1 year ago

Merrill officially running for Senate — ‘It’s time for us to stand up’

MONTGOMERY — In front of approximately 150 cheering friends, family and supporters on the south steps of the Alabama State Capitol, Secretary of State John Merrill on Tuesday officially declared his Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2020.

The event was certainly the most widely attended campaign announcement of the cycle thus far, and Merrill — well known as a tenacious campaigner and tireless worker — brings authentic energy to an extremely competitive primary field of Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Merrill, 55, came out of the gates playing offense, releasing a video to coincide with his announcement that took small shots at his leading competitors.

Watch:

At his event, Merrill was joined by many prominent grassroots activists from across the state, along with some well known political faces, including Alabama House Rules Committee Chairman Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) and former State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle).

Merrill emphasized that although all of the other GOP candidates in the race have certain positives, he would not be running if he thought any of them could do a better job as Alabama’s next U.S. senator.

He explained that people started coming to him in January asking him to consider a run.

Over the course of this year since then, Merrill has heard from many different people wanting a consensus candidate that can unite the Alabama Republican Party and defeat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2020. According to Merrill, he is running to be that candidate that is a unifying force among conservatives.

He said he met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in February right before the State of the Union and has also visited with Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) regarding the race. Both senior senators, according to Merrill, emphasized that their priority is to see a Republican nominee that can defeat Jones, help advance President Donald Trump’s agenda and keep the Republicans in the Senate majority.

Merrill said he has looked up to Shelby for a long time since he was an intern in the nation’s capital in 1984.

“I will continue to rely on him (Shelby) for guidance and counsel because of his experience and the things he’s done,” Merrill commented on his plans if elected. “But we’re always going to put Alabama first, and we’re always going to do everything we can to make America great.”

He said he has had the general desire to be a U.S. senator for a long time, going back to his college days.

An interesting talking point Merrill stressed was on fixing the immigration and border security “fiasco” in America. He slammed Democrats and Republicans alike for not solving the problem before now, saying that members of both parties just want to keep the situation in crisis to use as political red meat and a campaign “cash cow.”

Merrill said that agriculture is Alabama’s number one industry, and people in the state need a legal immigration system that allows migrant workers to properly enter the country and contribute to the American economy. He said that he wants anyone who wants to immigrate to the United States to be able to but that all immigrants must do so “the right way” — through legal channels.

“We have to have someone go to Washington, D.C. who’s willing to support the president and help the president build the wall to stop the immigration fiasco that’s currently ongoing in our nation,” Merrill remarked.

He also spoke more about how Jones is better suited to represent California, New York or Illinois than Alabama, saying Jones’ values and priorities simply do not match the clear majority of his constituents.

“It’s time for us to stand up … Alabama needs someone who will stand up to socialists AOC, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi, and I’ll do that, just like I did when I defeated the ACLU and liberal special interests,” Merrill said.

“I can tell you this, the people behind me and the people in the 67 counties of this state … do not want a liberal socialist representing them in Washington, D.C.,” he added of Jones.

The secretary of state also reminded people of his work to ensure all eligible Alabamians have their right to vote safeguarded, reiterating his tagline of, “Easy to vote, hard to cheat.”

Merrill, responding to a question from The Montgomery Advertiser’s Brian Lyman, ended any speculation that he will resign from his current office to run for the Senate. He explained that the secretary of state office’s job duties do not present a conflict of interest in running for a statewide office at the same time. It should also be noted that the secretary of state is an elected position and no one called for Merrill to resign when he was running for reelection in 2018 while overseeing that election cycle.

He branded himself as a “proven” choice, citing his tenure in the state House from 2010-2014 and as secretary of state as being marked with pro-jobs conservative reforms, including streamlining business filings to become same-day electronic filings now.

Merrill, a former SGA president at the University of Alabama who represented Tuscaloosa in the House, threw in a big, “Roll Tide” during his speech.

He continued, “Now, let me say this in deference to my friends from Lee County, whom I have many: I want you to know I can say, ‘War Eagle.'”

As a native of Wedowee, Merrill said ensuring rural Alabamians are equally represented in the Senate will be a key priority of his.

Watch the entire event:

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

5 mins ago

Auburn taking no action against lecturer who said ‘F*** every single cop,’ advocated for abolishing ‘whiteness’

Auburn University will not fire or otherwise take action against an incoming lecturer who recently sparked controversy for incendiary comments about law enforcement.

Yellowhammer News last week broke the news about Jesse A. Goldberg, Ph.D., who is set to begin as a lecturer in Auburn’s English department this fall semester.

The Auburn faculty member tweeted the following (censoring added by Yellowhammer News):

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F*ck every single cop. Every single one. The only ethical choice for any cop to make at this point is to refuse to do their job and quit. The police do not protect people. They protect capital. They are instruments of violence on behalf of capital.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Goldberg in other social media posts. He also tweeted, “Whiteness is violence. Abolish whiteness.”

Goldberg, as he has noted before on social media, is himself white.

Yellowhammer News’ reporting last week reached national publications and others across the state, leading elected officials to weigh in.

Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) tweeted that Auburn “should FIRE Jesse Goldberg for venomous hate of America’s law enforcement community.”

