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Opinion | Reed’s democratic purity test would leave party with no candidates

Reed is trying to boot two Dem candidates from the ballot for allegedly accepting donations from GOP supporters. It’s an absurd move.

Dr. Joe Reed during an oral history recorded for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in October 2021. U.S. Federal Courts
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Democrats should kick Terri Sewell off the ballot and not allow her to run for re-election. 

These are the new rules, according to longtime Alabama Democratic Conference chairman Joe Reed. If you accept money from donors who also give to Republicans, well, the Alabama Democratic Party should kick you off the ballot. Reed is planning to hold a press conference on Monday morning advocating for such. 

Small problem: the Democratic ballot would be empty. Or at least more empty than it already is. 

It should come as no surprise that Reed is playing politics, and few are better at the game. But this is a stretch even for him. 

Reed began circulating a letter and sending out emails late Saturday afternoon, proclaiming that because two candidates in the Democratic primary for Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District had accepted funds from donors who also backed Republicans that they should be disqualified. 

Reed was talking about current Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (widely considered the favorite in the race) and Shomari Figures. To make his point, Reed relied on two stories, including one from me, to prove that Daniels and Figures are “bought” by Republicans. 

Neither is, of course.

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In the case of Daniels, Reed quotes a story from an obscure website – “Once Upon a Hill” – that claims Daniels’ campaign benefitted from “untold amounts” of money from a Republican donor. The story never names the donor or the amounts of money allegedly given. It also at times refers to the person and a “donor” and also as someone who only arranged fundraisers. 

Looking through Daniels’ financial reports on the Federal Election Commission website – where every donor and every dollar is listed – it’s pretty clear that the story can only be referring to Alfred Seawright, a Black businessman whose company routinely donates to all sorts of candidates. 

Seawright doesn’t discriminate in his giving. That includes giving thousands over the years to Sewell. With nary a peep from anyone at the ADP or the ADC offices about it. 

And there shouldn’t have been a peep. Did donations from a guy who also gave to some Republicans turn Sewell into a hardcore conservative? Please. She’s Alabama’s best and most progressive rep. She consistently runs circles around the Republicans and no one has ever accused her of turning her back on her district. 

The allegations against Daniels are even more absurd when you consider that it’s not exactly as if we don’t know the guy. He’s been serving in the House for 10 years now and has worked with nearly every Democrat in state office. Has anyone ever described him as “conservative” or complained that he isn’t progressive enough? 

Of course not. And it should be insulting to every voter that anyone might suddenly believe otherwise. 

In the case of Figures, things are a little different. But there’s no way the guy should be removed from the ballot. 

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The story I wrote about Figures’ campaign, I believe, raise necessary questions about the abundance of support he’s received from one special interest group – the cryptocurrency industry – that has one objective – blocking adequate regulation of that industry. A single super PAC has dumped more than $1.7 million into ads and campaign materials pushing Figures. That’s significantly more money than all of the other candidates have spent, combined. That PAC also has attacked some progressive Democrats who are pushing for more regulation. 

I think voters should ask whether Figures will have their best interests in mind when it comes to this specific industry. But that’s for voters to decide – not the party. 

Figures’ positions on many important issues, and his work over the years, make it clear that he’s a progressive Democrat and would represent the state as such. The idea that he would be booted from the ballot because a super PAC – which Figures is prohibited by law from coordinating with, mind you – spent money supporting him is ludicrous. 

It’s no secret that ADC – after allegedly manipulating a delegate vote – has backed state Rep. Napoleon Bracy in this race. Bracy is also a good guy and a good Democrat. He, like the rest of the candidates in this race, also accepted money from Republican donors. I somehow doubt that Reed and ADC will push for their endorsed candidate to be booted as well. 

But such are the conundrums when you start trying to tilt playing fields and put your thumb on the scale for a particular candidate.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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