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Congressional Incumbents Appear In Good Shape As Elections Wind Down

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

In the election of 2010, incumbents Parker Griffith (R from Huntsville) was easily defeated by Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks in the Republican Primary.  Griffith has been elected as a Democrat with President Barack H. Obama in 2008, but that relationship rapidly soured and he switched political parties amidst much fanfare by the National GOP.

Republicans in the Fifth Congressional District of Alabama never bought into Griffith’s sudden conversion to conservatism and jettisoned the Huntsville oncologist for the candidate with the stronger conservative credentials: Commissioner Brooks.

In the Second Congressional District that same year, Montgomery City Council woman Martha Roby (R) narrowly defeated conservative Democrat Bobby Bright in the November General Election that same year (2010).

2014 has not been 2010.  None of the Congressional incumbents faced credible challengers in their primaries, and according to every pundit we are aware of the incumbents should win easily on Tuesday, November 4th.

Congressman Robert Aderholt (R from Haleyville) does not even have to go through the charade of dispatching another outclassed Democratic Party opponent because none qualified to run in Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R) will be on the ballot on Tuesday; but he has no challenger there.  National Democrats did not want to waste resources in a race that everyone considered a hopeless quest from the very beginning.

Similarly Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D from Selma) faces no Republican challenger in the majority minority Seventh Congressional District of Alabama.

In the Fifth Congressional District of Alabama, Congressman Mo Brooks faces no Democrat on the ballot.  The struggling Alabama Democratic Party abandoned any hope of fielding a credible challenger in the increasingly conservative Fifth District.  Rep. Brooks does however face a challenger in independent Mark Bray.

Congressman Mo Brooks has raised $532,737 this campaign cycle and has $798,626 in cash on hand according to his pre-general election Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing to spend in the closing days of the campaign against Bray.

Without any party support, Mark Bray was only able to raise $24,465 for his campaign and his total cash on hand is just $7,226.

Congresswoman Martha Roby is seeking a third term in the United States House of Representatives representing Alabama’s Second Congressional District.

Her opponent is Erick Wright (D).

Congresswoman Roby has raised $1,047,288 this cycle and has $511,504 remaining in cash on hand.

Despite running as a Democrat in a district that Democrats held just four years ago, Erick Wright has only been able to raise $3,676 in contributions and is reporting just $441 left in cash on hand.  Wright has had to dip heavily in to his own finances to fund much of his campaign.  We could not find Wright’s  pre-general election report on the FEC website so his totals are from his October 1 report.

In the Third Congressional District, incumbent Congressman Mike Rogers (R from Saks) also appears to be secure.  Rogers has raised $974,324.99 and has $456,360 left to spend in the final stretch of his campaign.

Democratic Party challenger Jesse T Smith reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that he had only $4,100 in reported contributions and just $1,300 in cash on hand.

In Alabama’s First Congressional District, incumbent Congressman Bradley Byrne (R from Montrose) has had less than a year since his special election to raise money for this campaign; but he still reports in with a respectable $487,953 in contributions.  Rep. Byrne faces the last days of the race with $238,831 in cash on hand.

The Alabama Democratic Party candidate is Burton LeFlore, whom Byrne defeated in the special election last December 71:29 percent of the vote.  LeFlore has only reported contributions of $1270 this time around and has just $2,592 in cash on hand to spend on this race.

In the Sixth Congressional District, incumbent Spencer Bachus is retiring.  In his bid to replace Bachus, Republican Gary Palmer has raised $ 1,639,614.  Most of that however was spent in the Republican Primary and Runoff elections.  Palmer reports just $225,620 in cash on hand.

His Democratic opponent, Mark Lester, reports raising $112,235 in contributions.  Lester reported $23,560 in cash on hand in October.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, almost $4 billion will be spent before this Congressional midterm is over. If that estimate is correct, that would make it the most expensive midterm ever by nearly $400,000.  Spending is up from $3.6 billion in 2010 and $2.8 billion in 2006.  Of the $4 billion spent this cycle, about $2.7 billion is projected will be spent by candidates and parties.  Outside groups spending is estimated to be close to $900 million.

