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
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Pat Dye endorses Senate candidate
Former Auburn football Coach Pat Dye endorsed state Senate candidate Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, on Thursday. Beasley is running for state Senate District 28, which is currently represented by Sen. Myron Penn. Penn, D-Union Springs, is not running for a third term. District 28 includes all or part of Barbour, Bullock, Henry, Lee, Macon and Russell counties. Dye also recorded a radio announcement for Beasley, who is currently a member of the Alabama House of Representatives. "I have known Billy Beasley for a long time and know what kind of man he is," Dye said. "I plan on voting for Billy for the state Senate on June 1st and hope you will too. He will be a good senator for all folks in District 28." The other Democratic candidates are state Rep. Locy "Sonny" Baker of Abbeville, Howard C. Burton of Tuskegee, former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford, and Sam Harris of Auburn. Republican Kim West is also running.
Ronnie Gilley, developer of Country Crossing, announced Wednesday that the reopening of the development would be postponed because of threats from the commander of Gov. Bob Riley's Task Force on Illegal Gaming. "In light of Mr. Tyson's threatening remarks yesterday regarding his eminent raid on Country Crossing, the owners of the machines at our facility advised they will not give the critical support needed for the operation of the project," Gilley said in a statement. "We understand the significant investment made by the machine manufacturers, and we are taking their suggestion to postpone reopening." He said he was committed to reopening the facility. Gilley asked all employees to show up to work on Thursday so he could address them and the media at 11 a.m.
The Sons of Liberty purchased more than $1 million in TV spots to air beginning this week and running up until the June 1 election. Many of the candidates were concerned they would be targeted. They thought that they would be targeted with this large media buy in the waning hours before the June 1 primary. The ad addresses the effects of gambling, alcohol and drugs, and how candidates have refused to take a stand. The commercial shows pictures of Democrats Artur Davis and Ron Sparks and Republicans Robert Bentley, Bradley Byrne and Tim James. The groups asks people to contact those candidates and ask them whether or not they support gambling in the state. The only top tier candidate who is not shown is Republican Roy Moore.
You can view the ad by going to: http://newlibertysons.com/
Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James begins a statewide bus tour on Tuesday that will lead up to the June 1 primary, where he will face six other Republicans. He will talk to people throughout the state. James is kicking off his tour at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the Capitol steps in Montgomery. "People want their voices to be heard during these uncertain times when so many Alabamians are out of work," James said. "I want to hear from as many people as possible during my campaign."
Bright scores better than other Democrats on Club for Growth report
Freshman U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright of Montgomery scored better than any other Democrat on a scorecard from the Club for Growth, which supports low-tax, pro-growth Republicans who want limited government. He also scored better than about two dozen Republicans including two Alabama Republicans, Rep. Mike Rogers of Saks and Rep. Parker Griffith of Huntsville. He also finished well ahead of Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham. Bright was in the middle of the pack among Alabama's seven congressmen. Rep. Jo Bonner of Mobile finished ahead of the pack with a score of 90 percent. Bright, with a score of 64 percent, was one of only three Democrats in Congress with a score of 50 percent or higher. The other Democrats are Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi and Rep. Walt Minnick of Idaho. Bright ranked 155th among the 435 members of the House. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, for example, scored a 7 percent. Some members, including Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois, Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan scored 0. Alabama's two U.S. senators, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, finished with strong scores. Sessions had a 100 percent score while Shelby had an 83 percent. The Club looked at lawmakers' records on "pro-growth policies" including reducing income tax rates, repealing the death tax, limited government through limited spending, social security reform with personal retirement accounts, free trade, lawsuit abuse, tort reform, education choice, and regulatory reform and deregulation. Members who refused earmarks were also awarded points. The lawmakers who score 90 percent or higher receive the Defender of Economic Freedom award.
A source just pointed out this very colorful ad from Dale Peterson, a Republican running for agriculture commissioner. For your information, there is a horse, some yelling and a gun. It is worth a view.
