Tuesday, the Morgan County GOP executive committee voted to join an effort seeking to prevent Madison County Commission chairman Dale Strong from appearing on the upcoming 2022 Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) primary election ballot as a candidate for the state’s fifth congressional district race.
Those opposing Strong’s candidacy cite the Madison County Commission’s decision in October 2020 to relocate a Confederate statue from county courthouse grounds to a local cemetery.
The commission opted to relocate the monument to Maple Hill Cemetery, which serves as the final resting place to numerous Confederate leaders and former members of Congress.
Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit against the commission shortly thereafter alleging that in relocating the statue, it had violated the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017.
According to the Alabama Historical Commission, the law “prohibits the relocation, removal, alteration, renaming, or other disturbance of any monument located on public property which has been in place for 40 years or more.”
A violation of the law results in a $25,000 fine, which was paid to the State of Alabama by the Madison County Commission.
Attorneys representing the commission requested that the Madison County judge presiding over the case dismiss the lawsuit given that the fine was paid in full, a request which was later granted.
Heritage Protection of North Alabama, an organization that advocates for the preservation of historical landmarks, has attended numerous county Republican Party meetings in an attempt to draw attention to Strong’s involvement in the matter.
Members of the Morgan County GOP, in coordination with the organization, intend to file a ballot access challenge with the ALGOP to prevent Strong’s name from appearing as a candidate on the primary election ballot over his role in relocating the monument.
Any individual may file a ballot access challenge with the ALGOP. Once filed, the ALGOP steering committee would consider its validity and vote to either hear or decline the challenge. If the committee votes to hear the challenge, members would hold a hearing to consider arguments for and against the matter at hand.
Traditionally, a ballot access challenge only prevails under certain extraordinary circumstances.
Should the ballot access challenge prove to no avail, which individuals familiar with the situation indicate will likely be the case, the Morgan County GOP executive committee will instead simply oppose Strong at the ballot box. Committee members passed a motion at its Tuesday meeting solidifying its intentions to do so.
Strong on Wednesday maintained that the commission acted in accordance with the law in relocating the monument and brushed off the effort to deny him ballot access.
“I am a lifelong Republican, and I will be on the ballot for Congress in the Republican primary,” Strong proclaimed in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “The Madison County Commission did not violate any laws when the Confederate monument was moved to honor the soldiers buried in Maple Hill Cemetery that fought and died for the Confederacy.”
Strong advised that after fearing the monument could endure structural damage stemming from an uptick in protests, he and the commission opted to move it to a location where it would likely be shielded from such harm.
“After repeated attacks and damage to our monument we had two options. Allow our Confederate monument to be destroyed like what happened in Birmingham or take action to preserve and protect it,” the candidate added. “While others hid their monuments, we placed it in a place of prominence – honoring the fallen Confederate soldiers. I fully support our Confederate monuments and have always done so. Anyone that says otherwise is misrepresenting the facts.”
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL