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5 years ago

These are the Alabama House and Senate races to watch in 2014

Alabama State Capitol
Alabama State Capitol

Yellowhammer has already given you the big picture lay of the land for this year’s legislative races, now let’s take a look at some of the most hotly contested House and Senate districts to watch in 2014.

Remember, with Alabama having become a bright red state in 2010, it is fairly rare for there to be a general election fight between Republicans and Democrats. The battle is almost exclusively in the Republican primary, with a few notable exceptions.

That means that traditionally Democrat-aligned powerhouses like the Alabama Education Association (AEA) are planning to spend millions of dollars in Republican primaries this year, so hang on to your hats.

Here’s our take on what to look out for:

Republican primary fight in Senate District 30

Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville
Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville

When Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, announced in late October of last year that he would not seek re-election in 2014, candidates quickly began lining up for this safe GOP seat.

Suzelle Josey of Deatsville, a former spokesperson for Chief Justice Roy Moore, had already announced plans to challenge Taylor, and Millbrook’s Harris Garner, owner of Garner Electric Company, wasn’t far behind her. They have since been joined in the Republican primary by insurance agent Bill Harris and Prattville City Councilman Clyde Chambliss, Jr.

As with any open seat, this one’s going to be hotly contested, and a prime opportunity for the AEA to infiltrate the Republican primary. AEA-aligned operatives are running Harris Garner’s campaign, which should be a huge red flag to any Republican primary voters.

Chambliss is the early favorite. He has already been endorsed by The American Council of Engineering Companies and The Homebuilders’ Association of Alabama. Early polling shows he has strong positive name ID, and he’s a strong fundraiser. Expect AEA to dump a ton of money in this race, either through direct candidate contributions to Garner or through ads running under the name “Alabama Values Education” — or both.

Key potential pickups for Republicans in the Senate

Yellowhammer has focused a lot on the battle between Republicans trying to maintain their supermajority in the Senate and the AEA trying to chip away at it, either in the general election or Republican primary, but there are also a few opportunities for Republicans to take out some sitting Democrats.

Sen. Tammy Irons, D-Florence, announced last week that she’s not seeking re-election. That makes Senate District 1 a likely pickup for the GOP. Three Republicans have already qualified for the seat, including small businessman Jonathan Berryhill, Dr. Tim Melson, and early favorite Chris Seibert, an Athens City Councilman and former Univ. of Alabama football player.

Sen. Marc Keahey, D-Grove Hill, qualified for re-election at the last minute in his south Alabama senate district, but rumor has it that he may just be a placeholder while Democrats search for a candidate to take his place. Since the senate districts were redrawn after the 2010 elections, Keahey’s district has become significantly more Republican-leaning. Five Republicans are vying for the seat.

Melinda McClendon, R-Dothan
Melinda McClendon, R-Dothan

Independent Sen. Harri Ann Smith of Dothan might as well have a “D” beside her name, as she sides with the Democratic minority on most tough votes. The former Republican, who was denied ballot access by Republicans after she endorsed a Democrat for Congress, has done a masterful job over the years of portraying herself as the victim. She was the victim of Gov. Bob Riley and the anti-gambling crowd; she was the victim after former Rep. Jay Love bested her when she ran for Congress; and she was the victim when the Republican Party disowned her. She’s going to have a much harder time playing the victim when her opponent is another woman, Houston County Commissioner Melinda McClendon. Republicans are excited about McClendon’s candidacy, and will spend heavily to pick up this seat. But the AEA won’t make it easy. Expect them to pump big bucks into protecting one of their biggest allies in the senate.

House District 91

Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise
Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise
Another wiregrass-area race to watch is House District 91. Yellowhammer named incumbent Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, the most conservative member of the legislature last year, but an impeccable voting record (e.g. only legislator to vote “no” on extending unemployment benefits) doesn’t matter when AEA-aligned political operatives find a young, politically ambitious challenger they can co-opt.

Enterprise attorney Josh Pipkin has already gone hard negative against Moore. This will likely end up being one of the nastiest Republican primaries in the House.

General election battle in Senate District 10

Yellowhammer last year named incumbent Republican Sen. Phil Williams, R-Gadsden, one of the “Top 7 most conservative Alabama legislators.” But he represents one of the few legislative districts in the state that could actually have a competitive general election race. Williams is being challenged by former Democratic Senator Larry Means, who represented the 10th District from 1998 until 2010. Means was arrested on corruption charges only about a month before the 2010 general elections, but was ultimately acquitted and is now trying to return to the Senate at the age of 66.

