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2 months ago

2018 POWER & INFLUENCE 50: Alabama’s most powerful & influential lobbyists, consultants and economic developers

Today, we introduce the third 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 leadersgovernment officials and today’s segment, lobbyists, consultants and economic developers.

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.

 

Ginger Avery-Buckner, executive director, Alabama Association for Justice

With quiet efficiency, the Alabama Association for Justice is close to scoring one of its biggest political coups in recent history. With trial lawyer-backed Associate Justice Tom Parker on the cusp of being the state’s Chief Justice, Ginger Avery-Buckner has not only masterfully handled the legislature’s flip from blue to red, but she has reset the table on the traditional “Republican business” vs. “Democrat trial lawyers” judicial battle in the state.

To fully understand how remarkable that is, one must remember that the trial lawyers association not too long ago donated over 90 percent of its campaign contributions to Democrats.

While long-time Democrat groups like AEA were left on the outside looking in after 2010, Avery-Buckner’s stalwart leadership has kept the Association for Justice on the front lines of electoral and statehouse battles alike. They have not just survived, but as Parker’s imminent victory portends, they have thrived in the new Montgomery climate.

Josh Blades, lobbyist, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Alabama through-and-through, Sylacauga-born Josh Blades was named the city’s youngest entrepreneur after starting a full-service archery shop at the age of 15. Ever since then, his political star has been on the rise. After running for city council at age 19, being elected student body president in college and earning his political science degree, Blades began to leave his indelible mark on the Yellowhammer State’s political world.

Having served as communications director for a successful Alabama gubernatorial campaign, campaign manager for a successful race for Alabama Republican Party chairman, deputy chief of staff to the governor and chief of staff to the state’s speaker of the house, Blades has already built a resume at his young age that most would envy over a lifetime.

Blades now occupies a position in the private sector with the national law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, where he is a key member of the firm’s formidable lobbying team. Whether it’s in the executive or legislative branches or a campaign, Blades has the know-how to get the job done right. His place on the power and influence list could easily become permanent for decades to come.

Philip Bryan, partner, Swatek Howe & Ross

Philip Bryan has anchored himself to any list of the most powerful and influential people in Alabama politics. This is a result of the strength of the relationships he has built with those at the summit of power in Alabama, as well as his extraordinary political savviness and boundless energy.

Bryan has now moved into private practice where he is set to become an elite lobbyist. The transition should be seamless for him. Few can match wits with Bryan when it comes to navigating the critical Alabama State Senate. He knows the senators, staff and process possibly better than anyone else in Alabama politics.

Every lobbyist does their best to forge relationships with members of the legislature. However, Bryan’s are next level. In his former position as chief of staff to the Senate president pro tem, Bryan communicated with members in a way and with a frequency that sets him apart from others in his new world.

Based on his pure political talent and meaningful experience, Philip Bryan is among the most powerful and influential.

Brent Buchanan, president, Cygnal

In any industry or profession, you know someone has reached elevated status when references are made to them using only their first name. For pollster Brent Buchanan, that is now the case.

Alabama politicos and insiders can often be heard saying, “Brent has the polling.” Or, upon receiving some polling information, asking, “Is this a Brent poll?”

Buchanan saw an opening in the market for homegrown Alabama polling and took it. He has an impressive client list of candidates, trade associations and corporations, and his company has now expanded beyond Alabama. By the end of 2017, Cygnal had done work in more than 36 states for 170 clients.

In addition, Buchanan has developed a strong relationship with Governor Ivey and her team.

Some have called him Alabama’s Nate Silver, a reference to the renowned statistician. However, Buchanan’s place on this list is a result of all of the data and information he holds. Because, in politics, those in possession of information wield power and influence.

Greg Butrus, partner, Balch & Bingham

Greg Butrus and his place on this list are also a testament to the fundamental principle that information translates to value in politics. For insiders and corporate clients there is tremendous value in being able to consult with Butrus on a myriad of subjects they encounter in the political, regulatory or legislative process.

Butrus has vast knowledge in the areas of campaign finance laws, energy policy, ethics laws, executive branch rulemaking and regulatory affairs. His ability to file away information, opinions, events and random occurrences for later counsel and application is remarkable.

His experience in the Alabama political arena goes all the way back to his days as a staffer for Senator Howell Heflin in Washington, D.C. A conversation with Butrus is as enjoyable as it is edifying.

