3 years ago

Three Lessons Republicans Must Learn From That Messy Alabama Primary

Some say Judge Roy Moore’s victory over Senator Luther Strange last Tuesday was a loss for the president: “Alabama defeat leaves Trump weakened, isolated amid mounting challenges,” read a headline in the Washington Post.

Others say it was a defeat for the Senate majority leader: “Judge Roy Moore wins Alabama Senate primary, dealing a huge blow to Mitch McConnell,” declared the liberal news site Vox.

And a few even say it was all about the chairman of Breitbart News: “Steve Bannon just defeated Trump,” wrote liberal columnist E.J. Dionne Jr.

But this wasn’t about Trump or McConnell or Bannon, and it wasn’t even really about Moore or Strange.

It was about Alabama.

More precisely, it was about how Republicans in Alabama choose candidates to stand against Democrats in the general election, and then against liberalism once in office.

But if we allow a proxy war between Trump and McConnell and Bannon and whoever else to distract us, then we’ll fail to learn some valuable lessons that tumbled out of this messy but instructive race. It’d be foolish to repeat these mistakes in another Republican primary, but it could be catastrophic to do so during a general election.

So let’s remind ourselves of three big ones:

Lesson 1: Never disrespect the voters.

Like many Republicans in Alabama, I had a somewhat open mind at the beginning of the primary. And there was plenty to like.

If you like former Senator Jeff Sessions, then you’d probably love Congressman Mo Brooks. He’d carry the torch of conservatism in the Senate. If you like Senator Richard Shelby, then you’d probably love Luther. He’d protect the state’s interest and bring home jobs. Those who like Donald Trump would probably love Judge Moore. He’d give the establishment hell.

I honestly couldn’t decide … until an outside group supporting Luther released an attack ad against Brooks. And someone thought it’d be a good idea to ask veterans to carry the message.“I served my country,” said one veteran. “Mo Brooks, he voted to cut off funding to fight ISIS.” “We fought for our freedom,” said another. “Brooks, he fought to cut off funding.” “Mo Brooks was playing politics,” they went on to say, “siding with Nancy Pelosi and the liberals instead of siding with us.”Luther lost me in the primary because of that ad. Instantly.

First, because claiming that Mo Brooks was siding with Nancy Pelosi on anything is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. He’s one of the most consistently conservative voices in Congress. Hit him on whatever else – being a lifelong politician, not jumping on the Trump Train, etc. – but cozying up to liberals? Come on.

Second, they gave those veterans a script that did more than stretch the truth, and then put them on television. I respect those veterans. They’re my brothers-in-arms, but I fear they were manipulated. That turned me from annoyed to angry.

Then later during the run-off, I had to listen to another ad supporting Luther, this time saying how strong he is on the Second Amendment (which indeed he is). But then they had to blow it with another unnecessary jab.

“Roy Moore,” the narrator said, “He’s a little soft on gun rights.”

Luther lost me in the runoff because of that ad. Permanently.

There’s plenty of truthful material to use against Moore, but claiming he’s “soft” on guns was the dumbest thing I had heard since … well … someone said Mo Brooks was in cahoots with Nancy Pelosi. Do they really think we’re that stupid?

Luther’s outside supporters meant well, but they couldn’t have caused a worse reaction with the voters they were seeking to influence. I saw otherwise calm people grow red-faced with anger about those ads.Not because of where they came from. Not because they were negative, per se. But because they were taking cheap shots at well liked, and well known, conservatives.

It seems like Alabamians know Mo Brooks and Judge Moore much better than the people who created those ads. We not only felt they were being unfair to two of our movement’s most unwavering conservatives, they were insulting our intelligence by claiming they were liberals or gun grabbers.

Listen, the organizations that funded those ads are full of dedicated conservatives. Good people. Our people. And the firms that cut those ads have talented and dedicated experts who can produce amazing spots. I’m sure they poll-tested and focused-grouped the language and think all of this criticism is unfounded. Maybe ads like that worked well elsewhere in the past. But the results speak for themselves.

