8 months ago

Potential field quickly emerging in Alabama’s Second Congressional District

After U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02) on Friday announced that she will not seek reelection in 2020, a field of potential candidates is already shaping up in the southeast Alabama district.

While some former and current elected officials are among the crowd still weighing bids, two popular state legislators strongly rumored to be in the mix have already made up their minds not to run.

State Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) and State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy) confirmed to Yellowhammer News on Sunday that they will not seek Alabama’s Second Congressional District seat in the upcoming election cycle.

Chesteen explained that the state senate is where he wants to be serving right now, and Allen advised that he did not want to miss important memories back at home with two children currently in high school.

However, two of their colleagues are seriously considering a run.

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) and freshman State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) are both taking a close look at the race. One key factor to consider here is that their bases, with Chambliss’ being slightly larger, mostly overlap geographically.

Dismukes would look to run as an outsider, but, somewhat ironically, one of his biggest selling points could be the seniority he could go on to accumulate in Congress, as he has not yet turned 30. He could put in a solid amount of personal money to kickstart his potential campaign, however Dismukes would still have a large way to go in name identification.

Chambliss was first elected to the Alabama Senate in 2014, having previously served on the Autauga County Commission. A civil engineer, he championed two hot-button pieces of legislation in the chamber just this past spring alone: the Rebuild Alabama Act and the Human Life Protection Act. Chambliss would also have a long way to go with name identification.

Additionally, three officeholders from the past are thinking about running: former attorney general Troy King of Montgomery and former state representatives Barry Moore of Enterprise and Perry Hooper, Jr. of Montgomery.

King, out of the potential candidates mentioned in this article, would certainly have the most name identification. However, his unfavorable numbers are also the highest by far, potentially giving him a low ceiling.

Moore, garnering 19.3% of the vote, finished third in the Second Congressional District’s 2018 GOP primary behind Roby and former U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright (R-Montgomery).

Another candidate who has prominently run against Roby in the past is also considering running.

Wetumpka Tea Party founder and current Eagle Forum of Alabama executive director Becky Gerritson is looking at a 2020 bid for the seat she ran for in 2016. She could enjoy unique grassroots support in the district’s river region.

Finally, a different sort of outsider is weighing a candidacy in Jeff Coleman of Midland City.

Coleman, a prominent Yellowhammer State CEO who has built a successful business career with moving conglomerate Coleman World Group, could invest personal money in the race, which would be needed to increase his name identification. He is a past chairman of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), current vice chairman of the Alabama Trucking Association and current Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army — a position that affords him unique experience with Fort Rucker, which is integral to the district.

Coleman is “prayerfully considering” a run. Sources familiar tell Yellowhammer News that he was previously approached to run for the U.S. Senate, a possibility Yellowhammer News wrote about in the fall of 2018.

That being said, it has only been two days since this seat surprisingly became in play. The Alabama political landscape can change in a heartbeat, just as this potential field could.

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

40 mins ago

COVID-19 restrictions unfairly choke small business

When Mark and Susan Anderson were required by a statewide mandate to close the doors of their Dothan clothing and outdoor gear store, Eagle Eye Outfitters, they felt like it was a necessary sacrifice for the good of public health. By limiting retail shopping to essential items such as groceries, prescriptions, and fuel, the governor’s order takes a great many people off the streets.

Hopefully, it slows the spread of the rampant COVID-19 virus. But the closure is incredibly painful for owners like them: it has forced them to furlough more than 150 employees, and the massive loss of revenue will leave a mark on their business for years.

What the Andersons don’t understand was how it is fair for one of their local competitors, the national chain Academy Sports and Outdoors, to continue selling the same types of apparel and outdoor gear.

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In this case, the loophole for Academy is their small firearms counter. Guns and ammunition are considered essential under the current order. Therefore, Academy and others who carry firearms have been allowed to continue to do business — even if guns and ammunition are only a small percentage of their overall sales.

One of the unintended consequences of the mandate is that small businesses, which often specialize in a more narrow range of merchandise, are penalized more heavily than their national chain competitors.

You heard that right: businesses owned and operated by Alabamians are absorbing the crushing cost of total closure, while national chains based out of state continue to snatch up what little retail demand still exists in the downturn.

