4 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.


7 mins ago

Siegelman: Expect a Roy Moore-Doug Jones rematch in 2020

Now that former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is officially a candidate for U.S. Senate, many political prognosticators say he is a lock to regain the Senate seat he held for two decades, which is currently occupied by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

Not so fast, says former Democrat Gov. Don Siegelman.

During an appearance on WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Siegelman predicted Sessions would fade and argued the race would be won by former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. If that came to be, Moore would face Jones in a rematch of the 2017 special election.

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“There are multiple reasons,” Siegelman, author of the forthcoming book “A Theft of Power: Stealing Our Democracy,” said. “Frankly, I think Jeff is in trouble. He is being branded and has been branded by some Trump supporters as a traitor to Trump, someone who turned his back on Trump. Whether that’s just in Trump’s mind or in all of those voters’ minds, it doesn’t matter. I think it has hurt him. And as I mentioned on MSNBC, I have a book coming out this spring where I detail my crossroads – where Jeff Sessions and I have met over time when I was secretary of state, attorney general, and on. Those are not particularly flattering compliments – when he opposed the lawsuit against Big Tobacco. Whether that impacts a Republican primary or not, I don’t know.”

“I do know this: Most of Donald Trump’s voters were evangelical,” he continued. “And I do know the constitutional amendment that passed in 2018 requiring that the Ten Commandments be posted in every public place received over a million votes in Alabama. And I do know that Roy Moore is branded as the Ten Commandments judge. I think Roy Moore has a silent Christian vote that is huge. And I think they’re going to come out and vote for him. This is a guy that gave up his seat on the Supreme Court because of his belief in the Ten Commandments. And you know, say what you want about Roy Moore – I think he has got a strong base.”

Siegelman indicated that Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill could be a sleeper in the race but pointed to constitutional amendments that passed in 2018 on the general election ballot as a strong indicator for Moore.

“John and Coach Tuberville I think have a statewide name recognition,” Siegelman added. “I think John Merrill has an advantage over all of the candidates except for Sessions and Moore, in that he has a city-by-city, county-by-county political base, which Tuberville does not have. If Merrill finds a way to gain traction, he could move ahead of Tuberville and be ready to enter a Republican runoff should Sessions fail. Those are the kinds of political maneuvers that we will see happening over the next several months. I think right now, the way I see it, and because of the silent Christian majority in Alabama, and say silent – let me explain why: Because there are 399,000 additional Republican votes that came out and came out and largely to vote for the two constitutional amendments, against abortion and for the Ten Commandments. That is a sizeable chunk of voters, and I think those voters will largely go to Judge Moore. So I think he has a place in the runoff.”

@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.

37 mins ago

Living Life On Purpose with Matt Wilson Episode 12: Interview with Chris and Sophie Corder

Many marriages go through difficult situations and end in disaster. Addiction, infidelity, anger and deception are just a few of the things that Chris and Sophie Corder walked through in theirs. However, through the grace of God, and His miraculous life-changing power, their marriage has been restored and strengthened. Now, they want to encourage other people through their triumph. They have turned pain into purpose and want to show how God can do anything if we will get out of the way and let Him.

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13 hours ago

Veteran helped by Alabama deputies could reconnect with son

JASPER, ALA. (AP) — A social media post about a veteran wearing an oxygen mask while walking down a road may help connect the man to his estranged son.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post that the Gulf War veteran attempted to walk about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Walker County to Huntsville for an appointment Wednesday because his car wasn’t working.

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A Walker County deputy worked with other deputies to transport him to and from his appointment at the VA. News reports identify him as Gerald Baldwin.

The post has more than 150,000 shares. Baldwin’s son Lance in Pennsylvania saw the story and recognized his father. He told news outlets Sunday that the two hadn’t spoken in about five years. He now plans to reach out to his father.

(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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Editor’s note — The aforementioned Facebook post is as follows:

13 hours ago

Auburn’s famed golden eagle Nova possibly in early stages of heart failure

Auburn University’s widely known golden eagle Nova, War Eagle VII, could potentially be in the early stages of heart failure, according to university veterinarians and a press release issued last week.

“The 20-year-old male eagle received a biannual checkup in early October at the College of Veterinary Medicine followed by another echocardiogram Oct. 31.,” the statement stated. “In 2017 he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a chronic disease of the heart, and was sidelined from flying at football games to reduce stress.”

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“Nova’s condition has been medically managed and he has remained stable during the past two years, however, during his October exam, we observed decreased systolic function and enlarged vessels in his liver,” said Dr. Seth Oster, faculty avian veterinarian for the college’s Southeastern Raptor Center. “This could be an indication of the early stages of heart failure.”

Veterinarians also said they increased Nova’s dosage in a new round of treatments and that they will monitor how he responds.

“We will know more after we see how Nova responds to his latest rounds of treatment,” Oster said.