“Auburn: please investigate, determine truth, fire this guy IF media reports accurate! Tax dollars should not fund police haters,” he added.

State Rep. Brett Easterbrook (R-Fruitdale), a member of the House Education Policy Committee, reacted to Goldberg’s statements about law enforcement in a Facebook post of his own.

“You wonder how our society raised a bunch of communist that hate our country? Here is one of the main sources of the problems in our society. Universities!” Easterbrook said. “Not all college professors are complete liberals that are educated beyond their understanding, but here is a prime example.”

“He also thinks we should abolish a society that could have prisons. Simply release all prisoners? Obviously he has no idea what type of people are in those prisons and yet he is educating our youth,” the freshman state legislator continued. “Professor Goldberg needs to resign today. If not, Auburn University, should fire him immediately. Our tax dollars are paying for this foolishness. As an Auburn graduate, I am ashamed that someone like this is ‘educating’ our children.”

A statement from an Auburn spokesperson to Yellowhammer News last week said, “Auburn officials are considering options available to the university.”

However, after that consideration, no action will apparently be taken.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) had written to Auburn on August 3 defending Goldberg’s social media posts as protected speech under the First Amendment. FIRE argued that since Auburn is a public institution, they could not punish the employee for his views.

Writing back to FIRE in a letter this week, Auburn University President Dr. Jay Gogue noted that he was “pleased to respond in order to confirm Auburn’s commitment to the Constitution.”

“Your letter specifically requests that Auburn ‘publicly disclaim the possibility of disciplinary sanctions against Dr. Goldberg,” Gogue continued. “Dr. Goldberg, in expressing his thoughts, was not authorized to and did not purport to speak on behalf of Auburn University. Auburn affirms that it will not take adverse action against Dr. Goldberg or any member of the Auburn community based on that person’s engagement in individual speech or conduct protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States or the State of Alabama.”

He added, “That is true even when such speech is deemed by many to be offensive, indecent, of little value, and of great cost to the institution. Indeed, even when a message may be viewed as disrespectful and abhorrent, Auburn will not violate the law or Auburn policy.”

This letter was praised by FIRE, who noted Auburn currently holds their highest possible rating for free speech policies among college campuses.

However, not everyone is a fan of the university’s decision on Goldberg. Reacting to Auburn’s announcement, State Rep. Proncey Robertson (R-Mount Hope), also a member of the House Education Policy Committee, said he was “very disappointed.”

“As you consider where to send your student to college, or where to spend your money on sports memorabilia, etc. I would encourage you to remember this decision by Auburn University,” he wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.

“This professor and Auburn Universtiy has a right to their views,” Robertson concluded. “But, they do not have a right to your personal tuition money or your tax dollars.”

Yellowhammer News has requested comment from Auburn on the decision.

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

3 hours ago

7 Things: College students with coronavirus will be isolated, PPP saved 672,861 jobs, State Rep. Dismukes has another bad day and more …

7. Fauci is already looking at coronavirus next year

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci has predicted that the coronavirus is going to be something that we live with for a while since it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to completely get rid of it due to how “highly transmissible” it is.
  • Fauci said that we need a “combination of a good vaccine and attention to public health measures,” and he doesn’t mean more shutdowns, but we could be wearing masks and social distancing for quite some time. Fauci added that “by the time we get through 2021 and go around for another cycle that we’ll have this under control.”

6. No plans to clean the Madison County monument

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  • Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong has addressed the issue of the vandalized Confederate monument outside the Madison County courthouse in downtown Huntsville, saying, “It will be left as is for now.”
  • Strong clarified that there are no plans to clean the monument currently, adding, “[It] would not be right to ask county employees to do it.”

5. Democrats don’t want a deal

  • As negotiations continue between Republicans and Democrats over another coronavirus relief bill, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has said, “Democrats might not want a deal, politically.”
  • There’s further evidence that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have minimal intention of reaching a deal. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has said that four offers have been made that include $600 per week unemployment benefits, but Pelosi and Schumer have rejected each offer and given no counteroffers.

4. Majority favor mask order

  • A new poll released by Hill-HarrisX shows that among registered voters, 82% would support a national mask mandate, with 61% strongly supporting and 21% somewhat supporting.
  • The age groups of 18-34 and 50-64 showed 81% support a mandate, and those in the 35-49 and 65 and over age range show 83% support a mandate, but even 66% of Republicans, 93% of Democrats and 85% of independents support a mandate.

3. Arrest warrant issued for Will Dismukes

  • State Representative Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) was ordered to report to authorities by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday per an arrest warrant issued for first-degree theft of property, which is a Class B felony. It is alleged that Dismukes stole well over $2,500 from his former employer Weiss Flooring.
  • The issue has been investigated since May 20, and the business owners were the ones who brought the allegation forward. The illegal activity is said to have happened “from 2016 to 2018,” according to Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey. Governor Kay Ivey commented on the arrest, saying, “If true, it is disappointing when a public official, elected with the confidence of the people, abuses that trust.”

