GOP U.S. Senate hopefuls unite on faith, Trump; Rally against Doug Jones at Butler Co. forum
GREENVILLE — On Monday evening, four of the Republican U.S. Senate candidates vying for a shot at running against U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) appeared at a forum at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College to make their cases to the assembled voters.
Haleyville businessman Stanley Adair, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), Secretary of State John Merrill and Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) all took the stage to discuss faith, President Donald Trump, Doug Jones and more.
Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, the two candidates currently at the top of the polls, were not in attendance. When asked by Yellowhammer about attending the forum, the Sessions campaign pointed to its busy schedule, while the Tuberville campaign cited a conflicting event in the Wiregrass Monday night.
Each of the around 100 voters in the room had a rack sheet from the major candidates waiting for them when they took their seats.
The four candidates largely agreed on most issues. They all described their desire to fight against a Democratic Party they see as moving rapidly leftward, and they all want to help President Donald Trump curtail illegal immigration. They passionately spoke about their Christian faith, adding they think Doug Jones is too liberal for Alabama.
Stanley Adair, a businessman and former televangelist from Haleyville, spoke first. Adair has not registered much support in the polls up to this point. Adair talked about his furniture business struggling in the 1990s and how he felt he was “a victim of NAFTA.”
In a seeming implicit criticism of Byrne and Sessions, he said, “[Y]ou can’t keep sending the same people to Washington and expecting different results.”
When Byrne took the stage, he referenced his stint “cleaning up corruption” while he was chancellor of the Alabama Community College System. In his remarks, Byrne underlined his staunch defense of President Trump against the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Byrne stated his belief that the Democrats are not impeaching Trump to remove him, but rather are “trying to dirty him up enough” so that Trump cannot win reelection in 2020.
Byrne was the one candidate to directly address the two of his competitors who were not in attendance.
“I wish the others had shown up,” he told the audience.
Merrill began with his hallmark recitations of the statistics about his visit. Monday was Merrill’s 575th visit to Alabama’s 67 counties this year, and his eighth time in Butler county.
“No candidate in this race travels the state of Alabama the way I do,” he claimed.
Merrill called himself a “proven reformer” and brought up his term in the legislature.
He referenced his legislative rating by The Sunlight Foundation, saying, “They didn’t say I was the most conservative, they sure didn’t say I was the most liberal, they said I was the most effective.”
In a race and on an evening where the candidates have mostly sought to demonstrate their conservative bona fides, Merrill’s highlighting his effectiveness over conservatism stood out.
Merrill also brought up with pride beating lawsuits against him brought by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU.
“We pushed back against their liberal socialist agenda,” Merrill said.
Undecided voter Pam Martin told Yellowhammer after the event that she had become a fan of Merrill.
“I like his approach,” she said.
Mooney took the final speaking slot on the night. He began with a lengthy description of how he grew up, his education and how he met his wife.
He has pushed bellicose ads with hardline rhetoric and immigration proposals. In his time on stage, Mooney cited several endorsements, including conservative Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY), as well as Fox News host Mark Levin.
“Debt is going to kill us if we don’t get it under control,” said Mooney.
Yellowhammer approached several undecided voters whose minds had not been changed by what they heard on Monday.
Norman Lowery said there was not a standout.
“They all did a good job, made good points,” said Lowery.
Denise Grant said, “They were all well spoken. I liked their fundamentals, and that they talked about their faith.”
Cade Goodridge agreed that all the candidates had done well.
“I’ll need more time to decide,” he said.
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: email@example.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.