Multiple sources have told Yellowhammer News that Anna “Clark” Morris, the first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, will take over the Special Prosecutions Division of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.
The announcement could be made as soon as Tuesday. Attorney General Steve Marshall accepted the resignation of Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, who has led the division for years, on Monday morning.
Morris served as the acting U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s middle district last year, in between President Donald Trump firing former USA George Beck in March of 2017 and now-USA Louis Franklin being confirmed that September.
Even with Trey Glenn leaving his post as the EPA’s Region Four administrator, Alabama will still have strong ties to the leader of that office.
According to The Hill, Mary Walker was named by EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler to fill the vacant role in an acting capacity after Glenn resigned on Monday following his indictment on ethics charges in Alabama.
Walker is a native of the Yellowhammer State and had been serving as Glenn’s deputy.
The Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine,” a magical prom night experience for people with special needs, is coming to Birmingham.
Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church will serve as one of the nearly 500 churches around the world to host Night to Shine on February 8, 2019.
Night to Shine is an event for people 14 and older with special needs to receive royal treatment. Guests will enter the event on a red carpet filled with a crowd and paparazzi. Once they make it into the building, guests will be able to choose from an array of activities to partake in including hair and makeup stations, shoe shining areas and limousine rides. They can also choose their corsages and boutonnieres.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Sewell decries ‘voting irregularities’ in Alabama; Says first bill introduced in Dem-controlled Congress will address
SELMA — Although the focus on so-called “voting irregularities” in the midterm elections earlier this month was put on votes in neighboring Georgia and Florida, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) spoke out on those happening here in Alabama at a town hall meeting she hosted on Monday.
Sewell spoke of voting irregularities in Huntsville earlier this month at a gathering at the Selma Interpretative Center in downtown Selma.
Despite a federal judge’s ruling earlier this month calling that claim into question, Sewell criticized how voters at Huntsville’s Oakman College and Alabama A&M were allegedly taken off the voter rolls.
“We all saw voting irregularities occur across this nation in this 2018 midterm elections,” she said. “We saw it in Florida. We saw it in Georgia. We saw it in Alabama. I want you to know there were historically black colleges in Huntsville where Oakwood and Alabama A&M students were taken off, purged from the voter rolls because the notice that they were given from our secretary of state went to a P.O. box at the school. Many of those students live off campus, so they didn’t respond, they didn’t receive this notification that they had to go and make sure that their names were spelled right. And they were purged from the rolls. We had to get provisional ballots and have election protection officials go to Huntsville on Election Day. That’s in Alabama.”
Sewell said it was “worse” in Georgia, where Gov.-elect Brian Kemp was “a referee and a player” as a candidate in that election, and she criticized where some voters purged from the rolls for mismatching of names in some circumstances.
The Birmingham Democrat insisted some of these irregularities may have been prevented had the U.S. Supreme Court not overturned certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.
“What would happen is states like Georgia and Alabama would have to pre-clear any changes in voter laws – any changes,” Sewell said.
Sewell promoted her Voting Rights Advancement Act, which she said would restore some of the pre-clearance requirements.
“We have got to put the teeth back into, the enforceability back into the Voting Rights Act and that is what my bill does,” she said. “And I was told by Ms. Pelosi last week that H.R. 1, the first bill the Democrats will produce will be a bill to have democratic reform to our democracy, so we can truly be a democracy for the people – working on behalf of all the people. And my bill will be a part of H.R. 1.”
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
Ainsworth: ‘Doug Jones doesn’t represent Alabama values’
(Will Ainsworth for Lt. Governor)
In an interview that aired Friday on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Lt. Gov.-elect Will Ainsworth argued the general elections held in Alabama earlier this month proved that the state is a “Republican state” and that the 2017 election of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate was a “fluke.”
Ainsworth told host Don Dailey the margins of victory for GOP candidates in statewide elections showed that conservative values mattered, noting that most were in the 20-point range.
He was asked if he was worried about the “blue wave” headed into the November 6 elections.
“You know, I wasn’t,” Ainsworth replied. “I believe in data and I believe in polling. And I think all the polling we saw – you know, Republicans statewide were for the most part up 20 points. That turned out to be correct, within the margin of error in almost every race. I think that in the districts, you know, Alabama is a conservative state. We’re a Republican state and conservative values matter. And I think we saw that in all the elections.”
The Marshall County Republican questioned the positions Jones had taken and argued they didn’t reflect Alabama values.
“In reference to Doug Jones, that was just a fluke,” he continued. “That does not, you know, reflect the values of Alabama. When you look at some of the positions he’s taken in D.C., I actually think he helped energize Republicans to make sure they got out and vote. We look at the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the fact he voted against Brett Kavanaugh after he was treated like that.”
“I heard over and over, ‘Republicans were mad at what Democrats and Doug Jones were doing,’” he added. “And I think Doug Jones doesn’t represent Alabama values, and I’m convinced of that.”
As for Jones’ victory nearly a year ago, Ainsworth said the outcome was more of a reflection of backlash against 2017 Republican U.S. Senatorial nominee Roy Moore and not a confirmation of Jones’ positions by voters.
“I think with Doug Jones, it was more of a vote against Roy Moore than,” Ainsworth said. “We didn’t get a chance to really find out what does Doug Jones believe because if people would have found out he is pro-abortion and that he would have voted against Judge Kavanaugh – I mean, there’s no way he would have gotten elected in Alabama. We’re a conservative state. The values – conservative ideology, on a lot of issues.”
After a heated Republican primary runoff against Twinkle Cavanaugh for the party’s nod, Ainsworth defeated Democratic Party nominee Will Boyd by 22 points and was the top vote-getter of any candidate on the statewide ballot.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler ‘considering’ 2020 U.S. Senate run
(J. Zeigler )
Of the names mentioned among the prospective Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in 2020, State Auditor Jim Zeigler has not generally been a part of the conversation.
However, in an interview that aired Friday on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Zeigler said he had been approached about running for the seat presently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).
Zeigler said he would make a decision “later” as to whether or not he will launch an “exploratory campaign.”
“My number one priority is of course to do the job as State Auditor, and I’ve been working on that all day even today,” Zeigler said. “It is flattering and I am considering these comments that people are making and praying about it. But it’s too early, and I’ll make a decision sometime later as to whether or not to do what’s called an exploratory campaign.”
Zeigler defeated Democrat Miranda Joseph in his general election bid for re-election earlier this month by a 60.5-to-39.5 percent margin. In 2014, he defeated Joseph by a 63-to-37 percent margin.
Terri Sewell on House Speaker race: ‘I’m a supporter of Nancy Pelosi’
In an appearance on CNN on Saturday, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) acknowledged her support for current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to be the next House Speaker when the new Congress is sworn in early next year.
There had been some question as to whether or not Sewell would back Pelosi’s bid to be House Speaker once again. Prior inquiries by Yellowhammer News to Sewell about who she might support for speaker went unanswered.
However, Sewell said she believed those who led Democrats this last election back to the majority should be the ones leading the new Congress.
“I’m a supporter of Nancy Pelosi. I believe that this country elected for divided government and want a House majority. And I believe that the trifecta of leadership that brought us the House majority should be the leaders in the new Congress. So, I’ll be voting for Nancy Pelosi for speaker and Steny Hoyer for majority leader, and of course, my dear friend and colleague Jim Clyburn for majority whip.”
