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Elections

Will Smith, Beth Kellum in GOP runoff for Court of Criminal Appeals

Brandon Moseley

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Beth Kellum, left, and Will Smith, right, are in the GOP runoff for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 2. (VIA CAMPAIGNS)

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday to vote in their party primary runoffs. The Democrats do not have a statewide race in a primary runoff. The Republicans have two. The Senate race between former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville and former Sen. Jeff Sessions is the one that is getting all the attention, but the GOP also has a hard-fought battle for Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Place 2.

There incumbent Beth Kellum faces challenger Will Smith. Both campaigns have been working to sway undecided Republicans to their side in the days before the election. The winner of Tuesday’s Republican runoff will be the next Place #2 Judge since there is no Democrat or Independent candidate on the ballot in November.

“Alabama needs a judge with experience, conservative values, intelligence, and courage representing each of them on the Court of Criminal Appeals. Judge Beth Kellum has and will continue to fight to uphold the law and respect the constitution when re-elected!” the Kellum campaign wrote on social media.

William “Will” Smith is a Florence attorney and former Lauderdale County Commissioner.

“Conservative grassroots Alabama political organizations have spoken. I am their conservative choice,” Smith claimed in a statement. “I have been endorsed by the two largest Republican groups in Alabama as well as other conservative groups throughout the state because I am a Christian, a conservative and a family man.”

“I am running for the Court of Criminal Appeals because I have the legal experience of practicing law in Alabama for over a quarter of a century, the conviction to follow the rule of law, and I am a constitutional conservative,” Smith added.

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The Kellum campaign wrote: “Experienced Judge Beth Kellum serves the people of Alabama on the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court hears all appeals of felony and misdemeanor cases, including violations of city ordinances and all post-conviction writs in criminal cases.”

In the March 3rd Republican primary Kellum received the most votes by a margin of 43 percent to 37 percent for Smith.

“Our campaign message really resonated with primary voters and it is amazing we were within 6 percentage points of the incumbent despite being outspent over 15 to 1,” Smith said. “While I was outspent, I was not outworked. I traveled to the 4 corners of Alabama visiting almost 60 counties during the 60-day primary.”

Will and his wife, Laura, reside in Killen with their seven-year-old daughter, Angel Joy, who has autism. The Smiths are active members of Greenhill First Baptist Church. Will has served as a Sunday school teacher, international missions worker and Upward basketball coach. Smith has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of North Alabama and a law degree from Sanford’s Cumberland School of Law in 1992 where he received the American Jurisprudence Award for receiving the highest grade in Criminal Procedure. Smith is licensed to practice law in Alabama, Georgia, and before the United States Supreme Court. He operates a full service law firm representing clients from all walks of life in both civil and criminal matters including appeals in both the Alabama and federal appeals systems. Smith is a fifth generation Lauderdale County resident.

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Kellum is an Alabama native She grew up in Vance in Tuscaloosa County. She graduated from Brookwood High School in 1977. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama and a law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law.

Judge Kellum was hired in 1985 by Attorney General Charles Graddick as an Assistant Attorney General. She worked in the criminal appeals division where she primarily prosecuted appeals before the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court. She later worked as a staff Attorney for the Court of Criminal Appeals from 1987 until 1990. Kellum went into private practice with the Montgomery law firm of Robison & Belser, P.A., working on a wide variety of civil and criminal cases in state and federal courts. In 1997 to went back to the Court of Criminal Appeals to work as a Senior Staff Attorney for the newly-elected Judge Jean Brown. She worked as a Senior Staff Attorney for the Alabama Supreme Court from 1999 until 2001, before returning to the Court of Criminal Appeals as the Senior Staff Attorney for then newly-elected Judge Kelli Wise.

Kellum was elected to the Court of Criminal Appeals in November 2008 and was re-elected in 2014. She is currently seeking her third term on the Court.

Judge Kellum is a member of the First Baptist Church of Montgomery. She has served as a docent at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, and is a member of a number of professional, civic, and political organizations.

The polls open at 7:00 am on Tuesday and close at 7:00 pm. You must be a registered voter, vote at your assigned polling place and have a valid photo ID in order to participate in any Alabama election. It is too late to apply for an absentee ballot. If you already have an absentee ballot you must get it in the mail or turn it in to your courthouse before the close of the business day on Monday.