We can, and must, attack our opponents. Early, often, and without rest. But it must be done with integrity. Doing the research, formulating the right argument, and writing clever copy for an honest yet effective attack will be harder, but the result will be much better.

At least do this: Our ad guys should adopt that old saying from the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.

Lesson 2: Negative ads still work.

Yes, those ads backfired and drove voters away from Luther, but we mustn’t believe that negative ads don’t work at all. They’re proven to be effective when done correctly, and proven to fail when not done at all.

In 2008, Senator John McCain refused to launch negative ads against then-Senator Barrack Obama until it was too late. Four years later Mitt Romney did the same thing. They played nice, and lost. Remember how we complained about that?

Besides, successfully launching and withstanding negative ads during a primary fight also shows us who can throw a punch and who can take a punch. Republicans need proven fighters and tested survivors, or else our candidates will get hammered in the general election by the Democrats (who will attack, and harshly).

Why this would normally matter: Judge Moore proved once again that he could take a punch, probably better than anyone. Steadfast doesn’t begin to describe the man. But since some voters were primarily driven into his camp by the other guy’s campaign ads, did he demonstrate an ability to effectively counterpunch? He’ll need to do that during the general election, and the time for practice has passed.

But why it doesn’t matter at all right now: Judge Moore’s opponent in the general election just said he thinks it should be perfectly legal to abort an unborn baby at any time during pregnancy, even a few minutes before birth. No restrictions. Oh, and taxpayers should fund it, he says. It’s hard to believe that my grandfather’s party nominated this guy. The only question that remains, does Roy Moore want us to still call him “judge” or will “senator” do?

Bottom line: If our future candidates walk away from this primary thinking they shouldn’t use negative ads, then they’ll follow McCain and Romney straight into the loser’s club.

Lesson 3: You’re the candidate, so control your message.

When asked by reporters, Luther would correctly say that he had nothing to do with those ads, they weren’t created or funded by his campaign, and that he couldn’t legally coordinate with the committee that produced them.

That’s all true, legally speaking. But voters still held Luther responsible for the ads because they knew he could have done something. Hearing him claim he was powerless to make them stop seemed rather unbelievable.

A couple of years ago when Congressman Gary Palmer was running for his seat, an outside group came into Birmingham and ran a misleading ad against his opponent. Palmer could have sat by and allowed the ad to continue, and remained within the law, but he made it known publically that he thought the ad was misleading. He didn’t coordinate with the outside group. He simply voiced his distaste with the ad like everyone else.

Guess what? The group heard Palmer loud-and-clear, and they pulled the ad.

Hearing Palmer say that pulled me strongly to his side. Hearing Luther say nothing pushed me further away.

Still, even if it were true that Luther couldn’t say anything to cause those outside groups to pull their insulting ads, what does that say about his ability to influence things on Capitol Hill? It begs the question, if Luther couldn’t get his friends to pull a bad ad that was insulting his voters, then how could we expect him to convince his opponents to repeal a bad law that was harming his state?

How to avoid this: Congressman Palmer showed us the way. The second an outside group strays from a campaign’s messaging strategy or releases a misleading ad, candidates should immediately make their displeasure publically known.

An old soldier once told me that there’s a big difference between a lesson learned and a lesson observed.

We observed these lessons during the past several weeks, but will we truly learn them? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, what other lessons did you take from the primary? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.

(“Be bold and courageous.” – Joshua 1:9)


About the Author: Pepper Bryars is the new editor of Yellowhammer News. Pepper began his career writing for military newspapers while serving in the Alabama Army National Guard. He then became a staff reporter for the Mobile Press-Register, spent time as an aide to then-Congressman and Governor Bob Riley and served as a presidential appointee managing legislative issues for the Defense Department. Pepper was also a strategic communication advisor to U.S. military forces operating in Europe, Africa, and Latin America. He was twice awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Award for Exceptional Public Service, once for service in Baghdad during the early days of the Iraq War and a second time for work at the Pentagon. He is the author of two books and most recently wrote a popular conservative opinion column that was published in the Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register, Huntsville Times, the Mississippi Press and at AL.com.