U.S. Reps. John Lewis of Georgia and Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois have endorsed fellow Congressman Artur Davis' candidacy for governor of Alabama. The men will be featured in radio spots that begin airing before the primary election, which is June 1. "I am pleased that Jesse Jackson Jr. and John Lewis support my efforts to change Alabama," Davis said. "For seven years, I have worked with both of them to pass legislation that makes America stronger at home. I know they both have a history of ties to our state, and I am honored to have their help." Davis and Lewis worked together as members of the House Ways and Means Committee. They worked together on a variety of issues including expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to provide health care to an additional four million children. Lewis, an Alabama native, is a civil rights leader. Davis and Jackson were early supporters of then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign. They both supported Obama's economic stimulus plan and both men sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. The other Democrat running for governor is agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks. Seven Republicans are running for their party's nomination.
Bradley Byrne is slamming fellow Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James as an insider who benefited from his father's service as governor, which his opponent alleges enabled him and partners to build a toll bridge to the beach. Byrne, one of seven Republicans running for governor, is talking about the work on the Foley Beach Express, a toll road that connects Foley with Orange Beach allowing people to skip much of the traffic. James has talked about the expressway as one of his successes as a businessman and has said no public money went to the building of the project. "Bradley Byrne continues to be wrong on the facts. This is what I've come to expect from a desperate campaign," James said in a statement on Friday. Byrne questioned if James would have been able to accomplish one of his biggest achievements without help from the state while his dad was governor. James was a partner in the Baldwin County Bridge Company L.L.C., which built the Beach Express. Brett Hall, a spokesman for James, said Byrne is confusing two different roads. He said there is the toll road and bridge built by James and his partners, and a bypass. The toll road received no government funding. Foley received about $7 million from the federal government for the bypass, which connects Alabama 59 to the expressway. Byrne said the connector makes the toll bridge viable. "You would have gone through a lot of lights and wouldn't save any time," he said. In May of 1996, then-Gov. Fob James signed legislation approved by state lawmakers that allowed city and county governments in the state to build toll roads and bridges. Tim James and Tim McInnis, according to records with the secretary of state's office, incorporated the Baldwin County Bridge Company L.L.C., in July 1996 to "build/maintain/operate toll bridge." Tim James' campaign pointed to an article in the Mobile Press-Register in April 1996 outlining other toll roads that were planned before James sought a license to build the expressway. Fob James lost the 1998 general election to Democrat Don Siegelman and left office on Jan. 18, 1999. Just days before leaving office, the state signed a contract with the city of Foley for construction of a connector to the expressway. The agreement, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation, led to the construction of a corridor from County Road 20 to Alabama 59, according to the construction agreement. Fob James signed the agreement on Jan 6, 1999. "There is nothing wrong with building a bridge in Orange Beach. Orange Beach needed a bridge," said Byrne, who lives in Baldwin County, which he represented in the state Senate. The problem, he said, is Tim James had no experience building bridges. Hall said James was already in the infrastructure business and that his partner, John McInnis, has built bridges throughout the nation. Foley, which is home to an outlet mall that is a popular stop on the way to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, can become congested. The toll road was expected to help people traveling to the beach save 15 to 45 minutes, and help with evacuations during hurricanes, according to a 2000 article on tollroadsnews.com. McInnis Corp. of Mobile, who partnered with Tim James and his brother on the project, is a "long-established bridge contractor," according to the toll road news. Hall said the genesis for the bypass started before the Foley Beach Express and that the city of Foley had received grant money for the project from the federal government. He said the state was a conduit for the money. "That was a totally separate deal and didn't have anything to do with the Baldwin County bridge," Hall said. "He's mixing it all up as if it were one." He said Fob James' signature was "basically a rubber stamp." Hall said James and his partners did not have to go through the state for most of its permits. "They didn't have to get state permits other than curb cuts and