for another term and has endorsed Carl.

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