The 10th District will be one of the Alabama Education Association’s (AEA) top targets. There is a pretty sizable union population in the district, a constituency that tends to favor Democrats. But Williams is well liked among conservatives, who appreciate his no-nonsense approach. His early polling numbers are strong as well. This race is shaping up to be a real battle.

AEA taking aim at Republican leadership

The word around Montgomery is that the AEA will spend $500k against each of the top Republicans in the Alabama legislature — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn.

Rainy Day Patriots Tea Party member Steven Guede is challenging Marsh, who has come under fire from some grassroots conservatives for his support of Common Core. Fred “Sandy” Toomer, founder Toomers Coffee Roasters Company, is challenging Hubbard.

These races are extremely personal for AEA Head Henry Mabry, who plans to spend big bucks in these races, whether it makes tactical sense or not.

Senate District 8

Sen. Shad McGill opted not to run for re-election, opening up a two-man race for the Republican nomination in this safe GOP district.

State Rep. Todd Greeson, R-Ider, is running for the seat and starts with a name-ID advantage after being in the legislature for over 15 years. His campaign has already received tens of thousands of dollars from the AEA.

Businessman Steve Livingston is the other Republican in the race. He is the owner and manager of Dicus Oil Company, has served as president of Jackson-Scottsboro Chamber of Commerce, Scottsboro Rotary and is a founding member of Leadership Jackson County.

Senate District 17

Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale
Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale
It didn’t take long for Republicans to start coming out of the woodwork to run in this safe GOP district after Tea Party favorite Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, announced he would not seek re-election.

Here’s the list of candidates who qualified for the Republican primary in SD11:

Shay Shelnutt
Jim Murphree
Gayle H. Gear
Brett King
Adam Ritch
Joe Cochran
Jim Roberts

Murphree and Gear are the two candidates with AEA ties, but this race is so crowded it’s tough to say who should be the early favorite to survive the free for all.

Senate District 11

Democrat-turned Republican Sen. Jerry Fielding, R-Sylacauga, was hoping to avoid a primary challenger after he switched parties in 2012. But State Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, decided in June of last year that he was going to jump in the primary against Fielding, who is still serving in his first term in the senate.

There are three big keys to look at in this race. First of all, the new district lines make St. Clair County the majority of the district. That is a huge advantage for McClendon. Secondly, McClendon holds a fairly substantial fundraising advantage over Fielding at this point. But finally, the real albatross around Fielding’s neck may be his vote against an anti-ObamaCare bill in 2012. It is tough to justify that in any Republican primary at this point.

That said, Fielding has been an extremely reliable vote for Republicans since he switched parties. We’ll see if that proves to be enough.

Independent candidates still have time to qualify

Although major party qualifying closed Feb. 7, Independent candidates have until June 3 to round up enough signatures to get on the ballot.

In order to gain ballot access, an Independent candidate must get the signatures of 3% of the total votes cast in the 2010 gubernatorial race in the district in which they want to run. For example, if 30,000 votes were cast in your district during the 2010 general election for governor, you would have to get 1,000 signatures in order to get your name on the ballot. An influx of Independent candidates could put a strain on the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, which is charged with verifying signatures. With limited manpower, that could be a daunting task.

Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison
Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison

Two races that could potentially end up with Independent candidates are Senate District 27, where former Democratic Sen. Ted Little may try to challenge incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, and Senate District 2, where former Republican Sen. Tom Butler may challenge incumbent Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Huntsville.

The AEA’s candidate recruitment efforts were somewhat of a flop in the GOP primaries, but with almost four months until June 3, there is a good chance they will round up some Independents to jump in and shake things up.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

Byrne: Water infrastructure vital to Alabama’s economy

There are very few places in the United States that can boast the sort of diverse infrastructure we have here in Alabama. There are 11 interstates, over 3,000 miles of freight rail, 5 commercial airports, and more than 132,000 miles of rivers and stream channels in our state.

One of our state’s most important pieces of infrastructure is the Port of Mobile, the 10th largest port and fastest growing container terminal in the United States. With 41 berths, 5 million square feet of warehouses and yards, and covering 4,000 total acres, it has an economic impact of around 135,000 jobs in Southwest Alabama and generates more than $22 billion per year in economic value.

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Recent expansions and developments at the Port will only further grow the economic impact of the Port on not only Southwest Alabama but our entire state. For example, the recent announcement about a new roll-on/roll-off vehicle processing facility at the Port will help our state’s automotive manufacturing industry continue to grow.

Even with these impressive facts, it has been clear that our infrastructure throughout the country is in need of updates, repairs, and overhauls to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of transportation and innovation in order to compete economically on the world stage.

