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Sessions calls on Woodfin, Birmingham schools to reverse decisions on the Church of the Highlands

Brandon Moseley

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GOP candidate and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, held a news conference in Woodlawn to say he had issued letters to Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and the Birmingham Board of Education, urging them to reverse their actions ending relationships with the Church of the Highlands.

Sessions called both decisions “discriminatory.”

“It is never more important to defend free speech and the right to freely exercise one’s religion than when it is under attack,” Sessions said in a statement.

In his letter to Woodfin, Sessions wrote, “I urge you to consult counsel of your choice and reverse the unconstitutional discrimination meted out against the Church of the Highlands. I also urge you and all City officials to resist the temptation to silence, censor, and punish speech that you find objectionable, particularly when doing so comes at the expense of citizens who most need your assistance.”

The actions to terminate the relationships with the Church of the Highlands came after Pastor Chris Hodges liked comments by conservative commentator Charlie Kirk on social media.

In his letter to the members of the Birmingham Board of Education, Sessions wrote, “Your actions demonstrate hostility toward First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion and are an unconstitutional retaliation and abuse of governmental authority.”

“Although the leases earned Birmingham City Schools $288,000 each year, on June 9, you terminated them based on your objection to the views that the Church’s Pastor ‘liked’ on social media,” Sessions said. “You have not only discriminated against constitutionally protected speech, but you have cut off a valuable source of funding for Birmingham’s students and teachers, and plainly violated the Church’s contract without cause.”

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“This is a very important matter,” Sessions wrote to Woodfin urging him to reverse his decision ending the relationship between the Church of the Highlands and the Birmingham Public Housing Authority. “It requires your immediate and personal attention. It is never more important to defend free speech and the right to freely exercise one’s religion than when it is under attack. Please take action now to correct this wrong.”

The Sessions news conference was originally to have taken place in front of Woodlawn High School, but a staff member for the Birmingham City Schools directed reporters and the Sessions team to move off of school grounds. When the Sessions campaign staff set up Sessions’ podium on the sidewalk on the city street, the same staff member directed that the news conference be relocated across the street, citing his orders from Birmingham schools administrators.

Sessions is running in the July 14 Republican primary against former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville. The eventual Republican nominee will face incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Sessions served in the Senate from 1997 to 2017 before vacating the seat after he was confirmed as U.S. attorney general. Former U.S. Attorney Jones then defeated Republican nominee former Chief Justice Roy Moore in the December 2017 special election for the vacant Senate seat.

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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Congresswoman Martha Roby endorses Jeff Coleman

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Congressional candidate Jeff Coleman. (CAMPAIGN)

Congresswoman Martha Roby endorsed Jeff Coleman for Congress Thursday. “I fully support Jeff Coleman to be our next Congressman,” Roby said. “Jeff Coleman is a businessman who supports cutting government regulation and lowering taxes to help grow a strong economy. Jeff strongly supports our men and women serving in uniform, as well as our veterans.”

She continued, “The Second District needs someone who will support our interests right here in southeast Alabama, particularly our farmers. Jeff will do just that. He’ll get results for Alabama.”

“I am humbled and honored to receive this strong endorsement from Representative Roby. She has been a staunch supporter of our military men and women, as well as our farmers. I am looking forward to continuing her legacy of fighting for our conservative Alabama values, protecting the family farm, and fighting to ensure our veterans and active-duty personnel have all the resources they need,” Coleman said of the endorsement.

Coleman has now been endorsed by 10 mayors, multiple business associations in the state, the U.S. Chamber, and Roby. Coleman finished the Republican Primary on March 3 with 38 percent of the vote — 18 points ahead of his closest challenger.

Coleman has never run for public office and touts a 35-year successful business career.

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Secretary of state says office will assist voters in complaints if local authorities punish voters without masks

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told the Alabama Political Reporter that all 1,980 polling places will be open on Tuesday for in-person voting if a voter chooses to cast their ballot in person.