Butrus may not maintain the type of visibility for which others in Alabama politics work, but his power and influence is understood by those in the know.

Greg Canfield, secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce

As President Trump – and before him, Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh – loves to say, jobs, jobs, jobs. In Alabama, where the economy is booming like never before, it has been Canfield working day in, day out for the last seven years to make this success possible. Now, with Governor Kay Ivey’s pro-growth leadership, Canfield and the Department of Commerce are churning out jobs left and right.

Now, as evidence of his profound success, the biggest challenge for the state’s economy is producing more skilled and qualified workers. Alabama has gone from having a severe jobs shortage to not being able to nearly fill all of the quality jobs currently available. This is a good problem to have, and the governor, supported by trade associations and economic development partners across the state, has a plan to boost the state’s skilled workforce by 500,000 by 2025.

While more cabinet shakeups are expected in the coming months, people around the state will hope that Canfield remains in the position that has become synonymous with his name and his “Made in Alabama” branding campaign. If not, expect Canfield to continue to flex his power and influence in a new arena.

 

Mike Cole, principal, P. Michael Cole, LLC

Mike Cole is the type of behind-the-scenes power player about whom we enjoy informing our readers through the publication of this list. Cole has a client list that includes several of the largest employers in the state of Alabama. Their trust in him to get the job done speaks volumes about his influence and effectiveness in the realm of politics and policy-making.

A lawyer by trade, Cole has an uncommonly diverse governmental affairs practice. He moves about with ease in executive agency matters, regulatory affairs and legislative lobbying. To have the relationships and knowledge in those areas to the extent Cole does makes him a legitimate power player.

Cole has also capitalized on the growth and increased activity of the politically surging north Alabama region. As the area has seen its native sons rise to prominence in offices such as speaker of the house, lieutenant governor and attorney general, Cole’s influence has increased accordingly. And this is why he counts some of north Alabama’s most important entities as his clients and why Mike Cole remains powerful and influential in Alabama politics.

 

Joe Fine, partner, Fine Geddie & Associates

Joe Fine is a perfect exemplar of his alma mater’s “Where Legends Are Made” advertising campaign. A graduate of the University of Alabama both in undergraduate studies and law, the iconic, would-be “Lobbyist Hall of Fame” member perhaps perfected the modern governmental affairs profession in Montgomery.

Since Fine was elected to the first of his two terms in the state senate 48 years ago, governors have come and gone. Powerful associations and alliances have grown and crumbled. The state completely flipped from Democrat-controlled to Republican. However, Fine was through it all, and still is, at the forefront of policy making and political battles that shape the state’s success.

Along with his longtime lobbying partner Bob Geddie (see below), the gentlemanly Fine will be the state’s who’s who of lobbyists until the second he decides he is ready to pass the baton.

 

Bob Geddie, partner, Fine Geddie & Associates

Geddie is not only a top-tier lobbyist and the state House of Representatives specialist for his firm, but he is also a trusted adviser to some of Alabama’s titans of industry and other political power brokers as well.

Corporate executives from across the state have empowered Fine Geddie to doll out their political money through a network of Geddie-controlled political action committees. This includes some of the state’s largest, most successful businesses, in addition to individuals like prominent Power and Influence member Jimmy Rane. Geddie has just this past year added another powerful PAC to his arsenal, with the Auburn Board of Trustees’ Tiger PAW PAC under his chairmanship.

When it comes to the lobbying side of things, legislators of both parties will tell you, “It’s hard to say no to Bob Geddie.” That power of persuasion is a useful tool in the statehouse, which is only aided by Geddie’s meticulous knowledge of the process and the players. He knows every member, every rule and every tactic necessary to pass legislation through the lower chamber.

Geddie is most often seen quietly observing from a small hallway off the main lobby on the fifth floor. From there he can see everyone who comes and goes, and he has ready access to members as they walk to and from the House chamber. Many have tried to emulate Geddie’s tried-and-true formula, but few even compare.

C.J. Hincy, executive director of governmental affairs, Auburn University

A newcomer to the Power and Influence list after being a Who’s Next member previously, Hincy has Auburn’s governmental affairs and political operation humming like perhaps never before. Along with Geddie, Hincy’s counsel has been integral to Tiger PAW PAC’s emergence as a political kingmaker, and the university’s sway in Montgomery is closing in on a peak level, with Governor Kay Ivey as an alumna along with soon-to-be Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth.

