Inside Alabama Politics

Inside Alabama Politics – October 6, 2017

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Crenshaw Republican Party slams publicity seeking Perry Hooper Jr.

In a letter obtained by IAP written Thursday to GOP Party Chair Terry Lathan, Crenshaw GOP chair William Morgan Rayborn, Jr. requested the GOP leadership to “stop blatant self-promotion by anyone in the name of the Republican Party.”

Rayborn, upset over a press release by Perry Hooper Jr. taking credit for the switching of two Democratic Crenshaw County Commissioners wrote:

“As a result of Perry’s actions, the local party will not now participate, condone, and/or sanction this event. Perry is on his own,” he continued “Unfortunately, Perry Hooper has turned this occasion into a cheap promotional stunt to further his personal agenda. Our county party is being subjected to Hooper’s wholesale, narcissistic, self-promotion, with no regard to Crenshaw County or the interests of its residents.”

Read the letter in its entirety here Republican Party Letter and Attachment

 

Knight vs Reed?

It was no surprise when Sen. Quinton Ross, (D-Montgomery) resigned his seat to become the next President of Alabama State University. Also, it was no surprise that Rep. John Knight (D- Montgomery) would announce he would seek the Senate post.

What is going to be interesting if the long-protracted feud between Dr. Joe Reed and Knight will come into play in this race. Knight, who has been in the Alabama Legislature since 1993, was the long-time chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Conference (MCDC). MCDC is the county chapter of the Alabama Democratic Conference spearheaded by Dr. Reed. However, on Feb. 27 of this year, a group led by Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed (Joe Reed’s son) wrestled control of Knight’s organization away from him and his supporters.

Observers of the meeting said Knight’s organization was attempting to elect officers when arguments began to break out between Reed supporters and Knight’s supporters. Some members objected and a “division of the house” was called to count votes. The presiding officer refused the call and adjourned the meeting.

On Feb. 28, Dr. Reed sent a letter to MCDC officials notifying them the local chapter was being placed in “trusteeship” vacating all office holders within the local organization.

The Reed letter also called for a March 16 meeting to elect new officers to the local group. At that meeting the group declared itself as MCDC and elected Janet May as President and Joe M. Reed as Vice-President. Knight has his supporters formed a new group in March and have a healthy following of former MCDC members in its organization.

What is interesting is the fight for Ross’ seat could very well be the first test of the opposing black Montgomery based organizations. Political rumors continue to swirl that Dr. Joe Reed will oppose Knight and seek a candidate to challenge the long-time politician. Knight is chairman of Legislative Black Caucus.

Gov. Kay Ivey has scheduled a special election for the district on Dec. 12. Whoever wins the election will have to run again in the June 2018 Democratic Primary.

Women lead both parties in race for governor

Top GOP contenders are raising money at a healthy pace. While the Democrats seem to be struggling in comparison. Governor Kay Ivey took in $241,333 and now has just over $1 million in the war chest. She received a major contribution and early Christmas present from Regions Bank and AGA Sack PAC for $25,000 each. Regions Bank only gave $10,000 to Robert Bentley’s gubernatorial run and only $5,000 to Luther Strange. Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle raised $212,431 in September and now sits on just over $1 million. He filed a major contribution report for a $25,000 contribution from Jeff Benton, a Huntsville area homebuilder. Rep. Bill Hightower took in just under $50k and now sits on a half million to spend. Evangelist preacher Scott Dawson raised almost $56,265 in cash contributions and another $5k in in-kind contributions and had an ending balance of $301,000.

Other Republicans are off to a slower start. Joshua Jones took in less than $3,000 and has a balance of $237,900 according to his latest filing. Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan took in less than $1,000 and has $43k in his account. State Auditor Jim Zeigler ended the month with a little over $1,100 in the bank.

For the Democrats the battle is more uphill than for the GOP. Former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb banked $31,520 but spent most of it, reporting $23,547 in expenditures. Cobb has $87,294 in her war chest. Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox, who announced Thursday he was officially a candidate for Governor, loaned his campaign $50,000 and ended September with $58k on the books.

