2 years ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE 50: Alabama’s most powerful & influential government officials

Today, we introduce the second segment of the 2018 Power & Influence 50 on Yellowhammer News.

Our team has spent weeks talking with key operatives and analyzing recent developments in public policy and politics. The intersection between business and politics in our state is undeniable, and our list is meant to provide you with an inside look at who wields the most power and influence in Alabama state politics.

The list is being released in three segments: business leaders, lobbyists and consultants and today’s segment, government officials.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 4th Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who have utilized their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Thursday, October 25 at Ross Bridge Resort in Birmingham. Past events attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, pro tem of the Senate, members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets please click here.

Thank you for being a loyal reader of Yellowhammer News.

State Rep. Will Ainsworth

Those looking for the next generation among Alabama political figures, look no further than Will Ainsworth.

Ainsworth has already served a full term in the Alabama House of Representatives. Now, he stands ready to expand into a legitimate statewide power base.

Ainsworth is currently the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Having already received nearly 400,000 votes, his profile has quickly elevated across the state and in Montgomery. With only token opposition, Ainsworth is poised to become first in the line of succession to the governor’s office.

He is known for taking strong conservative stands which will continue to endear him to the conservative base in Alabama. He is a former youth pastor with a business background who will be lined up with the electorate on social and fiscal issues.

Ainsworth is forward thinking and has shown that he is not scared to step into the fray. So, expect him to cut out a role for himself in policy debates at the statehouse. This will only increase his power and influence.

State Rep. Steve Clouse, chairman, General Fund Budget Committee

While Steve Clouse hails from the small southeastern Alabama town of Ozark, this veteran state legislator oversees one of state government’s biggest annual headaches – the general fund – for the House. This budget funds the state’s most controversial functions, including Medicaid, prisons and mental health. With all of that thankless responsibility comes considerable power and influence.

Having served in the House since 1995, Clouse has achieved a statesman-like leadership status in the lower chamber. He also helps lead the Wiregrass’ delegation, which is steadily growing in influence with the help of Reps. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) and Paul Lee (R-Dothan). With Alabama’s General Fund Budget always a focal point of attention and political gamesmanship, Clouse figures to be an eminent political player for years to come.

Kay Ivey, governor of Alabama

Governor Kay Ivey has demonstrated raw political power unseen in state politics in quite a while.

In the Republican primary, she received 56 percent of the vote and avoided a runoff in a field of four. To put in perspective how resounding a victory she achieved, her opponents collectively outraised her by nearly $200,000 and still did not come close to holding her under 50 percent.

However, if campaigns are supposed to provide voters with a window into how a prospective officer holder will govern, then Ivey has shown she is a focused, confident leader. She has never strayed from her message and, when confronted with controversy, she responds with a decisiveness and clarity that should be in campaign consulting textbooks.

And we have seen this discipline in her governance. Ivey concentrates on what matters and does not get caught up in meaningless debate.

The state’s economy is roaring under Ivey. She is an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump.

And she has the power and influence of executive branch resources at her disposal. Those state agencies affect the lives of every Alabamian in every community.

Most importantly, Ivey connects with people. She connects naturally with people of all backgrounds, ages and geographic locations.

These components are the perfect recipe for success and place Kay Ivey in a truly special position of power and influence.

State Rep. Mike Jones, chairman, House Rules Committee

The chairmanship of the House Rules Committee brings with it substantial clout in the Alabama statehouse. Mike Jones has maximized that opportunity to become one of the building’s key political players.

As chairman of the committee that determines the order of bills taken up each legislative day, Jones has the ability to set legislative priorities, which in turn provides him substantial leverage in dealing with lobbyists as well as his own colleagues.

Jones is a political animal who enjoys the machinations of the statehouse.

He is also just as likely to dive into the details of legislation as he is the House political apparatus.

His chairmanship allows him to have control over the ebb and flow of the debate on the House floor. When legislation gets bogged down, Jones has tremendous leeway in determining its fate. He has a strong voice in whether to move on or fight through.

Jones is among those who may actually see his influence increase during the new term as new members enter the ranks. Look for him to stay on the list of Alabama’s power players.

Del Marsh, Senate president pro tem

Del Marsh is the kind of public servant for which the current electorate craves and our founding fathers envisioned. Marsh originally ran for office simply because his state senator was not responsive to the needs of small business.