Hincy, while relatively young for a lobbyist of such power, carries himself like a seasoned veteran. He has been working hard throughout this campaign cycle to make friends and stockpile influence, with his status in the capitol poised to reach an unquestioned top-tier level in 2019. Look for this star to keep rising as Hincy and Auburn plays a major political role in the years ahead.

 

Robbie McGhee, vice chairman, Poarch Band of Creek Indians

The rise of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians in Alabama politics has reached new heights in recent years, and much of that is because of the work done by Robbie McGhee.

McGhee has built sustainable relationships across the political and ideological spectrum. He has shown a knack for staying above the fray, but also a willingness to engage more forcefully when absolutely necessary.

McGhee has also been instrumental in highlighting the tribe’s commitment to good corporate citizenship with key influential leaders at all levels of state and local government.

His background and experience provide him with the type of authority that catches the attention of policy-makers. McGhee worked in Washington, D.C. at the U.S. Department of Interior-Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Troutman Sanders LLP-Indian Law Practice Group.

Robbie McGhee has left no doubt that he is among the most powerful and influential people in Alabama politics.

 

Paul Pinyan, executive director, Alabama Farmers Federation

ALFA, ALFA, ALFA. Need we say more?

While Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell steers the ship, Pinyan, a newcomer to the Power and Influence ranks, is the individual making this political juggernaut fire on all cylinders day-to-day. Coming off of an uber-successful campaign season for ALFA, many are murmuring of the increased role Pinyan took in the organization’s endorsement process and, later, the campaign season.

With a stacked governmental affairs and political team around him – highlighted by former Secretary of State Beth Chapman – Pinyan holds the keys to Alabama’s premier trade association and grassroots network. If you want to win a contested elected in Alabama, whether it is a statewide race or a legislative seat, you need ALFA’s support. And, to get this, you very well might first need Pinyan’s covert backing.

With all of their success this cycle, ALFA’s role in Montgomery, if possible, will be growing even more. At the forefront of this immensely powerful apparatus is Pinyan, and he does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

 

Steve Raby, lobbyist and political consultant

The king of north Alabama, Raby wields power and influence beyond his fiefdom now, serving as his friend and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon’s political guru and chief advisor.

Like Avery-Buckner on this list, Raby’s guile and vision are affording him a resounding second act in Alabama politics. As a longtime Democratic activist and consultant, he was the Democratic nominee for Congress against Mo Brooks in 2010. A decent first act for sure, but after the GOP sweep, many pronounced Raby’s rise as dead on arrival.

Fast forward six years to when McCutcheon gets elected to serve as speaker. Seemingly out of nowhere, Raby was back on the scene playing a crucial role as a close confidant to one of the most powerful people in the state. Raby is a political animal and, as much as anything, an extra set of eyes that watches the speaker’s back.

Raby also runs the mighty political operation for the House Republican Caucus. This role sees him play a key part in incumbent Republican House members’ campaigns, which just grows Raby’s influence every year.

Clay Ryan, vice president for governmental affairs and special counsel, University of Alabama System

There are some people who walk into a room and you can tell they are in a position of power and influence by sheer presence alone. Clay Ryan is one of those people.

Ryan is a deft communicator who operates among elected officials and corporate executives with equal amounts of ease. And Ryan has put in the requisite work to become a select power player.

He is known for keeping a laser-sharp focus on the issues impacting the University of Alabama System. In representing a large entity like the UA System, a significant amount of time and effort goes into coordinating the work of staff, lobbyists and others protecting his employer’s interests.

When it is time to engage with decision-makers, Ryan has proven to be a determined advocate. His relationships extend to the highest levels of state government. When Ryan calls, they answer the phone, and they listen.

The increased political activity of the UA System in recent years has served to increase successful outcomes and only enhanced Ryan’s power and influence.

Houston Smith, vice president for governmental affairs, Alabama Power Company

Running point on governmental affairs in Montgomery for Alabama Power can be an overwhelming task. That person must be responsible for every piece of the company’s political and public policy agenda at the state level.

Houston Smith has met the challenge.