4 hours ago

Tuberville on China, coronavirus: ‘We’ve got to worry about Alabama and this country’ right now

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville is taking a different stance on China than his Republican primary runoff competitor, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In an appearance on Talk 99.5’s “Matt and Aunie Show” Thursday morning, Tuberville was asked about what he thought was happening with China.

He responded, “Well, we can’t worry about China right now. We’ve gotta worry about Alabama and this country.”

Experts agree that the novel coronavirus originated somewhere around the city of Wuhan in China, and the country spent several weeks trying to obscure the extent of the outbreak. There have since been significant indications that the death toll in China is higher than the country is publicly reporting.


Sessions has called for an extensive investigation into the communist government that runs China, and blasted the current leadership there, calling it an “evil regime.”

“You know, I hear about all these people hollering for investigations and we always investigate,” commented Tuberville on Thursday, before later adding, “[Congressional committees] investigate and nothing ever comes of it, so right now we’ve gotta worry about this country. ‘Cause right now we’re in trouble.”

In tweets responding to the Tuberville interview, Sessions said, “China’s where the virus is from, and their deliberate lies hid the danger & resulted in a pandemic that never should’ve happened! We must take on China NOW and WIN, not run scared like Tommy Tuberville!”

Later in the interview, Tuberville praised President Donald Trump’s efforts to shift the United States’ economic relationship to China.

“They’re gonna be knocked to their knees, and they should be,” the former coach said.

Paul Shashy, Tuberville’s campaign manager, said in a statement to Yellowhammer News, “If Jeff Sessions was too afraid to stand up to Robert Mueller, how can we ever expect him to stand up to China? Like President Trump, Coach Tuberville believes we should focus all of our resources on ending the Coronavirus pandemic, fixing our economy, and helping the Alabamians who need help now. Once that’s done, he’ll stand with the president to hold the Chinese fully accountable, unlike Jeff Sessions, who voted with Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to reward China with permanent trade status.”

Tuberville and Sessions will face each other at the ballot box on July 14 in the Republican primary runoff.

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

Ivey issues ‘stay-at-home’ order for the state of Alabama effective Saturday afternoon

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey has issued a “stay-at-home” order for the state of Alabama as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths continue to rise.

The order is effective beginning Saturday, April 4, at 5:00 p.m. and will expire Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. CT.

Exceptions apply for essential activities and businesses.

The order can be read here.

An updated supplemental State of Emergency can be read here.


Ivey made the announcement at a press conference Friday at 4:00 p.m. CT alongside State Health Officer Scott Harris, Attorney General Steve Marshall and the Reverend Cromwell A. Handy of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Reporters were able to attend and ask questions live afterwards while following social distancing guidelines.

In a statement, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth said he supports the stay-at-home order.

“I agree with Gov. Ivey’s decision to issue a stay-at-home order throughout Alabama, and though many may find it inconvenient, her action is the best method of combatting and controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our cities, towns, and communities,” he said.

“Alabamians have always shown courage in a crisis, so at this critical time, the best way we can stand together is by staying apart,” Ainsworth concluded.

Ainsworth’s full statement can be read here.

Ivey said in her remarks that it became obvious to her Thursday afternoon that more must be done to flatten the curve.

The governor advised she was “convinced our previous efforts to reduce social interaction [had not been enough].”

“That’s why we are taking this more drastic step,” she added.

Ivey cited the jump in confirmed cases the state experienced Thursday, along with cell phone location data made available by a national data company, as sources of information she found relevant in making her decision.

“April stands to be very tough, and potentially very deadly,” warned Ivey.

The governor said that Alabama should expect a surge in hospitalizations that she estimates will peak in 2-3 weeks.

Harris noted the the models projecting caseload change every day.

Marshall said that intentionally violating the new order is a class-c misdemeanor.

Marshall urged law enforcement officers around the state to practice restraint in enforcing the order, only using criminal action if someone was endangering others.