Anchor Christi Paul asked Sewell about the possibility of Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) making a play for the House speakership, to which Sewell noted only Pelosi has formally announced her intentions to seek the seat and that she believed ultimately the House Democrats would be united in their support of one leadership team.
Partial transcript as follows:
PAUL: I want to ask you about Congresswoman Marcia Fudge from Ohio. She was asked if she’s concerned about the fact that there are many of the [Congressional Black Caucus] members that have pledged their support to Pelosi because we know that Congresswoman Fudge may be looking for that position herself.
Let’s listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FUDGE: Most of them endorsed before they knew I was going to think about [running]. So no, absolutely not.
REPORTER: Could you flip those votes?
REPORTER: How many?
FUDGE: I don’t know. How many people endorsed her?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: What is your reaction to that?
SEWELL: Listen, Marcia Fudge is a great leader. She was an able and experienced leader. She ably led the CBC caucus, Congressional Black Caucus. She is truly a fighter and a voice of importance in our caucus. But she has not committed to running yet. There’s only one announced candidate, and that’s Nancy Pelosi.
PAUL: If she does, would you flip? As she indicated there that she thinks she could flip some votes.
SEWELL: Yeah, I think that it’s important that we — that we, as a caucus, come out united. I know that Marcia is committed to that as well. I think it’s really important that we stay focused on what the American people want, which is they want a government that’s going to actually work for the people. And I know that Marcia, as well as Nancy Pelosi, as well as our leadership team, will be laser-focused on making sure that we have an agenda that works for the American people and working families.
PAUL: There are people who do not support Congresswoman Pelosi. Interestingly enough, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez is one of them, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut do not support her. What does it say to you, that after all of the years she’s put into the House, all of the money she’s raised for the party that she has to fight for that position at this point in her career?
SEWELL: Look, I think that elections, leadership elections are often messy. But I think at the end of the day the Democratic Party will come together. Our caucus will come together behind the leadership that has led us to the majority, the current leadership. And that we will move forward on behalf of the American people. I think that’s critically important. You won’t hear me say anything bad about Marcia. Marcia’s awesome, and an amazing leader.
But I do believe that it’s important that we have the stable leadership that we currently have leading us forward. We need to be ready, day one, when we take back the House, to roll up our sleeves and fight to protect preexisting conditions, to make sure that we lower drug costs for the American people.
I stood on the Ways and Means Committee. I look forward to working on health, on trade. I also sit on the Intelligence Committee. I know that this is a — it’s important for the American people that we get to the bottom of the Russian investigation.
SEWELL: But we also bring back civility into this body. And I look forward to doing that and working with our leadership to do that.
Sewell also addressed the alleged killing of Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government and what role the House Intelligence Committee, on which Sewell serves, might play regarding oversight of the Trump’s administration’s response.
USDA Sec Perdue visits Wiregrass to survey Hurricane Michael damage, Praises Martha Roby for her participation
GORDON – On Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stopped in Alabama to survey the agricultural impact resulting from damage due to Hurricane Michael last month.
Perdue’s appearance at Mule Shoe Plantation near Alabama’s borders with Florida and Georgia in Southeast Houston County was the second of three that day, which also included stops in Bristol, Fla. and Donaldsonville, Ga.
Perdue was accompanied by Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and Alabama Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan, who will soon assume the role of Alabama State Treasurer. They all participated in a roundtable discussion with farmers from Houston and Henry Counties to discuss emergency hurricane relief, how to efficiently deal with the federal bureaucracy and other issues, including crop insurance and trade policy.
Perdue praised Roby for her participation in his visit to Alabama, noting that of the three stops in three different states, the Montgomery Republican was the only one that came to meet with him.
“This is the way representative democracy works,” Perdue said. “The election is over, but Martha Roby is here. I’m not saying anything about anybody. I’m going to be in three states today, and this is the only member of the House that I’m meeting with.”
He also suggested Alabama was poised for the federal response, given Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Tuscaloosa) position in the U.S. Senate.
“I want to tell you something: There’s business going on up there – but this is the way representative democracy works. There’s a senior senator here that’s in really good position to help as well and make sure we get what we need in the supplemental.”
Following the roundtable, Perdue, Roby and McMillan took questions from reporters. Perdue reflected on what he had learned in his discussion and noted that the aftermath of Hurricane Michael made for some extenuating circumstances with regards to disaster relief for agricultural interests.
“The common safety net programs that the members of the Congress pass in farm bills are not enough in these kinds of devastating circumstances,” Perdue said. “We come to see what kind of exemptions and exclusions we can put out there that don’t apply in the normal course of business. We look at impediments – what are the frustrations in dealing with government and farm service agency and USDA. What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong? What do we need to do more of? What do we need to do less of?”
“The best way to do that is talk to producers and growers, here,” he added. “We have got an unusual situation in the South in the corner between Alabama, Georgia and Florida – a lot of pine tree damage. That’s not a typical crop that’s damaged in this sort of way, nor pecan trees. There are a lot in southwest Georgia, and these will require some different circumstances there because that might have been a landowner’s retirement. A lot of landowners plant those trees 25, 30, 40 years ago hoping to harvest them in their retirement. And it’s gone, just like your 401(k) being stolen from a bank.”
Both Perdue and Roby told Yellowhammer News they did not anticipate last week’s midterm election results that will give Democrats apparent control of the U.S. House of Representatives to impact any disaster relief response.
“I think that’s the great thing about America,” Perdue said. “It doesn’t affect anything. Congresswoman Roby is still there. She is advocating for her constituents. Commissioner McMillian is. Irrespective of election outcomes, that’s the way we work in America, and that’s the good thing about succession government.”
Roby emphasized the response to come in the form of disaster relief supplemental legislation must not only come soon but “correctly” as well.
“A hurricane doesn’t discriminate on state lines or congressional districts,” Roby said. “My job is to work with all of my colleagues who have been impacted by this storm and other devastation around the country to make sure Congress is doing its job to put the money in place to make sure this disaster supplemental is there to help Americans.”
“And so, we’re going to make the push to get this done,” she added. “You heard the urgency in that room today. And so there is going to be a push to get this done as quickly as we can. But as the secretary said, we have to get it right. And so we’re going to continue to work with all the government agencies that are involved and my colleagues in Congress to make sure that we get this done quickly, but correctly.”
Late Friday afternoon, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced that “Bear,” the state’s “first dog,” has passed away.
“The Office of the Governor is sad to announce the death of Bear, Governor Kay Ivey’s beloved dog, who passed away this afternoon from ongoing health issues. Bear, a 14-year old Chow mix, was adopted by Governor Ivey in 2005 from a local vet after he was hit by a car. Bear was beloved by the entire Governor’s Staff and especially those who work at the Governor’s Mansion. School children would many times get a glimpse of Bear during tours of the home. He brought a bright spirit to the mansion.
Ivey thanked the employees at Montgomery Veterinary Associates for caring for “Bear” in his final days and urged those wanting to honor him to “volunteer or donate to your local humane society.”
Alabama unemployment remains stable at 4.1 percent — Record number of people working for sixth-consecutive month
The state’s seasonally adjusted rate remained at 4.1 percent, while its non-adjusted rate stayed at 3.8 percent for October, identical to September, according to data released by the Alabama Department of Labor on Friday.
