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3 years ago

These are the politicians eyeing a run for Alabama’s highest offices in 2018

How will Alabama's 2018 electoral puzzle come together?
How will Alabama’s 2018 electoral puzzle come together?

The 2016 election cycle is in full swing, but outside of a potentially competitive congressional race in Alabama’s 2nd District, there’s not a lot of action in the Yellowhammer State this year. However, if you think it’s too early to start looking toward the impending electoral chaos of 2018… Well, you’re probably right. But make no mistake, Alabama’s most ambitious politicians are already jockeying for position.

Yellowhammer released a list of the “Top 20 potential 2018 Alabama gubernatorial candidates” earlier this year. It included a pretty good number of long shots and individuals who probably won’t actually end up running, and that list did not include any of the other statewide offices that the political climbers are keeping an eye on.

So let’s take a quick look at some of the politicians who are already eyeballing the state’s highest offices that will be up for grabs in 2018.

GOVERNOR

Slade Blackwell: The Mountain Brook senator strengthened his conservative bonafides this year by being a member of the “Gang of Nine,” the group of rock-ribbed senators who opposed every proposed tax increase. His extraordinarily successful business career places him a position to pump a substantial amount of his own money into the race, if he chose to do so. But he may not need to; he’s also a prolific fundraiser. The business community loves him, and his record as a fiscal conservative in the senate would help him make a strong case to grassroots conservatives as well. The only question is whether he’d pull the trigger on a statewide campaign with three young kids still working their way through school.

Young Boozer: The two-term state treasurer has a sharp business acumen and impresses with his creative thinking on complex fiscal issues. His career in banking, finance and investments has taken him from Citibank in New York and Crocker National Bank in Los Angeles, to Coral Petroleum in Houston and Colonial Bank in Montgomery. With Alabama’s budgets in perpetual disarray, Boozer could make a strong case that he’s got the background to lead the state toward a longterm solution. But will his style connect with Alabama’s more rural, populist conservatives?

Del Marsh: The Senate President Pro Tem has been a steady hand at the helm of the Alabama Senate since Republicans took control in 2010, but indications are that this will be his last term in the Senate, whether he runs statewide or not. From a leadership and management standpoint, Marsh is head and shoulders above most of his colleagues. For that reason, he is one of the few individuals who will have major players in the state’s business community asking him to run. It usually works the other way around.

John McMillan: The Agriculture Commissioner started his career in public service in 1969 on the Baldwin County Commission. Almost 50 years later, he may look around as the gubernatorial field begins to emerge in 2017 and say to himself, “Why the heck not?” Agriculture is Alabama’s largest industry, but the current likely field does not include a candidate the state’s farmers would look at and immediately say, “He’s one of us.” McMillan is a sixth generation farmer, a past Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, past executive VP of the Alabama Forestry Association, and a two-term Ag Commish. He’s built up a statewide grassroots network over the years, which could come in handy if he decides he’d like to take a crack at the state’s top job.

John Merrill: The first-term Secretary of State is a relentless campaigner who has probably been mapping his course to the governor’s mansion since he beat “The Machine” to become University of Alabama SGA President in 1986. He is a political animal whose relentless campaigning led to him burning through several sets of tires on his personal vehicle during the last election cycle. He is a resident of Tuscaloosa, a town that has essentially become the hub of political power in Alabama, with the sitting governor, a U.S. senator and the State House Budget Chairman all hailing from Title Town. Merrill’s gunning to be next.

Greg Reed: The Alabama Senate Majority Leader has quickly risen through the ranks of the Republican caucus after first being elected just five short years ago. No one doubts that he is eyeing another move up. However, as tempting as it might be to jump into the gubernatorial fray, he is so well positioned to succeed Marsh as Pro Tem, it may not make sense for him to risk it. His calculus probably goes something like this: Do I pursue the 15 percent chance of emerging from a crowded field to become governor, or do I stay on my current track and have a 95 percent chance of rising to become one of the state’s two most powerful legislators?

Martha Roby: The 2nd Congressional District representative has managed to move up the ladder in Washington fairly quickly, landing a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee. She has proven herself to be an able defender of the District’s large military and farming communities, but has taken some shots from grassroots conservatives for not bucking congressional leadership on tough votes. The Montgomery resident with young children undoubtedly sees the appeal of not having to travel to D.C. during the week, but if she wins re-election to a fourth term in Congress, would she give up a relatively safe seat and jump into the mass chaos of a gubernatorial run?