Once elected, Marsh became a tireless advocate for smaller government. He is as comfortable in a tree stand as he is a committee room and feels as much at home in his machine shop fabricating gun parts as he does working in a boardroom.

Marsh has built a long record of seeking conservative solutions to the problems facing our state. He led the charge to provide education freedom to Alabama families; he formulated the largest reductions to the size of state government in history, and no one has cut taxes and red tape for small businesses quite like Marsh.

This approach has propelled Marsh into one of the most powerful and influential positions in Alabama politics. As Senate president pro tem, he oversees every aspect of the legislative process in the upper chamber. From committee assignments to legislative priorities to the time of adjournment, Marsh remains in control.

Del Marsh remains one of the most powerful and influential people in state politics for a reason.

 

Steve Marshall, attorney general of Alabama

After Marshall last year was appointed as the 48th attorney general of Alabama, Yellowhammer News wrote, “Marshall will likely meet some formidable opponents when he seeks his first state-wide election in 2018.  His ability to capitalize on the benefits of incumbency may prove he is one to watch in Alabama’s political future.”

Ever since Marshall’s first press conference as the state’s top law enforcement official, the former rural-county district attorney has handled the bright lights of Alabama’s political stage like a seasoned professional. With an even-keel demeanor and a genuinely warm personality, Marshall’s understated charisma is matched only by his legal intellect and political instincts.

Alabama has had a bevy of influential attorneys general in recent decades, with Marshall already making his own mark and then some. And his meteoric rise is not nearly over. He continues to get more and more involved with hot-button national issues such as immigration, abortion and oversight of tech companies, with his power and influence now extending beyond the Yellowhammer State’s borders thanks to a growing number of White House appearances.

 

Mac McCutcheon, speaker of the House

True leaders shine in times of chaos, and Mac McCutcheon’s rise to become Speaker of the House is bested in this department perhaps only by Governor Kay Ivey’s similar achievement in recent years.

One of the nice guys at the statehouse, McCutcheon has garnered power and influence even beyond his lofty position due to the sheer authenticity of his personality. With this comes the trust that legislators have in McCutcheon – if he promises something, you can take it to the bank. For his selfless, lifetime of service to Alabamians and significant contribution to the betterment of our state, McCutcheon this year will be presented with Yellowhammer’s Power of Service award.

With a new quadrennium on the horizon, McCutcheon will find himself in the political spotlight, as proposals regarding prickly issues like new infrastructure funding, the lottery and sports betting are all expected to come before the state legislature. Look for McCutcheon and the legislature’s leadership team to ably navigate several minefields in 2019.

 

State Rep. Bill Poole, chairman, Ways and Means Education Committee

Many refer to Bill Poole as a United States senator in waiting, and you can see why with a quick glance at his historic rise as a freshman legislator to chair the powerful committee in the House tasked with appropriations and revenue sources for the important Education Trust Fund – the state’s budget that handles K-12 and higher education funding.

Not only was his ascent impressive enough, but Poole has proven his merit and more since then, steering the education budget with such machine-like efficiency that you would miss what really sets him apart. When fellow legislators are asked about Poole’s talents, they cannot help but praise his intelligence, drive, vision and savviness. Yet, it’s that undefinable “it” factor that has political pundits and power brokers abuzz – Poole’s genuine, infectious likability.

Whether his future will continue to be in Montgomery or move to Washington, D.C. or elsewhere, Poole will undoubtedly be serving the people of Alabama in exemplary fashion for decades and decades to come.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, chairman, Senate Education Budget Committee

Now in his fourth year as chairman of the Senate Education Budget Committee, Arthur Orr has carved out a particular place of power and influence in state government.

The education budget in Alabama is a $6 billion chunk of money. And those who have any measure of control over state funds have a chance to exercise considerable leverage over policy-making. Orr has seized the opportunity before him.

An exceptionally smart and engaging lawyer by trade, Orr has an attention to detail which allows him to know every single line of the budget and every nook and cranny of state government to which that money flows. Orr makes anyone advocating for even the smallest portion of dollars from the education budget justify the expense.

As a result, other members of the legislature are highly attentive to Orr’s own legislative priorities which, in turn, only expands Orr’s power and influence even further.

Steve Pelham, chief of staff to Governor Kay Ivey

The success of the Ivey administration is undeniable. Governor Ivey has been a commanding figure during the term she filled and will likely enjoy a full term starting in January. However, that type of success for any political figure is a team effort. And the person coordinating that team for Ivey is Steve Pelham.

