1 year ago

John Merrill on the stump: U.S. Senate hopeful talks immigration, culture, fiscal responsibility and attacks opponents

FORT PAYNE – If you have spent any time in politics around the state of Alabama, you have likely heard one of Secretary of State John Merrill’s talks about the progress he has made while in office, which is usually accompanied by figures like the number of voters registered or taxpayer dollars saved to back up his claims.

However, since announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate last week, Merrill the U.S. senatorial campaigner is not as well known.

At an appearance on Saturday before the monthly Dekalb County Republican Breakfast Club meeting, Merrill laid out some elements of his campaign and argued why he thought he was the best candidate among the field of declared Republican candidates seeking the party’s nod.


Merrill acknowledged that he was not with President Donald Trump from the very beginning given his support for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the early stages of the 2016 presidential election cycle. However, he said once Trump won the nomination he gave his full support from then through now, despite some “hard” times along the way.

“People will tell you they want to be your United States Senator because they want to support the president,” he said. “I’ve supported the president. I supported the president when he was the nominee. I remember being in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention. I was being interviewed by CSPAN on the floor of the convention. And the lady that was interviewing me – she said, ‘Have you always been a supporter of the nominee, Donald Trump?’ And I said, ‘No, ma’am. I supported Mike Huckabee in the primary, and I don’t make any apologies for that. But I’ll tell you this: Not only did I not support him then, but 85% of the people that are here didn’t support him, either. But you want to know something? We’re all supporting him now because he’s our nominee and he’s going to be our next president. And he’s going to help turn this country around.’”

“From that point to November, there were a few times it got hard for a few people to support him. It didn’t get hard for me, and it didn’t get hard for y’all,” he added. “Because we understood what he was trying to do. That is why when I become your next United States Senator, we’re going to help build the wall. Why are we going to do that? Because we’re going to stop the bleeding of illegal immigrants that are coming in this nation.”

With those remarks, Merrill earned the gathering’s applause and touted being the only candidate in the race to have helped Trump on immigration given that included among his duties of being Alabama secretary of state, he has promoted voter registration and photo identification and insured the integrity of the voter rolls, which he said has kept illegal immigrants off voter rolls and out of the election process.

The U.S. Senate hopeful also railed against the move toward socialism by some on the Democratic side of the aisle.

“We’ve got to push back against that socialist agenda that’s being advanced by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, by Senator Chuck Schumer, and by Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” he said. “We have to push back against what they’re doing because they will continue to tear down the basic foundational principles of our country and what has made our country great today.”

Merrill also urged fiscal responsibility, and pointed to his opponents, presumably referring to former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

“You ask the other candidates how you push back against record spending, where have you been. Ask how they’ve cut their budget, how they’ve cut staff,” he said. “Because you’re not going to get a positive answer from somebody who expanded the court system. You’re not going to get that answer from somebody who has been in Congress who has been a part of the swamp. And you’re not going to get that answer from an athletic administrator football coach who says I need more coaches and more money. You’re not going to get that answer from them.”

According to Merrill, he had, in fact, cut his operation to do more with less by downsizing his staff from 49 to 36 and significantly expedited business filings that once ranged from taking seven to nine months before confirming receipt, to same-day service.

“We’re not operating at the speed of government anymore,” he added. “We’re operating at the speed of business.”

Merrill took a jab at Byrne for his remarks about the proposed toll for the new Mobile Bay Bridge. Byrne told a town hall meeting in Magnolia Springs last week he had “pretty much done as much” as he could do, to which Merrill seemed to indicate was an unsatisfactory response.

“Those people are not prepared to do what I can do for you,” he said. “They don’t have the proven track record that I have of accomplishment and effectiveness to show you what they’ll be able to do when they’re there. One of them is already there. They asked him about a major bridge project that’s going on down in Mobile. He said, ‘I’ve done all I can do. My hands are tied.’ What if you told your son who is out working in the yard you needed that wood finished and he said, ‘Daddy, I’ve done all I can do. I’m through.’ You’d jerk a knot in his tail until he got out there and got it right.’ We need people who are not going to accept ‘no’ for an answer. We’re going to find a way to get it done. That’s what my daddy taught me. That’s what y’all’s daddy taught y’all.”