Those levels are slightly higher than those from October 2017, at 3.8 percent and 3.6 percent respectively.
However, Alabama’s workforce, the number of people counted as employed, topped a record total workforce, continuing a trend that has lasted for six months.
That number for October showed 2,122,970 employed, topping the prior month’s number of 2,117,359 and the October 2017′s number by more than 40,000. On the other side of the equation — the number of people counted as unemployed decreased from 90,818 in September to 89,754.
“More than 40,000 Alabamians now have jobs that didn’t last year,” Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington said in a release. “That means that they are contributing to our state’s economy and providing for their families. Our labor force continues to grow, reaching its highest level of 2018, and the vast majority of those are finding jobs, which tells us that people have confidence in our economy.”
Washington also lauded the civilian labor force, which increased to 2,212,724 in October — its highest level of 2018 and a year-over-year increase of 48,254.
“Additionally, we broke the record for the number of jobs our economy is supporting – AGAIN – beating the previous record by more than 12,000 jobs. We’re beginning to see retail hiring pick up in preparation for the holidays, but over-the-year gains in high wage industries like manufacturing and construction are extremely encouraging, with yearly gains of 3.88% and 2.52%, respectively.”
It continued to be the case that the counties topping the overall unemployment levels are the ones that traditionally struggled with high rates, including the Black Belt counties of Wilcox, in at a whopping 8.8 percent, Clarke at 7.1 percent and Lowndes at 6.8 percent.
Counties with the state’s lowest unemployment levels are Shelby at 2.8 percent, a regular at the top of the Alabama Department of Labor’s list for lowest unemployment, Cullman at 3.2 percent, and Marshall and Elmore, each at 3.3 percent.
Birmingham “Over the Mountain” suburbs led the state with the cities with the lowest unemployment rates. Vestavia Hills and Homewood came in at 2.6 percent and Alabaster at 2.7 percent. Madison, near Huntsville, and Northport, near Tuscaloosa, both had levels of 2.8 percent.
The cities with the state’s highest levels continued to be Selma at 7.2 percent, Prichard at 6.8 percent and Anniston and Bessemer, each at 5.2 percent.
Gulf Shores bridge battle: ALDOT hearing for ‘controversial’ $87 million project draws standing room-only crowd
GULF SHORES — It was a typical off-season November night on Alabama’s coast on Thursday night. The temperature was a brisk 47 degrees. Traffic coming into South Baldwin County from the north on Alabama Highway 59 and the Foley Beach Express was light. Many businesses along those routes and coastline in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were operating far below their tourist season capacities.
However, there was one place that was bursting at the seams on this night. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) was hosting a public hearing at the Gulf Shores Activity Center for a proposed connector that would link from Alabama Highway 180 (Canal Road) to the Foley Beach Express.
Part of the $87 million project includes a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, with the added feature of having no support pilings in the actual waterway, that separates the bulk of Baldwin County’s beach communities from the rest of the county.
This project would supplement the existing two bridges: the four-lane Dr WC Holmes Bridge, which services Alabama Highway 59, and the two-lane toll bridge that services the Foley Beach Express to the east.
This new proposed bridge has been the focal point of a controversy that has made its way far beyond southwest Alabama and has even been the subject of attack ads in other media markets in Alabama, which criticize ALDOT for making this project a higher priority than others around the state.
The hearing drew many elected officials and leaders of civic organizations for and against the project. Among those were Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, both proponents of the plan.
“I don’t think anybody that lives on this island, or anybody that visits this island is not frustrated somewhat with the traffic issues we have,” Craft said in his remarks to the attendees. “We’ve been looking with Orange Beach at every option we could find to help make this better. We believe that this is the best option. It may be the only option because we got two bridges now, and we still have got concentrated traffic issues.”
Kennon made similar overtures in support of the project and warned if the ALDOT proposal were rejected, the money would likely be spent elsewhere in the state.
“ALDOT is working very hard to meet our needs,” Kennon said to attendees. “We have been neglected for many, many years. They’re bringing money down here to help us out. Why does anybody want to say ‘no,’ to spend that money in Birmingham, Montgomery or wherever, because it’s going to be spent somewhere? It’s a free bridge. It’s taxpayer dollars, but it’s still our bridge.”
Kennon also took issue with the price-tag of $87 million assigned to the bridge, noting that the number is on the high-end and includes the entire connector that spans from Canal Road to the Foley Beach Express.
“The number you hear thrown around is an $87-million bridge,” he added. “It’s not an $87-million bridge. At the top end is an $87 million road-bridge project.”
Also in attendance was State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a public critic of ALDOT’s handling of and transparency regarding the project.
Zeigler did not speak at the hearing, but offered the comments he submitted to ALDOT to some of the media in attendance.
“I have been trying since April 2018 to get answers to basic questions about the proposed new bridge,” Zeigler wrote. “I filed a written request for public documents on Aprill 17, 2018 but received none. I filed a second notice on July 12, 2018. Again, I received no response. I am now using the forum of this public hearing and comment period to request — for the third time — the answers to my questions.”
Emerson, seemingly outnumbered at Thursday’s event, sees the project as a non-solution and urged ALDOT to consider alternatives.
“I still maintain that this doesn’t do anything help move traffic on Pleasure Island,” he said to Yellowhammer News. “This just simply dumps traffic back on to [Alabama Highway] 180. The only way we’re going to ever resolve these issues on Pleasure Island is to build a cross-island corridor, and that project has been in the concept phase for over a decade.”
In an interview after the hearing, Kennon downplayed opposition and argued it was their turn after having been neglected by policy and lawmakers in Montgomery.
“I learned there’s no logical and reasonable opposition,” Kennon said to Yellowhammer News. “This is a needed bridge. It is taxpayer dollars well spent. This is a huge economic machine for Alabama. It’s an investment in infrastructure for a huge economic machine. So, it is a good business decision. We’ve been neglected for years down here. And now ALDOT and the governor has really taken an interest, and it’s very much appreciated.”
When asked to make a case for the bridge to those beyond South Baldwin County in Alabama, the Orange Beach mayor cited the area as a “tremendous amenity” for the state.
“These are Alabama’s beaches,” he replied. “They are a tremendous amenity. They are a jewel for the state of Alabama. Thirty-plus percent of everybody that comes to Orange Beach, Gulf Shores are from the state of Alabama. We’re the stewards of those beaches. We know infrastructure-wise, we are lagging for the growth and the number of folks that are coming. If they want this to continue to be that jewel and that amenity we’re proud of, they’ve got to invest in their beaches and the infrastructure of their beaches.”
Based on his knowledge of the traffic patterns of the area, Kennon argued the option offered by ALDOT was the best to address current and future traffic.
“I’ve been involved with public service down here for 20 years,” Kennon said. “I know our traffic patterns. I know them better than anybody. This bridge will help. It will make a difference for the future. We will eventually get a road through the [Gulf] State Park at some point. We will be flowing traffic significantly quicker, faster and congestion on Canal Road, no doubt in my mind.”
According to ALDOT, bids could begin to come in for this project as early as Spring 2019.
