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Opinion | Vote no on Amendment One

Craig Ford

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Whether you vote in the Democratic or Republican Primary Election on Tuesday, all voters will get the chance to vote on Amendment 1. This is an extremely important amendment, and I encourage every voter to vote NO on this amendment.

Alabama currently elects our representatives to the State Board of Education. Each member of the board represents their district, just like each Congressman represents their district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

What Amendment 1 does is disbands the State Board of Education and eliminates the position of State Superintendent of Education. In its place, the amendment would create a “Commission” on elementary and secondary education. This “Commission” would be appointed by the governor and approved by the State Senate.

And if Amendment 1 passes, we will no longer have a State Superintendent of Education. Instead, we will have something more like a Secretary of Education in the governor’s cabinet. And this position would also be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

In an effort to try and sway more voters to support Amendment 1, the Amendment also includes language saying that this new “Commission” would have to replace the Common Core standards.

Never mind the fact that our ELECTED State Board of Education already voted and taken steps to repeal the Common Core standards.

Supporters of Amendment 1 are trying to claim that this amendment is about taking politics out of education policy. But the truth is that this amendment does the exact opposite by injecting politics into education policy.

These same politicians who created this amendment have been in the State Legislature for decades and have had total control of the State Legislature for more than 10 years. They’ve never had an issue with our state having an elected school board until that elected school board refused to go along with their anti-public education goals like charter schools and taxpayer-funded scholarships to private schools.

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In other words, the politicians can’t win the support of the people so they want to go around the will of the people.

Having an elected school board means that our state school board members are accountable to the voters who elected them rather than the politicians who appointed them.

If we switch to an appointed school board then we will lose our power as voters to control what happens in our schools. This “Commission” will not answer to the people in any way.

Instead, the members of this “Commission” will answer only to the politicians in Montgomery. And if those politicians tell them they have to vote in favor of charter schools and other harebrained ideas like that then those commission members will have no choice but to do it or lose their appointment.

An elected school board is still political, but at least it’s a political board that answers to us. An appointed school board answers to no one but the politicians.

An elected school board is democracy in action. The only reason to be opposed to it is out of a desire to go around the will of the people, and that’s exactly what Amendment 1 is all about.

Don’t believe the misinformation coming out of the pro-Amendment 1 camp that claims that states with an appointed school board do better on the standardized tests. The reality is there is no connection between having an appointed school board and higher test scores. Test scores are influenced by a lot of things, most of which have nothing to do with how a school system is governed.

Having an appointed board isn’t going to change the mental health needs many kids are facing, change the affects of poverty on a child’s ability to learn, turn around the general lack of interest or motivation in academics among many students, or change state funding of public education.

The real problem isn’t how our schools are governed, nor is it a matter of not knowing what works and what doesn’t. The real problem is politicians (and their campaign contributors) who stand to make money off of alternatives like charter schools.

And if you have any doubt about what a failure charter schools are, just take a few minutes to do a Google search on Lead Academy in Montgomery.

Our children’s education is too important to give up our right to control it. Parents and professional educators should be the ones running our schools, not a bunch of politicians and their handpicked “yes” men and women in Montgomery.

On Tuesday, vote NO on Amendment One.


Craig Ford is the owner of Hodges-Ford Insurance and the Gadsden Messenger. He represented Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.

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Elections

Carl, Hightower raising money for July GOP primary runoff

Brandon Moseley

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Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl and former State Senator Bill Hightower are running in the Republican Party primary runoff on July 14.

Both campaigns are preparing for the final push. Their Federal Elections Commission reports on their fundraising efforts are through the end of March.

Carl reported total receipts of $1,513,462.10. $709,525.10 of Carl’s money comes contributions. $670,169.60 of that is contributions from individuals; while $37,700 are contributions from other committees. Carl has contributed $1,655.50 to his own campaign. Carl’s congressional campaign also reports personally loaning his campaign $758,900.

Carl has already spent $1,307,240.85. $1,114,940.85 was for campaign operating expenses, $400 was for contribution refunds and $191,900 were loan repayments. Carl entered the month with $206,221.25 in cash on hand and debts of $567,000.

R.E. Myles of Grand Bay, AL donated $8400 to Carl’s campaign. Myles is the President of the law firm McDowell, Knight, Roedder, & Sledge. There are two entries for Mr. Myles of Grand Bay. The second is for $5,600. Carl’s other top contributors include: Rachel Burton is a Mobile housewife $5,800. Philip Burton of Mobile contributed $5,600. Burton works for the Burton Property Group. Clarence Burke Jr. of Foley works for Wolf Creek Industries $5,600. Nancy Myles of Grand Bay is retired, $5,600. Morgan Myles is a Mobile engineer with Core Industries, $5600. White-Spunner & Associates is a real estate firm, $5,400. Warren Nicholson of Mobile, who works for NFINA Technology, $5,400. Kathy Nichols of Mobile is retired, $5,400. Matt Metcalfe is a Mobile realtor, $5,400. Jerry Lathan is a contractor from Theodore, $5,400.