He fielded a question from the group gathered about the shift in the culture and noted that some of that shift could be attributed to the changes in pop culture, including what was being shown on television.

“[T]hat’s what we’ve allowed to happen,” Merrill said. “How have we allowed it to happen? There are no more good TV shows on like ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Bonanza,’ ‘The Virginian,’ ‘Andy Griffith,’ ‘I Love Lucy.’ We don’t have those shows anymore. We’re too interested in homosexual activities. We’re too interested in seeing how this family’s finding a way to mess on this family or to see how people are trying to date on TV, or having wife-swapping on TV. That’s what we watch. When we push back against that, and we quit allowing it to be in our homes – that’s how those changes have occurred because we’ve allowed them to slowly but surely come into our lives.”

Merrill pledged that he and his wife Cindy were willing to face the scrutiny of what is likely to be a very competitive statewide campaign.

“One of my friends asked me, he said, ‘John, are you prepared to go through what you’re going to have to go through if you run for the United States Senate,’” Merrill said. “He asked me this on the Sunday before the Tuesday. He said, ‘Are you prepared for the attacks that you’ll face and that Cindy will face? Are you prepared to stand up and fight against that? Is it worth it to you to go through what you’re going to have to go through and pay the price to make it happen? Is it worth it?’”

“’And I said, ‘Ron, let me ask you a question,’” he continued. “He said, ‘OK.’ I said, ‘Is the Republic worth it? Is the Republic worth it? It is worth it to me. And I know it is worth it to y’all and that’s why there is a room full today because y’all understand it. We have got to stand and push back, and continue to fight and support the president and to make these changes that we have to make in order to protect and defend our country as we have known it to be or it will cease to be that way.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

Guest: Physicians are no longer on the front lines of this pandemic — You are

State Health Officer is a difficult role to fill, especially this year. While partisanship and conspiracies continue to divide us, it is the job of the State Health Officer to make decisions for the good of all people throughout Alabama. This is exactly what Dr. Scott Harris has done for Alabamians during (and before) the COVID-19 pandemic.

After reading a recent article about Dr. Harris, I was appalled but not surprised by the fact that he has received death threats over mask mandates and other preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Governor Kay Ivey enacted the first mask mandate on July 16, 2020, at the recommendation of Dr. Harris and others. After the initial mandate, Alabama’s case average and death rates quickly fell. Neighboring states without mask mandates – including Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee – all continued to rise above Alabama’s average.

As President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, I would like to proudly declare my support of Dr. Harris and Governor Ivey in regard to the mask ordinance, social distancing guidelines, and other measures to protect the citizens of Alabama. Science and data have shown us time and time again that these guidelines work. That being said, why are there still Alabamians who push against these life-saving initiatives?

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While appealing to a sense of personal responsibility should be effective enough, it has proved not to be. What happens when personal responsibility is not enough, and people are endangering others? Mask mandates. Social distancing guidelines. Occupancy limitations.

Physicians and other health care providers have worked tirelessly to serve our patients, even at the cost of our own health and safety. What if I told you that we are no longer on the front lines of this pandemic, but you are? You have the power and capability to stop the spread of the Coronavirus that has taken over 3,450 lives in Alabama and 1.39 million lives worldwide. All you have to do to potentially save a life is to wear a mask in public, socially distance and wash your hands. These simple actions not only save lives, but can also help our physicians and hospital systems not get overwhelmed with patients. You can help keep your family and our families safe at the same time.

As we head into this holiday season, we can’t require people to keep themselves safe, but we are asking them to keep other people safe. Many people could be infected and transmit the disease to others without even knowing they are sick. I just hope that we can recontextualize the mask mandate and see it as a simple act of kindness to protect those around you. It seems like the least we can do for our families, friends, loved-ones, physicians, nurses, and communities as a whole.