Voters will go to the polls on November 4 to decide who will represent them in the U.S. Congress for the next two years.

GOP Lawmakers And Candidates Speak At Train Depot

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Evoking images from an era long-ago, where the railroads were the primary method of travel, Republican candidates in Jefferson County spoke at the historic train depot in Leeds, AL.

State Representative Dickie Drake (R from Leeds) who represents Alabama House of Representatives District 45.  Drake thanked everyone for coming to the event.  Drake who was first elected in a special election for the office previously held by his brother, Owen Drake, said that he has no opponent on Tuesday, but urged everyone to vote on Tuesday, November 4.

Judge Suzanne Childers (R) told the crowd (estimated at 50), I have been a judge for 12 years now.  I have been a private Circuit Judge, a Domestic relations judge, and a municipal judge.  Childers said that she has enjoyed being a private Circuit Judge, but is running for office in Jefferson County again.

While most of Alabama has moved firmly into the Republican County, strong get out the vote efforts for President Obama has swept most Republican officeholders, including the judges, out of office in recent elections.  Childers said that of the 40 Jefferson County Judges only 5 are from Jefferson County.  Childers was one of the Republican judges who lost two years ago when Obama was re-elected.

Childers is a graduate of the University of Alabama, Nashville Judicial College, and the Birmingham School of law.  Her daughter is an international lawyer in Boston.  She is running for Place #1 on the Jefferson County bench.

Childers said that Republicans need to take back the county.  “Please vote for me.  I am very much a Constitutional judge, particularly the Second Amendment.  I am known as the pistol packing judge.”

Childers is also staunchly pro-animal and is endorsed by the Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation (AVRAL) who said on Facebook that they, “Enjoyed our visit with Elect Judge Suzanne Childers at Bark at the Moon Festival in Fultondale. Suzanne is on AVRAL's list of endorsements.”

State Representative candidate Danny Garret (R) and AL state Senate candidate Shay Shelnutt (R) are both running from Trussville.  Both are unopposed on the ballot.

Shelnutt is taking outgoing state Senator Scott Beason’s (R from Gardendale) seat representing St. Clair, Blount, Talladega, and Jefferson Counties.

Shelnutt said that he and Garrett are, “Both Very conservative.”

Garrett said that he is running to take Arthur Payne’s place (House District 44).

Garrett said that he is looking forward to representing the people of District 44 and described himself as a, “Christian businessman.”  “I am not moving to Montgomery.”

Garrett said that “Will Ainsworth (R) needs our support in Marshall County.  He is an tough race against a former legislator.”

Davis Lawley is the Republican Candidate for District Court Judge place 2.  That is the Judge for Jefferson County’s drug court.  Lawley lost that position in the Presidential Election of 2008.

Lawley said that the drug court concept started in New York State and was started here (Jefferson County) by a Democrat.  Lawley held the post until the Judges races became politicized in 2008.

Lawley said that it is key to talk to your friends about voting on Tuesday.  “You are not getting the best quality Judges on the bench now.  Lawley is urging Libertarians, democrats, and Republicans to vote for him.

Lawley is concerned that too many people are apathetic. People don’t feel like their vote matters.

Joel Blankenship said, “I am not running for judge.  I am running for Jefferson County Tax Assessor I have been campaigning for 12 months.”  Blankenship said he was born and raised in Trussville.  He is a real estate attorney with a degree from the Cumberland School of law.

He has been doing real estate closings for the last 5 years and working with the Tax Assessor’s office has been difficult.  You can’t just phone them to get something done.  Blankenship said that he either has to go down there himself or send a secretary down there and it should not be that difficult.