His ability to call on his years of experience dealing with a wide range of issues inside the company has been key. After several years practicing law, Smith joined the company as director of public relations. Soon, he was promoted to director of corporate affairs with responsibility over federal affairs, corporate relations and other public policy issues.

A difficult hurdle for many corporate lobbyists is being able to effectively communicate the more detailed aspects of their company’s business and how those aspects are affected by public policy decisions. Smith’s knowledge base and uncanny grasp of larger public policy issues, such as trade and economic development, serve him well in this role. As the company’s primary contact with state elected officials and cabinet members, communicating on these types of issues is essential to success.

Houston Smith has firmly secured a place among Alabama’s powerful and influential.

Dave Stewart, senior adviser for government affairs and economic development, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings

Another wunderkind working for Bradley Arant, Dave Stewart has an impeccable resume of his own. After an eye-catching performance as policy director for then-Governor Bob Riley, he was called up to serve as the administration’s Chief of Staff.  This key experience in the state’s executive branch left him with rarified perspective and knowledge, which Stewart has parlayed into his influential role in the private sector.

Stewart has one of the heaviest hitting client lists in the state, built off of not only his first-hand, in-the-trenches experience, but also expansive knowledge of policy and his lasting relationships within the legislature and state agencies big and small.

Stewart is also in the select club of lobbyists who understand both policy and politics. Far too many understand one but scoff at the other. Not Stewart – his elite ability to blend wonkish policy arguments and effective political messaging builds the best strategic approach possible for his clients.

Look for Bradley Arant’s dynamic duo of Blades and Stewart to continue appearing on this list for the foreseeable future.

Sommer Vaughn, partner, Swatek Howe & Ross

Sommer Vaughn is a person with the talent and drive which would have allowed her to choose any profession. Lawyer, doctor, engineer and banker are all well within her capabilities. Instead, she chose to be a lobbyist.

She chose wisely.

If you were forced to pick one person to shepherd your issue or piece of legislation through the Alabama House of Representatives – and you could only pick one – Vaughn would be an astute choice.

The depth and breadth of her relationships in the Alabama House are difficult to match. From the speaker of the house to incoming members who have yet to get sworn in, Vaughn knows the people and the strategies required for success. There are no partisan obstacles for her, either. Vaughn is able to leverage her relationships into influence on both sides of the aisle.

Vaughn is able to bring to bear years of experience working in the legislature and the governor’s office. There is not much that goes on in state government of which she is not aware.

Look for Sommer Vaughn to expand her power and influence in the years to come.

R.B. Walker, director of legislative affairs, Alabama Power Company

Rochester Butler Walker has the kind of name that was custom-made for the Alabama political arena. And, ever since he was a child, he has displayed the type of ambition, confidence and craft that it takes to get to the top.

A former SGA President at the University of Alabama, Walker has already thrived working for two of the state’s most powerful institutions: the Alabama Power Company and the University of Alabama System. Now in his second stint at the Company after leaving his beloved university this past year, at a young age he is not close to reaching the zenith of his political ascent.

With an infectious personality and the cunning intellect to grasp the nuances of any issue, it is really Walker’s unceasing drive that separates him from the pack. He has worked hard his entire life, essentially, to reach the top of the political ladder, and this lobbying machine is still climbing.

Look for Walker to keep building power and influence year-by-year. Who knows? It could land him in the governor’s seat one day.

Steve Windom, partner, Windom Galliher & Associates

If you’re running for high-office in Alabama, there is no better lobbyist to have on your team than former Lieutenant Governor Steve Windom. A fundraising savant, Windom knows which buttons to press and when. His unique, preeminent status as a Montgomery powerbroker stems from the fact that he has done it all himself – whether it is campaign work or being in the legislative trenches, Windom has the first-hand experience that you cannot replicate.

There is also not a craftier operator in Alabama politics than Windom. He is shrewd, charismatic and owns a room when he walks in. But what keeps Windom at the very highest level of power and influence is his unrivaled work ethic. Whether on a weekend, a family vacation or a holiday, Windom never rests.

He is always working, always on. Windom has taken the time to cultivate relationships in every nook and cranny of state government. He knows everyone from the maintenance man at an obscure state agency to the governor of Alabama – and each person in between. Steve Windom forgot more Alabama political secrets this morning than everyone else in the whole state knew to begin with. And he’s not showing any signs of letting up anytime soon.