Pelham is a natural fit for his role as chief of staff to the governor. He is loyal, focused and selfless in his approach. Even though he sits in a position of significant power and influence, Pelham is rarely the subject of interviews or publicity. He understands the need for one voice representing the administration and the distractions that occur when that is not the case.

And, yet, no one outside of Governor Ivey, herself, plays a bigger role in the day-to-day operations of the governor’s office and has a greater say in the long-term vision for the administration.

Pelham has shown near perfect execution of the duties and role of the governor’s chief of staff. The result will be even greater opportunities for him to expand his power and influence in the future.

Greg Reed, Senate majority leader

Leading a majority party in the Alabama legislature is no easy task. It seems with any issue or strategy there will be conflicting motives, ideas, geographical concerns and – yes – egos. Under these conditions, being able to move the body forward toward any objective would seem a nearly impossible task. Furthermore, any person leading that effort leaves themselves vulnerable.

Greg Reed, however, can pull it off. Reed possesses exceptional personal and organizational skills which have helped him keep his caucus on track and still remain a popular figure with his colleagues. Reed is also a dogged competitor who, once his caucus sets off toward an objective, will work tirelessly to see it across the finish line.

Reed’s political career has accelerated at a rapid pace. His skills are a natural fit for Senate leadership. With numerous new Republican senators taking office in the upcoming term, Reed stands to become an even more trusted and influential player in statehouse politics. Greg Reed’s stock is only going up.

State Sen. Jabo Waggoner, chairman, Senate Rules Committee

The road to success in the Alabama Senate travels through the office of Jabo Waggoner.

As chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, Waggoner sets the daily agenda for his chamber. He has the ability to move legislation forward at the timing of his choice. Or, he can stop a piece of legislation dead in its tracks if he so chooses.

And that is not the only source of his considerable clout.

Waggoner represents the conservative, business-minded district that occupies much of the territory in over-the-mountain Jefferson County. Many of the executives from Alabama’s largest employers live in Waggoner’s district. They are the type of power brokers for which other members of the legislature clamor to represent. And he has always been responsive to the needs of this constituency. A staffer at a large business organization once wrote in a pre-election assessment of Waggoner, “Send me more like Jabo Waggoner.”

The truth is, though, there are no others like Jabo Waggoner. His power, his influence and his legacy are unique in Alabama politics.

State Sen. Cam Ward, chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

Cam Ward was made for politics. He started his career as a congressional staffer before quickly moving on to bigger and better things.

Ward’s victory in a House of Representatives seat in 2002 marked the beginning of a noteworthy career in office. He has served in the Alabama Senate since 2010. His district includes a large part of the areas just south of Birmingham where he remains incredibly popular. Ward has faced very little opposition on the home front his entire time in office. Much of this is a result of his constant work on the local level and his attentiveness to his constituents.

In Montgomery, Ward chairs the all-important Senate Judiciary Committee, which is a committee that takes up more pieces of legislation than any other committee in the chamber. And Ward controls the throttle on all of it.

Ward is hard-working, ambitious and always mindful of every political angle. This, combined with the amount of legislation that falls within his control, makes him a real power player in state government.

7 hours ago

Tuberville campaign bus catches fire; No one injured

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville’s campaign bus caught fire on an interstate in Northeast Alabama on Wednesday.

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office at 8:26 p.m. posted two pictures of the bus ablaze at the 227-mile marker of I-59 northbound.

Tuberville was not aboard the vehicle at the time.

The only occupant, a volunteer driving the bus, escaped unharmed. The exact cause of the fire was not immediately known.

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The bus has been a staple of Tuberville’s “The People vs. The Swamp” campaign tour across Alabama during this election cycle.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News later in the evening, Tuberville campaign manager Paul Shashy said, “Coach Tuberville’s candidacy has obviously caught fire with voters…and our bus has, too. We are thankful that no one was hurt in the incident and for the remarkable first responders who assisted immediately. The fire occurred on a test drive shortly after maintenance.”

Tuberville will face former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on July 14 in Alabama’s Republican senatorial primary runoff. The GOP nominee will go on to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

12 hours ago

Army secretary visits Dynetics facility in Huntsville — ‘What you do protects our way of life’

HUNTSVILLE — Secretary of the United States Army Ryan McCarthy visited a facility in Huntsville on Wednesday. He talked about the necessity of cutting edge military technology and thanked employees for their hard work during the coronavirus pandemic.

