AG race up for grabs

 

 

By Jeff Martin

Last week I gave a rundown on the candidates competing to become Alabama’s next lieutenant governor. This week I’ll explore what is shaping up to probably be the most exciting statewide political race of 2018, that for attorney general.

     Four candidates are vying for the Republican nomination to become or remain Alabama’s next attorney general and another two are competing to win the Democratic nomination.

     Some recent polling provided to me shows former Attorney General Troy King maintaining a lead over the other Republican Primary candidates, which includes current Attorney General Steve Marshall, former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin and Criminal Court Judge Chess Bedsole. But this race is considered a toss up with most political pundits unsure of which two make the runoff.

     Troy King is seeking a return to the post he held for six years. He was appointed attorney general in 2004 by then-Gov. Bob Riley when Bill Pryor became a federal judge. He subsequently won the office in 2006, but lost the 2010 GOP primary to Luther Strange. Prior to being attorney general he served as legal advisor to former Gov. Fob James and former Gov. Bob Riley. He has been in private practice since leaving public office.

     Attorney General Steve Marshall was a district attorney for 16 years in Marshall County, serving 10 of those years as a Democrat before switching political parties in 2011. Former Gov. Robert Bentley named him attorney general last year after Bentley appointed Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate. More recently, Marshall got swept into the #MeToo conversation when old news resurfaced about him failing to protect an employee from a predatory supervisor during his time as District Attorney in Marshall County. Some of his opponents have also pounced on the fact that Marshall is being supported by and has received a number of large campaign contributions from several with close ties to convicted former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

     Alice Martin served as U.S. attorney for the northern district of Alabama from 2001 to 2009 after being nominated by President George W. Bush. She also served as chief deputy in the attorney general’s office under Strange, but is best known for overseeing a string of corruption investigations including the two-year college system and the financial fraud case involving HealthSouth while U.S. attorney.

   Chess Bedsole, is from a wealthy south Alabama timber family, a former Jesse Helms staffer, Jeff Sessions campaign manager and state director for President Trump during the 2016 presidential race. He also is the lesser known of the four candidates.

   The two men running to be the Democratic nominee for Attorney General are Joseph Siegelman, son to former Governor Don Siegelman and Chris Christie, not to be confused with the former governor of New Jersey.  Both men practice law in Birmingham.

   In the race for campaign riches Marshall leads the pack with $820 thousand reported on hand at the end of March. Bedsole is a surprising second with $805 thousand, but at closer glance I see that $600 thousand of that is a campaign loan from himself, which I doubt he spends. Martin reported $449 thousand in the bank and King, who got in the race late, shows a balance of $331 thousand.

     On the Democratic side Siegelman and Christie each reported having around $40 thousand on hand.  Siegelman was a late arrival, entering the race on the last day of qualifying. Name identification alone will probably carry him to victory in the June 5 Democratic Primary.

     Even with some polling showing King in the lead, Marshall is expected to continue raking in the dollars, as the power of incumbency proves its worth, even when it comes by appointment from a disgraced former governor. The mud has already begun to sling in this race and it is anyone’s guess which two candidates advance to the runoff to decide who will face the winner on the Democratic side in November.

     Similar to my advice last week, I suggest that you don’t rely on slick mail pieces and sensational 30-second campaign spots, but that you put your Google skills to use and educate yourself on each candidate.

Race for the other governor

 

 

By Jeff Martin

Three candidates are vying for the Republican nomination to become Alabama’s next lieutenant governor. Sen. Rusty Glover (R-Semmes), Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) and Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh are our options to succeed the next governor were something to happen. 

     The lieutenant governor has little power other than presiding over the Alabama Senate and making board appointments. The most important duty of the lieutenant governor is to be prepared to succeed the governor in the case of impeachment, resignation or death. 

     In modern history three lieutenant governors have ascended to the governorship because of death, conviction or resignation.  Albert Brewer stepped up after the untimely death of Gov. Lurleen Wallace in 1968. Jim Folsom, Jr., became governor when Gov. Guy Hunt was convicted of violating state ethics laws and most recently Kay Ivey replaced Gov. Robert Bentley who resigned after pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws. Former Lt. Gov. Jere Beasley served as acting Governor for five weeks when Wallace was shot on the Presidential campaign trail in Maryland in 1972. 

     Since 1901 only two have gone on to win a gubernatorial election after serving as lieutenant governor. Siegelman who was elected Governor in 1999 and Thomas Kirby elected in 1919. The last ten lieutenant governors have used the office in an attempt to catapult into the Governor’s office, but only Siegelman has been successful. And we see where that got him. 

      In 1978 Beasley ran, but lost the Democratic nomination for Governor. Brewer and Folsom also both lost bids to be elected Governor for a full-term. Leaving Ivey, at the age of 73, to try and become only the third Alabama lieutenant governor in over 100 years to win the Governorship and the first after inheriting the office. 

     To be honest, I had anticipated this open primary race to have several more candidates, especially considering its importance of being next in succession to occupy the Governor’s mansion. 