“[Georgia-Pacific] has already made a difference in this community and this county,” Talladega Mayor Jerry Cooper said at the opening of Thursday’s event. “And believe me, brother – they’re going to make a difference in the future because they’ve got quality employees coming in here and going to work, and being productive and make them look good. And they want to make their employees look good. And I want the city and all the surrounding areas to work with Georgia-Pacific and promote what a good company they are.”
Fritz Mason, the vice president and general manager of Georgia‐Pacific Lumber, thanked the local governments for their help to expedite the process of getting the facility up and running in such a short time.
“It was hardly a year ago we announced our intentions to build the facility and I think you all will agree – we’ve come a long way in 12 months,” Mason said. “And think, we actually didn’t start pouring concrete here until January 4 of this year.”
“Everyone including the state, city and county have been extremely helpful throughout the process,” he added. “I look forward to continuing our great working relationship.”
He explained the Talladega facility was the first of the three new facilities of its type to be added to Georgia-Pacific lumber production portfolio, with the other two set to open up in Georgia. Mason attributed the expansion to the rebound from the 2008 housing downturn and the increased demand for lumber.
“I’m happy to announce we are now producing quality lumber made in Alabama,” he declared.
Mason boasted about the new “state of the art” mill and how it will double the output of a similar-sized sawmill from 20 years ago, which he said was enough lumber annually to build 20,000 homes.
“When you see this mill, you’ll realize this isn’t your grandfather’s sawmill,” Mason said. “The technology in the mill is pretty amazing, and the facilities we are building are all state of the art facilities.”
Although it took the cooperation of local government for Georgia-Pacific to open its facilities at this time, Georgia-Pacific President and CEO Christian Fischer emphasized it wasn’t a “handout” and that the cooperation has benefits for all of those involved.
“None of these were handouts, folks — none of these were gifts,” Fischer said. “We do good by each other. Everybody has got to win when we do something. By coming here, we all win.”
“This is what good relationships are built on,” he added. “That is what makes progress in society. That is what we are here to do.”
Offering the keynote remarks at the facility’s opening ceremony was Gov. Kay Ivey. Fresh off last week’s dominating election win, Ivey thanked Georgia-Pacific for “believing in” Alabama.
“Folks, this is an exciting day for our state,” Ivey said. “This is an exciting day for Georgia-Pacific. It’s an exciting day for Talladega, and it’s a truly exciting for the entire state of Alabama. When Talladega wins, we all win.”
“Thank you for believing in our state, but most of all to our friends at Georgia-Pacific, Christian and others, thank you for believing in our people. Our people are what makes our state so wonderful … We probably got the hardest-working workforce of any state in the nation.”
Following her public remarks to the crowd assembled for the grand opening, Ivey addressed the media and stressed the importance of workforce development.
“Workforce development has to be an ongoing thing,” she said to Yellowhammer News. “We’ve got to upgrade and give advanced training to our some-500,000 workers so they can be even better prepared for our jobs of tomorrow. It’s no longer good enough to just have a K-12 degree. You need at least a two-year certificate, credential or two-year degree. We’re working on that and people are responding.”
Ala. Dem chair Worley: ‘I say the state party is alive and well’; Calls Hagan voter suppression claims effort to ‘create strawmen’
Friday on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Worley reacted to criticisms from candidates of her party as Alabama Democrats suffered many defeats a few days earlier.
Worley acknowledged to “Capitol Journal” host Don Dailey that the Democratic Party’s effort within the borders of Alabama could have been better. She also defended her party against claims put forth in a Montgomery Advertiser story that the party didn’t spend the money it could have to help its candidates in those Tuesday elections.
Two of the Alabama Democratic Party’s most prominent critics were congressional hopefuls Mallory Hagan and Tabitha Isner, both of which who suffered landslide defeats on Tuesday. Worley, a former Alabama secretary of state, responded directly to Hagan’s attacks and called the former Miss America out for her earlier attempt to make voter suppression a campaign issue.
“I think it’s just a learning adventure in politics,” Worley said. “I know in the case of Ms. Hagan – she came by my office in October when she was here in Montgomery. She and her third campaign manager that she had wanted to make a big issue out of voter suppression in Alabama, and how we had all these purged voters in Alabama because that had been an issue on the eastern side of the state for Georgia.”
“Having been secretary of state, I knew how our purge process works,” she continued. “And it takes a long number of years to get on that list. And so I tried to explain to them that you don’t want to say things that are not true. You don’t want to make an issue out of something that is not an issue. And they disagreed with me greatly on that. That’s a process of ‘Nancy Worley is not going to tell somebody she knows when she knows it’s not the truth.’ And other people are willing in politics to get out there and create strawmen. So, that’s the way politics works.”
Worley said overall the Alabama Democratic Party was still active, but added the caveat there was still “work to do.”
“I say the state party is alive and well,” Worley declared. “I think we’ve got a lot of work to do. We certainly need to go out into many of our counties and have a more active organization because all politics is local. It’s grassroots.”
ALGOP chair Terry Lathan: ‘Complacency’ was Alabama Republicans’ biggest 2018 challenge — ‘We got woke’
ALGOP Chairman Terry Lathan
With the 2017 U.S. Senate special election fresh on everyone’s mind, Alabama Republicans did not take anything for granted in the campaigns for Tuesday’s elections, and it paid off.
From top to bottom, Republicans won every statewide race and expanded their supermajority in the Alabama legislature.
In an appearance on Mobile’s FM Talk 106.5 on Thursday, Alabama Republican Party chairwoman Terry Lathan attributed the outcome to combatting complacency and emphasizing that nothing could be taken for granted.
“With all the good that we just heard and how hard we all worked – for me, my entire adult life as a volunteer when I say work,” she explained. “I still am a [40-hour-a-week] unpaid state chairman. You do things like that because you love something more than you love yourself. But our problem now — because there’s always problems with big families, right? – is complacency. For the last six months, that’s been the number one thing I’ve told everyone around the state: We cannot take anything for granted. And I tell you what, we did not.”
Doug Jones’ 2017 win gave Democrats hope for 2018, but in the end, it was not to be.
“What happened with Doug Jones tricked Democrats into thinking they might could win, and so all the candidates came back on the ticket,” she said. “As the kids say – we got woke. Our team went to work, and it was all worth it on Tuesday.”
Nancy Worley, Joe Reed react to disgruntled Dem candidates — ‘Some of our candidates chose to ignore the black voters’
Two of the six Alabama Democratic congressional hopefuls that came up short in Tuesday’s midterm elections publicly voiced their frustrations with the state’s Democratic Party and its leadership.
In their losses, both second congressional district Democratic hopeful Tabitha Isner and third congressional district hopeful Mallory Hagan indicated the Alabama Democratic Party under the leadership of chairwoman Nancy Worley and the Alabama Democratic Conference’s Joe Reed left much to be desired.
“Maybe they thought the party was supposed to do everything for them and fund their campaigns, that’s just not how politics work in Alabama,” Worley said in a phone call according to WSFA’s Jennifer Horton.
“I don’t believe either of those candidates understood what was expected from a candidate, or what they should expect from the party,” Worley added per Horton.
The Democratic Party chairwoman took one last parting shot at the two candidates, suggesting they didn’t do all they could do to reach out to black voters.
“Some of our candidates chose to ignore the black voters in this election, that is a very wrong-headed decision on the part of a Democrat,” Worley said according to the WSFA report.