The location McCarthy visited, the Dynetics MidCity Aerospace Integration Facility, is a new satellite building of Dynetics in Huntsville that is still under construction.

The facility will construct Hypersonic Glide Body for missiles that will be able to travel the distance between Huntsville and Los Angeles in under 13 minutes according to Paul Turner, the project manager at Dynetics who oversees the facility.

McCarthy said the military needed weapons like the ones produced in part in Huntsville “to ensure that we have the technological margin on the battlefield to win for decades to come.”

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“The work you do here will affect our future,” added the secretary.

“Know what you do protects our way of life,” he told the Dynetics employees.

RELATED: Alabama leads development of U.S. Army’s hypersonic weapons — ‘A critical priority’

Tuesday was the 46th anniversary of Dynetics’ founding. The company, purchased in 2019, is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Leidos Incorporated.

The MidCity expansion is due to completed by year’s end, according to Turner. The exact details of the manufacturing and production that will take place inside is classified by the federal government.

Details provided to the press say that the building will have an environmental testing lab for examining the effects certain conditions have on manufactured materials. The facility will also see an amount of assembly, production and integration of some of the most advanced hypersonic weapons in the military’s arsenal.

Hypersonic weapons can travel at MACH 5, five times faster than the speed of sound, or about 13,000 miles per hour.

The building is 190,000 square feet and will be used entirely for classified manufacturing and assembly.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Displayed outside of the facility on Wednesday was the type of truck that would transport and provide launching capabilities for the hypersonic weapons manufactured in part at the new Dynetics facility.

Before the weapons assembled in Huntsville are ready for integration into the military’s arsenal they are shipped to a Lockheed Martin facility in Portland, Oregon, where they undergo a final set of integrations according to Turner.

The goal is to have them deployed on the battlefield by 2023, he added.

“The reason why I wanted to come down here was to thank all of you for enduring the hardships of this COVID-19 pandemic,” said McCarthy to the assembled Dynetics employees on Wednesday.

(The secretary stayed for a few minutes after his remarks to thank personally several assembled employees.) (Henry Thornton/YHN)

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05), who represents the district containing the new Dynetics plant, told Yellowhammer News he would like to “thank Secretary McCarthy for taking the time out of his busy schedule to see the Tennessee Valley’s important and exceptional national security work on missile defense, hypersonics weapons, directed energy and the like.”

Brooks said he was voting on defense bills in Washington so he could not be there in person, but Brooks added that he was glad that it was being acknowledged that “[m]any of the world’s best engineers, scientists, and professionals make up the Redstone Arsenal community” in Huntsville.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) tweeted, “[Secretary of the Army McCarthy’s] visit to Dynetics in Huntsville highlights the critical role Alabama plays in defending our nation. Proud the [United States Army] is prioritizing the development of hypersonic systems and pleased Secretary McCarthy saw firsthand the progress being made in our state.”

Secretary McCarthy himself was bullish on the United States’ fight against the coronavirus during his speech.

“Our researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Development Command are central to the vaccine development, and grinding towards an outcome where we’re going to have advance therapeutics and vaccines delivering at scale to the American people by the late fall of this year,” McCarthy told the audience.

McCarthy acknowledged that the wait between now and late fall was going to feel like a long time.

“Hard times don’t last, hard people do,” he said near his conclusion.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

13 hours ago

Alexander Shunnarah donates 777 pizzas to frontline workers at two Alabama hospitals

Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. recently participated in a national challenge to feed frontline heroes across the United States.

A release from Shunnarah’s firm outlined that many essential workers are frequently working long hours while risking their own health and safety during these difficult times — so the firm wanted to do something to show their appreciation.

The challenge – for law firms to purchase 777 pizzas from their local pizzerias to feed frontline workers — was initially started by Larry Nussbaum of Boston’s Nussbaum Law Group, PC.

The number is a nod to the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, which codifies the right to a jury trial in certain civil cases and inhibits courts from overturning a jury’s findings of fact.

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Shunnarah purchased more than $8,000 worth of pizzas from Slice Pizza and Brewhouse and Pizzeria GM for health care workers at UAB Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“Participating in this challenge was a true honor and small token of our firm’s appreciation for healthcare staff in our community and across the nation,” Shunnarah said in a statement.

“With this challenge we were able to help local restaurants and our frontline heroes who have been going above and beyond the call of duty throughout this pandemic,” he added.