Former State Senator Bill Hightower reported total contributions of $1,071,355.21. $1,032,155.21 were individual contributions; while $39,200 were contributions from other committees. Hightower has no outstanding loans.

Hightower has already spent $858,340.60. $848,860.60 were operating expenses. $5,600 were refund contributions to individuals. $3,880 were other disbursements. The Hightower campaign had $213,023.40 in cash on hand.

Club for Growth PAC is supporting Hightower and they have donated $19.600 to his campaign. Major contributors include: Richard Uihlein of Lake Forest, Illinois is the CEO/owner of Uline, $11,200. Roy Drinkard of Cullman is the owner of Drinkard Construction, $2,800. Lamar Harrison of Wilmer, AL is the President of Gulf Construction and Hauling, $2,800.00. Rhonda Scott is an Opelika homemaker, $2,800.00. Allen Harris of Opelika is the owner of Bailey-Harris Construction Company $2,800. Donna Williams is a Mobile homemaker $2,800. George Montgomery is the president of his own company $2,800. Sherri Trick is a Tuscaloosa homemaker $2,800. Carrie Montgomery of Mobile is the treasurer at Gulf Fastener. $2,800. Kreis William of Birmingham is a vice president at JohsonKreis Construction $2,800.

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The winner of the Republican primary runoff will face the winner of the Democratic Party primary runoff between James Averhart and Kiani Gardner

The First Congressional District is an open seat, because incumbent Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, is not seeking re-election.

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League of Women Voters of Alabama sue over voting amid COVID-19 pandemic

Eddie Burkhalter

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The League of Women Voters of Alabama on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill and several Montgomery County election officials asking the court to expand Alabama’s absentee voting and relax other voting measures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The nonprofit is joined in the suit by 10 plaintiffs who range in age from 60 to 75, many of whom have medical conditions that put them at greater risk for serious complications or death from COVID-19. 

“Voting is a right, not a privilege, and elections must be safe, accessible, and fairly administered,” the League of Women Voters of Alabama said in a press release Thursday. “Alabama’s Constitution specifically requires that the right to vote be protected in times of ‘tumult,’ clearly including the current pandemic.” 

Currently, to vote absentee in Alabama, a person must send a copy of their photo ID and have their ballot signed by a notary or two adults. The lawsuit asks the court to require state officials to use emergency powers to waive the notary or witness requirement, the requirement to supply a copy of a photo ID and to extend no-excuse absentee voting into the fall. 

Among the plaintiffs is Ardis Albany, 73, of Jefferson County who has an artificial aortic valve, according to the lawsuit. 

“Because she fears exposing herself to COVID-19 infection, Ms. Albany has already applied for an absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020, general election,” the complaint states. “Her application checked the box for being out of county on election day, and she is prepared to leave Jefferson County on election day if necessary to vote an absentee ballot.” 

Another plaintiff, 63-year-old Lucinda Livingston of Montgomery County suffers from heart and lung problems and has been sequestered at home since March 17, where she lives with her grandson, who’s under the age of five, according to the complaint. 

“She fears acquiring COVID-19, given her physiological pre-morbidity, and she fears spreading the virus to her grandson at home,” the complaint states. “She has never voted an absentee ballot, but she wishes to do so in the elections held in 2020. She does not have a scanner in her home, cannot make a copy of her photo ID, and has no way safely to get her absentee ballot notarized or signed by two witnesses.” 

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In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Ivey pushed the Republican runoff election back until July 14. Although Merrill has allowed those who may be concerned about voting in person in the runoff to vote absentee by checking a box on the ballot that reads “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”

Merril has not extended that offer for voters in the municipal and presidential elections in November, however. 

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alabama continue to rise, while testing for the virus has remained relatively flat in recent weeks. 

“We’re extraordinarily concerned about the numbers that we have been seeing,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking during a press briefing Thursday. 

Harris said the department continues to see community spread of the virus and have identified several hotspots. He’s concerned that the public isn’t taking the virus seriously or following recommendations to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing, he said Thursday. 

“One hundred years ago the nonpartisan League of Women Voters was founded to protect and preserve the right to vote and the integrity of the electoral process,” said Barbara Caddell, President of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, in a statement. “The unexpected risks posed by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID19) challenge our election system to the utmost.  Today, we ask that Alabama’s courts use Alabama’s laws to make it safe and possible for all citizens to vote.”

The League of Woman Voters of Alabama’s lawsuit is similar to a suit by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program which asks the court to require state officials to implement curbside voting for at-risk citizens during the coronavirus pandemic and to remove requirements for certain voter IDs and witnesses requirements.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a brief in that suit that states the department doesn’t believe Alabama’s law that requires witnesses for absentee ballots violates the Voting Rights Act.

