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Jefferson County GOP pens letter to governor complaining of Democrat appointed as probate judge

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey speaks at a press conference. (via Governor's Office)

The members of Jefferson County Republican Party Steering Committee last week sent a letter to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey bitterly complaining about her recent appointment of Jim Naftel, a Democrat, as a Jefferson County probate judge.

“We, both as elected officials and leaders of the Jefferson County Republican Party Steering Committee, on behalf of the entire Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee wish to express our displeasure in your appointment to Jefferson County Probate Judge, Place 1,” the letter reads.

“Our main objection is we had one request and that was one request only – the appointment of qualified Republican to this post,” the Jefferson County GOP continued. “In recent history, your pick for this position was given the opportunity to participate in the Republican Primary, he chose to vote as a Democrat. In 2018, when you were running for Governor in the Republican Primary, he chose to vote a Democrat ballot. Even this past March of 2020, when he had a chance to cast his vote for President Donald Trump, he again chose to vote in the Democrat primary.”

“Secondly, this position runs all elections for Jefferson County,” the Steering Committee added. “On June 30th, Secretary of State John Merrill was quoted in Alabama Today as stating, ‘The probate judge has a significant level of influence. I cannot emphasize how important it is that this person is involved, interested, and informed on all things related to elections.’ We have no knowledge of your appointee’s experience in this area. We are not aware of his previous expertise in the election process at the county level or having been involved with any level of ballot security activities in our County.”

In the letter, the members said all of the Republican legislators and commissioners recommended a specific qualified Republican to be appointed to this post.

“This Republican had been recommended and mentored by a former ALGOP General Counsel who you personally hired to be your legal counsel during your last campaign,” the letter reads. “This choice was clearly experienced in the elections area of the Probate position and was best prepared to serve as our chief elections officer. Rarely, if ever, do all of these people agree on one thing and they agreed on this. These above stated reasons are why we, both as elected leaders in Jefferson County and members of the Jefferson County Republican Party, would like you to be aware of our displeasure for your selection of Probate Judge, we request a clear explanation of why this choice was selected despite the request as outlined above, and we hope you will listen to our counsel on future appointments in Jefferson County.”

The letter was signed by Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Paul DeMarco and the other officers and members of the steering committee.

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Naftel was appointed to fill the position previously held by Judge Alan King, who has retired after 19 years of service.

“As one of my appointees, you will be making important decisions that directly affect the citizens of Alabama,” Ivey wrote to Naftel. “I have made honesty and integrity a priority in my Administration, and I know that you will embody these two virtues while serving the people of Alabama. Please plan to be a good steward of the taxpayers’ money and work in your position to instill trust in state government. The responsibility that comes with this appointment is not to be taken lightly. I trust that you will rise to the occasion and set a standard for others to follow.”

Naftel was an attorney with Maynard, Coooper & Gale, where he has worked since 1998.

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“Jim is a shareholder and member of the Firm’s Estate, Trust and Business Planning Practice, Fiduciary Advisory Services Practice, and the Fiduciary, Trust and Estate Litigation Practice groups,” the firm wrote in his bio on their website. “In his Fiduciary Litigation practice, Jim advises and represents both individuals and corporate fiduciaries in their capacity as trustees and executors, including pre-litigation, mediation, trial and appellate proceedings. Jim also represents beneficiaries of estates and trusts. In addition, Jim represents clients in proceedings related to financial abuse of the elderly, conservatorships, guardianships and other protective proceedings.”

Naftel is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, has been recognized as one of The Best Lawyers in America in the areas of Trust and Estates and Litigation: Trusts and Estates. He earned a law degree from the University of Alabama law school in 1998. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi in 1994.

“It is an honor to be appointed and I look forward to serving Jefferson County in this role,” Naftel told AL.com.

Republicans, including Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan, had been urging the governor to appoint a Republican to the position.

Former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead wrote hours ahead of the appointment, “For the life of me, I cannot understand why we are even having a conversation about our Republican governor appointing a Democrat as the top election official in Jefferson County. If we have to lobby our Republican governor to appoint a Republican to this important position we have a real problem!”

While Republicans continue to dominate Alabama politics, the party has grown increasingly uncompetitive in Jefferson County, where Republican Sheriff Mike Hale was defeated in 2018 and the last two Republican district attorneys were both defeated in general elections.

While Hillary Clinton was trounced statewide in 2016, she carried Jefferson County, as did Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008.

The last time that a Republican presidential nominee carried Jefferson County was incumbent President George W. Bush back in 2004. Naftel’s appointment could perhaps be interpreted as meaning that the governor’s office believes that Jefferson County is a lost cause for Republicans moving forward given recent demographic changes and that the best a Republican governor can hope for is to pick the best Democrat for countywide office as a Republican would lose reelection.

