The Montgomery Advertiser newspaper's blog on all things related to Alabama politics and state government, featuring the writings of Sebastian Kitchen and Markeshia Ricks
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Roby hires campaign manager
Congressional hopeful Martha Roby, a Montgomery city councilwoman, has hired Cory Adair as her campaign manager. He will direct the day-to-day operations of the campaign. Roby, a Republican, is the only major party candidate who has said she is going to challenge the incumbent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright of Montgomery. Adair has spent the last two and a half years working for Mississippi Republican Party and was most recently the executive director. He was the House Campaign Director for the Alabama Republican Party in the 2006 election cycle and coordinated the efforts of more than a dozen campaigns for candidates for the Alabama House of Representatives. Republicans were able to pick up a couple of seats of some veteran Democrats, but losses elsewhere kept the numbers in the House the same as they were before the campaign. Adair, who received his bachelor of arts degree in political science from the University of Alabama, has extensive campaign experience. He grew up in Tallassee in the 2nd Congressional District. The 2nd Congressional District includes 16 counties in central and southeastern Alabama.
Gov. Bob Riley announced Tuesday that the education budget will begin the next fiscal year, which starts Thursday, in proration due to the continued downturn in the economy. Riley set the across the board cuts in the education budget at 7.5 percent to offset the predicted shortfall. "Given the state of the economy, we've anticipated for several months now that the education budget would enter fiscal year 2010 in proration, but it's still very unfortunate and I wish it wasn't necessary," Riley said. "Unlike the federal government, we cannot run deficits. Revenues are not at the level necessary to avoid spending cuts. With less revenue coming in and the escalating costs of employee health insurance, there’s no way to avoid it." His office reported that the cost of health insurance for education workers continues to skyrocket, increasing 72 percent from 2003 to 2009 with a cost $1.135 billion. The state paid $660 million in 2003. The budget for the 2010 fiscal year, with the 7.5 percent proration, will be about $5.3 billion. Education spending in Alabama was at $4.2 billion in 2003 and reached a high of $6.7 billion in 2008. During the current fiscal year, Riley used hundreds of millions from a rainy day account to offset some of the decreases in revenue.
After an absence from politics, George Wallace Jr. has decided to run for another term as state treasurer, according to the Associated Press. Wallace told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he decided to run for treasurer in 2010 as a Republican. He said he wants to return to the office to help with the state's prepaid college tuition plan, which is administered by the state treasurer. Wallace started the prepaid college tuition plan during the first of his two terms as state treasurer. Wallace said he was leaving politics in 2006 after he lost a runoff in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor to Luther Strange, who is running for attorney general in 2010. Other candidates who have announced they are running for treasurer include Republican Terry Dunn and Democrat Jeremy Sherer. Current Treasurer Kay Ivey, a Republican, cannot run for a third consecutive term and is running for governor.
The following is a statement from Todd Stacy, press secretary for Gov. Bob Riley, about a former cabinet member claiming the governor needed to recuse himself from negotiations on Jefferson County's sewer debt. Bill Johnson, the former head of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, sent a statement to the Montgomery Advertiser Monday night. He is a Republican candidate for governor and resigned from ADECA in late June after Riley said he needed to step down if he was running for governor.
"This guy has no idea what he's talking about," Stacy said. "Gov. Riley hasn't been involved in the sewer negotiations in almost a year, since he was able to reach an agreement with the county's creditors to reduce the county's sewer debt by more than one billion dollars. No one related to the governor benefits one bit from this. Rob Riley's legal work for the Jefferson County Sheriff's office has nothing to do with the sewer debt. Rob Campbell is one of hundreds of attorneys at one of the state's largest law firms and his work has nothing to do with the county's sewer debt. Either Johnson knows this and his complaining is a silly ploy to get attention for his campaign, or he has no clue what's going on with the state's largest county."