Just days before Tuesday’s election, Reed sent out a letter calling on candidates to give their “fair share” for the position they sought, which for some was as much as $25,000. That “fair share” was to be used to get out the vote in the black community.
Reed soundly dismissed Hagan’s remarks in an interview also conducted by WSFA’s Horton.
“She doesn’t know what she is talking about,” said Reed. “She doesn’t know anything about the party, she just ran for office and her ambitions exceeded her ability to run an executive campaign.”
He went on to accused Hagan of playing “politricks,” where he said was “bad.”
Mallory Hagan lashes out at Alabama Democratic Party in loss: ‘They sh-t on Democratic candidates left and right’
(Mallory Hagan for Congress/Facebook)
Tuesday night didn’t go the way Democratic Party congressional hopeful Mallory Hagan had hoped.
In a speech to supporters after her crushing 28-point defeat to incumbent Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) in Alabama’s third congressional district contest, Hagan ripped the Alabama Democratic Party by declaring it did not have “your best interests at heart.”
In a concession speech that more closely resembled a rant, Hagan attacked the leadership of the Alabama Democratic Party.
“My heart is beating very fast because I have to tell you that the challenge in the state of Alabama is not the Republican Party,” Hagan said. “It is the Democratic Party. I told you that I would fight for you and I will continue to do so because there are people who are in control of the Democratic Party who do not have your best interests at heart.”
“I am mad as hell right now,” she continued. “There are people who are in control of the Democratic Party who say they are fighting for you, who say they are standing up for you, who say they care about you and your communities. And yet, they shit on Democratic candidates left and right, excuse my language. They take from us. They demean us. They condescend to us as we run. They are not what I think the state of Alabama stands for, and I have dealt with it throughout this campaign cycle with my chin high and a smile on my face because I wanted to fight for all of you and all of our state.”
Just days before Tuesday’s election, Alabama Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Reed sent out a letter calling on candidates to give their “fair share” for the position they sought, which for some was as much as $25,000. Hagan called out Reed by name, as well as Alabama Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Worley and party leader Randy Kelley.
“But let me tell you this: I don’t see another person who ran tonight running again as long as Nancy Worley and Joe Reed and Randy Kelley are in charge of our party anymore,” she added.
Hagan’s remarks appear to be the latest chapter of infighting among Alabama Democrats, which is certain to be prolonged given Democrats’ poor showing on Tuesday.
Nationally, it wasn’t the best of outcomes for the Republican Party in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Despite gaining seats in the U.S. Senate, Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, which will inevitably have consequences for Donald Trump’s presidency.
Back home in Alabama, it was a much different story. The wounds of the 2017 U.S. Senate special election loss appear to have healed, and Alabama is resuming its traditional role as a decidedly pro-Republican state.
Much of what happened was to be expected, but there are a few things that we thought we knew but were verified after the results were tallied.
1) The Alabama Democratic Party needs to do some soul-searching: Earlier this year, there was a move to unseat state Democratic Party chairwoman Nancy Worley. That effort, which was backed by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), ultimately failed.
But maybe right now, Democrats wish they had gone with Peck Fox.
As it turned out, Alabama Democratic Caucus chair Joe Reed’s alleged get-out-the-vote effort/shakedown was ineffective (and perhaps non-existent), given Democrats actually lost ground in the legislature.
2) The Monroe County theorem holds: If things were so pro-Republican nationally that the GOP had a shot at keeping the U.S. House and the election was so nationalized, then perhaps there was enough Republican sentiment to flip county offices in Monroe County, a county that went for Donald Trump and Roy Moore but is still still dominated by Democrats at the county level.
Republicans didn’t win any countywide contests in Monroe County. While it looked as if they had a shot based on a Monroe County Courthouse lawn GOP rally in Monroeville held late in the campaign cycle that included an appearance from Gov. Kay Ivey, Democrats held the district and probate judgeships and the sheriff’s office.
If there was a non-metropolitan area outside of Alabama’s seventh congressional district on which the Alabama Republican Party should focus, it is the uniquely situated Monroe County sandwiched between ruby-red Baldwin County and dark blue Wilcox County.
Maddox lost by 20 points, well outside the margin of error, and by more than 328,000 votes. That’s more than the combined populations of Birmingham and Maddox’s hometown of Tuscaloosa.
4) No Blue Wave in Lee and Tuscaloosa Counties: These two counties were thought to be ground zero for any signs of life for a Democratic Party reemergence in Alabama. They went hard for Doug Jones in the 2017 special election.
But it wasn’t to be in 2018.
Maddox lost Tuscaloosa County, his home county, by 30 votes. He lost Lee County by nearly 19 points, roughly 9,000 votes.
5) No Dem upset in state legislature races: Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay) came close, but in the end, he was unable to reclaim the seat once held by Roger Bedford. State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) was able to hold on to his northwestern Alabama State Senate District 6 seat.
Republican Andrew Jones soundly defeated Rep. Craig Ford in his bid to run as an independent in northeastern Alabama’s State Senate District 10.
And State Sen. Tom Whatley earned a win over Democrat Nancy Bendinger by a 5-point margin in State Senate District 24, which is comprised mainly of Lee County.
6) Alabama’s political media are still irrelevant: Newspaper endorsements, a demand for debates — none of that mattered.
We were told repeatedly by the likes of AL(dot)com and various other political news outlets the people of Alabama deserved a debate between Kay Ivey and Walt Maddox.
Voters shrugged off the newspaper endorsements that were dominated by Democratic Party political hopefuls and did not punish Ivey for declining a debate.
The question is, given this obvious shortcoming of our state’s political media, will they change their ways? Probably not.
1) Monroe County as a national bellwether: In the county known for its American literary giants, Monroe County Democrats are on the defense for the first time since Reconstruction.
Monroe County is one of the last remaining holdouts for Democrats in conservative-leaning counties in Alabama. As the Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats faded and conservative Democrat officeholders made the transition to the GOP, Monroe County Democrats have been able to hold on to power.
The demographic shift resulting from Vanity Fair’s downsizing in Monroeville has aided Democrats, but the GOP is showing signs of life by fielding competitive candidates in the races for sheriff, probate judge and district judge.
If Monroe County finally makes the switch, it could be a sign of what is to come nationally.
2) Two competitive state senate races: Up in North Alabama on opposite sides of the state, the races for Alabama Senate Districts 6 and ten will be the most competitive in Alabama.
In District 6, State Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay) is challenging incumbent State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) for his seat. The seat, formerly held by Roger Bedford, is in play.
In District 10, Gadsden Democrat State Rep. Craig Ford is running as an independent against Centre Republican Andrew Jones for the seat soon to be vacated by Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City).
In a state without a lot of competitive races, these will be the two contests highlighting the slate of competitive races.
3) Will the Bob Vance-Tom Parker race for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice be competitive? Nah, but it should be closer than the other races at the top of the ticket.
Vance has a lot of support in Alabama’s legal community. A drive around the neighborhoods of Montgomery’s Cloverdale, Birmingham suburb Mountain Brook and Mobile’s Spring Hill also yields a lot of Vance yard signs.
However, overcoming the power of the straight-ticket voting is likely to prove to be difficult, especially in a down-ballot chief justice race.
