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Top Ten Alabama political stories of the decade: Part One

Brandon Moseley

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Part One of Two.

On Wednesday, the 2020s begin. Now is a good time to look back on the top ten Alabama political stories of the decade that ends tomorrow at midnight and the headlines that dominated the second decade of the twenty first century.

The Rise of the Alabama Republican Party. In 2010, the Alabama Democratic Party held majorities in both Houses of the Alabama Legislature, and Democrats held the offices of Lieutenant Governor, Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, and Public Service Commission President and a majority on the PSC. Democrats won three of the seven Alabama congressional seats in 2008, though Parker Griffith switched to the GOP late in 2009. The 2010 election reshaped Alabama politically. The Tea Party, which rose as a reaction to Democratic control of Congress and the presidency, helped Alabama Republicans win: supermajorities in both Houses of the State Legislature for the first time in 135 years, every statewide elected office on the ballot that year, six of the seven congressional seats, and every statewide appellate court seat on the ballot. Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb (D) retired to spend more time with her family and PSC Pres. Lucy Baxley (D) was defeated in 2012. Doug Jones’s (D) narrow victory over Roy Moore (R) in the 2017 Special Election was the only Democratic statewide victory in the entire decade in Alabama. The 2014 and 2018 elections only saw Republicans gain more seats for their supermajorities in the Legislature. There was not even a close general election statewide race in 2018. When 2010 began Democrats controlled most county commissions, probate judge seats, sheriffs, and dominated county courthouses across rural Alabama. As 2019 comes to a close, the Alabama Republican Party controls over 65 percent of the partisan political offices in the state.

The Rise and Fall of Mike Hubbard. State Representative Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, was the Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party who orchestrated that shocking 2010 election which gave the Alabama GOP unlimited power. Hubbard promised the people of the state that if they gave the Alabama GOP control of the Legislature for the first time in over four generations that they would bring ethics reform to Montgomery. True to his word, Hubbard became the first Republican Speaker of the House since the 1870s, and immediately instituted a special session where the new GOP super majorities passed a much stronger state ethics law, banned PAC to PAC transfers, outlawed legislators holding jobs for the state “double dipping”, and legislation aimed at weakening the power of the Alabama Education Association (AEA) and its Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert who had dominated Alabama politics for decades. At his apex Hubbard, not the affable Governor Robert Bentley (R), was the most powerful man in the state. Not only was he the most powerful Speaker of the House in memory, he was arguably the most effective and his power to control the fate of legislation was not lost on lobbyists. Political philosopher Baron Montesquieu told us in the eighteenth century that “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” and in Hubbard’s case that maxim proved to be only too true. Hubbard wanted the lifestyle enjoyed by only the privileged few and soon was doing “economic development” and “consulting” work as a sideline to his lucrative work at the Auburn network and his part time job as Speaker of the House.

Hubbard was not the first Speaker of the House to engage in this ethically dubious behavior; but he was the first to do it under the Republicans’ 2010 ethics law, where proving a quid pro quo was not necessary to convict. Hubbard had made enemies within the Alabama Republican Steering Committee going back to the 2010 election over his demand that ALGOP’s printing go through a printing company that he co-owned, Craftmasters.

Alabama Political Reporter’s Editor in Chief Bill Britt began a series of investigative reports into the allegations of shady dealings by Hubbard. This did not go unnoticed by law enforcement and soon the Alabama Attorney General’s office was holding secret investigative grand jury hearings into Hubbard’s conduct. In September 2014 the grand jury indicted Hubbard on over twenty felony ethics violations. Backed by his many powerful friends, Hubbard spent $millions defending himself; but in June 2016 a jury in Lee County found Hubbard guilty on twelve of those counts. Hubbard was removed from the Legislature and sentenced to prison. To this day the elected all Republican Alabama Supreme Court refuses to sign the order sending Hubbard to state prison and he has not served one day of his sentence.

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The Luv Guv. State Representative Robert Bentley, R-Tuscaloosa, with considerable AEA help, defeated former State Senator Bradley Byrne, former Chief Justice Roy Moore, and businessman, and son of a two time governor, Tim James to win the Republican nomination for Governor in 2010. Bentley, like every Republican nominee in 2010, won the general election. Few GOP legislators supported the mercurial Bentley in the primaries and Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, largely ran state government the way they wanted and Bentley, who quickly abandoned his AEA benefactors, deferred to them during much of that first term. Bentley was wildly popular with the state electorate and he cruised to an easy re-election over Democrat turned Republican Congressman turned independent turned Democrat Parker Griffith with a shocking 63.6 percent of the vote in an election that never appeared close.