Ivey and Riley, much ado about nothing

There has been a lot of talk and speculation, IAP included, since Kay Ivey became Governor that she was working lock in step with former Gov. Bob Riley. Sources deep in the current Ivey administration tell IAP that is not the case, that the two don’t even have much of a relationship with one another. When probed by IAP about several Rob Riley sightings in the Capitol in recent months, one source said if Rob had been around it was probably an attempt to form a relationship with the Ivey staff because there isn’t one.

The rumors started when Ivey hired former Riley legal advisor and one-term State Senator Bryan Taylor as her legal counsel. But, someone inside Ivey’s inner circle was quick to point out that the hiring pool was thin and it was only logical several Riley loyalists would find their way into the new administration. This is Alabama politics and these are all the same people who run in the same GOP circles another politico pointed out.

“The Governor runs in her own circles, has loyal advisors who have been with her for years and to my knowledge has never been particularly close with former Governor Riley,” said one long time Republican legislator who is close to both Ivey and Riley.

Jones campaign could benefit from Ivey decision

Governor Kay Ivey may have given Democrat Doug Jones a significant boost against GOP candidate Roy Moore in the election to replace interim U.S. Senator Luther Strange. After Quinton Ross resigned his Alabama Senate seat to accept the job as President of ASU, Ivey scheduled the primary election for Ross’ seat for the same day as the Moore/Jones matchup. This makes sense as elections are expensive and consolidating them saves the taxpayers money. But it could also mean that an energetic race to replace Ross could see many black voters in the State at the ballot box for the U.S. Senate election. This would be a boon for Doug Jones.

Many analysts already see Moore as a weak general election candidate given his failed runs for governor and his two single-digit wins as chief justice. In 2012 Moore won with 51.7% of the vote against his Democratic opponent. At the same time Mitt Romney was carrying the state with more than 60%. In his first run for chief justice in 2000 Moore won with only 54.6%. Twice removed from the head of the State’s judiciary for violating judicial ethics, Moore has a tendency to turn off all but his most strident GOP supporters. The danger for Moore is that many of them will simply stay away from the polls (the election will be held less than two weeks before Christmas).

Doug Jones, by all accounts, faces an uphill, but not impossible climb to the U.S. Senate. A former U.S. Attorney, Jones’ two most high profile cases saw him help in the prosecution of the1963 KKK bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church and Olympic Park Bomber Eric Rudolph, whose 1998 bombing of a Birmingham abortion clinic killed a police officer.

Between now and December, attack ads will likely pit Jones, a man who brought baby killers and cop killers to justice; against Moore who lost his job twice for failing to follow the rules.

Political analysts Zac McCrary & John Anzalone say “Jones’s Alabama roots go deep and he certainly has the potential to be viewed as the ‘right kind’ of Democrat to earn consideration from Alabamians who might not have voted for a Democratic Senate candidate in a generation.”

Nationally the Democratic Party is looking for a victory, symbolic or not, that rejects Trump especially if that victory is in the south.

Jon Ossoff came up tantalizingly short in GA-6, in a district trending Democratic but not yet quite ready to flip. Despite running well ahead of traditional Democratic performance in each of these four special elections, Democrats have not yet caught their white whale,” say McCrary and Anzalone.

Another special election to play part in Senate general election

Governor Kay Ivey has authorized two elections and will soon authorize a third to replace vacant seats in the legislature. House District 4 is the seat held by former Rep. Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) who pled guilty to using his office for personal gain therefore losing his legislative seat. That seat and the one vacated by Senator Quinton Ross Senate District 26 will have primary elections on December 12, 2017. This is the same date for the general election to replace interim U.S. Senator Luther Strange. If a primary runoff is necessary the election will be held February 27, 2018 with the general election to follow Tuesday, May 15, 2018. If there is no need based on number of qualifying candidates for a primary, the general election will be held Tuesday, February 27, 2018. If a runoff is not necessary, the general election will be held Tuesday, February 27, 2018. Ivey is expected to make a similar announcement to fill the vacancy in House District 21 created by the sudden and untimely death of Rep. Jim Patterson (R-Meridianville) earlier this week.