     Montgomery native Twinkle Cavanaugh won a seat on the Public Service Commission in 2010; elected President of the PSC in 2012 and reelected in 2016. Prior to becoming commissioner, she served as a senior advisor to Gov. Bob Riley and was elected Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party in 2005. 

     Cavanaugh is married to local veterinarian Jeff Cavanaugh. They have three children and two grandchildren.

     Sen. Rusty Glover (R-Semmes) has been in the state senate since 2006 and prior to that served one-term in the House of Representatives. He is retired after 25 years of teaching history in Semmes, where he lives with his wife, Connie. They have two daughters. 

     Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) after serving only one-term in the Alabama House of Representatives also wants to preside over the Alabama Senate.  Ainsworth, who graduated from Auburn with a marketing degree, operates a hunting and fishing lodge. He is married to the former Kendall Foster, and they have three children. 

     All three GOP candidates have Christian Conservative values and they all have proven to practice and preach similar politics.  Glover and Ainsworth have little statewide name recognition; Cavanaugh is the most widely known candidate having run in several statewide elections including her current seat as president of the Public Service Commission. 

    Glover does have the reputation as an honest man, but unfortunately not as a particularly good fundraiser. Ainsworth and Cavanaugh have each put some half a million dollars or more of family money into their campaigns but Glover closed out March with less than $10,000 on-hand campaign cash. Compared to the over 1 million dollars Ainsworth has stockpiled and Cavanaugh sitting pretty with more than $600,000 in her campaign account, Glover doesn’t appear to stand a chance against either, who are both already running ads on radio and television. 

     Not to be excluded, Will Boyd of Florence is the Democratic nominee. Boyd chairs the Lauderdale County Democratic Executive Committee and has previously run for U.S. Senate and a north Alabama congressional seat. 

     One of these candidates will become a heartbeat, impeachment or resignation away from becoming Governor when November rolls around. I’d like to suggest doing a little homework in deciding whom you think that person should be.  

Time for the beach

Jeff Martin, Publisher

Alabamians have survived another session of the state legislature, as they bid a sine die last week adjourning several weeks and four legislative days early. With the budgets flush and campaign season now in full swing it’s time to be inundated with political ads, pollsters and the always annoying campaign signs littering our roadways and nailed to trees.

The one task the legislature is constitutionally mandated to do is pass a balanced budget and unlike in years past, it wasn’t as difficult this year. They were even able to throw in a small pay raise for state and education employees, even with enough left over to give a one-time bonus to retirees.

The legislature kept to its promise of avoiding controversy most of the session, but things began to unravel in the final few days, particularly over two pieces of unrelated legislation, one of which eventually passed and the other dying on the House floor.

A bill creating a uniform reporting system to identify racial profiling during traffic stops failed last week when most white House members voted not to bring it up for debate. The bill sponsored by Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) had been a priority for black lawmakers this session and things were looking good when it passed early and unanimously by the Senate.  Though, things went sour quickly in the House, even after lawmakers heard several harrowing personal experiences from their black colleagues of being racially profiled, detained and even a gun to the head by police after having been stopped without reason, other than the color of their skin.

Sadly, the only excuse given for the bill’s demise, which did nothing more than require traffic stop data be collected, was that it created more paperwork for police officers.

The other controversial piece of legislation that kept rearing it’s ugly head on the final days will exempt certain economic development professionals from being required to register as lobbyists with the Ethics Commission. Proponents claim the new law is needed to help the state compete for jobs. Opponents claim it weakens the ethics law and will open the door to political corruption. The bill had plenty of Republican detractors, only passing the Senate by one vote and only fairing slightly better in the House.  But, it was enough and the bill currently awaits Governor Ivey’s signature, who is supportive of the legislation.

I imagine time will tell if the legislation is truly needed for economic development purposes or if it will serve as a get out of jail free card for certain lawmakers and lobbyists.

When the legislature returns next year there will be many new faces. A dozen House members are retiring and another dozen are running for another office.  Nine incumbent Senators will not be on the ballot this year, while another three are running for higher office. As I mentioned last week, Montgomery will have two new faces in the Senate next year.

Minus any calls for a special session by the governor, the legislature will not convene again until next January for the purpose of adopting rules, and electing leadership. The next Regular Session will convene in March of 2019.

The legislature might be gone, but the legislators are not forgotten and I will continue to keep you informed on the happenings of campaigns, elections and indictments, as the need exists throughout the year.

Speaking of indictments, Monday we learned of the arrests on federal corruption charges of Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestavia Hills) and former state GOP chairman and lobbyist Marty Conners, along with a California-based medical executive all connected to former Rep. Micky Hammon (R-Decatur) who gave these gentlemen up in a plea deal.  Truthfully, from what I have read about the indictment it appears the tentacles are stretching awfully long in snaring Williams, who doesn’t appear to have taken a bribe, but possibly had knowledge that Hammon was on the take. Williams announced last year he was not running for reelection, instead choosing to run for an open seat on the Jefferson County Commission.

Last week concluded my twenty-fourth year as a lobbyist and as I traditionally do at the end of every legislative session, I’m headed to the beach for a few days to recover.