According to Andrew Hopkins, the assistant director of raptor training and education, Nova’s appearance at the Southeastern Raptor Center’s educational programs will be limited as veterans continue to monitor his progress.

The statement released on Nova’s health also provided background information on Nova.

It read, “Nova was hatched in 1999 at the Montgomery Zoo and was non-releasable due to human imprinting. He came to Auburn in 2000, made his first pre-game flight in 2004 and was designated War Eagle VII in 2006. He has helped promote wildlife conservation and awareness at almost 2,000 educational programs at the raptor center and at schools and conservation events around the Southeast. Raptor center staff conduct almost 300 presentations annually.”

Aurea, a 5-year-old female golden eagle, and Spirit, a 23-year-old female bald eagle, have both made pregame flights this season in Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

14 hours ago

Final resting places for Alabama veterans

Like soldiers at attention, battalions of white markers stretch out across the fields in perfect formation.

Below them are soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. They are compatriots linked by more than common soil. Some died in service; many others survived the decades before finally falling to old age. All sacrificed.

Alabama has four cemeteries dedicated to the men and women who have worn American military uniforms. They are shrines and places of reflection to the people who fought at places like Chateau-Thierry, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Incheon, Saigon, Baghdad and Kabul.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs oversees Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo and Fort Mitchell National Cemetery near Phenix City. The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs manages cemeteries under the same VA regulations in Spanish Fort and Mobile, although the one in Mobile is at capacity and open only to surviving spouses.

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Burials and headstones at all the cemeteries are free for the veteran, spouse and dependent children. That includes in-ground casket or cremation burials or in a columbarium for urns containing cremated remains.

“Everything from the gate to the headstone is free. That saves a family anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000 at a minimum,” said Todd Newkirk, assistant director at Fort Mitchell and interim director at Alabama National.

Newkirk, scanning the pristine grounds of Alabama National, believes there is a more plausible explanation why service members choose to call a veterans cemetery their final resting place.

“You are among your brothers and sisters at arms,” Newkirk said. “You are a veteran, and this is a place that honors veterans 24/7. And as long as there is a United States of America, this place is going to be taken care of. People are going to be here every day, all day, taking care of the cemetery.”

Reminders of sacrifice

Air Force Lt. Col. Kenneth Bourland was the first active-duty serviceman to be buried at Alabama National, which was dedicated in 2008. The Birmingham native, who flew helicopter missions in Iraq, died in February 2010 when the hotel where he was staying during a humanitarian mission in Haiti collapsed during an earthquake. Bourland was survived by his wife and two sons, then ages 3 and 1.

“Our daughter-in-law was the one that made the decision whether he would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery (near Washington, D.C.) or here,” said Bourland’s mother, Adrienne Bourland. “I am very glad she made the choice for him to come back to Alabama. It has allowed us be involved in the ceremonies and the activities.”

Adrienne Bourland and her husband live in St. Clair County and are members of a volunteer support staff that helps conduct special ceremonies at the cemetery on veterans and memorial holidays. Kenneth Bourland’s family has moved back to the Birmingham area from Florida, where they were living at the time of his death.

Alabama cemetery headstones, carved from Sylacauga marble, include a person’s name, rank, branch of service, date of birth and death, and a symbol of religion.

“The last two or three spaces are for an optional inscription that the next of kin is able to select,” Newkirk said. “They can put whatever they want on those lines as long as it is appropriate.”

‘I see America here’

Fort Mitchell National was established 31 years ago at the urging of U.S. Rep. Bill Nichols and state Sen. Joseph Smith of Phenix City, both of whom contended that Alabama deserved a national cemetery. Their argument was fortified by Fort Benning, Georgia, being just across the Chattahoochee River from Alabama.

“Joseph Smith was actually the first person buried here,” Newkirk said. “He actually died before it opened, and his wife had him disinterred (from another cemetery) and reinterred here.”

Alabama National and Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery were created in 2008 and 2012, respectively, to meet the burial needs of World War II and Korean War veterans.

All three cemeteries adjoin historical grounds. Alabama National is adjacent to American Village, an educational facility that contains replicas of historical structures. Fort Mitchell National Cemetery abuts a replica of the early American outpost and link to the Federal Road that opened Alabama to settlers. The Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery is near Fort Blakely, which was the site of the largest Civil War battle in Alabama.

Each cemetery conducts commemorative ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and many volunteers lay wreaths on the headstones at Christmas. Those ceremonies are generally conducted by support committees, veteran groups and Scouts.

Newkirk, however, said he can’t help but reflect on the sacrifices of those entombed every time he drives in the cemetery entrance.

“This is the best job I ever had in my life,” he said. “I did 21 years active duty in the Air Force and 15 years as a civilian in the Army, and so it is special to me. I see America here. I see my brother and sisters. It’s just an honor to be here.”

This story originally appeared in Alabama Living magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)