2. Paycheck Protection Program saved a lot of jobs

  • It’s estimated that the Paycheck Protection Program managed to save 672,861 jobs throughout Alabama, according to a new analysis released by Business.org. Nationally, there were more than 50.9 million jobs saved.
  • There have been more than 700,000 Alabamians file for unemployment since the coronavirus pandemic started, but last week has been the lowest for unemployment claims since March with 11,692.

1. Beds being prepared to isolate college students

  • College students are returning to campuses across the state, and everyone has to be tested before classes resume. The University of Alabama board of trustees has decided to spend $1.2 million to rent out 252 apartment beds so that they will have beds free on campus in the event that students test positive and need to be isolated.
  • Their plan will free up 450 beds on campus for isolation. Keeping coronavirus positive students on campus will make meal delivery and medical attention easier, according to vice president of the division of finance and operations Matthew M. Fajack. Currently, there are 8,281 students assigned to live on campus for the fall semester.

18 hours ago

Nick Saban named to board of National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches created by former Tide assistant

Former University of Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley on Thursday announced the creation of the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches.

Locksley served as an offensive assistant for the Crimson Tide in 2016, followed by a year as co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach the next season before becoming the full-time offensive coordinator in 2018. He is now the head coach at the University of Maryland.

Speaking to NFL.com, Locksley cited a lack of black head coaches in the National Football League as well as among the college Football Bowl Subdivision.

“I wanted to create an organization that would be able to help prepare, promote and produce the next group of coaches coming up through the ranks at every level,” he told the outlet.

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Locksley is not the only Bama connection to the new nonprofit group, which will reportedly “seek to not only identify and groom coaches of color (male and female) for upward mobility, but also create a candidates list that will be vetted by a board of directors that includes some of the most respected and powerful names in sport.”

Included on that venerable board of directors is Tide head coach Nick Saban, as well as Ozzie Newsome.

Newsome was named to the College Football Hall of Fame after a four-year playing career at the University of Alabama. He also enjoyed a successful playing career in the NFL and is a two-time Super Bowl winning executive with the Baltimore Ravens.

Speaking about the board of directors featuring the likes of Saban and Newsome, Locksley explained, “These are all people that have either hired head coaches or coordinators or filled upper-level positions throughout their careers. They all have been at the top of the mountain, per se, in their respective areas, whether winning Super Bowls or national championships or being pioneers…”

“We want to use their experiences to help us formulate and produce the list of qualified candidates, so when people say there aren’t enough minorities to fill the positions that have come open over the years, we’re going to produce a list of qualified people that shows there are qualified people. What’s needed is opportunities,” he added.

RELATED: Alabama ranked No. 3, Auburn No. 11 in preseason coaches poll

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

18 hours ago

UAH receives grant to research how drones can aid disaster response

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced Thursday that it has received $1.1 million in grant funding to study how unmanned aircraft can aid the response to both manmade and natural disasters.

The money comes from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who granted a total of $3.3 million to the 24 universities in that comprise an Alliance for System Safety that focuses on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

“These grants will help develop a greater array of innovative strategies to more effectively deploy drones during emergency response situations,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

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UAH says it aims “to provide insight into the safe integration of UAS into the disaster preparedness and response areas,” with the funding provided this week by the federal government.

A release from the university points to a FAA study that shows there are currently 1.65 million recreational and commercial drones in the United States.

Huntsville’s biggest university says that the FAA program from which the grant is derived enables the agency “to conduct research in airspace and airport planning and design, environment and aviation safety.”

“These important grants fund the research which allows us to learn and implement the safety measures associated with UAS operations in the airspace,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

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

19 hours ago

Warrant issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes

MONTGOMERY — A felony arrest warrant has been issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville), Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey announced in a Thursday press conference.

The warrant is for first-degree theft of property, a Class B felony. The freshman state legislator allegedly stole more than $2,500 from a former employer, Weiss Flooring in Alabama’s capital city.

Bailey said Dismukes has not yet been arrested and has until Thursday at 4:00 p.m. CT to turn himself in.

The district attorney reminded the public that a warrant represents “a mere allegation” and that Dismukes remains presumed innocent “until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.”

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Bailey advised “the alleged amount is a lot more than” $2,500 stolen. He added that he was limited on providing specifics on the case and the allegations at this time.

The DA advised that the business owners brought the allegation to authorities. The time period of the alleged offense was “from 2016 to 2018,” per Bailey.

Dismukes reportedly told WSFA that he is innocent.

The state representative from Autauga County has come under fire recently for his participation in a celebration of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Weiss Flooring made the complaint on May 20, which would have been before Dismukes initially made headlines for Confederate-related issues. Authorities have since that date been investigating, leading to a warrant being signed on Thursday.

While Dismukes has rejected bipartisan calls for him to resign over his recent controversies, a felony conviction would automatically remove him from office.

UPDATE 3:00 p.m.

In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) reacted to the news.

“If true, it is disappointing when a public official, elected with the confidence of the people, abuses that trust. I support the letter of the law, and no one is above it – especially those in public office,” the governor stated.

UPDATE 4:00 p.m.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan released a statement on Dismukes.

“We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” she commented. “No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations. This is now a legal matter and it must run its course.”

This is breaking news and will be updated.

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