31 mins ago

Nominations being accepted for ‘Bama’s Best Breakfast Joint’

Alabama is well known for its Southern hospitality and cooking, and now one contest will attempt to crown the best of the best when it comes to the Yellowhammer State’s breakfast joints.

“Breakfast — It’s the most important meal of the day, and ‘Simply Southern TV’ wants to know which local restaurant butters your biscuit by serving up the state’s best breakfast,” a release from the Alabama Farmers Federation announced.

From coffee shops, downtown diners or donut dives, Alabamians can now nominate their favorite local breakfast spot in the Bama’s Best Breakfast Contest.

To make a nomination, simply comment on the Facebook post here. Comments must include the respective establishment’s name and city.

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Please note that Bama’s Best Breakfast seeks to promote Alabama-based restaurants, so national chains will not be eligible. However, specific locations of Alabama-based chains will be eligible to compete.

Nominations close November 29 at 1:00 p.m. The top eight nominees will be ranked in a bracket and then compete in daily head-to-head matchups from December 10-20.

The winner, which will be announced December 20, will receive a $300 cash prize and a commemorative plaque, along with being featured in the fifth season of “Simply Southern TV.”

This contest is sponsored by the Alabama Wheat & Feed Grain Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation. “Simply Southern TV” is a production of the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Farmers Cooperative. It airs on Sunday mornings in each media market across the state.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

59 mins ago

Alabama to receive $49M in BP oil spill restoration grants

Four Gulf states are getting an additional $280 million in restoration grants from the BP oil spill of 2010.

Louisiana is getting $161.4 million to restore two barrier islands and a headland in the Terrebonne Basin.

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The work will restore Timbalier and Trinity islands, which “are currently at a critical minimum width in some areas,” and the West Bell Headland.

“Additionally, this proposal includes funding to enhance plans for the long-term sustainability of the entire length of Louisiana barrier islands,” the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said Monday.

Florida is receiving $53 million for seven projects, including $16 million to protect coastal forest and wetlands along the Lower Suwanee River and Big Bend coast, the foundation said in a news release.

Nearly $49 million will go to eight Alabama projects, including $22.5 million to create and restore artificial reefs.

Texas will get $19 million for five projects, including $6 million to protect 575 acres of coastal habitat in Cameron County, next to the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge’s Bahia Grande Unit.

The foundation is getting $2.5 billion over five years for restoration projects.

The money’s coming from criminal damages paid by BP PLC and drilling company Transocean Deepwater Inc.

Monday’s grants are the sixth round and bring the total so far to $1.3 billion.

The spill was off Louisiana, which suffered the worst damage and has received more than $625 million for 13 projects.

Alabama has received more than $195 million for 32 projects; Florida more than $160 million for 33 projects, and Texas more than $150 million for 47 projects.

Foundation spokesman Rob Blumenthal said Mississippi, which has received nearly $140 million for 18 projects, did not have any new projects considered for this round of grants.

The smallest grant awarded Monday was $100,000 to remove invasive species and debris from Hurricane Harvey and then plant native vegetation at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center within the Port Aransas Nature Preserve.

“Hurricane Harvey destroyed two miles of boardwalk and uprooted significant stands of wetland vegetation in the preserve that settled as debris, smothering existing wetland vegetation and causing significant degradation of coastal marsh habitat,” a news release said.

“The debris has prevented the regrowth of marsh vegetation and limited the flow of freshwater to the area.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 hours ago

7 Things: Controversial deputy AG is out, Walt Maddox gets a participation trophy from himself, the SPLC demands no penalties for unpaid speeding tickets and more …

7. Ivanka Trump has a Hillary Clinton problem

— In what will surely be viewed as hypocritical and foolish behavior, President Donald Trump’s daughter and White House official, Ivanka Trump reportedly had been using a personal email account to conduct government business including interactions from a private email account with cabinet secretaries and forwards of her schedule to her assistant.

— There are no serious allegations that Trump used the email for anything that would be considered classified, but with the Democrats taking over the House of Representatives, they will surely be looking to exact revenge for the issues raised in the 2016 campaign. The fact that Jared Kushner set up a series of ijkfamily.com email accounts will also be scrutinized.

6. Alabama native and Yellowhammer founder Cliff Sims has written “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House” about his time in the White House

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— While going from Trump’s campaign to the West Wing, Sims kept pages of notes from his time as one of Trump’s trusted confidants.