It was a week of indictments and guilty pleas

Rep. Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) pled guilty to mail fraud, for using campaign money for personal expenses. Until recently Hammon was second in command in the House serving as Majority House Leader for almost 7-years, he has now fallen from grace in similar, but quieter fashion as former Speaker Mike Hubbard. Already removed from the legislative website, Hammon had announced earlier this year he would not stand for reelection.

Was this a warning shot to other legislators? The list isn’t short of other known current and former legislators who have many questionable, vague and hidden expenses on their campaign finance reports. Sources say Secretary of State John Merrill is combing through previous reports for possible referral to the Ethics Commission.

Joel Gilbert and Steven McKinney, both partners at the prestigious law firm Balch and Bingham, along with Drummond Coal lobbyist David Roberson were each indicted on six felonies last week by a Federal Grand Jury, related to the recent plea by former Rep. Oliver Robinson (D-Birmingham).

Woodfin handily defeats Bell in Birmingham mayor contest

Birmingham voters sent a message last week aimed squarely at Mayor William Bell in Tuesday’s runoff election. Mayor Bell lost in the runoff to Randall Woodfin, who at age 36 is the youngest Birmingham mayor in more than a century. Woodfin defeated 10 other candidates in the initial election and finished of Bell in the runoff. Woodfin led the field in the first election winning 41% of the vote to Bell’s 37%. The margin of victory widened in the runoff when Woodfin conquered Bell by more than 17% points.

The Washington Post reported that U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders did a robocall for Woodfin, as well as several other local candidates around the country, saying that Woodfin would fight for “Medicare for All.” Even though the mayor of Birmingham has nothing to do with legislating changes to Medicare some believe that Bernie’s call probably did help to turn out some voters for Woodfin.

Six incumbents were re-elected during the August 22 election and two incumbents were defeated in this Tuesday’s runoff. Council members Kim Rafferty and Johnathan Austin were defeated by Hunter Williams and Darrell O’Quin respectively. One other council race was on the runoff ballot. Former Council President Roderick Royal just barely lost his attempt to return to the body to newcomer John Hilliard.

Senate Election by the numbers

Total Ballots Cast: 480,466

Total Registered Voters: 3,134,166

Voter Turnout: 15.33%

Luther Strange

Total contributions: $3,876,890.00

Ballots cast: 218,066

Vote %: 45.40%

Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund Super PAC spent another $9 million to support Strange.

Roy Moore

Total contributions: $1,417,414.00

Ballots cast: 262,204

Vote %: 54.60%

Potpourri

  • For 16 years, Probate Judge Al Booth has served Autauga County. He has now set his sights on serving the state and announces his candidacy for House District 88 in the state legislature. This district serves areas of Autauga and Elmore County. Booth says he has a heart to serve, and it isn’t a lack of want to serve that is making him leave his position as Probate Judge for Autauga County. The simple truth is, he is “aging out,” he said with a grin. There is an age limit of 70 for judges, including Probate Judges. There is no age requirement to run for the Alabama legislature.
  • Rep. David Sessions (R-Mobile) will run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) who is running for Governor. Sessions, a farmer, is currently serving his second term in the House.
  • Tony Riley of Tuscumbia will seek the Republican nomination for HD18 in the Northwest corner of the state, which is being vacated by Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay). Morrow is running for the Senate seat held by Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia), who is running for his second term. Riley, an attorney, is general counsel for Tiffin Motorhomes.
  • GOP Mobile Circuit Judge Sarah Stewart has announced her candidacy for the Alabama Supreme Court. Stewart will run for the seat currently held by Justice Glenn Murdock, who is not seeking reelection.
  • Sen. Billy Beasley (D-Clanton) has become the new Senate Minority Leader following the resignation of Sen. Quinton Ross.
  • The Don Siegelman documentary Atticus v. The Architect was shown Sunday to a sold out crowd at the 1200-seat Davis Theatre in Montgomery. Originally scheduled to play at the 250-seat Capri Theatre, only to be obstructed by Capri board member and former U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, who is portrayed as an evil villain in the film. Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy were both in attendance.