Last week, in a major bipartisan effort, Congress sent a piece of legislation to President Trump’s desk that will help to unlock the full economic potential of our region and state.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 passed the Senate last week, after passing out of the House a few weeks back. This bill authorizes funding for waterway projects, port improvement projects, and other important water infrastructure projects in all 50 states. Not only will this allow for much-needed infrastructure improvements, but the bill reinstates a “Buy America” provision for federally funded projects, meaning a boost for American steel producers.

Commonsense legislation like this will create jobs, incentivize the use of American-made products, and build our nation’s capabilities to produce, package, and transport goods all around the globe. It will also make our drinking water safer, improve our wastewater systems, combat algae blooms, and restore our nation’s beaches through grant programs.

The Army Corps of Engineers can move forward on improving our dams, locks, reservoirs, and shipping channels. We have a major Army Corps project that needs attention right here in Southwest Alabama. The project to deepen and widen the Mobile Bay Ship Channel has the ability to fundamentally alter the economic potential of the Port and create more jobs in our state. Senator Richard Shelby has long been a champion for this project, and I am committed to working with him to make it a reality.

Our shipyards, airports, and rail yards will all see an impact from waterway projects like this, and I am thankful to the members of the Senate and my colleagues in the House for passing this water infrastructure legislation to help propel Alabama even further into the 21st Century.

The future of Alabama rests upon our ability to look beyond the short term and into what will set us up for success for years to come. Focusing locally on important infrastructure projects will spur economic growth through business investment and job creation, and it will open up opportunities we don’t even know exist yet.

Investing in our infrastructure today will lead to a stronger tomorrow. I applaud the work of my colleagues in both the House and the Senate in making a better economic future possible through this vital water infrastructure legislation.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

8 hours ago

Shelter dogs fly from Alabama to New Jersey after Hurricane Michael leaves pets stranded

Shelter dogs from Birmingham are getting a new start after they boarded a plane and were flown to New Jersey.

A partnership between the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, Greater Good, and Wings Of Rescue made the safe transportation of 50 dogs possible.

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“It gives these animals an immediate chance at getting in a home. Animals get stressed in a shelter. And with all the storms, and all this travel, it almost makes you want to cry being out here and seeing this,” said GBHS CEO Allison Black Cornelius.

With the transportation of the dogs to New Jersey, more animals can now be taken into the Birmingham shelter from Florida and surrounding areas.

“The average length of stay for a pet transported from Wings of Rescue is about two and a half days, three and a half days,” said President of Wings Of Rescue Ric Browde.

“So, these pets have a little bit of celebrity to them, so they’re probably going to be moving out faster. They’re just going to go very quickly. ”

Donations to Hurricane Michael animal transports can be made here.

@RealKyleMorris is a Yellowhammer News contributor and also contributes weekly to The Daily Caller

9 hours ago

Jones accuses ALGOP of putting ‘party over’ state, country on Kavanaugh; ALGOP responds: ‘A grave error as it highlights his arrogance’

In an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” that aired on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) defended his vote opposing the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jones, who had pledged to keep an open mind throughout the process, voted along party lines against President Donald Trump’s pick to replace the retired associate justice, Anthony Kennedy. In the end, Jones’ vote was not consequential, as Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50-48 margin.

The junior Alabama Democratic U.S. Senator was criticized for voting against Kavanaugh by the Alabama Republican Party, which accused him of putting the party over the state and the country.

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“You know, I do what I think is right,” Jones said when asked by host Don Dailey about the backlash. “This is the same Republican Party who voted for a guy last year – who continued to support someone who ran against me who there were very, very serious and credible allegations. This is a Republican Party that puts party over state, party over country. So, I’m not surprised they put this in political tones. The very thing that I avoided from the beginning, from my standpoint and my standpoint was what mattered to me and my staff – we were not looking at this in political terms. We were looking at it to determine his record, what he’s said, what he’s done, what we believe he could do, look at his qualifications, as well as his temperament and other issues to determine whether or not this man should be on the United States Supreme Court. It was a completely non-partisan issue the way we looked at it. And we knew the way other people would make it partisan. But that’s fine with me. I can justify my vote to anyone.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Alabama Republican Party chairwoman Terry Lathan fired back and said Jones’ “no” vote” highlighted his “arrogance.”