Luther Strange: The Attorney General is almost certainly running for governor. He has already met with at least one potential campaign consultant and has signaled to some close allies that he plans to run. It is probably not the job he really wants — he’s had his eye on the U.S. Senate for a long time. But with Senators Shelby and Sessions both still going strong, the prospect of suddenly being out of public office is a non-starter for Strange. He would likely start as a favorite to make the runoff in a crowded field, by virtue of the fact that he has already run statewide three times (lost a bid for Lt. Governor, won two for AG), so the voters know “Big” Luther’s name.

Wealthy guy no one is thinking about: Never forget this guy. He’s out there. He can self-fund. And he can throw a kink in even the best-laid plans.

LT. GOVERNOR


Rusty Glover: The low-key and well-liked state senator from south Alabama has already gotten word out around Montgomery that he plans to run statewide in 2018. Democrats stripped much of the power from the Lt. Governor’s office in the late ’90s, but the fact remains that the Senate’s presiding officer is a mere heartbeat away from the top job. Glover is a retired school teacher who’s successfully ran for both the House and Senate. We’ll see if he adds Lt. Governor to that list.

Mary Scott Hunter: The state school board representative from north Alabama has made inroads with some key players in the business community as the board’s foremost advocate of Common Core State Standards. But that could hurt with grassroots conservatives who’ve labeled the standards a big business and big government takeover of public education. Hunter’s résumé is bolstered by a military record that includes stints in the Air Force, Reserves and the Alabama Air National Guard. Her dad is Scott Hunter, former University of Alabama and NFL championship quarterback, which never hurts in football-crazed Alabama.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Steve Marshall: The Marshall County District Attorney has expressed interest in a statewide run, but would face an uphill battle against other potential candidates who already have a built-in fundraising and political operation. Marshall became a Republican in 2011 after being elected in 2004 and 2010 as a Democrat. He is a past president of the Alabama District Attorney’s Association, so he has presumably built relationships around the state that would be beneficial if he jumps in the race for AG.

Arthur Orr: The Senate Budget Chairman has had the unenviable task of crafting the state’s beleaguered General Fund for the past five years. However, the scuttlebutt around Montgomery is that he and Senate Education Budget Chairman Trip Pittman will switch positions ahead of the next legislative session, placing Orr atop the state’s largest pot of money. Speaking of money, Orr is a fundraising dynamo. And being a budget chairman all but ensures he would receive big checks out of Montgomery, in addition to significant support out of his north Alabama Senate District, if he decides to run statewide. He is currently Vice President and General Counsel for Cook’s Pest Control and his legal background also includes a stint at a prominent Decatur law firm.

Cam Ward: The Shelby County State Senator was the odds-on favorite to be the next attorney general before a DUI arrest and a stint in rehab earlier this year. It is hard to imagine voters electing someone who had that big of a lapse in judgement to be their state’s top law enforcement officer and lawyer, but crazier things have happened. Ward maintains the support of many in Montgomery and in his district. He doesn’t appear to have even considered taken a step back from politics, but is weighing whether he should resurface for a statewide run or batten down the hatches and try to return to the Senate.

SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEM

This is not a statewide elected office, but it is worth considering for a couple of reasons. Number one, it is among the state’s most powerful positions, alongside governor and speaker of the house. Secondly, it is such an attractive position that it could influence who ends up running for the posts mentioned above.

Consider this:

If current Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh suddenly switches directions and decides to serve another four year term, that could compel Sen. Greg Reed to take a more serious look at governor. If Marsh leaves, Reed is almost certainly going to be his successor, which likely bumps him out of the governor’s race. But if Marsh leaves the senate and Reed runs for governor, the race for pro tem is wide open.

It could lead Sen. Ward to abandon his attorney general ambitions and try to rally support among his colleagues to give him the job. That, in turn, would give Sen. Orr — who may have at one point wanted to be pro tem himself — an even clearer path to AG. It could also open up an opportunity for a young leader like Sen. Clay Scofield to rise quickly. The scenarios are almost endless, but they all hinge on senators Marsh and Reed.


Byrne: Water infrastructure vital to Alabama’s economy

There are very few places in the United States that can boast the sort of diverse infrastructure we have here in Alabama. There are 11 interstates, over 3,000 miles of freight rail, 5 commercial airports, and more than 132,000 miles of rivers and stream channels in our state.

One of our state’s most important pieces of infrastructure is the Port of Mobile, the 10th largest port and fastest growing container terminal in the United States. With 41 berths, 5 million square feet of warehouses and yards, and covering 4,000 total acres, it has an economic impact of around 135,000 jobs in Southwest Alabama and generates more than $22 billion per year in economic value.

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Recent expansions and developments at the Port will only further grow the economic impact of the Port on not only Southwest Alabama but our entire state. For example, the recent announcement about a new roll-on/roll-off vehicle processing facility at the Port will help our state’s automotive manufacturing industry continue to grow.