Shunnarah accepted this challenge from Laborde Earles in Lafayette, Louisiana. After completing it in Birmingham, Shunnarah challenged Scott, Vicknair, Hair & Checki in New Orleans, as well as Disability Attorneys of Michigan.

RELATED: Alexander Shunnarah wins national Golden Gavel Award

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Dale Jackson: Requiring cloth coverings is a violation of your freedom? No, please wear a mask when prudent

As a conservative commentator, columnist, TV host and radio host I have had my fair share of run-ins with callers, guests, friends and enemies alike who insist that wearing a cloth covering over their face is a violation of some non-existent right to not have their pie-hole covered.

Show me where it is in the Constitution — either the United States or 1901 Alabama Constitution — and we can talk.

You can’t, so we won’t.

What I will do is tell you where all of this is heading if we don’t pull our heads out of the sand and start wearing masks in larger numbers — like we did when all of this started.

Your city, town and the State of Alabama will at some point mandate the wearing of masks.

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Just wait. If the numbers continue to rise, the restrictions will return.

You will whine, “But … Dale! They can’t make me wear a piece of cloth over a part of my body.”

They can.

Alabama Code 13A-12-130

(a) A person commits the crime of public lewdness if:

(1) He exposes his anus or genitals in a public place and is reckless about whether another may be present who will be offended or alarmed by his act;  or

(2) He does any lewd act in a public place which he knows is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed.

(b) Public lewdness is a Class C misdemeanor.

Is your nose the same as your genitals? No.

Is your mouth the same as your anus? No.

Now, I am not a simple small-town southern lawyer, but I think that I could probably rationalize a similar law for the part of your body that expels droplets that contain the coronavirus.

Should they? No.

Mandatory mask ordinances and orders are a bad idea because they are generally unenforceable, but the ignorant resistance to this is just as asinine.

I’ve been told masks cut oxygen and cause people to pass out.

This is clearly not true. The guy working at Walmart wears a mask eight hours a day, and he can power through it.

I’ve been told rape victims and people with autism can’t wear masks.

Let’s ignore that. Even if true, this has nothing to do with the science and is just a ridiculous red herring. This is not about 100% compliance.

I have been told that the surgeon general said not to wear masks early on in this pandemic.

What changed?

A lot.

1. The numbers
2. The understanding of the virus
3. The availability of PPE

The government shouldn’t be in the business of policing this, because it would require the police to make this work.

But what about our new socially conscious corporations? They are all about performative wokeness and their ham-fisted statements about “Pride” and #BlackLivesMatter this month, right?

If they really believe that #BlackLivesMatter (or #AllLivesMatter), they should require people to wear masks inside their stores. Obviously, this puts the enforcement on an hourly retail employee and places their employees against an army of people who don’t know what they are talking about.

Go on social media, and see how reasonable those people are.

But if they believe this is important, make these people act out. Shame them.

Here is the bottom line: All the people who refuse to wear masks in indoor public-settings have nothing on their side except the willingness to be stubborn.

The anti-mask crowd and the folks rioting in the streets are very similar in attitude, but the anti-mask crowd doesn’t have the guts to actually do anything.

They express it online and on social media, but they are an obnoxious minority, and anonymity breeds stupidity. But the Internet is not real life.

Overall, 65% of U.S. adults say that they have personally worn a mask in stores or other businesses all or most of the time in the past month, while 15% say they did this some of the time. Relatively small shares of adults say they hardly ever (9%) or never (7%) wore a mask in the past month, and 4% say they have not gone to these types of places.

Polling shows most Americans support wearing masks, but more should be doing it. Unfortunately, those that need to be convinced are unwilling to be reasoned with.

This attitude only drags out this issue, makes it worse, and damages our state further.

Also, President Donald Trump disagrees with this line of thinking, and agrees with me.

If this petulant attitude keeps up and numbers of cases keep rising, you will see more ordinances, and a state-wide mandate will follow.

Wear the stupid mask in public, or the government will attempt to make you.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

14 hours ago

Season 2 Episode 2: Best Auburn athlete nicknames

As we continue to be without sports, hopefully for not much longer, the guys talk about their favorite Auburn nicknames from “Smoke” to the “Round Mound of Rebound.” They also discuss some of the recent happenings in recruiting, Auburn transfer news and Jared Harper’s new team.

Please note: As usual, this episode was recorded right before something newsworthy happened in the Auburn realm, so Cam Newton to the Patriots will be addressed in the next one.

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