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

Alabama GOP chair says Harris “drags the Democrats’ ticket even further to the left”

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People. (VIA GAGE SKIDMORE/FLIKR)

Tuesday, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan released a statement critical of presumed Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden’s choice of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) as his running mate in the November 3 general election. Biden announced the pick to supporters via text message.

“Joe Biden’s VP pick drags the Democrats’ ticket even further to the left,” Lathan charged. “Kamala Harris was the first proud co-sponsor Bernie’s Medicare for All government healthcare takeover. She’s applauded efforts to defund the police and even led the charge to block meaningful police reform in the Senate. She even wants to use the federal government to ban plastic straws and to control what we eat – a move that would devastate the U.S. dairy and beef industries – all in the name of ‘climate change’.”

“We look forward to the clear contrast in policies in the Vice Presidential debate with Mike Pence and Senator Harris,” Lathan concluded. “It will be a true mirror of the obtuse plans the Democrats want for our nation. This ticket does not represent the values of the American people. They will see through all bogus attempts by the Democrats who will pretend to move to the center. They will fail, as their policies have, and America will vote to re-elect President Trump on November 3rd.”

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel similarly blasted the decision.

“A hiding, diminished, & incoherent Biden didn’t just select a VP candidate, he chose the person who will actually be in charge if he were somehow able to win,” Chair McDaniel said. “Harris’ radical policies may be popular among liberals, but they are well outside the mainstream for most Americans.”

“Kamala Harris’ extreme positions, from raising taxes to abolishing private health insurance to comparing law enforcement officials to the KKK, show that the left-wing mob is controlling Joe Biden’s candidacy, just like they would control him as president,” McDaniel concluded.

Harris is a U.S. Senator, former 2020 presidential candidate, and former California Attorney General. Her father is an immigrant from Jamaica and her mother is an immigrant from India. She identifies as Black and is the first non-White woman to be on a major party presidential ticket. Harris is the fourth woman to appear on a major party presidential ticket. The previous nominees: 1984 Democratic VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro, 2008 Republican VP candidate Sara Palin, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton all lost in the general election.

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Current Vice President Mike Pence is expected to return as President Trump’s running mate.

Biden is expected to make a joint appearance with Harris on Wednesday in Delaware.

Polls taken prior to the Harris pick show Biden with a significant lead in polling, both nationally and in several key swing states. Alabama is expected to support Trump by a large margin.

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Elections

Barry Moore: Trump “is doing what he can to counteract the Democrats stonewalling”

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Barry Moore.

Monday, congressional candidate former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, said that the President is doing what he can to counteract the Democrats stonewalling.” Moore is referring to President Donald J. Trump’s (R) recent executive orders extending unemployment payments, student loan relief, protection from eviction and a payroll tax exemption for persons making less than $100,000 a year.

“I’m glad that this President is once again showing his leadership during this crisis,” Rep. Moore said in a statement. “These executive orders show that he’s doing what he can to counteract the Democrat’s stonewalling. The American people need more relief from the effects of the ongoing pandemic, and it’s obvious that Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democrats in Congress care more about playing political games and funneling taxpayer money to their cronies than helping the people.”

“The Democrats keep insisting on extending the full $600 per week unemployment benefit despite the Congressional Budget Office saying it will only hurt the economy starting early next year,” Moore continued. “They also keep adding more and more of their progressive wish-list to the deal. Last week it came out that they’re insisting on solar, wind, and other green energy tax credits in the relief bill. What does that have to do with the COVID pandemic? Nothing, except to satisfy their liberal supporters and their anti-American agenda.”

The President signed four executive orders on Saturday granting a $400/week extension in unemployment benefits as well as extending the initial 120-day protections from eviction for renters and homeowners that were initially part of the CARES Act passed in April. Additional orders set student loan interest rates to zero and suspended federal student loan payments through December 31, 2020, and defers payroll taxes for employees making less than $100K a year from September 1 through December 31 of this year.

“I am so thankful that President Donald Trump is standing firm against Pelosi’s and Schumer’s attempt to hold the American people hostage, and I look forward to joining the next Congress to help him resist the Democrat’s agenda,” Moore concluded.

Barry Moore is the Republican nominee for House District 2. He faces Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall in the November 3 general election. Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, is not seeking re-election.

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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)

Democratic congressional candidate Adia Winfrey’s campaign announced Monday that she has received the endorsement of the Alabama AFL-CIO in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District.

At their annual convention last week, union leaders from across the state recognized Winfrey’s “passion, ability to lead and attentiveness to the issues affecting working men and women” as reasons to endorse the Democratic challenger against incumbent Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama.

“Labor unions have long been a leading force in our nation’s economy,” Winfrey wrote. “Workplace safety standards, employee benefits, equal pay for women, non-discrimination policies and so much more can be attributed 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.”

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

“For seven 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.

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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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