— Sims summed the book up with a twist on one of Trump’s famous quotes, “Lincoln famously had his Team of Rivals. Trump had his Team of Vipers. We served. We fought. We brought our egos. We brought our personal agendas and vendettas. We were ruthless. And some of us, I assume, were good people.”

5. The dumb fight with the Trump administration and CNN may be over

— After suggesting the White House would still revoke the press pass from CNN’s Jim Acosta, it appears they are prepared to give him back his pass permanently and issue a series of rules that all reporters must follow.

— The rules state that reporters may only ask one question, follow-ups are given “at the discretion of the president or other White House officials” and reporters must “physically surrender” the microphone when asked to, but these have not been agreed to by the press so this could enter another contentious phase.

4. Another federal judge has decided he is in charge of immigration enforcement and stops President Trump from enforcing new asylum rules while the border patrol had to close a border entry point yesterday

— A federal judge says the Trump administration can no longer deny asylum to migrants who illegally cross the southern border. The judge added, “[H]e may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden” while the previous president’s DACA decision still stands.

Democrats are also raising concerns about an email conversation between Trump administration officials wondering if the administration will share census information with other agencies, making it less likely that illegals will fill out the census.

3. The Southern Poverty Law Center thinks Alabama shouldn’t be able to use unpaid traffic tickets to suspend licenses — They already want bail ended 

— The SPLC wants to block Alabama Law Enforcement Agency from suspending driver’s licenses of drivers with unpaid parking tickets, leaving the tickets unpaid and without penalty for not paying them.

— The lawless argument the SPLC is making here is basically that people shouldn’t have to pay the penalties for the offenses they commit, which is similar to their argument that bail is illegal.

2. Failed gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox gifts himself a participation trophy for getting 20,000 more votes than Senator Doug Jones and still losing

— In what millennials would call a “weird flex,” Tuscaloosa’s mayor decided to take to Twitter and post an infographic laying out how his loss to Governor Kay Ivey in early November was a really some symbolic victory.

— Maddox cited his 20,000 more votes than Sen, Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) got in 2017, claimed he had enough votes to win any other gubernatorial election since 2018 and surpassed his expected vote total and his number of donors. But he still lost by 300,000+ vote.

1. Alabama’s Attorney General fires/accepts the resignation of controversial prosecutor Matt Hart

— Matt Hart, the deputy attorney general of Alabama who led the Special Prosecutions Division, left his position on Monday. Hart has a series of high-profile government corruption convictions under his belt.

— Hart oversaw the convictions of former Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, the deal that saw Governor Robert Bentley resign and numerous other high-profile cases, but his tactics have been questioned repeatedly and many have alleged there is something more to this move than meets the eye.

3 hours ago

Doug Jones at Mobile U.S. Senate trade roundtable: Pentagon could play role in national security tariffs

MOBILE – Although President Donald Trump remains very popular in Alabama, his trade policies among the state’s business leaders appear to be mixed.

For the steel industry, which has been a fixture in Alabama for generations, the Trump administration’s handling of trade is a resounding success. Yet, for those in agriculture and auto manufacturing, there is much room for improvement.

That seemed to be the takeaway from a roundtable convened by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) at the University of South Alabama on Monday.

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The roundtable, an event sanctioned by the U.S. Senate under the body’s Homeland Security Committee, will be part of the permanent record of the Senate and that will be considered for legislation.

“I have a couple of bills pending involving automobile tariffs and national security tariffs,” Jones said. “So, it will be part of that record in the legislative history should those come to the floor or come to a vote.”

A statutory change under consideration according to Alabama’s junior senator regarding trade has to do with which cabinet department handles tariffs levied on a national security basis.

Jones says that could be best handled by the Department of Defense and not the Commerce Department.

“Under the national security threat, it bifurcates the process and moves the initial determination about national security – for instance, automobile – whether or not automobiles are a national security threat – that would move that to the Defense Department, who is better equipped to address national security concerns rather than the Commerce Department.”

Jones told Yellowhammer News the roundtable provided insights into how current trade policy directly impacted Alabama and influenced decision-making by business executives.