John S. Meigs, Jr., MD is the president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama

3 hours ago

Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear retiring; Kim Boswell appointed as successor

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that Lynn Beshear will retire as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) effective December 16.

Beshear was appointed by Ivey to this position in July 2017, shortly after the governor took office.

Yellowhammer News earlier this year named Beshear a 2020 Woman of Impact.

“When Lynn was appointed, I knew that she would approach her role always thinking of what is best for the people of Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement.

“She has created a collaborative team approach within the Alabama Department of Mental Health to solve intricate problems regarding delivery of services for mental illness, substance abuse disorder and intellectual disability. I am truly grateful for her service to our state and wish her best in her next chapter,” she continued.

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While leading ADMH, Beshear has spearheaded several initiatives to increase access of services for Alabamians with mental illness, while navigating complexities of delivery by the department and community providers.

“It is been an honor to serve as the Commissioner of the department,” Beshear commented. “I am stepping into the next chapter of my life proud of the accomplishments of the department and am incredibly honored to have worked with such dedicated individuals who are committed to improving the lives of others. I profoundly thank Governor Ivey for her trust in me these last three years and have no doubt the department will continue to change the lives of the people of Alabama for the better.”

Ivey’s office in a release outlined that under Beshear’s leadership, ADMH launched Stepping Up Alabama, which uses the national model to reduce the numbers of jailed individuals with mental illness. Alabama is the only state to expand the goal to include ER’s and substance use disorder. It is anticipated that a case management component of Stepping Up will be in place in all 67 counties by the end of the Fiscal Year 2022.

Additionally, three mental health crisis centers were recently announced as crisis diversion centers, with the goal of individuals receiving “the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Expansion of school-based mental health, hiring a housing coordinator for individuals’ stabilization plan, and expansion of early childhood services and autism services are examples of ADMH’s expansion of services during Beshear’s tenure.

The governor on Monday also announced she is appointing Kim Boswell to be the new ADMH commissioner effective December 16.

Boswell reportedly has more than 36 years of experience working with individuals with mental illness, substance abuse disorders and developmental disabilities.

She currently serves as chief of staff for Beshear and has been both associate commissioner for Administration as well as director of Human Resources for the department. During her career, Boswell has worked as a planner to improve human service delivery systems, a Program Evaluator, a School to Work Transition Coordinator, and has also served as the State Office Administrator for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

“I’m pleased to announce Kim Boswell as Commissioner for the Alabama Department of Mental Health,” Ivey stated. “She has spent the entirety of her professional career devoted to helping struggling individuals and I appreciate her willingness to serve in this new capacity. Her background as a mental health provider as well as administrator makes her uniquely qualified.”

The governor’s office noted that Kim Boswell is of no relation to ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Report: Democratic-aligned group tried to register dead Alabama woman to vote in Georgia

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday said his office is investigating four different voter registration groups for potential wrongdoing ahead of the state’s crucial January 5 U.S. Senate runoffs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Raffensperger, a Republican, held a press conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta to outline these investigations.

The theme of the alleged actions by all four groups under investigation pertains to attempting to register people who do not currently reside in Georgia to vote in the Peach State’s runoffs.

One of the groups was founded by Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who lost the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018; she has still not conceded that election. Her group allegedly solicited individuals residing in New York City to register to vote in Georgia.

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Another group, Vote Forward, is alleged to have attempted to register a dead Alabama woman to vote in the upcoming runoff.

Vote Forward is a 501(c)(4) aligned with Democratic groups and left-leaning causes.

The group’s other prominent Alabama tie?

On Vote Forward’s website, the organization cites its voter registration and turnout efforts in the Yellowhammer State as being effective in helping U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) win his 2017 special election bid.