4) Watch Lee and Tuscaloosa Counties and Birmingham’s southern “Over the Mountain” suburbs: If there are any signs of Alabama Republicans losing their stranglehold on Alabama, it will be in these three places.
In Lee and Tuscaloosa Counties, the explosive growth in academia has benefitted the University of Alabama and Auburn University. With that growth comes more Democrat voters.
Democrats are also making strides in places like Homewood, Vestavia Hills and Hoover, evidenced by Doug Jones’ 2017 election win.
Most of the precincts in these areas are still solidly R, but not as solid as they used to be.
5) Stop thinking Martha Roby is vulnerable: For whatever reason, the national media has focused on Alabama’s second congressional district throughout the 2018 election cycle.
The thinking was that Roby dropped her support for Donald Trump in the late stages of the 2016 election after the so-called “Billy Bush weekend,” she could be beaten in future elections. Roby was punished with four challengers in her primary, including a relic from the River Region’s political past, former Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright.
Before Roby’s election in 2008, Bright held the seat as a Democrat. National media types watching the race from afar thought since it had recently been in Democrat’s hand, it could be flipped.
Enter Tabitha Isner. Isner has been the recipient of puff pieces from national outlets. The theory is that with the changing demographics of Montgomery, dissatisfaction with Roby and the historical precedent of a post-presidential midterm will lend itself for a favorable result for a Democrat.
Ivey wraps up Election Eve Alabama tour with Birmingham stop — ‘Please keep pounding the streets’
BIRMINGHAM — Before a small crowd at the Southern Sky Aviation hangar at the Birmingham International Airport, Gov. Kay Ivey made her public remarks before people head to polls to vote in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Ivey faces Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, the Democratic Party gubernatorial nominee, in a race that most see her as the odds-on favorite to win.
The Birmingham stop was Ivey’s sixth of the day. She kicked off her tour of Alabama in Montgomery and made appearances in Huntsville, Mobile, Dothan and Auburn before arriving in the Magic City.
“Above all, this governor is kind,” Swaid said. “She is authentic. She is able to smile. When she smiles, my kids fall in love with her even more. She loves this state and its people in a way that I have not seen many politicians involved in this state and its people. And that’s what comes through when I see her. She is proud of the people of this state.”
Despite an apparent electoral advantage headed into Tuesday’s election, Ivey urged those in attendance to remain active until the polls close.
“If you want Alabama to keep working, then I need your help,” she said to those in attendance. “I need each one of you, your family and your friends and neighbors to go out tomorrow and vote. Make it your highest priority to go out and vote. I appreciate what you’ve accomplished with your vote and your energy.”
“Y’all, please keep pounding the streets, knocking on doors and making telephone calls all the way up until 7 o’clock tomorrow night,” Ivey added.
Later in remarks to reporters, Ivey reacted to Maddox’s claim their race was within the margin of error.
“He says a lot of things,” she replied.
Ivey is seeking a full-term as governor. She assumed the office in 2017 by virtue of being Alabama’s lieutenant governor after then-Gov. Robert Bentley was forced to step down amid allegations of violating ethics laws.
Federal Election Commission warns AL-3 Dem congressional hopeful Mallory Hagan on potential campaign finance violations
According to a letter dated October 25, 2018, from the Federal Election Commission addressed to Carlton Hunley, the treasurer for Alabama third congressional district Democratic nominee Mallory Hagan’s campaign, there are some campaign finance questions regarding her bid to unseat incumbent Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks).
The first area of concern according to Jones is that “one or more” of Hagan’s campaign contributions appear to exceed legal limits. The second is contributions classified as primary campaign contributions, which according to Jones’ letter “may only be accepted to the extent that the committee has net debts outstanding from the 2018 primary election.”
The contributions in question are from an individual named Robert M. Browne, as disclosed by the attachment at the end of Jones’ letter.
State Senate District 1 Democratic candidate Caroline Self may be ineligible for office
This is one of the instances when it would have been wise to read the fine print before signing up.
Caroline Self, the Democratic Party nominee for Alabama State Senate District 1, which includes parts of Lauderdale, Limestone and Madison Counties, qualified as a Democratic candidate for State Senate earlier this year.
However, she may not meet the qualifications laid out in the Alabama Constitution to serve as a state senator.
According to the biography on her campaign website, Self graduated from Florence’s Bradshaw High School in 1995. She went on to earn an undergraduate degree from Harvard and work at the White House before obtaining a law degree from Fordham University. She goes on to tout “telling the stories of Americans from all walks of life” while working in television.
And in 2017, she returned to Alabama to “work to make the stories of Alabamians better.”
But has she been a citizen and resident of Alabama long enough to meet requirements laid out in Article IV, Section 47 of the Constitution of Alabama? The language for the qualifications of senators and representatives in the Alabama Constitution states a residency requirement of three years:
Senators shall be at least twenty-five years of age, and representatives twenty-one years of age at the time of their election. They shall have been citizens and residents of this state for three years and residents of their respective counties or districts for one year next before their election, if such county or district shall have been so long established; but if not, then of the county or district from which the same shall have been taken; and they shall reside in their respective counties or districts during their terms of office.
Self faces incumbent State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), who had held the State Senate District 1 seat since 2014.
Marsh predicts lottery, infrastructure addressed next session; Rejects Medicaid expansion — Also ‘looking at’ 2020 U.S. Senate run
In an appearance Friday on Mobile’s FM Talk 106.5’s “Midday Mobile,” Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) discussed some of the issues of the day, including Tuesday’s election, next year’s legislative session and what his plans could be looking ahead.
Marsh told FM Talk 106.5 he expected the statehouse to remain about the same as it is now, a GOP supermajority. He said there were two competitive races to watch: Alabama’s Senate District 6 race between incumbent Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) and his Democratic challenger Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay), and the State Senate District 10 race between Rep. Craig Ford (I-Gadsden) and Cherokee County Republican Andrew Jones, who are both running to be Sen. Phil Williams’s (R-Rainbow City) replacement.
“I think you’re going to see the Republicans hold a supermajority in the Alabama legislature – both the Senate and the House,” Marsh said. “I think the Senate will end up somewhere between 24 and 27 [seats], the House about the same as it was the last quadrennium – both being supermajorities. I just don’t see this blue wave.”
“I may be fooled like everybody else, but we’ve only got two Senate races that we’re watching really close – that the Larry Stutts race up in North Alabama and Andrew Jones running against Craig Ford, who is running as an independent in Etowah [County]. Those are the two that are closest based on our polling,” he continued.
Marsh added they were watching everything else, including Sen. Tom Whatley’s (R-Auburn) race, who he credited for getting out and campaigning in his district to keep it in Republican hands.
He also credited federal issues, particularly Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation and a late-election cycle immigration threat, and the efforts of Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) and his campaign. Rogers’ congressional district includes Whatley’s State Senate district and Marsh’s as well.
“I think our base based on that should be fired up,” he added. “But again, you got them fired up on the other side for the same two reasons. The question is who is fired up more.”
With record lottery jackpots making headlines and Democratic candidates running on establishing a lottery, a lottery in Alabama has been an issue at the fore. Marsh predicted there was an “appetite” in the legislature to allow for a public vote on a lottery.