A former appointee of Gov. Bob Riley who is running for governor is again criticizing the administration -- urging Riley to recuse himself as the lead negotiator for Jefferson County in its ongoing sewer debt debacle. Bill Johnson, who Riley appointed as a department head and who worked for Riley's campaigns going back to 1996, said the governor should recuse himself because of the connection of two family members to law firms involved with Jefferson County. The comments by Johnson are the latest about the Riley administration since he resigned in late June as head of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. He resigned after Riley told him he needed to step down if he was running for governor. His wife continues to work in the administration. Johnson has questioned the administration's use of a company operating out of a house to perform work through a proposed $13 million computer contract. Administration officials said Paragon Source LLC has performed well for the state and they cannot find any issues with the contract. When asked during a recent radio interview about a potential conflict of interest in Jefferson County, Johnson said his decisions would be clouded if his children were on the payroll. Jefferson County has several billion dollars in sewer debts, which is at the core of an ongoing financial crisis there. The county commission appointed Riley as the lead negotiator with the banks and credit companies on the sewer debt, and voted for Bradley Arant Rose and White LLP to work with him — after voting weeks earlier to end its contract with the law firm. Riley's son-in-law, Rob Campbell, works at Bradley Arant, but administration officials have said he is isolated from state work and does not benefit financially. Bradley Arant has hundreds of attorneys in seven offices. Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale hired Riley's son, Rob Riley, to represent his department after a judge ordered the county to stop collecting an occupational tax and the commission ordered departments to make cuts. Johnson, a former Birmingham city councilman, said Riley has prided himself on ethics and said recusing himself would build trust in the citizens and remove any perception of a conflict of interest. "Serving as lead negotiator for Jefferson County, through whom the law firms of both the governor's son and son-in-law are benefiting financially does not build trust," Johnson said in a statement. "I have had a number of people ask me if this creates a conflict of interest. The world has their eyes on the increasing stench of the Jefferson County sewer crisis." Riley, who could not be reached for comment Monday night, has long fought accusations that any members of his family benefited financially from him serving as governor. Last week, when asked for a response to the original criticism, Riley Press Secretary Todd Stacy wrote "Typically, candidates that aren't doing so well say just about anything to get attention." Johnson is one of nine candidates who have announced they are running for governor in 2010, and is not in the top tier of Republicans in the polling that has been released publicly. He has not accused anybody of wrongdoing in the situations. Johnson was director at ADECA when hundreds of thousands of dollars from that department were paid to Bradley Arant in legal contracts. Johnson was in Riley's cabinet for three years and was an appointee for seven years, also serving as assistant director at ADECA. Riley and Johnson have been close for years. Johnson served as campaign manager for Riley's first run for Congress in 1996 and was the choice to be his chief of staff, but the congressman-elect decided otherwise after criticism of Johnson. Johnson was criticized for not paying his taxes for 14 years and, while running as a Libertarian for U.S. Senate in Missouri, adopting that party's stance on legalizing prostitution and drugs. He has said he does not believe in legalizing those, but was running on the party's platform. Johnson coordinated grassroots efforts for Riley's gubernatorial run in 2006. When Democrats attacked Johnson's past, Riley came to his defense. Johnson, in his statement, said he knows the high ethical standards of the Riley administration. He even quoted Riley from his election Web site: "In every action we take, ask yourself: is this right for the people and will it build trust?" Johnson's wife, Kathy, continues to work in the Riley administration. She runs the Alabama Broadband Initiative, which the governor created in an effort to make broadband Internet service available statewide.
Equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter not only endorsed U.S. Rep. Artur Davis in his bid for governor, but she told his supporters in a fundraising e-mail on Monday that she also gave $25. "I was proud to come out and offer my support, but after years of false promises as my employment discrimination suit moved through the courts, I know that actions speak louder than words," she wrote in her e-mail. Davis, D-Birmingham, has a goal of reaching $25,000 in grassroots donations by Wednesday. As of 10 a.m. Monday, the campaign had raised $7,210. Davis is one of nine candidates who have announced they are running for governor.
Alabama native and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be the keynote speaker at The Business Council of Alabama's 2009 Chairman's Dinner on Wednesday at the Birmingham Sheraton Hotel. Rice, a Birmingham native, was national security advisor to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, when she became secretary of state. The dinner begins at 7 p.m.
Homer Jackson, an accountant who was the treasurer for the Alabama Republican Party for 44 years, died Sunday, according to a release from the party. He was elected treasurer of the party in 1965 and became the longest serving elected party leader in the history of the state party. The longtime party activist, who was 84, was chairman of the Alabama Young Republicans, president of the Southern Council of Young Republicans, elected to the Jefferson County Executive Committee in 1954, and was elected to his 23rd term as treasurer in February. "Homer Jackson was such an incredible man and will be greatly missed, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this time," said state Rep. Mike Hubbard of Auburn, who is chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. "Mr. Jackson was passionate about the Republican Party, and he backed it up through his unbridled enthusiasm and his dedicated, not to mention unpaid, service." Visitation will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Mountain Brook followed by a memorial service at noon.
The Alabama Republican Party officially launched its Campaign 2010 website – www.Alabama2010.com Tuesday.
The site, which will serve as the Alabama GOP's official election center for 2010, will also be an engine for the party’s continued fundraising efforts.
Visitors to Alabama2010.com can sign up to join our grassroots team, receive email updates, donate, invite their friends and host a Campaign 2010 promotional event.