The most dangerous word in politics is “taxes” but taxes have to be paid.  “Your tax exemptions should not be hidden from you.  I am running to fix a broken office.”  Some people’s property is assessed too high currently and often their neighbor is assessed too low.  Blankenship vowed to assess the taxes on people’s property accurately and take politics out of the process.

Blankenship said that all he is scared of is that the vote will not turn out.  “The County is getting bluer and bluer.  We keep losing judges.  We keep losing county wide offices.”  The incumbent is Richard Arrington’s niece.  “I need voters to turnout.”  Start on the back of the ticket and fill out those offices first and start with Blankenship for tax assessor.  “On Tuesday, Jeff Sessions is going to win.  Governor Bentley is going to vote.  Vote to bring good government back to Jefferson County.  Vote and then call your friends to come vote.

Steve Ammons spoke next.  He is running for Jefferson County tax collector as a Republican.  Ammons said that when you run for office you learn that Jefferson County is a huge huge county.  “I have enjoyed meeting new people.”  Ammons said, the county has been broken and is just beginning to turn around under the current county commission.

Taxes have to be paid.  The Birmingham race course has not paid its taxes in years.  They ought to bring back horse racing then maybe they can pay their back taxes.  There are lots of properties in Jefferson County where taxes are overdue but collecting those taxes has to go through the court process.

Ammons said, “It has been frustrating.  We know the county needs all the revenue it can get but because of politics taxes are not collected."  Ammons is a member of the Vestavia City Council and understands the problems this poses to cities.  Both Leeds and Homewood both have each missed out on over a million in ad valorum taxes each year.  The tax collector’s office did not collect the money and would not tell the cities where those properties are for them to try to collect the money.

Ammons said that there is presently a lack of transparency and lack of accountability.  The process has got to be more clear, got to become more transparent.  Just collect what is there.  Vote for me and vote for Joel Blankenship as well.

Ammons said we have to get the vote out.  59 percent of straight ticket voters in Jefferson County vote straight Democratic.  Only 41 percent vote straight Republican.  We have got to change that percentage.

Gary Palmer is running for Congress.  Palmer said, “This election is about whether we still believe in the ideas of the Revolution....This is a pivotal election.”

John Merrill who is running for Secretary of State also addressed the Constitutional Conservatives of Alabama at this event.

Deanna Frankowski thanked all the candidates for coming and urged everyone in attendance to join their Facebook page.

Did Hubbard Use Campaign Donations to Post Bail?

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter 

MONTGOMERY—According to the latest FPCA reports, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, paid his company Auburn Network $131, 281.00, on the very day he was arrested by the State on 23 counts of public corruption. 

According to Hubbard’s indictment, Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker established a bond schedule of $5,000 for each of Hubbard’s first ten counts and $3,000 each for the final 13 counts, for a total bond of $89,000.

Multiple media outlets reported Hubbard made his way to the Lee County Justice Center on Friday, October 17, to “file papers” related to his bond, in an effort lessen the time he would spend at the facility when he was eventually arrested.  Many legal experts consulted agreed this likely involved depositing cash or providing the paperwork necessary to put one or more deeds on file to later be used for the bond amount.

On the day he was arrested Hubbard’s campaign made a single $131,281 payment to Auburn Network, the company widely reported to be 100 percent owned by Hubbard.  That same day, October 20, Hubbard turned himself in to Lee County authorities. 

Could this campaign expenditure been the money Hubbard’s used to pay his bail?

Hubbard has repeatedly over the course of the last year used his campaign funds to pay for his criminal defense attorneys contrary to the stated opinion of the State’s Attorney General’s ruling.

In June 2000, then Attorney General Bill Pryor issued an opinion aimed at clarifying the matter of whether campaign donors could be used for a legal defense. 

In his opinion, Pryor states, “Excess campaign funds may be used by an incumbent office holder to pay legal fees incurred pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment if the indictment is related to the performance of the duties of the office held.”