Even with these impressive facts, it has been clear that our infrastructure throughout the country is in need of updates, repairs, and overhauls to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of transportation and innovation in order to compete economically on the world stage.

Last week, in a major bipartisan effort, Congress sent a piece of legislation to President Trump’s desk that will help to unlock the full economic potential of our region and state.

America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 passed the Senate last week, after passing out of the House a few weeks back. This bill authorizes funding for waterway projects, port improvement projects, and other important water infrastructure projects in all 50 states. Not only will this allow for much-needed infrastructure improvements, but the bill reinstates a “Buy America” provision for federally funded projects, meaning a boost for American steel producers.

Commonsense legislation like this will create jobs, incentivize the use of American-made products, and build our nation’s capabilities to produce, package, and transport goods all around the globe. It will also make our drinking water safer, improve our wastewater systems, combat algae blooms, and restore our nation’s beaches through grant programs.

The Army Corps of Engineers can move forward on improving our dams, locks, reservoirs, and shipping channels. We have a major Army Corps project that needs attention right here in Southwest Alabama. The project to deepen and widen the Mobile Bay Ship Channel has the ability to fundamentally alter the economic potential of the Port and create more jobs in our state. Senator Richard Shelby has long been a champion for this project, and I am committed to working with him to make it a reality.

Our shipyards, airports, and rail yards will all see an impact from waterway projects like this, and I am thankful to the members of the Senate and my colleagues in the House for passing this water infrastructure legislation to help propel Alabama even further into the 21st Century.

The future of Alabama rests upon our ability to look beyond the short term and into what will set us up for success for years to come. Focusing locally on important infrastructure projects will spur economic growth through business investment and job creation, and it will open up opportunities we don’t even know exist yet.

Investing in our infrastructure today will lead to a stronger tomorrow. I applaud the work of my colleagues in both the House and the Senate in making a better economic future possible through this vital water infrastructure legislation.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

9 hours ago

Shelter dogs fly from Alabama to New Jersey after Hurricane Michael leaves pets stranded

Shelter dogs from Birmingham are getting a new start after they boarded a plane and were flown to New Jersey.

A partnership between the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, Greater Good, and Wings Of Rescue made the safe transportation of 50 dogs possible.

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“It gives these animals an immediate chance at getting in a home. Animals get stressed in a shelter. And with all the storms, and all this travel, it almost makes you want to cry being out here and seeing this,” said GBHS CEO Allison Black Cornelius.

With the transportation of the dogs to New Jersey, more animals can now be taken into the Birmingham shelter from Florida and surrounding areas.

“The average length of stay for a pet transported from Wings of Rescue is about two and a half days, three and a half days,” said President of Wings Of Rescue Ric Browde.

“So, these pets have a little bit of celebrity to them, so they’re probably going to be moving out faster. They’re just going to go very quickly. ”

Donations to Hurricane Michael animal transports can be made here.

@RealKyleMorris is a Yellowhammer News contributor and also contributes weekly to The Daily Caller

10 hours ago

Jones accuses ALGOP of putting ‘party over’ state, country on Kavanaugh; ALGOP responds: ‘A grave error as it highlights his arrogance’

In an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” that aired on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) defended his vote opposing the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jones, who had pledged to keep an open mind throughout the process, voted along party lines against President Donald Trump’s pick to replace the retired associate justice, Anthony Kennedy. In the end, Jones’ vote was not consequential, as Kavanaugh was confirmed by a 50-48 margin.

The junior Alabama Democratic U.S. Senator was criticized for voting against Kavanaugh by the Alabama Republican Party, which accused him of putting the party over the state and the country.

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“You know, I do what I think is right,” Jones said when asked by host Don Dailey about the backlash. “This is the same Republican Party who voted for a guy last year – who continued to support someone who ran against me who there were very, very serious and credible allegations. This is a Republican Party that puts party over state, party over country. So, I’m not surprised they put this in political tones. The very thing that I avoided from the beginning, from my standpoint and my standpoint was what mattered to me and my staff – we were not looking at this in political terms. We were looking at it to determine his record, what he’s said, what he’s done, what we believe he could do, look at his qualifications, as well as his temperament and other issues to determine whether or not this man should be on the United States Supreme Court. It was a completely non-partisan issue the way we looked at it. And we knew the way other people would make it partisan. But that’s fine with me. I can justify my vote to anyone.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Alabama Republican Party chairwoman Terry Lathan fired back and said Jones’ “no” vote” highlighted his “arrogance.”

