Republican slams AEA involvement in Republican primary
Rick Sellers, a member of the Alabama Republican Executive Committee and his party's nominee for U.S. Senate in 1992, said he will start picketing out in front of the AEA's Dexter Avenue office today and will continue until the July 13 runoff.
When he worked for the National Rifle Association and it ran negative campaigns against Democrats, Sellers said those had the name of the NRA on them and were truthful.
He is talking about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that AEA is spending, through political action committees, against Republican gubernatorial candidate Bradley Byrne. None of that money is coming directly from AEA, Sellers said.
Instead, much of it was directed through a political action committee called True Republican PAC.
Byrne, former chancellor of the state's two-year college system, and state Rep. Robert Bentley are in the Republican runoff for governor.
Paul Hubbert, head of the AEA, did not return a call to his cell phone on Monday.
Sellers said they have started an e-mail campaign and are working on a website to inform AEA members that the group is liberal and dishonest. He said he will picket in front of the AEA headquarters from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. starting Tuesday. He said he did not have the permit to picket, but hoped to receive that approval from the city.
Sellers, whose wife Heather is on the Montgomery County Board of Education and is the county chair for the Byrne campaign, said his purpose is to get AEA members to drop their membership. To drop their membership, he said they need to write a letter to the payroll office with the local board of education before Sept. 30, to ensure they are not a member next year.
Those dues help to pay for the millions of dollars AEA contributes to political campaigns every cycle.
More than 60 percent of AEA's 105,000 members are Republican or independent, according to a release the union sent out last week asking members to vote in the runoff.
Byrne and his campaign have expressed concerns about AEA and other interests pushing Democrats to cross party lines and vote in the Republican runoff.
"Educators have every right to participate in the party elections of their choice, especially since elections are funded by taxpayers, and we will continue to encourage them to vote July 13," AEA spokesman David Stout said in the release.
The AEA release pointed out that pro-business special interests including the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Retail Association, the Home Builders Association of Alabama, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama, and the Alabama Association of Realtors have encouraged their members to vote for Byrne.
Byrne's campaign has accused Bentley of being too close to AEA, which is operated by two vice chairmen of the Alabama Democratic Party, and voting with the union on major issues including charter schools and double dipping.
Bentley told the Montgomery Advertiser on Friday that he treats AEA and Hubbert like other special interests. He said he votes with them when they are right and against them when they're not.
Bentley said he has had his picture in the AEA's Alabama School Journal almost every year as a "bad guy."
He said he has disagreed with the union on some issues, including his support of putting a teacher code of ethics into state law and using a 15-year rolling average to determine the size of state budgets.
Sellers said he absolutely believes AEA will be instrumental in determining who is the Republican nominee for governor and calculates that the money spent on ads and other avenues to attack Byrne could top $3 million.
While AEA has attacked Byrne, he has also spent much of his time and resources attacking the association. Before his ads and speeches on the campaign trail, he battled the AEA as a state senator and even more so as chancellor of the state's two-year college system. The AEA is still fighting some of the policies he pushed as chancellor in the state court system.
Byrne tried to stop double dipping, which allows legislators to also work in the two-year college system, and he disagrees with the AEA on charter schools, which he believes provide more options for high-risk students in under-performing schools.
AEA points to charter schools failing in some other areas. Association officials and supporters believe that charter schools would be "exclusive" and drain money from other public schools.