Simply put, legal expenses can be paid from campaign contributions if:

1) It is “pursuant to a criminal indictment,” and

2) “the indictment is related to the performance of the duties of the office held.”

Hubbard has been paying his attorney’s from his campaign account long before his arrest and indictments on Monday, October, 20, 2014. It would also be difficult to imagine that receiving “things of value,” from lobbyists, associates or their principals would fall under the category of “related to the performance of the duties of the office held.” 

According to the latest files, Hubbard also paid another of his business interests Craftmasters Printers, Inc., $17,673.70. Hubbard received $29,500.00 in donations and spent $176,308.00 total for the period.  

Moore Trial: Day Two

By Byron Shehee
Alabama Political Reporter 

OPELIKA,— Day two of the State’s case versus Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, was set to begin with Josh Pipkin, challenger to Moore in the 2014 Republican Primary, taking the stand.  Both legal teams, however, were in conference with Judge Jacob Walker well before the jury was brought into the courtroom. 

The early morning action with the judge centered on whether one of the recordings between Moore and Pipkin was admissible due to the defendant being out of state.

The court accepted the prosecution’s argument that the recording involving the defendant’s location in Florida was not illegally obtained and was allowed.

Judge Walker also informed a few in public seating that commentary would not be tolerated and some may be asked to leave if decorum was not followed.

With that house cleaning out of the way, everyone got ready for the jury and the State’s first witness.

Once on the stand, Pipkin testified that he recorded the phone calls after he received a tip he might get a call urging him to get out of the race.  The notification came from Jonathan Tullos, executive director of the Wiregrass Economic Development Corporation and the call would possibly be originated by either Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, or Moore.

Tullos said in earlier testimony that he had a conversation with Moore about a potential economic development project that could be coming to Enterprise.  The development project involved Enterprise Electronics Corporation (EEC), Enterprise State Community College (EECC) and a possible incentive package from the State.

The deal was fairly straight forward: the State would provide economic incentives to Enterprise Electronic Corporation, EEC would build a new facility and the company’s old building would become part of EECC’s campus.

The new building was said to be needed for room to facilitate the 80-90 additional jobs created by EEC.

During Pipkin’s testimony, it was indicated that Moore was recorded saying Hubbard was furious about Pipkin’s candidacy and how challenging Moore in the Republican Primary would hurt the community.

Moore went on to say that we would support the project whether Pipkin stayed in the race or not, but acknowledged he could not control Hubbard.

Pipkin said he would get out of the race if he could get a confirmation from Moore and Hubbard that the deal would go through, otherwise he was staying in the race.

State’s prosecutor Matt Hart’s last question asked how he decided to seek help from the authorities. Pipkin responded that he first asked a local district attorney, who in turn directed him to U.S. Attorney George Beck.  Finally, Pipkin contacted the Alabama Attorney General’s office.

After a quick question from the defense on whether or not Moore supported the economic development project, Pipkin and Baxley had a series of interesting exchanges, the most important being that Baxley made his point about Moore supporting the project.  Pipkin agreed that Moore supported the project, but quickly countered that Moore followed most of his vocal support with what he understood to be threats from Hubbard.

The defense said those were implied, not implicit.

Both the defense and the witness seemed on their toes at that point.

There seemed to be a slight edge to the questions that followed and most were met by a series of objections by the prosecution.

In what could be interpreted as a final jab at the witness, the defense asked Pipkin, who won the election?

After a brief pause, Pipkin responded.

The State’s next key witness was Keith Baker from the Alabama Attorney General’s office.

Baker testified that he had been investigating Moore and Hubbard. Baker said he was looking into a $12,000 a month lobbying contract between the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD) and Hubbard.

The defense had an objection with Hubbard’s relationship with SEAGD being brought into Moore’s trial.

After the objections and a quick break, Hart and Baker read Moore’s full previous testimony.