“Looking at this from ‘his’ standpoint and his ‘staff’ standpoint and not the will of the majority of Alabamians is a grave error as it highlights his arrogance,” Lathan said. “It clearly shows us it’s about him and his liberal views, not what most of our people think. Doug Jones said the majority of Alabamians wishes were not the ‘be all to end all’ on this vote. That ‘I know better than you all’ point of view will be revisited by voters in 2020. We will remind them what he thinks of the majority.”

Later in his “Capitol Journal” appearance, Jones indicated he had no regrets regarding that vote despite what the polling in Alabama showed regarding Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

“You can’t worry,” he replied. “When you’re in a position like I am, you can’t worry about that. You know Don, if I tried to make every decision based on polling or what my political opponents say is the will of the people, then I wouldn’t be a very effective U.S. Senator. That’s not leadership. Leadership is studying the issues. And I had a heck of a lot more information than all of these politicians who came out of the chute wanting me to vote for or against. I had just as many people wanting me to vote against him as for him that had not done the research. We did our homework, and I’m comfortable where I am, and that’s the way we continue to operate in my office.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

10 hours ago

Are Alabama Republicans softening on Medicaid expansion?

The race for Governor in Alabama has been boiled down to three issues:

  1. Governor Kay Ivey’s claim she steadied the ship of state
  2. Democrat challenger Walt Maddox whining about not being able to secure a debate
  3. Maddox wanting to expand Medicaid without a serious plan for doing so

Republicans in Alabama have been steadfastly against the Medicaid expansion proposal because it will require an additional outlay of up to $200 million dollars. The infusion of federal dollars that would come after an expansion has been sighted numerous times, by numerous Democrats running for statewide office. The flawed argument is that the program will pay for itself.

It won’t.

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The facts are simple, the Alabama legislature, which will probably retain their super-majority status, will have to budget for any expansion. This is a wildly unpopular idea amongst Republican legislators, but now lame-duck State Senator Gerald Dial is stepping out and advocating for it.

He writes:

For years, we have used state dollars to recruit industries to locate in Alabama, and we have been very successful. We now have an opportunity to support existing health care jobs and make sure every Alabamian has access to care when they need it, and where they need it. Investing in Medicaid expansion will keep our rural hospitals open, save hundreds of local jobs, and provide basic insurance coverage to almost 300,000 Alabamians. These are our friends and neighbors, hardworking Alabamians who don’t earn enough to afford health insurance. They work in our local restaurants, in our local retail shops and build our houses. Medicaid expansion would enable them to continue working while keeping their family healthy.

Now there is nothing earth-shattering about this suggestion or the argument being made here. The expansion would bring in buckets of federal tax dollars, and that money would be spent in the state of Alabama. It will also boost the bottom lines of hospitals and provide money that will matriculate its way around the Alabama economy.

The argument could easily be made that the fight against ObamaCare is lost politically. “Pre-existing conditions coverage” has led to higher costs, but that aspect remains popular. Republicans failed to repeal and replace it in 2017, and they don’t seem to keen on revisiting that fight right now.

Even with those battles fought and lost, Republican voters still dislike ObamaCare.

But lawmakers’ desire to acquire new spending in Alabama may be leading us toward a push to expand Medicaid after this round of elections.

There is a history for taking on politically unpopular issues in Alabama shortly after elections take place. In 2007, legislators gave themselves a pay raise. In 2015, Governor Robert Bentley (and the real Governor Rebekah Caldwell Mason) found himself advocating for additional revenue after running a campaign saying that very thing would not be necessary.

Senator Dial seems to be on an island by himself on this issue right now, and he may be a lone voice in the Alabama Republican Party making this call.

But don’t be surprised if this changes after November 5th.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

11 hours ago

Watch: Dog goes crazy after Alabama owner returns from deployment overseas

Seeing military service members reunited with loved ones after lengthy periods of time overseas is always emotional, but this time it is man’s best friend stealing the show.

Alabama’s Captain Josh Williams just returned from a ten-month deployment on the Korea peninsula with his brigade, which is part of the 3rd Infantry Division. In a video recorded by his wife Anna, Williams is greeted by one very happy canine companion.

Watch:

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The dog’s name is Milo, and, as you can tell, he is excited to have Captain Williams back home.

Williams is a Cavalry Troop Commander and earned his commission as an Army Officer through Auburn University’s ROTC program. He is a fourth-generation Army officer, and his grandfather did a tour in Korea 55 years ago this year. When Williams first arrived on the Korean peninsula in January of this year the tensions were at their highest level since his grandfather was there, but diplomatic tensions have eased to the calmest levels in recent years during his deployment.

“Praise God,” Williams’ father, state Sen. Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City), told Yellowhammer News, referencing the deescalation of tensions with North Korea and his son’s safe return.

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