Before the inauguration there were rumors of problems between Bentley and his family. There were a lot of staff changes. Early in 2015 Bentley stunned the Legislature by asking for over a $billion a year in across the board tax increases. That proposal was dead on arrival in the Legislature. Bentley called three special sessions to force the Legislature to agree to his increasingly smaller and smaller tax increase proposals to benefit Alabama’s chronically underfunded State General Fund (SGF). They refused and finally ended the impasse with modest tax increases on tobacco products, nursing home beds, and pharmacies.

Rebekah Caldwell Mason. There was a new power in the Bentley administration and her name was Rebekah Caldwell Mason. There were soon rumors that Mason, thirty years his junior, and Bentley were having an affair. First lady Diane Bentley asked for a divorce after fifty years of marriage. The governor rapidly agreed to her terms. After the divorce, Bentley took Mrs. Mason to the White House as his date, only feeding the rumors about Bentley and Mrs. Mason, who was married to a member of Bentley’s cabinet. Allegations of misuse of state resources soon emerged. A creepy audiotape of a phone conversation between the governor and Mrs. Mason went public that certainly sounded like the two had an inappropriate relationship and the story went national in 2016. State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) and Bentley’s 2014 GOP primary opponent Stacy George filed ethics charges. State Representative Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, introduced articles of impeachment in the 2016 Legislative Session. Hubbard referred them to the House Judiciary Committee for 2017. Attorney General Luther Strange (R) brought Bentley and Mason before a secret grand jury and asked the House Judiciary Committee to defer to the AG’s office. Bentley shocked everyone in 2017 by appointing Strange to a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. The House Judiciary Committee restarted their impeachment investigation. Bentley’s appointed AG Steve Marshall appointed a special prosecutor to take over the Bentley investigation. The Alabama Ethics Commission found in favor of Zeigler and George’s complaint. The House Judiciary Committee began formal impeachment hearings, the first in Alabama in over a hundred years. Bentley pled guilty to three misdemeanor ethics and campaign finance violations and resigned on April 2017.

The Roy Moore saga. Former Chief Justice Roy Moore (R) finished fourth in a field of five GOP gubernatorial candidates in 2010. His political career appeared to be over. Cobb resigned from her post as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, surrendering the seat to Republican control. Bentley appointed his Chief of Staff former Tuscaloosa County Judge Charles “Chuck” Malone to the post. Mobile County Presiding Judge and former Attorney General Charles Graddick challenged Malone. While the two spent large sums of money attacking each other, Moore quietly rose in the polls and on election day 2012 Moore won the primary without runoff shocking the political class. The Alabama Democratic Party sacked their nominee over bizarre social media comments and open hatred of homosexuals and replaced him with Jefferson County Judge Robert Vance. Moore won the general election and resumed his place as Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court. Moore strongly and vocally spoke out against gay marriage. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the states had to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, Moore failed to order Alabama probate judges to comply with the unpopular ruling and issue the licenses. Moore’s longtime nemesis, the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed a complaint with the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC). The JIC found that the complaint had merit and suspended Moore from his post pending trial. The Court of the Judiciary ruled against Moore and suspended him for the rest of his term. A special hearing of an appointed Supreme Court (the sitting Justices had conflicts) upheld the COJ ruling. Moore retired from the bench and ran for Senate in 2017. Moore bested Congressman Mo Brooks and Strange in the GOP primary to win the Republican nomination, even though Washington insiders poured $50 million into Strange’s campaign.

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Moore appeared to be cruising to an easy victory in the special election; until the Washington Post released a report claiming that Moore dated teen girls while a deputy district attorney in Etowah County in the 1970s, including inappropriate touching of then 15 year old Leigh Corfman in 1976. Moore denied the charges; but Senate leadership including Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, refused to support Moore’s candidacy. Moore narrowly lost the special election to former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones (D). Moore is the only Republican nominee to lose any statewide race in Alabama during the decade. Moore has sued his accusers as well as Democratic strategists who ran a “Russian style” social misinformation campaign against him in the 2017 special general election. Moore is a candidate for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2020.