Hart read his previous comments and Baker read in the place of Moore.

Hart asked Moore (Baker) if he heard about the possibility that if anyone ran against him the economic development project might not happen.

Moore responded, No, Sir.

Before closing, the prosecution showed testimony indicated Moore had the ability to alter his statements and he said there’s nothing that he wanted to change in his testimony.

During cross examination Baxley highlighted the fact that the ethics commission approved Hubbard’s contract and stated Hubbard’s client benefiting from more revenue due to EEC using natural gas was not a violation of the law.

After Baker exited the stand the defense offered a couple of motions, one of which would drop the charges against Moore from four to two and another that would directly acquit Moore.

They were both denied.

The defense then called its first witness.

Bill Newton, State Finance Director, took the stand.

Mr. Newton was asked about the budget and if more money was added to the Governor’s education budget. He responded that Governor Bentley requested $319 M and Hubbard put $324 M in it.

The Prosecution asked if that additional money was earmarked for the EEC deal and he said that it was not.

The questions for Mr. Newton dried up just about as quickly as he got comfortable.

There may be additional witnesses called before the stand.

Barry Moore may be the last.

 

Roby Releases Ebola Plan

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Six months ago, Ebola was an exotic virus that lived somewhere in the wilds of Africa and which infrequently visited disease and death on some isolated African villagers in places few of us are ever likely to visit.  That all changed (perhaps forever) this summer and our government and the world is struggling to develop a plan to address this change.  Congresswoman Martha Roby (R from Montgomery) has been very outspoken about the importance of keeping the deadly disease out of this country.  On Monday, October 27 the conservative congresswoman sent an email to her constituents detailing her recommendations on dealing with the Ebola crisis.

Congresswoman Roby wrote, “Like many Americans, I am seriously concerned about the effectiveness of our country’s response to the Ebola outbreak and how it will affect our ability to protect Americans from this threat. I recently wrote President Obama a letter calling on him to take more decisive action to prevent American citizens from further exposure.”

Representative Roby said that her plan would include: a temporary travel ban by immediately restricting travel visas for individuals from the West African counties hardest hit by Ebola; enhanced airport screening for all U.S. airports; and a mandatory quarantine of individuals who have been in direct contact with the Ebola virus.

Rep. Roby said, “We need to approach the Ebola outbreak like a mission and fight it aggressively. Several experimental drugs exist to combat symptoms and treat the infected. Health officials are making concerted efforts to expedite further production and to send available vaccines to the affected areas. The Department of Defense has deployed military advisors to Western Africa to oversee medical facility construction and provide medical expertise. Additionally, the CDC is working in conjunction with many other federal agencies to train officials to identify and prevent sick passengers from traveling internationally. These efforts include coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of State.”

Rep. Roby wrote that, “Our state officials and hospital network are proactively preparing to handle cases, should they occur. I appreciate the leadership of the Dr. Don Williamson and his team at the Alabama Department of Public Health in keeping the public aware of the latest information.  My office remains in close contact with the agencies involved in combating this threat. Federal agencies have a critical job to do in such times of crisis, and it is important that they get it right. As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, and the Subcommittee overseeing the budget for the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, I am closely monitoring this situation as Congress considers agency funding bills for Fiscal Year 2015.”

As of Friday, October 24 the CDC released case counts updated in conjunction with the World Health Organization updates based on information reported by the Ministries of Health.  There have been 10141 suspected cases of Ebola, 5692 were confirmed by laboratory testing, and 4922 persons have died.

Congresswoman Martha Roby is seeking a third term in the United States House of Representatives representing Alabama’s Second Congressional District. 

Her opponent is Erick Wright (D).  Congresswoman Roby has raised $1,036,214.35 in her campaign to this point and has $580,954 remaining in cash on hand.  Wright has raised $3,676 in contributions and has reported just $441 in cash on hand.

Voters go to the polls to decide on Tuesday, November 4.

 

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