Handy offered spiritual advice, quoting scripture and saying, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble, we will not fear when earthquakes come and mountains tumble into the sea.”

The order allows churches to meet, as long as the crowd in the building does not exceed 10 people. “Drive-in” worship services are also allowed.

The order supercedes those made locally by counties like Jefferson and Mobile, but they both retain the ability to implement more stringent restrictions if they wish, according to Harris.

Jefferson County’s health officer indicated in a public appearance that he would likely be implementing stricter requirements for his jurisdiction, which has the highest concentration of COVID-19 patients in Alabama.

You can watch the State’s press conference below:

This story is breaking and will be updated.

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

6 hours ago

Alabama’s budgets will face real issues post-coronavirus

Every American is fixated on the current coronavirus pandemic. It dominates local and national news, daily talk radio and Alabama’s major newspapers three days a week.

The Alabama political press is busy using this to accuse Governor Kay Ivey of wanting Alabamians to die because she hasn’t issued a “shelter-in-place” order. To their credit, usually, it’s Alabama’s budget cuts, low taxes, taxes on food, failure to expand Medicaid or abortion bans that are being used as an implement of murder by their target of the day, so give them credit for creativity.

If we as a state look past this healthcare issue and look at the damage it is already doing to the state’s economy, we will see a bunch of major issues on the horizon.

When State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) appeared on WVNN Friday morning, he talked about budgeting issues that will definitely be of major concern when the state is back open for business and the legislature resumes its budgeting process.


Orr, who has chaired both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund committees, said that the next legislative session will be a hard one with hard fiscal choices.

Planned pay raises for teachers and other state employees are gone. Orr noted that the budgets that are passed will be “level-funding” — or close to it — and hard choices will have to be made.

But that “pain” may be short-term, not that the reverberation of the coronavirus pandemic won’t last for years. There could be long-term issues as well.

The Retirement System of Alabama has long been a hot-button in this state.

Orr sounded the alarm on the viability of the system, saying, “The RSA is among, if not the most, highly exposed defined benefit, public defined benefit plan in the country to equities or to the stock market.”

He noted, “When the stock market has tanked 30 plus percent, RSA feels a much larger hit than other retirement funds. It’s going to be a concern.”

My takeaway:

With a defined benefit payout and few opportunities to increase revenue. the actuarial tables will take a beating as the stock market slides.

Most expect the market to rebound eventually, but Orr has been talking about the RSA’s vulnerabilities for years. And this will not help.

Even if you aren’t a beneficiary of the Retirement System of Alabama, you will still feel the impact if its finances continue to head south. Orr warned of a stark reality where “taxpayers will be ending up having to pay more for retirement for all the government employees.”

Obviously, no one is thinking about this right now, but we will be revisiting this in the very near future and the impact of this could go on for a very long time.


Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

7 hours ago

Survey: 50% of small businesses cannot survive more than two months of coronavirus restrictions

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Center on Friday released its latest survey detailing the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on small businesses across the country.

The survey was conducted March 30 and utilized a random sampling of the organization’s 300,000 members. This garnered 1,172 usable responses, all small employers with 1-465 employees.

Unfortunately — but also unsurprisingly, the survey showed continued overall deterioration in the small business sector since the NFIB’s previous similar survey, which was conducted on March 20. A release from NFIB on Friday stated, “The severity of the outbreak and regulatory measures that cities and states are taking to control it are having a devastating impact on small businesses.”

In the latest survey, 92% of small employers said they are negatively impacted by the pandemic, up from 76% saying the same just 10 days prior.


The latest survey also showed 3% of small employees answering that they are positively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. NFIB explained that these select firms are likely experiencing stronger sales due to a sharp rise in demand for certain products, goods and services. That effect will likely wane in the coming weeks as consumers feel more secure about their personal supply levels, NFIB added.