Kay Ivey’s unlikely rise to power. In 2010 Kay Ivey (R) was state Treasurer and term limited from running for another term in that post. Ivey was a 2010 candidate for Governor; but was badly trailing Byrne and James in the polls and appeared unlikely to make the runoff in the crowded gubernatorial field. She then switched her candidacy and ran for Lieutenant Governor. Ivey defeated State Senator Henry “Hank” Erwin Jr. in the GOP primary and faced affable former Governor Jim Folsom Jr. (D) in the general election. All the Montgomery pundits thought that Folsom would be easily re-elected as Lt. Gov.; but 2010 was a Republican wave election. Every Republican on that statewide ballot won. Ivey was re-elected easily in 2014 and it appeared that her political career would end as Lt. Gov.; then Bentley resigned in 2017. The popular Ivey was elevated to the office of Governor. Ivey focused her administration on economic development. Soon manufacturing plant openings and expansions were being announced and the rising Trump/Ivey economy saw unemployment plummet across the state. Ivey easily beat Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) in the 2018 election, joining Lurleen Wallace (D) as the only two women elected governor in state history.

To be continued…

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Today is Thanksgiving

Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Four hundred years ago, on Nov. 11, 1620, after 66 days at sea, a group of English settlers landed near what is today Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Onboard the Mayflower were 102 men, women, and children, including one baby born during the Atlantic crossing, who made up the Pilgrims.

The Mayflower, captained by Christopher Jones, had been bound for the mouth of the Hudson River. The ship took a northerly course to avoid pirates, but the decision to avoid the then widely traveled sea lanes to the New World took the ship into bad weather, which had blown the Mayflower miles off course and left the ship damaged. Off Cape Cod, the adult males in the group made the fateful decision to build an entire colony where none had existed prior. They wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.

“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.”

After a few weeks off Cape Cod, they sailed up the coast until they reached Plymouth. There they found a Wampanoag Indian village that had been abandoned due to some sort of plague. During the Winter of 1620-1621 they lived aboard the Mayflower and would row to shore each day to build houses. Finally, they had built enough houses to actually move to the colony, but the cold, damp conditions aboard the ship had been costly.

Some 28 men, 13 women (one of them in child birth), and 8 children died in that winter. Governor John Carver would die in April. His widow, Kathrine White Carver, would follow a few weeks later. There is some recent archaeological evidence suggesting that some of the dead were butchered and eaten by the survivors.

The Mayflower and her crew left for England on April 5, 1621, never to return.

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About 40 of the Pilgrims were religious Separatists, members of a Puritan sect that had split from the Church of England, in defiance of English law. In 1609, they immigrated to Holland to practice their religion but ran into problems there too. Others in the group had remained part of the Church of England but were sympathetic to their Separatist friends. They did not call themselves Pilgrims, that term was adopted at the bicentennial for the Mayflower voyage. The members of core Separatist sect referred to themselves as “Saints” and people not in their sect as “Strangers.”

In March 1621, an English speaking Native American, named Samoset, visited the Plymouth colony and asked for beer. He spent the night talking with the settlers and later introduced them to Squanto, who spoke even better English. Squanto introduced them to the chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit.

Squanto moved in with the Pilgrims, serving as their advisor and translator. The friendly Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and grow crops. The two groups began trading furs with each other.

William Bradford, a Separatist who helped draft the Mayflower Compact, became the longtime Plymouth Governor. He was also the writer of the first history of the Plymouth Colony and the Mayflower. Bradford’s more notable descendants include author, dictionary writer and scholar Noah Webster; TV chef Julia Child; and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

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In the fall of 1621, 399 years ago, the Pilgrims invited their Wampanoag Indian friends to a feast celebrating their first harvest and a year in the New World with a three-day festival. This has become known as the first Thanksgiving.

Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.

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Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83

The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

Brandon Moseley

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Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton

Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.

“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”

Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.

Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.

The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.

While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.

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Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”

His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.

This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

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Roby warns Americans to be careful this Thanksgiving

Congresswoman Roby urged Alabamians to adjust Thanksgiving holiday activities to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama

Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama, warned Alabamians to adjust their Thanksgiving holiday activities to avoid spreading the coronavirus.