“That’s an odd situation,” he said. “Any polling we’ve done on the lottery in the last four or five years, even among Republicans, 65 percent are fine as long as they get a vote. They’re fine with it on the ballot. For some reason, a lot of our members have been real weak-kneed about bringing lottery legislation.”
He credited the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding sports gambling and Mississippi’s decision to establish a lottery for creating a political environment that makes it likely for a lottery bill to be introduced.
“I do believe that there’s an appetite more than ever to deal with a lottery bill,” Marsh added.
In an interview a day earlier, Marsh’s counterpart in the Alabama House, Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), suggested the possibility of a gas tax hike in 2019 as a means to finance any efforts to address Alabama’s infrastructure woes.
Marsh indicated infrastructure was on his radar and said the state needed to “be in a position” to receive federal money, which may require the state to raise a certain percentage to be eligible for that money.
“We want to be in a position if the feds pass an infrastructure bill – as you know, any time you want to take advantage of that, you have to be able to match it with state dollars,” he said. “We want to be in a position to do that. We want to make sure as we look into the future that our port’s, because we consider the port’s infrastructure – the reality is if we deepen the port down in Mobile, we could double the freight coming in and out of the port.”
He estimated there were 400 bridges in need of replacement and repair and said for Alabama to remain competitive that infrastructure would have to be addressed.
“The last time a tax was put in on infrastructure in Alabama was in 1992, 26 years ago,” Marsh explained. “The problem – it wasn’t a percentage. If it were a percentage, it would have moved with the price of fuel. We’d have seen more revenue for the state over the last 26 years. But it was a flat-number and what compounds that problem is there has been no growth because most people are driving cars today that get a third-more or more miles per gallon. They’ve basically been driving more miles on the road with the same amount of tax revenue paid in.”
“It’s a dilemma we got to ask ourselves – I think there is an appetite to look at it, where it goes, I don’t know,” he added. “There will be a serious discussion. It will have to start in the House. I’m going to continue to talk to the Speaker. I’m going to give him the information I’ve gathered over the summer based on the meetings we’ve had and see if we want to address this issue and look at a long-term infrastructure plan for the state.”
Last month, Marsh predicted a record education budget next session and stuck to that declaration in the interview.
“We should have a record budget on education,” Marsh said. “At the same time, we’ve also been working on a comprehensive plan for education for the state of Alabama.”
The Anniston Republican said his goal was to have a “seamless pre-K all the way to higher education plan.”
“It may take some legislation requirements once we get back in session,” he said. “We’re not sure. But we plan on having something ready to go in place by the time we come back in March because the education issue effects so much.”
Marsh tied the education issue to the struggles of Alabama’s prison system and health care system. He noted that 60 percent of Alabama’s prisoners don’t have a high school education and that obesity can also result from poor education on health issues.
The AAA gives parents the option of transferring students from schools deemed “failing” by the state. Marsh defended the law, noting the lack of accountability for public schools and argued competition was the missing component.
“There may be a run at that, but I’m fully supportive of the Accountability Act,” he said. “Of course, that was my bill some years ago. The reality is this: We have failing systems in Alabama. Our math scores are 49th in the country. Our reading scores are 46th, and that’s at an eighth-grade level. You can’t accept that.”
“We’ve got some great educators out there,” Marsh continued. “We got some great schools. We’ve got a lot of areas we got problems, and we can’t just ignore that. There’s no accountability system in education. They’ve got no competition. And the Accountability Act really basically puts some competition out there.”
Marsh blamed the Alabama Education Association (AEA) teachers’ union for this sudden push to eliminate the AAA.
“It’s the union – it’s the AEA union that is fighting this because they want no competition,” he said. “They do not want to be held accountable.”
On health care, Marsh dismissed the possibility of expanding Medicaid, which has been one of the key planks of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Walt Maddox.
“I can tell you – we have got a Republican-controlled legislature and they have no appetite to expand Medicaid. Medicaid already gets the bulk of the budget that we have discretion over. We’re trying to control costs. We’re doing a pretty good job with that. We’re going to continue to try to control those costs, and until we get those costs under control, we are not going to expand it.”
In national politics, Marsh said he expected the U.S. Senate to remain under GOP control and perhaps even gain some seats. On the House side of Capitol Hill, he said he anticipated the GOP to lose seats, but was not convinced the GOP would lose control.
“I think it’ll be close and I think if that happens, it’ll be a huge win for President Trump if he just holds the House,” Marsh said. “We’ll move forward. We’ll see how it goes. But I’m not buying into this blue wave. That’s my opinion.”
Marsh has been mentioned among the possible Republican challengers for Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), who is up for reelection in 2020. Marsh acknowledged to FM Talk 106.5 he was looking at that possibility when asked.
“It’s obvious I’m looking at that,” he replied. “I want someone to take that seat back as a Republican. I think Jones is a one-termer and somebody has got to challenge. And so, we’ll see. Right now, I’m focused on winning my race on Tuesday. But I’m going to leave an option to look at that when the time comes.”
McCutcheon: Expect strong results for GOP in Alabama Tuesday — Lottery, gas tax and health care addressed next session
In a wide-ranging interview that aired on Mobile’s FM Talk 106.5 on Thursday, Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) addressed Tuesday’s upcoming election and what his expectations were for next year’s legislative session.
On Tuesday’s general election, he said statewide there were a few races that he considered to be “active” on both sides of the fence.
“Most of the polling numbers we are getting are favorable,” he said. “Our candidates out there are doing a good job. Of course, some of these are incumbents. And then some of them are in the new and open seats. Overall, we are pleased with where we are.”
The lottery proposal has been one in this election season that has gotten a lot of attention, especially given the enormous jackpots for some of the lottery drawings nationally.
McCutcheon noted the push for a lottery had been an annual occurrence up on Goat Hill. In this upcoming legislative session, however, he said he expected it to get more attention given the public’s interest in the issue.
“We’ve dealt with the lottery bill for the last several years,” he said. “We deal with one every session. I think the upcoming session will be no different. What’s going to be the difference in this next upcoming session is the public is more educated with the lottery issue now. There’s been more talk about it in our communities around the state.”
The specifics of any lottery proposal will have a lot to do with whether or not that proposal moves forward, including how the proceeds from a lottery would be spent.
“I think the key issue is members in the House that want to support a lottery – they want to make sure that the definition is clear and understandable by the people to make sure it is not trying to be a massive gambling bill that is dealing with the statewide lottery issue, and it’ll be a vote of the people. I think that is one thing that will help move the bill forward,” stated McCutcheon.
“In the debate, if we get to the point where we have a debate on the floor for the lottery, I think the next question is going to be is where are the proceeds going to go?” he added. “Is it going to be something to shore up the general fund, or is it going to be an education lottery? Those are some questions that we still have to answer.”
The possibility of raising the state’s gas tax has also been mentioned in political circles given that roads and bridges have been a hot-button issue during this election cycle. McCutcheon predicted the gas tax would be on next year’s legislative agenda.
“I think we are,” he said. “I’ve been a supporter of our transportation since day one of being elected. I see the value of the transportation system to the economic growth of our state. The two go hand and hand.”