stop lights," he said. Hall said issues related to the bridge were vetted when James ran for governor in 2002. "His father did great things to avoid any appearance of impropriety on anything," he said. Hall said James has regularly talked about the expressway when discussing his qualifications as a businessman "because of the impact it had on Baldwin County both on economic development and the impact on public safety. It is an evacuation route. The county needed it and did not have the funds for it and he came up with a solution. It is a win-win for the county and landowners and all of the people of Baldwin County." James and his partners sold the bridge to a foreign company. Byrne said James is using those profits to help fund his campaign for governor. Byrne criticized James outside the studio of WMRK-107.9 FM, where he was on air on a conservative talk radio show for two hours on Friday. He said James did not want to come on Friday to talk about the expressway even though he has talked extensively about the project and his success as a businessman. James issued a challenge to Byrne on April 22 to participate in a series of debates. "It's time to bring all of the attacks and allegations out in the open. Let's take this beyond dueling press releases and talk show chatter. I call upon Bradley Byrne to debate me, face-to-face, in a public forum," he said in a release at the time. The men appeared together last week on the Leland Live program in the Birmingham market. "Basically our polling numbers show (Byrne) is falling and he's in third place and going down. It just wasn't wise or feasible at this time to go on the show," Hall said. "We had a debate on Leland Live and we were there for two hours. ... It was a thorough conversation between the two of them. They debated the issues. That was as good as it gets." James' original challenge stemmed from the first public dispute between the two men following an April 20 article in the Montgomery Advertiser, which pointed out that ads attacking Byrne were funded by a political action committee that received money from PACs that received hundreds of thousands of dollars directly and indirectly from the Alabama Education Association's PAC. Byrne has had to dedicate much of his advertising to defending ads attacking him as a liberal trial lawyer who supported Democrats. Byrne's campaign alleged, because some of the money went through PACs operated by a consultant who was hired by James to help raise funds, that his campaign was involved in the attack. James said his campaign did not conspire directly or indirectly with AEA to run the ads against Byrne. In later ads, he alleged Byrne was desperate. Hall said Byrne had dropped to third place in their polling. An independent poll released this week indicated Byrne with a narrow lead over James. Byrne said Friday that he leads a very tight race between the two candidates with others in contention including former Chief Justice Roy Moore and state Rep. Robert Bentley of Tuscaloosa. Other Republican candidates include Bill Johnson of Prattville, James Potts of Bibb County and Charles Taylor of Daphne.
A new poll shows the Republican race for governor has tightened up considerably between Bradley Byrne and Tim James. It also shows that Luther Strange is strongly pulling away from incumbent Troy King in the race for attorney general.
Public Strategy Associates, a Montgomery-based company that had the poll commissioned, announced the results of the May 10-11 poll Thursday. The poll was conducted by Baselice and Associates, an Austin, Texas firm whose clients include Texas Gov. Rick Perry and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Public Strategy Associates is neither in the employ of any gubernatorial nor attorney general candidate.
In phone surveys conducted by Baselice & Associates with 1,005 known Republican primary voters, the race for governor of Alabama appears to be a dead heat between Byrne and James, according to a press release. Byrne is in the lead at 24 percent, with James right behind at 23 percent. The survey found the bottom three contenders are Roy Moore at 18 percent, Robert Bentley at 12 percent and Bill Johnson at 2 percent, with 21 percent undecided.
Survey data in the Republican primary for Attorney General also indicates that Luther Strange has a commanding lead over Troy King, with Strange at 50 percent and King at 25 percent. The percentage of undecided voters in this race is at 25 percent.
“The next couple of weeks will be ‘make or break’ in the governor’s race. It will come down to who has the best message that resonates with the right universe of voters the appropriate amount of times,” said Brent Buchanan, a partner in Public Strategy Associates. “This is when the heat is on, and a lot can change in the next nineteen days."
Jack Campbell, also a partner in PSA, said in the release, “Anger motivates voters, and there’s plenty of that with an out-of-touch Congress and a do-nothing state legislature. Anything can happen in these closing weeks, especially in the Governor’s race.”
An explanation of the poll from Mike Baselice is available on Public Strategy Associates’ website at www.mypublicstrategy.com under “News”.