While the Alabama2010 website will not replace the Alabama Republican Party’s main home on the web (www.algop.org), it will serve as the one-stop shop for all things 2010.
Philip Bryan, Communications Director for the State Party, touts the website as just one more element in the overall 2010 strategy.
“Chairman Hubbard’s successful fundraising efforts have put us in a position to implement tools such as this website, and we are fortunate that donors keep buying into our plan,” Bryan said. “Alabama2010 is an opportunity for Alabamians to get involved in a movement, a movement that is 135 years in the making and a chance to move our state forward."
Alabama lawmakers divided on Joe Wilson resolution
Alabama lawmakers voted along party lines for a resolution admonishing U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson for his recent outburst during President Obama's address on health care to a joint session of Congress. Alabama's three Democrats, Reps. Bobby Bright, Artur Davis and Parker Griffith, voted for the short resolution, which said the South Carolina Republican breached decorum and "degraded the proceedings." Congress approved the resolution disapproving of his behavior 240-179. Republican Reps. Mike Rogers, Jo Bonner, Robert Aderholt and Spencer Bachus voted against the resolution. Aderholt, R-Haleyville, told The Birmingham News "I think that Joe Wilson was caught up in the heat of the moment last Wednesday. After the speech he called the president to apologize and the apology was accepted by the president. There is little need to prolong this issue when other important issues could be brought before the House of Representatives." In a statement, Davis said "a joint session of Congress is not a school playground where children shout names at each other. The House chamber itself is a place with rules meant to preserve dignity and respect. My opinion is that Wilson loudly and defiantly breached those rules." Davis, D-Birmingham, said he will vote against the health care legislation and had disagreements with President Bush on policies, "but it has never occurred to me to impugn the character or the patriotism of either President Obama or President Bush. I wish that other Americans who feel strongly would find their way to express passion without venom and verbal abuse." "It is time for those of us in the center to exercise our First Amendment rights to tell our loudest, most extreme voices to sit down and learn some decency."
A recent poll shows state Rep. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, leading other candidates in the race for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Myron Penn, a Union Springs Democrat. The poll, conducted by the well-respected Democratic polling firm of Anzalone-Liszt Inc., shows Beasley leading the Democratic primary field and in potential head-to-head runoff match-ups with former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford, fellow state Rep. Locy Baker of Abbeville and Macon County Commissioner Drew Thompson. Beasley, who is in his third four-year term in the House, had 30 percent of the votes in the poll, Ford had 24 percent, Baker had 16 percent and Thompson had 5 percent. The polling summary states that even though Ford, who also served in the Alabama House of Representatives, has run for various positions since the 1970s, Beasley leads him head-to-head 48 percent to 37 percent. Beasley leads Baker in a head-to-head match-up with 50 percent to 27 percent. In the diverse district, according to the polling summary, the lawmaker has strong support from black voters with a nine to one favorable to unfavorable rating, which is higher than other Democratic primary candidates. His lead increases from six points to 10 points district-wide when voters receive biographical information including race. Beasley and Thompson are white. Ford and Baker are black. Beasley is also already known to half of the Democratic primary electorate, according to the poll. The poll was released by Beasley's campaign. Anzalone-Liszt has worked for U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, and many other state and national candidates.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James said in a statement Wednesday that, if elected governor, "I would resist Obama-care at every turn." "While there needs to be more competition in health care, government-run health care solves nothing and only makes matters worse," said the Greenville businessman and son of former Gov. Fob James. James and most, if not all, of the other eight candidates for governor have spoken out against health are proposals being considered by Congress. The candidate, in his second run for governor, was responding to comments from Robert Gibbs, an Alabama native who is press secretary for President Barack Obama, on Fox News. "Robert Gibbs specifically stated that Alabama would be a prime state for a federal takeover of our health care," James said. "That's a clear signal to everyone, especially our Alabama congressional delegation, that there is no middle ground, no negotiation with this administration on health care. They have one goal and that is to control our lives." Obama addresses a joint session of Congress tonight to discuss overhauling health care.
After hearing reports of damage to the fence at the governor's mansion on South Perry Street in Montgomery, a spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley told the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday that a limb fell and damaged the fence.
The "Yella Fella" is helping Republican Bradley Byrne in his race for governor. Byrne announced Wednesday that Abbeville businessman Jimmy Rane will serve as the general chairman for his campaign and will assist with fundraising and strategy.
Rane is best known for his "Yella Fella" TV ads for his Great Southern Wood company and as a trustee of Auburn University. Rane said he's supporting Byrne because he has a wealth of knowledge and understanding that no other candidate can match.