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

Insiders say former Rep. April Weaver is “frontrunner” for Senate District 14

Multiple GOP insiders say former Alabama State Rep. April Weaver is a frontrunner to replace State Sen. Cam Ward.

Bill Britt

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Former State Rep. April Weaver is now serving in the Trump administration.

The surprise announcement on Tuesday that State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, had been tapped by Gov. Kay Ivey to serve as director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles sent the political chattering class into overdrive with speculation of who would replace him in the state Senate.

“April Weaver is a clear frontrunner if she jumps in the race,” said a prominent Republican.

Multiple insiders echoed the same sentiment while asking not to be identified in this report to avoid the appearance of trying to influence party politics.

“I think she’s the top contender should she decide to run,” said another.

Replacing Ward, a third-term Alabama senator representing Senate District 14, requires that Ivey announce a special election to fill the vacant seat.

Weaver was a member of the Alabama House representing the 49th district from 2010 to 2020 when she resigned in May to take a position as regional director for Region IV of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration.

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If elected to the upper chamber, she would be the only Republican woman currently serving in the Senate. There are four women serving in the Senate’s Democratic caucus, all of them Black, while the Republican caucus is dominated by white men.

A career nurse, Weaver, in 2015, became the first woman in state history appointed chair of the House Health Committee. In addition to serving as chair of that committee for five legislative sessions, she also chaired the Shelby County House Delegation and as a member of the Rules, Internal Affairs, and State Government committees.

As a federal employee, Weaver cannot engage in political affairs and had no comment on the rumors.

Upon her appointment by President Donald Trump, she said: “Serving in the Alabama House of Representatives has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to represent the people of House District 49 for the past ten years.”

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She continued, “I am forever grateful for the trust and confidence they have placed in me as their Representative, and I am deeply honored to have been chosen to join the Trump Administration. I am excited to be able to use my skills and experience at a national level during this unprecedented time, and I look forward to supporting President Trump’s initiatives and serving the people of our nation.”

Weaver lives in Senate District 14.

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Elections

Voters once again heading back to the polls in Montgomery

For the sixth time in three years, Democratic voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to select a Democratic nominee.

Josh Moon

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Don’t complain about election fatigue to the voters in Alabama’s 26th senate district. For the sixth time in three years, Democratic voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to select a Democratic nominee.

They will vote at least once more to ultimately fill the seat, and will likely be forced to do so twice more if none of the six candidates receives at least 50 percent of the vote. Should a primary runoff be needed, it will be held on Dec. 15. The general election to fill the seat will be held on March 2. 

The never-ending string of elections for the seat began in late 2017, when former state Sen. Quinton Ross resigned to accept the job as Alabama State University’s president. That began a string of elections won by now former Sen. David Burkette. 

Burkette won three elections in 2017 (a primary, a primary runoff and general election) and two more in 2018 to earn the seat. 

Things did not go well. 

Before he served a day, Burkette suffered a debilitating stroke that left him in a wheelchair. Then, earlier this year, he was indicted on charges of misusing campaign funds. He ultimately reached a plea deal with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office that saw him resign his seat and be charged only with a misdemeanor. 

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And now, the cycle starts all over. 

The six Democrats vying for the position are: Linda Burkette, the wife of David Burkette; current Montgomery Rep. Kirk Hatcher, who recently sponsored the count property tax increase; former longtime Rep. John Knight, who was Burkette’s top foe in the five previous elections; Janet May, the former chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Conference; current state Rep. Tashina Morris; and Deborah Anthony, a retired research analyst who’s never held public office. 

Former Montgomery City Councilman William Green is the only Republican running and will face the ultimate winner in March. 

Barring a shift in the universe, the winner of the Democratic primary will ultimately win the seat. Burkette received about 80 percent of the vote in his general election wins. 

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Elections

Opinion | A question for Alabama Republican voters

You won last Tuesday. But let me ask you this: What did you win? 

Josh Moon

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Let’s chat, Republican voters. Now that the election is over and emotions have returned to just short of a five-alarm fire, I’d like to lay a few things out for you. Things just to consider. Things that maybe you’ll carry with you in the future. And then, I have a question for you.

Let’s begin here: You won last Tuesday. Convincingly. 