If all businesses operating in Alabama were restricted from selling non-essential goods, small businesses might at least expect to benefit from the pent-up economic demand that will exist once the mandate is lifted. As it is, demand for those goods and services is funneled immediately to the big chains, cutting small business owners out of the deal entirely.

Bob Couch of Couch’s Jewelers feels that his small business is paying a higher price than others, as well. While he is forced to shutter his 75-year-old family jewelry store in downtown Anniston, Wal-Mart is allowed to continue selling jewelry just a short distance away. Because they carry groceries and have a pharmacy, they are allowed to sell anything.

None of the small business owners I spoke with this week felt the retail sales restrictions were unnecessary, given the scope and seriousness of the pandemic. But they think the state government has picked winners and losers with a poorly-conceived order.

They are right. And the governor can correct it today if she chooses.

Vermont heard a similar outcry from its small business community. In response, it amended its closure order so that businesses that remain open to offer essentials are limited to just those sales. In a large department store that offers a variety of goods, selling non-essentials is temporarily prohibited. No more going to Wal-Mart for groceries, but then wandering the aisles looking for a pair of gold earrings or a sleeping bag.

These are trying times for businesses of every size. But there’s no good reason for our own state government to damage Alabama’s small business owners further.

None of us likes the loss of civil liberties, or the freedom to do business as we choose — not even for a day. But if our current public health concerns are so extraordinary as to require such restrictions, the least government can do is ensure that they be equally and fairly applied. Every business operating in this state — big box or main street — should bear its share of the burden.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute; reach her on Twitter at @dhmccain.

API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

2 hours ago

Alabama community colleges donate medical supplies to those fighting COVID-19

Community colleges across Alabama, many of which house nursing programs, are donating their medical equipment to those on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.

According to a release from the Alabama Community College System (ACCS), many campuses across Alabama have equipment for their “simulated healthcare settings” where students train for medical careers.

“We are grateful for the daily sacrifice of Alabama’s healthcare providers and are grateful we can do our part to help serve our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jimmy Baker, chancellor of the ACCS.

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The equipment donated includes much sought-after ventilators that can help treat the most serious coronavirus cases.

The community colleges also handed out their supply of Personal Protective Equipment like masks to cover the face to local hospitals.

“Much like our efforts to meet the needs of every student that crosses our paths, our colleges work every day to help meet the needs of the communities they serve,” added Baker.

“On behalf of the Alabama Department of Public Health, I am grateful for the willingness of the Alabama Community College System to grant the urgent request for the loan of their available ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented State Health Officer Scott Harris.

“We are continually encouraged by the number of entities across the state that are rising to the occasion to meet the needs of the citizens of Alabama,” Harris concluded.

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

3 hours ago

Aderholt: Implement ‘Buy America’ policies to secure medical, pharmaceutical supply chains

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Wednesday is set to send a letter to President Donald Trump advocating for additional “Buy America” requirements as the nation deals with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Aderholt is known nationally as a staunch supporter of Trump’s “America First” trade agenda, especially when it comes to manufacturing. The congressman previously stated, “This president has stood up more for manufacturing jobs in Alabama and across the country — not just Alabama — than any president.”

Now, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to shape American life, Aderholt is urging the president to use his full authority under existing law to strengthen Buy America policies when it comes to the manufacturing of medical supplies and pharmaceutical ingredients.

Aderholt’s letter to Trump as follows:

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I appreciate the work your administration has done to address the health security threat posed by the COVID-19 virus. This global pandemic has highlighted the risk Americans face from an overreliance on imported products in securing public health.

This virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has rapidly spread across the globe with over 1.4 million cases confirmed according to Johns Hopkins University. With China producing significant quantities of the world’s medical supplies and active pharmaceutical ingredients, this centralization of global supply imposes significant health security risks should U.S. access be threatened or interrupted. Through China’s actions to hide the severity of the outbreak in their country, it is clear that they do not take their responsibility to international partners seriously.

While it is important to support our international allies in confronting this pandemic, we must prevent foreign control over the supply and price of health-related commodities in the United States. In order to assure an uninterrupted supply, it is critical to encourage the development of enough domestic capacity to avoid placing the lives of Americans in the hands of foreign suppliers.”