Sparks, lawmakers look at Mobile command center for spill
Several top state lawmakers, back in Montgomery after traveling to view operations to combat the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, said they were impressed with the work and they are willing to go into special session if there is a need. The Monday trip to Mobile was organized by agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is also a Democratic candidate for governor. He was joined at a Montgomery press conference by Senate Majority Leader Zeb Little, Sen. Lowell Barron, House Majority Leader Ken Guin, and Rep. John Knight, chairman of the House General Fund budget committee. Other legislators joined them to tour the command center in downtown Mobile and were briefed by officials with the nine state agencies who are helping with the effort. Barron, D-Fyffe, said there are hundreds of federal employees working alongside state employees. He said "perhaps Katrina taught the federal government some lessons." Barron said they want to ensure all needs are being met. "Nobody knows how the disaster will affect Alabama," Sparks said. Sparks said the disaster has already hit Alabama, affecting tourism and the fishing industry. "I think the fear of this has paralyzed tourism in the area," said Guin, D-Carbon Hill. Sparks and Barron said they want oil giant BP held accountable for the spill. "We want to know that every claim that is laid on the table is dealt with responsibly," Sparks said. He said they do not know how many people will be on unemployment. "This could be a long drawn out situation," Sparks said. Knight, Sparks and Barron encouraged Gov. Bob Riley to begin a public relations campaign to let people know the beaches are open in Alabama. State tourism officials have already produced commercials.
Lobbyists, Legislators Visit Grand Jury on Day One
Six of the estimated 60 or more legislators who have allegedly been summoned to testify before the grand jury about possible vote buying on a bingo bill made appearances at the federal courthouse in Montgomery Tuesday.
Lobbyist Tom Coker and media consultants Rick Heartsill and Bert Danner, all of whom count Victoryland casino owner Milton McGregor as a client also were asked to come to court to submit documents. Lobbyist for the Porch Creek Band of Indians, John Teague, also provided documents to the grand jury. They did not, however, testify before the federal grand jury.
State Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, who had the distinction of being the first lawmaker to go before the grand jury Tuesday said he was asked general questions about how the legislative process worked, particularly as it relates to lobbyists and political action committees.
He said he also was asked whether he was promised a campaign contribution, or political plum in exchange for an affirmative vote on a bill that would have legalized electronic bingo. "They seemed to want to see how steadfast my opposition was," he said. Pittman was one of the 13 votes against the bingo bill the day that it made it out of the Senate.
In addition to Pittman, Senators Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, Phil Poole, D-Tuscaloosa, testifed on Tuesday. State Rep. Jim Barton, R-Mobile, also testifed. All of the men voted no in the Senate, or would have been no votes if the bill had reached the House floor.
State Rep. Mac Gipson, R-Prattville, was scheduled to testify Tuesday, but got bumped to Wednesday, because time had run out. He will join Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, who also is slated to testify also.
Gipson said he has no idea why he was subpoenaed. He is a member of the House Tourism and Travel Committee, which ultimately voted the Senate version of the bill out of committee on a voice vote, which positioned it to be voted on by the full House of Representatives.
Gipson and state Rep. Joe Faust, R-Fairhope, both voted against the bill in committee. State Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, who also serves on that committee, has been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury. Mask was absent from the committee on the day that vote was taken.
Though Gipson said he doesn’t think that federal prosecutors are on any kind of fishing expedition. He believes that they already have something concrete.¶
"I don’t think they would go through all this effort and spend all this time if they didn’t," he said. "If they are, the federal government is more inefficient than I thought."
For the full story check out Wednesday's Montgomery Advertiser.
The United Mine Workers of America announced Tuesday that they have voted unanimously to endorse Ron Sparks for governor in the Democratic primary.
The group, which had apparently endorsed both Artur Davis and Sparks, also voted to rescind that co-endorsement at the same meeting.