COVID-19 has been a paramount concern for people across the state and citizens have to deal with a number of business, Church and government office closures since March, but Merrill insisted that voters will be able to vote in either the Republican or Democratic Party runoffs on Tuesday at the polling place they are assigned.

A number of cities and counties are requiring masks whenever anyone goes out in any public place and government offices and businesses are refusing service to persons who do not have a mask or who refuse to wear one.

Merrill told APR that the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Scott Harris and other public health authorities are suggesting that you should wear a mask when you go out. Many polling places will provide them to voters that need them, but wearing a mask is not required to vote.

“There are only five requirements to vote in Alabama: You have to be 18 years of age. You have to be a citizen, You have to be a resident of Alabama, You must not have been convicted of an act of moral turpitude that has taken away your voting rights, and you must have a valid photo ID,” Merrill told APR. “When you meet those requirements you can vote in the state of Alabama.”

When asked whether voters in those jurisdictions with face mask requirements have to wear masks when at the polls, Merrill said, “I don’t think anybody at the local level is trying to prevent people from voting.

Merrill said if localities place police or other law enforcement outside polls and attempt to ticket those who try to enter or exit without the required mask his office would get involved.

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“If they want to try to do that, we will assist the voter in filing a lawsuit on infringement of their civil rights,” Merrill said.

Public health authorities are urging that everyone wear masks or cloth face coverings to protect themselves from becoming infected with the coronavirus and to avoid spreading the virus to others. Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Alabama press corps Tuesday that 20 to 40 percent of people infected with the virus have no symptoms and don’t event know that they are infected.

Thursday is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot to participate in the Tuesday, July 14 party primary runoff election. The close of business Thursday is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot. The last day to return those completed absentee ballots is the close of business on Monday.

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Voters with a health concern due to the possibility of getting or transmitting the coronavirus may obtain an absentee ballot. The voter will still have to check a reason for asking for the absentee ballot. If the reason is fear of the coronavirus, mark that there is a health reason for the application. You will be allowed to vote absentee. Remember to fill out all the paperwork completely and to mail or return the ballot on time.

In the Republican primary runoff, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions are running for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate. Judge Beth Kellum faces challenger Will Smith for the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

There is no statewide Democratic primary runoff races, but in the 1st Congressional District, James Averhart and Kiani Gardner are running for the Democratic nomination for Congress.

On the Republican side, former State Sen. Bill Hightower, R-Mobile, and Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl are running for the Republican nomination for Congress.

In Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, faces Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman. There are also a number of local races being decided in primary runoffs on Tuesday.

Notably in Etowah County, the revenue commissioner’s race is a runoff between State Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, and Jeff Overstreet for the Republican nomination.

In Jefferson County, State Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, faces Eyrika Parker in the Democratic primary runoff for county treasurer.

If either Nordgren or Scott win the local offices they seek, that will lead to a special election for what would become open seats in the Alabama House of Representatives.

The polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 7 p.m. A valid photo ID is required to participate in any Alabama election.

Absentee ballot applications are available online.

On Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported that 25 more Alabamians have died from COVID-19, raising the state death toll from the global pandemic to 1,032. Also, on Wednesday, another 1,162 Alabamians learned that they were infected with the novel strain of the coronavirus, raising the number of cases in the state to 46,424.

Only about 9 percent of the state has been tested at this point in time.

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Sessions says that he will never stop fighting for law enforcement officers

Brandon Moseley

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Jeff Sessions testifies before a Congressional committe. (CSPAN)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Sessions said on social media that he will “never stop fighting” for law enforcement officers. This was in response to the Saturday slaying of Ohio police officer Anthony Dia.

“We must end the violence against police,” Sessions said. “The last words of Officer Anthony Dia before he died on Saturday was ‘Tell my family I loved them.’”

“The disrespect and even attacks on our courageous law enforcement officers have reached a totally unacceptable level,” Sessions continued. “It is immoral and insane.”

Sessions prioritized good relations with law enforcement while he was U.S. attorney general.