“It confirms what we’ve been saying – that the uncertainty of this policy is creating some problems,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “People are holding off. They’re not sure whether or not to expand their business, whether it is a small business or whether it is a big business. It shows there can be some serious consequences if certain tariffs are imposed. At the same time, it shows you where there can be successes – with the steel industry to stabilize markets.”

“One of the purposes of the hearing is to make sure the public is aware, people are aware,” he continued. “I think one of the takeaways that people will understand is that this policy and the retaliatory tariffs right now are having a devastating impact on farmers. We stand to lose a lot of overseas markets if this is not resolved. That’s the whole point of this. Let’s get it resolved one way or another, so we know where we stand. It’s gone on long enough.”

Jones elaborated on his personal views on trade when asked if a “free trade” or “fair trade” label could be applied to his views. He acknowledged there needed to be a balance of elements of free and fair trade. However, he also said his preference is trade alliances as opposed to trade wars.

“I don’t if you can really describe – I think fair trade is the most important aspect of that,” Jones said to Yellowhammer News. “There is always a strong element of free trade that’s included in that. You’ve got to balance trade with rogue countries like China has been over the years. And you got to make sure that countries that are subsidizing their trade do not have an unfair advantage because we want to protect our workers here in this country.”

“At the same time, we are much more of a global economy now and interconnected than we have ever been in the history of this earth,” he added. “And we got to recognize that – that what we can do, work together, is the way to try and manage this and help our country help other countries and help the global economy as well as our own. We want to make sure our workers are protected. We can do that better by forming alliances instead of doing trade wars.”

Monday’s roundtable participants included Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama vice president Robert Burns, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International general counsel Rick Clementz, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama assistant division manager Allyson Edwards, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama president David Fernandes, Aker Solutions project director Graham Jones, Baldwin County farmers Mark Kaiser and Daniel Perry, Nucor Steel Decatur vice president Mike Lee, Alabama State Port Authority Director & CEO Jimmy Lyons and Fairfield Works Tubular plant manager Brent Sansing.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

4 hours ago

Terri Sewell slams Kay Ivey — Claims ‘daughter of the Black Belt’ would not help save Camden hospital

SELMA – One of the primary themes at a town hall hosted by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) on Monday night was health care, which is also one on which that House Democrats campaigned in this year’s midterm elections.

Although Democrats nationally had success in the midterms, in Alabama they were unable to capitalize electorally on health care, especially given the emphasization Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox gave to expanding Medicaid in his failed gubernatorial bid.

Nonetheless, Sewell argued before a crowd assembled at the Selma Interpretive Center for her town hall event in downtown Selma that Medicaid expansion was a priority and she decried the unwillingness of Alabama policymakers to agree.

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“States like Alabama were not supposed to be able to opt out of expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “The last two governors have not done that. It’s horrible. The reality is the fact that we have not expanded Medicaid means rural hospitals are under threat. Alabama has a bare-bones Medicaid system. They pay less than 10 percent on a dollar for the services for Medicaid.”

According to Alabama’s lone Democratic member of Congress, the closure of rural hospitals was the result of not expanding Medicaid.

“We have missed out on millions – actually billions of dollars in the state of Alabama in not expanding Medicaid,” Sewell said. “We could use that money, and the fact that we don’t have that money means that so many of our rural hospitals are under threat of closing. I don’t have to tell the Black Belt.”

Sewell referenced the John Paul Jones Hospital in nearby Camden, which was on the verge of closing in 2017 but got a last-minute reprieve after an agreement was made with UAB earlier this year.

She took aim at Gov. Kay Ivey, a native of Camden, for not doing more to save the Wilcox County hospital.

“We saved [John] Paul Jones Hospital, but we did so with the help of UAB,” she said. “Now, that’s not a model that can be done to scale. What I did is I begged UAB because our own governor, who is from Wilcox [County], would not help us to save Wilcox County’s hospital. That’s unacceptable, by the way. And I’m not telling her anything that I wouldn’t tell her to her face and have told her because when you’re a daughter of the Black Belt, you have to understand that you have got to take care of home.”

Sewell told those in attendance she went to UAB Health System CEO William Ferniany and warned if Camden’s John Paul Jones Hospital closed, hospitals in Selma and Demopolis could be threatened, and that might result in everyone “bum-rushing” UAB for health care.

“Rural hospitals are on the chopping block and the number-one priority for me is keeping the doors open and making sure access is there, but also making sure quality is there,” she added.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.