“As many of you know we had given our endorsement to Ron Sparks and Artur Davis,” said Daryl Dewberry, International Vice President of the United Mine Workers of America, District 20, in a press release from the Sparks campaign. “We now believe Ron Sparks is the best candidate to represent the interests of working men and women in Alabama. He will not turn his back on working people. He will not betray us. He has worked hard for us in the past and he will work hard for us in the future.”
“We feel like Davis is abandoning his base and he is going against the people in his district," Dewberry went on to write in the release. "We didn't leave Artur Davis. Artur Davis left us.”
Sparks, who is fresh of an endorsement from the United Auto Workers, said he welcomed the announcement and said it adds even more momentum to his campaign.
“Alabama working people are going to elect the next governor of Alabama, you wait and see. They want and they need a governor who will protect their interest, not the special interests, and I will be that governor,” Sparks said in the press release. “The United Mine Workers of America is a critical endorsement for me. I want to reiterate in public what I've said in private. My number-one priority is the interest of the working families of Alabama and they have my word that I will never turn my back on them."
Bentley Releases Tax Returns, Credit History and Ethics Reports
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dr. Robert Bentley said he’s got nothing to hide and he can prove it.
Bentley, who is the only candidate that has vowed not to take a salary until the state returns to "full" employment, which is a jobless rate of 5 percent, released his tax returns, credit history and ethics reports Tuesday.
"Can we elect men and women to do the right thing...my answer is an unequivocal yes we can," he said.
Bentley said if he is elected governor, he is committed to releasing the same information every year he is in office.
He also pledged no member of his family would ever profit from his office. Current Gov. Bob Riley has been criticized because his son-in-law is a partner in a law firm that gets millions of dollars in state contracts.
But Bentley said that has pledge is not about Riley, but every past governor who used their office to help a family member, or lobbyist profit from that connection.
"I’m not from a political family and I’m not backed by political interests," he said. "The only special interests I will serve is the people of Alabama."
In addition to releasing his own financial and ethics records each year, he said he would do the following if elected governor:
-- Eliminate no bid contracts and require all companies bidding for state business to disclose all campaign contributions its made
-- Limit lobbying expenditures by mandating online reporting of all money that lobbyists spend on elected officials
-- Push for legislation that makes all political party funding transparent.
Bentley is a retired dermatologist and state legislator.
U.S. Rep. Artur Davis wants to improve the plight of the working women and part-time workers of Alabama and on Tuesday he announced his plan for how he’ll do it if he is elected governor.
With equal pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter at his side, Davis announced several incentives for working families and companies that he would implement if he elected governor in November.
“All too often we have compete based on how little we do for our people,” he said. “That time ought to be past. If we’re going to be in a race to the bottom, there are many parts of the world that have us beat. We must compete based on the quality of our workforce and the quality of our schools.
Davis said in addition to the child tax credit that he has proposed as part of his economic plan for the state, he would offer an additional childcare tax credit like those offered in Kentucky and Louisiana for parents who work full and part-time.
He also would make public a list of Alabama companies that are fully compliant with gender equality laws, and make gender equality a condition for doing business with the state. Companies that offer flexible leave policies for parents could also see rewards under Davis’ plan.
Davis criticized Gov. Bob Riley and the state Legislature for it’s failure to change state laws that would have allowed part-time workers and victim’s of domestic violence to receive unemployment benefits. Alabama was eligible for rejecting millions in stimulus money that the state would have received if it had expanded its unemployment benefits.
Riley had said previously that state employers would be stuck with the costs of the expansion when the stimulus money ran out. But Davis said changing the law is simply the right thing to do. He said that federal money is still available and if he were elected governor he would push for the expansion.
Ledbetter said Davis has a plan that will not only help women to be paid equally, but would also help families. Ledbetter is a former manager at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant in Gadsden who sued her company after she discovered that men were being paid significantly more money for work similar to what she did.
Her lawsuit was the impetus that led Congress to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Davis was the only member of the Alabama Congressional delegation who voted for the bill.
Davis is vying for the Democratic nomination for governor against Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks.
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.