Byrne served on the State Board of Education, as a state senator and as the state's two-year college chancellor before deciding to run for governor. He is one of six candidates seeking the Republican nomination in the primary in June 2010.
Bright Returns from Fact-Finding Trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan
U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Montgomery, returned from a House Armed Services Congressional Delegation fact-finding trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a press release.
The delegation, which left Washington on Sept. 3, examined civil, military, and political counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism initiatives in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The delegation focused specifically on interagency cooperation, special operations, intelligence and development in the countries.
“Pakistan and Afghanistan are two of the most important countries from an American foreign-policy perspective,” Bright said. “We have been actively engaged in Afghanistan for nearly eight years, and Pakistan’s cooperation is vital for success in the greater global war on terror. It is essential for me to get a first-hand perspective on the situations on the ground in each country, and to better understand our goals and challenges in the region as a whole.”
In Afghanistan, Bright received briefings on counternarcotics, police training, and the recent Afghani elections. He also was briefed on the status and effectiveness of existing aid programs to the region by the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry.
Bright also received a briefing from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, who recently issued an assessment of operations in Afghanistan to President Obama and is widely expected to make a follow-up request for more troops.
“Given the increased role of the military and the national elections, visiting Afghanistan was especially important and timely,” Bright said. “Gen. McChrystal reiterated to me what he told to the President: the situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is possible with the strategy and commitment. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee to provide those soldiers and commanders with the support they need to be successful in the region.”
In Pakistan, Bright met with Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani and Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Other Pakistani officials he met with included General Muhammad Masood Aslam, Commander of XI Corps, and General Tariq Khan, Inspector General of the Frontier Corps. Bright also met with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson and American service members and civilians.
Bright is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as the subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities that sponsored the CODEL. This is his second trip to the region. Early this year, he visited Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Alabama woman who stood by President Obama as he signed equal pay legislation named for her announced Tuesday that she is endorsing Artur Davis for governor. Lilly Ledbetter of Jacksonville said in a video announcement that Davis has "the grit and the determination to transform Alabama's economy." "When Artur Davis says that he will fight for working women and working families, believe me, I know he will keep his word," she said. Davis, a Montgomery native, represents Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and much of the Black Belt in Congress. He is one of nine people running for governor. Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Equity Act, one of the first major pieces of legislation signed by Obama. Davis said he looks forward to spending time with Ledbetter on the campaign trail. "Lilly Ledbetter joins that line of heroic Alabama women who have changed our country and our ways by the power of their example," Davis said in a statement. "There are countless women in Alabama and around America who owe her a debt of gratitude for the new statute that bears her name, a law that strengthens our commitment to rewarding an honest day's work with an honest day's pay, regardless of gender.”
Reminder: Candidate to host health care town hall tonight
State Rep. Robert Bentley, a Republican candidate for governor, will host a town hall meeting on health care tonight. Bentley, who represents Tuscaloosa in the Legislature, will host the town hall at 6:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in downtown Montgomery. A doctor who practices dermatology, the candidate "will focus on offering solutions at the state level to improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of health care in Alabama." He will also talk about his concerns with health care proposals being considered by Congress. The legislator will take questions from the audience. Bentley is one of nine candidates for governor.
Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore will speak at 11 a.m. today at a "Reclaim Our Godly Heritage" rally in Wetumpka. Moore, who is running for governor in 2010, will be the keynote speaker at the event at Gold Star Park. Local activists Eric and Becky Gerritson are sponsoring the rally. Moore, a Republican, has a dedicated following after his refusal, when he was chief justice, to remove a monument that included the 10 Commandments from the State Judicial Building. He was eventually removed from office. Tea party activists will be selling their "1776 political cartoon-inspired 'Don't Tread on Me' t-shirts and Greg Budell's talk radio show's belt buckles to raise funds for a trip to Washington on Sept. 12."
State Rep. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa will host a town hall on health care at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Embassy Suites in downtown Montgomery. Bentley, one of six Republicans who have announced they are running for governor, is a doctor who practices dermatology. He has labeled the event "Real Solutions: Health Care Town Hall." The general public is invited to attend. Bentley, who has served in the Alabama House of Representatives for seven years, said in a statement that the event "will focus on offering solutions at the state level to improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of health care in Alabama." He will also talk about his concerns with health care proposals being considered by Congress. The legislator will take questions from the audience. "As a doctor for 34 years, I have gained insight into the problems doctors and their patients face as our health care system has been taken over by insurance companies and government bureaucrats," Bentley said. "As governor, I will work to restore the doctor-patient relationship."
South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.