“I understand how difficult their job is and how important it is for the peace and safety of our people,” Sessions said. ”I will never stop fighting for them. Let us remember Officer Dia and pledge that we will not forget his sacrifice.”

Toledo Police Officer Anthony Dia was 26-years old when he responded to a call about an intoxicated man in a store’s parking lot. When he “approached the male to check his safety,” the man turned around and fired a single bullet from a handgun, police said, citing witnesses account.

“He bled out, pretty much. They did what they could with lifesaving measures, but there was nothing they could do,” Dia’s widow Jayme told the Toledo Blade newspaper. “The last thing he said over the radio was, ‘Tell my family I love them.’ He lived for his family, and he loved, just loved, being a police officer.”

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American law enforcement has come under heavy criticism by politicians, the media and the public alike following the death of George Floyd during an arrest by the Minneapolis Police Department.

Sessions served in the Senate from 1997 to 2017, when he was confirmed as U.S. attorney general in the Trump administration. Sessions is also a former U.S. attorney, Alabama attorney general and assistant U.S. attorney.

Following his service as U.S. attorney for both the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, Sessions was chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. Sessions is a former U.S. Army reserve officer. He has a bachelor’s degree from Huntingdon College in Montgomery and a law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law.

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Sessions and his wife, Mary Blackshear Sessions, started the first college Republican club at Huntingdon College. They have three children as well as grandchildren. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was born outside of Camden in Wilcox County in 1946. Sessions is a native Alabamian. He is 73 years old.

Sessions is running in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff. His opponent is former Auburn University head football Coach Tommy Tuberville. The winner of the GOP nomination will face incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, in the Nov. 3 general election. Defeating Jones is considered critical for Republicans efforts to try to retain control of the Senate.

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Hightower for Congress announces “Doctors for Hightower” coalition

Brandon Moseley

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Bill Hightower (VIA CAMPAIGN)

Bill Hightower campaign for Congress said this week that it has received the endorsement of over 30 prominent South Alabama physicians who will serve as the leadership for Hightower’s new “Doctors for Hightower” Coalition.

The pro-Hightower doctors wrote a letter to voters in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.

“We have committed our careers to supporting the south Alabama community and we know first-hand the struggles that medical professionals, providers, and institutions face in addressing the healthcare needs of our community,” the Hightower doctors wrote. “These are challenges that have been magnified in the face of the global pandemic that has ravaged our country and community, and will have ramifications for years to come.”

“South Alabama and the entire Gulf Coast needs strong leadership in Congress that will stand up for our ability to provide accessible and affordable care for our community,” the doctors claimed. “Leadership that understands the needs of medical professionals and patients, an effective voice who will be able to deliver for our community, and an ear we know will be there to listen when future challenges emerge…”

The doctors endorsed Hightower because, “Bill Hightower knows and understands the medical community and healthcare sector. He is the son of Dr. Billy M. Hightower, a healthcare pioneer in open-heart surgery for the Gulf Coast. As a state Senator, Bill Hightower stood up for not only doctors, nurses, and other health professionals, but for patients and their rights. And as a congressman, Bill Hightower will work with the medical community to improve our medical funding and services to help the people of coastal Alabama. He will work to innovate and develop better ways to deliver affordable and accessible care, so we can better serve our patients. We know Bill Hightower is committed to working to ensure we are better able to work to support our patients, to provide the care they want and deserve.”

Hightower served in the Alabama Senate. He ran for the Republican nomination Governor in 2018 but lost to Gov. Kay Ivey, who went on to win her own term. Hightower has owned several small businesses in the South Alabama area. He worked for several large multi-national corporations before moving back to Alabama following 9-11. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and a master’s from Vanderbilt University. He and his wife Susan have children and grandchildren.

Bill Hightower is running against Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl for the Republican nomination in the July 14 Republican primary runoff. The winner of the Republican nomination will face the winner of the Democratic Party primary runoff between Kiani Gardner and James Averhart.

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Incumbent Republican Congressman Bradley Byrne is not seeking reelection.

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