“We cannot continue to borrow enough money to fix our transportation issues,” McCutcheon added. “Our traffic congestion is growing. Our interconnecting systems that we need to have connectional four-lane systems in areas of our state connecting to the Interstate system is so vital to our recruitment of companies coming into the state, and we’ve got to address this issue. I think to have a tax, revenue stream at the pump is going to be a part of that package. But there’s other things we need to be looking at as well. This is a comprehensive bill that we really need to pay close attention to, such as the funding formula for the counties. How do we distribute the money out? Is the legislative body going to have a voice in the projects? Do we grade the projects out and try to take some of the politics out of which projects get done and which ones sit back on a 10-to-15-year plan. All these things are going to be a part of this, and we need to work hard on moving these things forward.”
One of the issues raised on the gubernatorial campaign trail, particularly by Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, the Democratic nominee for governor, has been the expansion of Medicaid, especially with the recent string of rural hospital closures.
“This isn’t something that hasn’t just come up,” McCutcheon said. “We’ve been working with this, with the Medicaid issue and the funding that we are paying into the Medicaid system. It continues to grow. Last year was the first year in several years we were able to actually save a little money and level out our Medicaid funding. But that’s just a one-year thing. The Medicare and Medicaid payments coming into our facilities – that is also an important component of our rural hospitals and hospital network.”
McCutcheon said creating a regional network of hospitals as part of a possible solution. However, he seemed to be skeptical of how the expansion of Medicaid as a solution would be financed.
“At the end of the day, it is easy for somebody to get out here and talk about the expansion of Medicaid, but when you really dig down into the weeds, and you look at the numbers and the increase in numbers, the question that’s out there – how are you going to pay for it? Where is the money coming from?” he questioned.
He went on to add that given the number of dollars the state has received from Washington, D.C., Alabama has done well.
“But we’ve got to move forward with some innovative plans, especially when it comes to rural health care,” he said. “We’re still working on that. I couldn’t give you an answer today of what that would be, but we’ve got some people that are looking at all the options to see where we stand.”
McCutcheon also spoke about his recent Power of Service award he received at a reception hosted by Yellowhammer News last week.
In an appearance Friday on MSNBC, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) sounded off on what the best strategy for red-state Democrats headed into a tough re-election bid next week should be, especially given at least two of those incumbent Democrats, Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) are trailing in their respective contests.
Given that Jones is a Democrat that pulled off a monumental upset in Alabama last year, he is seen as an authority on the subject of Democrats conquering red states.
He explained to host Hallie Jackson those Democrats facing challenges in states that Trump won in 2016 have an out on the hot-button immigration issue given Senate Democrats supported funding for border security of “up to $25 billion,” and added that Republicans “killed it.” However, he said the best path forward for Democrats was to “pivot” to other issues.
Jackson pushed back against Jones’ assertion by saying that the kitchen-table issues messaging wasn’t necessarily resonating with voters in battleground states.
“I’m not sure I agree with you, Hallie,” Jones replied. “The immigration issue resonates with the base — the president’s base. That’s not going to decide this election. What is going to decide this election is those folks in the middle, and the millennials that you talked about, and the others that are coming out in droves, just like they did in my election in December. That election gave so many people a reason to hope and understand that their votes make a difference, that elections have consequences. I think what you’re seeing is so many people are going to be focused on what we call the kitchen-table issues, and health care is going to be an issue.”
“The president is going to drive his base, for sure,” he continued. “But remember, every time he does that, he is also driving up a different base as well, and that’s the base that wants to see real change in this country and want to make sure that we do health care, education and jobs.
Jones noted the positive jobs report that came out earlier in the day but said that not every state was reaping the reward with the increase of wages, including in Alabama.
“We got a good report coming out, but guess what? Wages in West Virginia and Alabama and the South are not moving up,” Jones added.
Flashback early 2017: The Resistance was underway. Women took the city streets with hats appearing to be cat ears or female anatomy. Outrage at town halls. People came from miles away to express their frustrations at people like Bradley Byrne.
Would it last? Could it be sustained? Later that year, Doug Jones pulled off a monumental upset and won on the Democratic ticket in a statewide election in Alabama.
Heck, if a Democrat is winning in Alabama, there’s trouble.
Then came the retirements of Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and a handful of House members.
Add to that the Robert Mueller probe and the historical precedent of the party in power suffering losses in the midterm elections after a presidential election — it was shaping up to be a big year for Democrats.
A so-called “blue wave” was coming and Alabama wasn’t going to be immune if we were to believe what the local media was telling us at the qualifying deadline.
“Democrats filled all the spots on the ballot! Holy cow! It must be serious.”
Then somewhere along the way, the wave subsided.
As of November 1, 2018, things aren’t as bad for Republicans as they were supposed to be. There’s almost no chance Democrats can gain control of the U.S. Senate. In fact, some Senate Republicans might even expand their roster.
The House – everyone assumed this was a no-brainer. Heck, we were told that even everyone’s favorite member of the House to call vulnerable Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) better watch out. But, no – it is no longer a sure thing that the Democrats take the House.
Instead of what it should be, which is like Alabama being a 22-point favorite over Ole Miss on the road, it is more Auburn being a five-point favorite at home against Ole Miss.
With Alabama, you know it is a pretty safe bet they’ll notch the “w,” but with Auburn, you’re not that sure. You think the Tigers will probably win, but you’re not to the point you’re going to bet the rent money on it.
That’s where the Democratic Party is right now. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn. Pelosi, like Malzahn, has had a lot of success in the past. She’s even pulled off a miracle or two as the House Democratic caucus’ leader.
But, she has underperformed as of late. She’s been unable to score what should have been easy victories, like the Jon Ossoff-Karen Handel race in last year’s Georgia’s sixth district special election. And much like Coach Malzahn, she is playing for her job in the leadership in next week’s midterm elections.
If you take the temperature, it doesn’t feel like the pending doom for Republicans.
Consider all the prior midterm elections. The so-called 1994 Republican revolution snuck up on a lot of people, but Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” proved to be a cleaver election gimmick.
With the 2006 midterms, you could sense the writing on the wall. It began with the George W. Bush failed Social Security reform bid, continued with the bungling of the Hurricane Katrina response and was complimented with anti-war sentiment.
With the 2010 midterms, it all started with CNBC’s Rick Santelli’s call for a tea party from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange over the possibility of a housing bailout in 2009. A never-before-seen populist revolt took place on the right, and the aftermath of the 2010 midterms pretty much ended any hope of Barack Obama building off his Affordable Care Act victory earlier that year.
If you could point to the signature element of the 2018 midterm election for Democrats, what might it be? A Russia investigation that half the electorate thinks is phony and ginned up? Is it a Donald Trump tweet?
None of those measure up to disruptions in people’s health care, images of flag-draped coffins at Dover AFB or chaos in the streets of a major American city after a hurricane.
The hand Democrats did have – the Russia investigation, low-approval numbers, and an internal West Wing discipline problem – was overplayed. Did the grassroots activist wing of the Democratic Party really think banging the drum of anti-Trump dissatisfaction for two-straight years wouldn’t wear out the average voter?
Then the hearings and the scrutiny Brett Kavanaugh faced during his confirmation hearings woke up an otherwise sleeping element within the GOP.
Call it an unforced error or a free shot on goal.
After national Democrats had a four-touchdown lead, they’re now only up by a field goal at the two-minute warning.
The wind is still blowing in the Democratic Party’s direction. They are still a slight favorite to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But it is hardly a “blue wave” that would send the country down the path of socialism. @Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.