In fact, the website says, “The project began as an experiment conducted by Scott Forman in Alabama in 2017. Encouraged by the success of that test, Scott and a small group of friends and fellow Opower alumni built this platform…”

On Monday, Raffensperger stressed that Vote Forward and the three other named groups “have a responsibility to not encourage illegal voting.”

“If they do so, they will be held responsible,” he added.

The outcome of Georgia’s runoffs is of paramount importance for Alabama, as U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) will lose the chairmanship of the powerful Committee on Appropriations if Republicans do not win these two races.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has launched a nationwide Georgia Battleground Fund leadership team to aid fundraising in their effort to hold the Senate majority. Led by Karl Rove as national finance chairman, this also includes state chairs and a distinguished team of national and honorary co-chairs.

Katie Boyd Britt — current president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama and former chief of staff to Shelby — is the Alabama state chair for this effort.

“America’s fate rests on the outcome of these Georgia races,” stated Rove. “Democrats have not been shy about what they’ll do if Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi run Congress, so it’s imperative every freedom loving American go all in for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler so they’re victorious. I’m honored to work with so many great Republican leaders from all 50 states and D.C. to ensure these two Senators have the resources to protect the last line of defense against the Democrats’ left-wing agenda.”

RELATED: Republican organizer leading team of volunteers to aid Senate races in Georgia

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Alabama sets state record for COVID-19 hospitalizations

Alabama recorded its largest yet number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Monday as the state’s coronavirus statistics continue to reach alarming levels.

There were 1,717 individuals in the hospital with COVID in Alabama on Monday, eclipsing the previous record of 1,613 set on August 6.

UAB Hospital, the state’s biggest and most prominent medical facility, is currently treating 125 coronavirus patients, a new high for the facility.

“125 patients means 125 patients receiving in-hospital, bed-specific care. These are patients who are either very sick, unable to get better, or potentially unable to survive without medical attention and care,” UAB explained about their hospitalized patients in a press release.

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Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)
(UAB/Contributed)

UAB’s numbers include any patient admitted to the hospital with a diagnosed case of COVID-19.

The hospital’s numbers appear to indicate a worrying spike in the Birmingham metropolitan area. UAB was treating just 79 coronavirus patients on Thursday.

Overall, Alabama’s count of new coronavirus cases remains about as high as it has ever been. On average, 1,733 new cases have been added each day over the last week.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)

Yellowhammer News is using statewide coronavirus numbers from BamaTracker in this piece. BamaTracker is a website that collects and displays coronavirus data published by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Additionally, Yellowhammer is counting new cases as those confirmed by a chemical test performed in a laboratory. When adding results from rapid tests and other methods classified by ADPH as “probable” positives, Alabama’s seven-day average rises to 2,206.

Past trends in coronavirus data show that a spike in hospitalizations follows a spike in new cases by 2-3 weeks. A corresponding increase in deaths follows the increase in hospitalizations by around one month.

All but three of Alabama’s 67 counties reported a new COVID-19 case on Monday, indicating continued widespread transmission across the state.

Of all COVID-19 tests administered in Alabama over the last 14 days, 26.1% came back positive, the highest rate the state has suffered during the pandemic.

In recent days, for every eight tests administered, one was positive, per BamaTracker’s calculations.

Approximately 13 coronavirus deaths were reported in Alabama each day over the last week. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,246, with another 332 listed as “probable” but not yet confirmed by ADPH.

Doctors continue to recommend wearing face masks, staying at least six feet apart from others, and washing hands frequently as the best ways to slow the spread of the virus.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

5 hours ago

Alabama’s state Christmas tree to be delivered on Tuesday

Alabama’s official Christmas tree will be delivered to the State Capitol on Tuesday, the governor’s office said.

This year’s tree, donated by Robbins Taylor, Sr., is an Eastern Red Cedar arriving from Letohatchee in Lowndes County.

The tree stands about 35 feet tall and will be displayed on the front steps of the State Capitol building in Montgomery.

Following its delivery, the tree will be decorated throughout the week with lights and other adornments before the traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which is scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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