State-specific survey data was unavailable, but NFIB Alabama State Director Rosemary Elebash said in a statement, “Without a doubt, the coronavirus has taken a tremendous toll on Alabama’s small businesses. Our members are determined to get through this, and they’re working to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans and other forms of financial relief so they can avoid layoffs and having to close the doors for good.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) noted, “We have organized an Emergency Small Business Task Force to identify problems our businesses are facing during this difficult time. We need to bring clarity to issues and government orders that are often confusing and to effectively communicate solutions and direct business owners to resources that can help. NFIB is an indispensable member helping to guide this task force.”

RELATED: State Rep. Whitt on coronavirus restrictions: ‘Our small businesses are getting destroyed’

Among negatively impacted small employers in the NFIB survey, 80% reported slower sales, 31% reported experiencing supply chain disruptions and 23% reported concerns over sick employees.

One other major point in the survey pertained to how long can small businesses can continue to operate under current conditions.

With the pandemic projected to continue for weeks, it is especially concerning that approximately half of small employers said they can survive for no more than two months. About 15% of small employers responded that they cannot last even another month.

Mitigation is ongoing, however. Due to escalating financial stress on the sector, more small businesses are now talking with their bank about financing needs than was the case 10 days ago. Approximately 29% of small employers have talked with someone at their bank or with the Small Business Administration (SBA) about finance options, and another 23% are planning to do so soon. A total of 38% of small employers have not, and do not, intend to do so, per NFIB’s survey.

Read the full survey here.

RELATED: University of Alabama program helps connect small businesses with federal relief funds

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

7 hours ago

Alabama automakers lend a helping hand in COVID-19 battle

Alabama automakers are stepping in to aid their communities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, including support of crucial testing services and production of protective face shields for healthcare workers.

Toyota’s Huntsville engine factory is producing 7,500 protective face shields for local hospitals.

In addition, the plant has donated 160 safety glasses to local hospitals, along with $25,000 to the United Way of Madison County to support COVID-19 relief efforts.


“With our plant idled, Toyota Alabama is eager to contribute our expertise and know-how to help quickly bring to market the equipment needed to combat COVID-19,” the company said in a statement today.

Similar efforts are also happening at Toyota facilities nationwide.

Other Alabama automakers are offering community support as well.

Hyundai Motor America and its Hyundai Hope On Wheels program have donated $200,000 to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to help expand community testing efforts.

The grant will support the existing drive-through testing site in downtown Birmingham and help other sites in Jefferson County provide much-needed screening, said UAB Medicine CEO Will Ferniany.

“Support like this gift from Hyundai Hope On Wheels helps our frontline medical staff understand that they are not alone in this fight,” he said. “This grant will help further UAB’s commitment to providing access to communitywide testing.”

The grant will also be used to expand access for pediatric-specific testing services. About 20 percent of the downtown testing site’s patient population is age 25 and under, and officials from UAB Medicine, the UAB Department of Pediatrics and Children’s of Alabama hope to continue to expand testing for this group.

Nationwide, Hyundai is donating $2.2 million to support drive-thru testing centers at 11 children’s hospitals throughout the U.S.

Hyundai Hope on Wheels supports families facing pediatric cancer, and the company said the pandemic is a particular risk to children with cancer who have compromised immune systems.

Hyundai operates an auto assembly plant in Montgomery, which has been idled amid the outbreak, as have other auto assembly plants in the state.

Honda’s plants across the U.S. are also helping out during the crisis, including its factory in Talladega County.

Honda has pledged $1 million to food banks and meal programs across North America. Plants also are donating equipment, including N95 face masks, to healthcare providers, deploying 3-D printers to manufacture visors for face shields and investigating ways to partner with other companies in producing equipment.

In Tuscaloosa County, the Mercedes-Benz plant has donated N100 reusable filters,  protective suits and other supplies to local hospitals, as well as $5,000 to the DCH Foundation to help with the hospital’s curbside testing process.

Mercedes is also working with the Alabama Department of Commerce on ways the company or its supplier network can support making parts for the medical industry, and it is providing expertise to other manufacturers that are producing healthcare supplies.

The automaker also hosted a LifeSouth community blood drive that received about 95 donors.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)