“Looking at this from ‘his’ standpoint and his ‘staff’ standpoint and not the will of the majority of Alabamians is a grave error as it highlights his arrogance,” Lathan said. “It clearly shows us it’s about him and his liberal views, not what most of our people think. Doug Jones said the majority of Alabamians wishes were not the ‘be all to end all’ on this vote. That ‘I know better than you all’ point of view will be revisited by voters in 2020. We will remind them what he thinks of the majority.”

Later in his “Capitol Journal” appearance, Jones indicated he had no regrets regarding that vote despite what the polling in Alabama showed regarding Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“You can’t worry,” he replied. “When you’re in a position like I am, you can’t worry about that. You know Don, if I tried to make every decision based on polling or what my political opponents say is the will of the people, then I wouldn’t be a very effective U.S. Senator. That’s not leadership. Leadership is studying the issues. And I had a heck of a lot more information than all of these politicians who came out of the chute wanting me to vote for or against. I had just as many people wanting me to vote against him as for him that had not done the research. We did our homework, and I’m comfortable where I am, and that’s the way we continue to operate in my office.”

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

9 hours ago

Are Alabama Republicans softening on Medicaid expansion?

The race for Governor in Alabama has been boiled down to three issues:

  1. Governor Kay Ivey’s claim she steadied the ship of state
  2. Democrat challenger Walt Maddox whining about not being able to secure a debate
  3. Maddox wanting to expand Medicaid without a serious plan for doing so

Republicans in Alabama have been steadfastly against the Medicaid expansion proposal because it will require an additional outlay of up to $200 million dollars. The infusion of federal dollars that would come after an expansion has been sighted numerous times, by numerous Democrats running for statewide office. The flawed argument is that the program will pay for itself.

It won’t.

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The facts are simple, the Alabama legislature, which will probably retain their super-majority status, will have to budget for any expansion. This is a wildly unpopular idea amongst Republican legislators, but now lame-duck State Senator Gerald Dial is stepping out and advocating for it.

He writes:

For years, we have used state dollars to recruit industries to locate in Alabama, and we have been very successful. We now have an opportunity to support existing health care jobs and make sure every Alabamian has access to care when they need it, and where they need it. Investing in Medicaid expansion will keep our rural hospitals open, save hundreds of local jobs, and provide basic insurance coverage to almost 300,000 Alabamians. These are our friends and neighbors, hardworking Alabamians who don’t earn enough to afford health insurance. They work in our local restaurants, in our local retail shops and build our houses. Medicaid expansion would enable them to continue working while keeping their family healthy.

Now there is nothing earth-shattering about this suggestion or the argument being made here. The expansion would bring in buckets of federal tax dollars, and that money would be spent in the state of Alabama. It will also boost the bottom lines of hospitals and provide money that will matriculate its way around the Alabama economy.

The argument could easily be made that the fight against ObamaCare is lost politically. “Pre-existing conditions coverage” has led to higher costs, but that aspect remains popular. Republicans failed to repeal and replace it in 2017, and they don’t seem to keen on revisiting that fight right now.

Even with those battles fought and lost, Republican voters still dislike ObamaCare.

But lawmakers’ desire to acquire new spending in Alabama may be leading us toward a push to expand Medicaid after this round of elections.

There is a history for taking on politically unpopular issues in Alabama shortly after elections take place. In 2007, legislators gave themselves a pay raise. In 2015, Governor Robert Bentley (and the real Governor Rebekah Caldwell Mason) found himself advocating for additional revenue after running a campaign saying that very thing would not be necessary.

Senator Dial seems to be on an island by himself on this issue right now, and he may be a lone voice in the Alabama Republican Party making this call.

But don’t be surprised if this changes after November 5th.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

10 hours ago

Watch: Dog goes crazy after Alabama owner returns from deployment overseas

Seeing military service members reunited with loved ones after lengthy periods of time overseas is always emotional, but this time it is man’s best friend stealing the show.

Alabama’s Captain Josh Williams just returned from a ten-month deployment on the Korea peninsula with his brigade, which is part of the 3rd Infantry Division. In a video recorded by his wife Anna, Williams is greeted by one very happy canine companion.

Watch:

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The dog’s name is Milo, and, as you can tell, he is excited to have Captain Williams back home.

Williams is a Cavalry Troop Commander and earned his commission as an Army Officer through Auburn University’s ROTC program. He is a fourth-generation Army officer, and his grandfather did a tour in Korea 55 years ago this year. When Williams first arrived on the Korean peninsula in January of this year the tensions were at their highest level since his grandfather was there, but diplomatic tensions have eased to the calmest levels in recent years during his deployment.

“Praise God,” Williams’ father, state Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City), told Yellowhammer News, referencing the deescalation of tensions with North Korea and his son’s safe return.

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