Inside Alabama Politics

Inside Alabama Politics – June 22, 2018

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Yellowhammer blog founder Cliff Sims was fired from White House

Whose the Turkey?

IAP has learned that Cliff Sims, who sold his conservative Yellowhammer News blog last year to go work in the Trump White House as special assistant to the president overseeing White House message strategy, was fired and not promoted to another job at the State Department as first reported by Politico last month.

Sources say his White House antics made him few friends and it wasn’t long, after several leaks out of the White House communications department, that Sims was shown the door and fired by White House chief of staff John Kelly.

The world can rest easier knowing Cliff Sims is not at the side of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, advising him during the negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other foreign matters. Especially since Sims, a 34-year old Enterprise native and former lead singer for a rock band called Moses, has zero foreign affairs experience.

Politico reported Sims was officially offered a job working closely with Secretary Pompeo, however Sims was never offered a job, according to several sources.

Sims has been able to spin his White House firing as him accepting a job with the Secretary of State, but our sources tell us nothing could be further from the truth. “Cliff was fired from the White House and does not work for the State Department, nor will he ever have a position at State,” said one Washington insider very familiar with the situation. The White House has not confirmed anything regarding Sims, other than he is no longer employed at The White House.

The entire story of Sims landing a job at the State Department as a top advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was fabricated by Sims to booster his hiring potential as he sought employment after being fired from the White House, according to one source.

A Senate insider familiar with Sim’s White House departure who spoke to IAP on the condition they remain anonymous said, “Cliff was fired, but it wasn’t the football incident, also reported by Politico, that got him fired, it was the leaks coming from the communications office. The leaks he was providing to some in the media.” Some also expect it was Sims, identified only as a White House junior aide, in a New York Times article last month, who allegedly taped meetings with the President and played those recordings to impress friends.

 But, Sims, who has remained under the radar since his firing, might not be unemployed too long.

Sinclair Broadcasting has hired Kaelan Dorr as the company’s new “executive political producer,” working with the company’s Chief Political Analyst Boris Epshteyn. Dorr worked with Sims in the Trump administration and on the 2016 campaign. He served as director of congressional communications for over a year.

“I’m proud to announce I’ve joined Sinclair Broadcast Group as Executive Political Producer!,” said Dorr in a tweet two weeks ago, adding that he was “eager to bring my unique experience as a campaign veteran and Trump WH alum to an already stellar group.”

All three men worked together on the Trump campaign. Sims and Epshteyn cohosted an Internet campaign show called Trump Tower Live that broadcast nightly on the Donald Trump Facebook page for a couple weeks leading up to the 2016 election. So, maybe a soft landing awaits for Sims at Sinclair Broadcasting.

Sims, who once tweeted “Always be hustling,” is apparently doing just that by peddling his waning influence as he attempts to land another job be it at Sinclair or somewhere else. But, many are seeing that his relevance in political circles has greatly diminished and he is more of a liability than an asset.

“Cliff played Politico in an effort to appear relevant after his firing. Two years ago he was able to infiltrate himself inside the Trump campaign and ride those coattails all the way to a position inside the White House. He is nothing but an opportunist, a fraud,” said a longtime GOP operative.

IAP attempted to reach Sims for comment and left him a phone message, but our efforts were unsuccessful.

Runoff outlook

So far, with most candidates having expended their budgets in the primary, there has not been much action in the runoffs in either party. But we expect there to be fireworks a plenty to accompany The Fourth of July – just as the founders planned it!

In the race for Lieutenant Governor, Twinkle Cavanaugh is on radio taking credit for Alabama Power lowering their rates in light of President Trump’s tax cuts. Interesting tactic, and as we have noted before, most candidates who attempted to tie themselves to the President have lost this cycle.

Her opponent Will Ainsworth, who surged at the end of the primary season, dropped a whopping $500,000 contribution into his account two days after the primary. Rumor has it he has put most of that money into a statewide television buy.

This race remains a jump ball at the time of publication. In our observation, one of these candidates is going to have either “spend them into the ground” or find a real moral or ethical lapse, or this will remain close as can be through July 17th.

In the AG race, incumbent Robert Bentley appointee Steve Marshall also surged at the end of the primary and led the field. The problem both he and the other candidate who survived to make it to round two, former Attorney General Troy King have is that in general when an incumbent is held under 45% or so in the primary, it means they are very likely to lose – and both guys could be considered the incumbent, as one holds the office and the other held the office. It’s anyone’s guess as to who wins, and to how ugly this race gets.

In the Ag Commissioner race, upstart Rick Pate romped to a big lead in the primary and appears headed to a win in the runoff. Dial’s age and legislative tenure are often cited as reasons for him to “take it to the house.” That said, third place finisher Tracy “T.O.” Crane endorsed Dial earlier this week.

There’s also a hard-fought runoff for Alabama’s second congressional district. Former Rep and former Democrat Bobby Bright also surged toward the end of the primary to get 29 percent and current Rep Martha Roby faded to only 38 percent — which means almost 2/3 voters in her district voted for someone other than her! They will need a hard bit negative against Bright, maybe even more than the tired argument that he “was a Democrat” to pull the rabbit out of their hat. It remains to be seen as to whether any outside groups will weigh in on either side, but there are rumors of Bright pulling a “July Surprise” with the support of a group or groups out of DC who do not like Roby.

Then this happened this morning:

There are several state senate runoffs, including Steve Lolley forcing Sen. Larry Stutts into a runoff. Over half the district voted against Stutts, so if Lolley gets any funding, he could pull the upset here. This race will be highly contested in the general election, but the hopes of Democrat Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow probably hinge on Stutts coming through.

There are also Senate runoffs to fill the seat of Sen. Trip Pittman and Gerald Dial’s district, which runs from Russell to Cherokee County hard along the Georgia border. Both were evenly contested between the top two finishers and are hard to handicap absent other information.

BCA blow up? Or Canary comeback?

Several of BCA’s largest members, including Alabama Power, Blue Cross, Regions and others publicly resigned from Alabama’s largest business organization this week. Also resigning were several board members and general counsel Boots Gale. Most see this as precipitating Billy Canary’s ouster. But several people IAP spoke with took a counterintuitive look at these developments. With the dissident members no longer having participation with the board, Chairman Perry Hand and CEO Canary may be able to circle the wagons with the members who are still a part of the organization. As of now though all signs point to a Canary exit before the end of the year.

It remains to be seen how this will play out.

If you missed it earlier this week be sure to read our exclusive published in the June 20th edition of IAPCanary memo lays out “Wish List” for his exit strategy and compensation plan


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