“Thanksgiving is a special holiday because it provides us an entire day each year to pause and give thanks for the many blessings we have received,” Roby said. “Particularly amid a global pandemic, the stress and craziness of life often make it easy to lose sight of just how much we have to be thankful for. Whether you are gathering with loved ones or remaining in the comfort of your own home, I hope we all take time to celebrate gratitude – something we may not do enough of these days.”

“As we’ve learned to adjust our daily routines and activities throughout the course of this pandemic, we know this Thanksgiving will not look like those of the past,” Roby said. “Please be mindful of any safety measures and precautions that have been put in place to help protect your family and those around you. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) released guidance that includes a list of low, moderate, and high-risk activities in order to help Alabamians have a safer holiday season. ADPH suggests a few lower risk activities such as having a small dinner with members of your household, preparing and safely delivering meals to family and neighbors who are at high-risk, or hosting a virtual dinner with friends.”

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, echoed Roby’s warning to be safe this Thanksgiving holiday.

Aderholt said: “I want to wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope Thursday is filled with a lot of laughter and gratitude, and that you can share it with friends and family. And while we continue to navigate this Coronavirus pandemic, please stay safe this holiday season.”

On Thursday, the CDC encouraged families to stay home as much as possible over the holiday weekend and avoid spreading the coronavirus.

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“As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” the CDC said in a statement before the holiday. “Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.”

The CDC has updated its guidelines to encourage families to stay home during the holiday.

  • The CDC said that postponing Thanksgiving travel is the “best way to protect” against the virus.
  • If you are sick or anyone in your household is sick, whether you think it is COVID or not, do not travel.
  • If you are considering traveling for Thanksgiving, avoid traveling to locations where virus activity is high or increasing.
  • Avoid travel to areas where hospitals are already overwhelmed with patients who have COVID-19.
  • Try to avoid traveling by bus, train or airplane, where staying 6 feet apart is difficult.
  • Avoid traveling with people who don’t live with you.
  • You should consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying travel until the vaccine is available or the pandemic is more under control.
  • Discuss with your family and friends the risks of traveling for Thanksgiving.
  • Try to dissuade people from visiting this holiday.
  • If you do travel, check for travel restrictions before you go and get your flu shot before you travel.
  • Always wear a mask in public settings, when using public transportation, and when around people with whom you don’t live.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who does not live with you.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
  • When you wear the mask, make sure that it covers your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.

Remember that people without symptoms may still be infected, and if so, are still able to spread COVID-19. Remember to always social distance. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands. Use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

Try to also avoid live sporting events, Thanksgiving Day parades and Black Friday shopping this year.

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Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District and will be retiring at the end of the year. Aderholt represents Alabama’s 4th Congressional District and was re-elected to the 117th Congress.

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Governor announces 3rd year of record Alabama foster care adoptions

In the 2020 fiscal year, there were 814 foster care adoptions, which is an all-time record for the state.

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced that for the third year in a row Alabama reported a record number of foster care adoptions. In the 2020 fiscal year, there were 814 foster care adoptions, which is an all-time record for the state. That is up from the previous year’s record of 731 adoptions.

“I am so proud that Alabama has set yet another record and placed so many children in permanent homes,” Ivey said. “I am so appreciative for the innovative work of our adoption professionals and the Department of Human Resources, during this unique time, to complete this record number of adoptions. Also, I sincerely thank our foster families, and most importantly, the forever families, for giving these children loving homes and for your sacrifice and love for our children.”

In the 2020 fiscal year, 70.5 percent of children who left foster care, went home to family members or their parent(s). While most children in the state’s foster care system do return to their families, there are still children that need adoptive families.

“This is a truly important milestone in a year that has seen many delays to finalizing adoptions, due to the pandemic. We are proud to have found permanency for these 814 children that deserve forever families,” said Alabama Department of Human Resources Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “We could not have accomplished this milestone without our vital partners in the permanency and adoption process, especially the judges and adoptive parents. However, we must be mindful that the work is not done. We have hundreds of additional children that continue to wait for his or her permanent family. Our staff and others are working hard every day to give these children that needed permanency. There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.”

Currently, there are 468 children in Alabama’s foster care system that need forever homes. Ivey also proclaimed November 2020 as National Adoption Month in the state of Alabama.

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