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National Right to Life Committee endorses Aderholt

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the campaign to re-elect Congressman Robert Aderholt, (R Haleyville) announced that the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has endorsed him for re-election to Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

“I am truly humbled to have the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee,” said Congressman Aderholt. “I have, and I always will, fight for those who are the most vulnerable among us. I cannot think of anyone more vulnerable than the unborn. The National Right to Life Committee is committed to this fight, and it is an honor to fight along side them. As I have said before, no argument on the Pro-Choice side can get around one fundamental fact, abortion stops a human heartbeat.”

The NRLC Committee commended Aderholt in its endorsement:

“National Right to Life is pleased to endorse you for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives,” the Committee wrote. “We strongly commend you for maintaining a perfect 100% pro-life voting record throughout the 116th Congress.”

“You voted in support of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” the endorsement letter continued. “This legislation would require that a baby born alive during an abortion must be afforded the same degree of care that would apply to any other child at the same gestational age. You support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This Act would protect unborn children at 20 weeks, a point by which the unborn child is capable of experiencing great pain when being killed by dismemberment or other late abortion methods. You oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortion, and you oppose taxpayer funding of abortion providers.”

“You are a strong advocate for life,” the Committee said of Rep. Aderholt. “This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life throughout our nation and in the U.S. House. We look forward to continuing our important work with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children, the medically dependent, and persons with disabilities, whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia.”

“All voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to return you to the U.S. House, so that you can continue to work to advance vital pro-life public policies,” the endorsement letter concludes.

Robert B. Aderholt is a member of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, which has jurisdiction over funding the operation of the federal government. He serves as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. Aderholt also serves as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee. Aderholt is an advocate of fiscal responsibility, truth in budgeting and a federal government that operates within its means.

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Aderholt also serves as a commission member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (commonly known as the Helsinki Commission). The Helsinki Commission is comprised of 56 countries around the world that together monitors human rights in Europe and Central Asia.

Aderholt believes the federal government serves a critical role in assisting state and local projects regarding economic development. He support pro-growth initiatives that create jobs, strong immigration standards, and robust national security.

Prior to his election to Congress, Aderholt served as Assistant Legal Advisor to Governor Fob James (R) as well as Municipal Judge for the city of Haleyville, Alabama. Aderholt has a bachelor’s degree from Birmingham Southern College and a law degree from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. He was born on July 22, 1965, and raised in Alabama, Aderholt and his wife, Caroline, have two children.

Congressman Robert Aderholt is seeking his thirteenth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

Aderholt faces a general election challenge from Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors.

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Phyllis Schlafly Eagles’ President Ed Martin endorses Bill Hightower for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, Bill Hightower’s campaign for Congress announced that Phyllis Schlafly Eagles’ President Ed Martin is endorsing Hightower.

In addition to serving as President of Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, Ed Martin also co-authored Phyllis Schlafly’s last book: ‘The Conservative Case for Trump.’ Martin succeeded Schlafly after her death late in 2016. She was 92.

“In the tradition of the late Phyllis Schlafly, I am pleased to endorse Bill Hightower for Congress in Alabama’s First Congressional District” said Ed Martin. “We endorse candidates who support President Trump and his Pro America agenda. Those candidates must be pro-life, pro-family, and pro-Constitution. Bill Hightower is a strong conservative with a proven track record of supporting these fundamental American values.”

“I am thrilled to receive Ed’s endorsement,” Hightower said. “Phyllis and her Eagles were foundational leaders of the pro-family, conservative movement and ensuring traditional values were engaged in the political process. Those are the same values I support, those are the same values that made me one of Alabama’s most conservative state senators during my time in Montgomery, and those are the same values I will take with me to represent south Alabama in Washington.”

Schlafly was the founder and longtime President of Eagle Forum. Ed Martin was President of Eagle Forum, but was forced out by the Board led by Schlafly’s daughter who were backing Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for President. Schlafly and her sons endorsed Trump and created the break-away Eagles group in response.

Martin’s endorsement is the latest conservative leader to endorse Hightower’s campaign for Congress. Hightower has been endorsed by the nation’s oldest and largest pro-life organization, National Right to Life; as well as former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, and Sen. Cruz.

Hightower was ranked as one of the most conservative State Senators in Alabama when he was in the legislature. There he advocated for smaller government, lower taxes, term limits, and a flat state income tax. Hightower was a candidate for Governor in 2018; but was defeated by Gov. Kay Ivey in the Republican primary.

As a boy, Hightower worked on his grandparent’s farm, cleaned swimming pools, and as a laborer on construction projects. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and a Master’s in Business Administration from Vanderbilt University.

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In business, Bill has worked with Fortune 500 and other corporations including Emerson Electric, AlliedSignal, Eaton, and Balfour-Beatty. In 2002, he moved back to Mobile, to be closer to family. He now runs several small businesses.

Bill Hightower is married to Susan Binegar Hightower. They have three children and three grandchildren.

Hightower faces Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl in the Republican primary runoff on July 14.

The winner of the GOP runoff will face the winner of the Democratic Party runoff where James Averhart is running against Kiani Gardner. The general election will be November 3.

Incumbent Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, is not seeking re-election.

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