Buy America policies create demand for domestically produced goods, helping to sustain and grow domestic manufacturing and the millions of jobs it supports without additional spending. Americans expect that their taxpayer dollars will be used to purchase high-quality products produced in America by American workers and the businesses that employ them, not help China grow its domestic industry while enabling the collapse of U.S. manufacturing.

I encourage the use of existing authority to implement additional Buy America requirements for federal procurement of medical supplies and active pharmaceutical ingredients, helping use taxpayer- financed purchases to rebuild our public health industrial base in support of our national security.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

3 hours ago

AlabamaWorks surveying businesses on workforce impacts of COVID-19

AlabamaWorks on Wednesday announced a new way for Yellowhammer State businesses to report how they continue to be affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Alabama COVID-19 Workforce Response Survey is designed to help policymakers fully understand the impact of this pandemic on the state’s workforce, as well as provide a clear path forward for businesses, industry and state government when determining the future focus of workforce in the state.

Responses to the survey will be accepted through Tuesday, April 21 at 5:00 p.m. CT. All Alabama businesses are highly encouraged to participate as the responses will help to protect the state’s workforce, manage the impact of COVID-19 and guide allocation of various resources.

“I am grateful to the Alabama Workforce Council for developing and deploying this much needed and user-friendly survey,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.

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“As we work together to combat COVID-19’s impact, this tool will allow us to identify the needs of business and industry, resources that can help them and how we can best support Alabama’s businesses owners and hardworking Alabamians and their families,” the governor added.

The official survey can be completed here.

“While these are challenging times, we fully understand that now, more than ever, business and industry leaders must continue to work together with Governor Ivey’s administration and various state agencies to move us all forward together,” stated Alabama Workforce Council Chairman Tim McCartney. “Rest assured there is an unwavering commitment to do everything we can to minimize the negative impact COVID-19 has on our businesses, our economy, the state and all of its citizens. Using the results from this survey, I know we can all make a difference in combating the challenges from this pandemic facing so many throughout Alabama.”

You can up with the latest coronavirus-related information from AlabamaWorks here.

RELATED: State of Alabama launches online coronavirus response hub — ‘We are all in this together’

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

5 hours ago

Price of gas plummets as Alabamians stay home

Prices for a gallon of gasoline across Alabama have plummeted amid a glut of supply from overseas coupled with a lack of customers due to coronavirus precautions.

According to data collected by AAA, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Alabama was $1.689 on Wednesday, the lowest since 2016, and one of the lowest prices for the state in the last 15 years.

United States consumers went through 6,659,000 barrels of gas per day during the week ending March 27, a 37% decrease from the same week one year earlier and the lowest weekly number since the 1990s.

That number is expected to fall further, as more states have enacted “shelter-in-place” and “stay-at-home” orders since the most recent data was tabulated.

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J. Bart Fletcher, head of the Petroleum & Convenience Marketers of Alabama, an industry group, told Yellowhammer News over the phone that he has had many conversations with the convenience store owners that comprise his organization.

“I’m hearing anywhere from 20-40% drop in retail volume across the state,” he said when asked about how the coronavirus precautions were affecting sales.

According to Fletcher, rural stations are seeing less of a dropoff in sales than urban stores.

In addition to the drop in travelers caused by coronavirus precautions, oil prices have been subjected to a feud between Russia and Saudia Arabia, two of the largest oil-producing countries.

Saudia Arabia, in early March, reduced the prices of its crude oil output in an attempt to undercut Russian prices and gain dominance on the international market.

Russia, unfazed, proceeded apace with their oil production, resulting in an increased drop in prices for most customers around the world.

A meeting to potentially end the feud was postponed late last week.

“The issues we’ve seen with Saudi Arabia and Russia … is really the primary reason for the lowering of the retail gasoline prices,” Fletcher told Yellowhammer.

“Like any other product, the wholesale price determines what the retail price will be,” he added.

Fletcher said the convenience stores across Alabama are worried about “maintaining an adequate supply of employees,” which he says is a challenge faced by retailers across the state.

“My members are installing plexiglass between their retail clerks and their customers,” said Fletcher when asked how stores are adapting to these times of crisis.

Fletcher promised that his members will stay open and ready to serve across the state “so that people can keep on with their lives to the best degree possible.”

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