No two ways about it, the Republican candidates in this state mostly crushed their Democratic competition, a few statehouse races in Dem strongholds notwithstanding. In the all-important statewide race at the top of this state’s ticket — Sen. Doug Jones vs. Republican Tommy Tuberville — there was a convincing Tuberville win. 

So, congratulations. 

But let me ask you this: What did you win? 

Not, “what did the party win,” but what did you win personally? These elections aren’t about the team winning. They’re about public representation that best reflects your interests and values. 

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That’s what a representative government is about, right? Electing people who will go to D.C. or Montgomery or your local courthouse and get the things done that are important to you. 

So, did you get that? 

Well, let’s take a look. 

According to a 2018 Public Affairs Research Council study completed in Alabama, these were the top five issues for state voters: 1. Public education, 2. Healthcare, 3. Government corruption and ethics, 4. Mental health and substance abuse, and 5. Poverty. 

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Obviously, a few things have happened since then, so I think it’s safe to say we can include the economy and global health crises in the top seven. 

And I also know from the campaign ads and constant comments on social media sites that replacing justices on the Supreme Court (mostly in an effort to overturn the legalization of abortion) is high on the list. In fact, it was most often the single topic listed by voters and the single reason many said they were voting against Jones. 

So, there’s your list of important issues. Did your elected officials have a plan to address any of those things?

In short, no. I checked. And you can too. 

Go to the websites for Tuberville, Robert Aderholt, Mo Brooks, Mike Rogers, Barry Moore and Jerry Carl — those are the U.S. senator and representatives elected in Alabama last week — and see if you can locate their specific plans for any of those things. 

Hell, half of them don’t even list education — your No. 1 priority — on their websites. 

On your No. 2 issue, healthcare, the responses are so laughably stupid, it’s frankly hard to believe that adults wrote them. Every single one of them wants to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” None of them specify exactly what they plan to replace it with.  

Let me put that another way: They want to take healthcare away from hundreds of thousands of Alabamians, in the middle of a pandemic, and just hope that insurance companies and hospitals behave appropriately and don’t mistreat anyone.  

Let’s be real here. These guys got elected because they’re on the R team, and because you’ve been led to believe that the most important vote that can be cast is one for the people who will choose our next Supreme Court justice. 

And you believe that because you have the misguided notion that the Supreme Court will one day overturn Roe v. Wade and ban abortions, which will magically eliminate all abortions. You also believe the high court will do other things, like repeal Obamacare or overturn precedent allowing gay marriage. 

Bad news: None of those things are going to happen. Just this week, the court, despite a 6-3 conservative majority, sent strong signals that the latest attempt to kill Obamacare will be unsuccessful. 

In June, the court upheld an opinion that blocked a Louisiana law requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals before they can perform an abortion. The law was designed to limit abortion clinics in the state. 

In October, the court declined to even hear the case of a former Kentucky clerk who was jailed for failing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. 

Now, we could get into the technical legal reasons behind those decisions, but they all essentially boil down to this: The rulings in the major cases on abortion, Obamacare and gay marriage weren’t made flippantly. And once they were made, they became precedent for the court and incredibly hard to overturn.  

But don’t take my word for it. Go read the opinions in the cases I mentioned. Read the analysis from legal scholars. Read the words of the justices. 

And when you finish, ask yourself this: If these conservative judges are going to behave like responsible judges then what exactly am I getting out of all these Republican votes? 

Our schools are in bad shape. Our health care system is failing. We’re going to have to open a new prison just for convicted Republican lawmakers and elected officials at the rate we’re going. We’re at the top of the charts on poverty. And we have one of the highest death rates in the world for COVID. 

What else do we need to fail at before you’ll consider voting for someone who has some idea what they plan to do? No, really, I’m asking.

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Congress

Gov. Kay Ivey meets with Congressman-elect Jerry Carl

Carl won his seat to the U.S. House in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District garnering 61 percent of the votes.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey meets with Congressman-elect Jerry Carl.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday met with Congressman-elect Jerry Carl, to discuss the current hurricane season and trade policy, Ivey’s office said in a statement. 

“The governor looks forward to working together with Congressman Carl for the people of Alabama’s 1st district,” the statement read. 

Carl, a Republican and a Mobile County Commissioner, won his seat to the U.S. House in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District garnering 61 percent of the votes.

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