Checking In On The Governor’s Race

Traditionally. campaigns for a November general election don’t really kick off until Labor Day.  However, there doesn’t seem to be much “traditional” about politics these days and because it’s now just three months until Nov. 6th, let’s peek at the governor’s race between Republican Kay Ivey and Democrat Walt Maddox.

Unlike in many elections, voters will have a clear choice between Ivey and Maddox.  Age being the most obvious difference.  On the one hand, Ivey looks like everyone’s kindly grandmother, while Maddox is in his mid-40s and seeks to portray a more vigorous, energetic image.

From the outset Ivey has been the hands on favorite.  After all, she dispatched her primary opponents with little problem.  However, some recent polls are showing the race tightening, though Ivey maintains a comfortable lead.

A good barometer for most campaigns in to check on fund-razing.  While Ivey, like any incumbent, has the advantage in collecting contributions, the just-released financial reports for July for both candidates gives validity to the contention that the race is becoming more competitive.

“Major” donations are considered those of $20,000 or more.  These are to be reported to the Secretary of State immediately upon receipt.  As to be expected, Ivey has done much better than Maddox in tapping such donors.  She has raised about $700,000 from more than 20 major donors, while Maddox only lists two (and one of these is a $50,000 contribution from himself).

Somewhat surprisingly, both were essentially head to head in money raised the last month.  Ivey got $248,523 while Maddox got $245,024.  And Maddox is slightly ahead with cash on hand.  He shows a balance of $313,248 as compared to Ivey’s 271,476.

It’s their approach to fund-raising that is worth noting.  In July, Maddox had more than 550 individual donors, while Ivey had less than 80.  This was not an anomaly as Maddox had nearly 900 contributors in June and May, compared to about 260 for Ivey.  The governor has far more political action committee (PAC) contributions than Maddox does.

I’ve always said that big money invests and little money gives.  Meaning simply that a check for $5,000 includes little more than that while a check for $100 may include a substantial commitment of time in contacting neighbors, writing postcards or knocking on doors.

No doubt the smart money remains on Ivey, but Maddox is certainly proving that he is not to be taken lightly.

Some Housekeeping

A few days ago we mentioned that Tracey Meyer, longtime ALSDE employee who worked to keep up with legislative happenings, had begun a blog to highlight many of the positives about Alabama public schools.

In order to keep up with what she has to say, you can go to this link and bookmark it.


If you look at my homepage, you will see where you can sign up to get posts sent to you by email.  When a new one has been posted, you will get it at 9 a.m. each morning.

At last count, there were 487 email subscribers.  If you are not one, sign up and help us get more than 500.

And as always, thanks for stopping by.

A Beautiful Goodbye

I have never met J. L. Strickland in person.  But I do know he worked in the textile mills for many years in “the valley” where the Chattahoochee River becomes the Georgia-Alabama border.  And he is a heck of a story teller, which is important in order to be a good writer–which he is.  He has shared some of his pieces with me for a long time and I always enjoy them.

Now his beloved wife of many years, Yvonne, has passed away and like so many writers, me included, at such times you turn to the written word to express your emotions.  I wanted to share his heartfelt thoughts with you.

As well as to make the point that while the TV news focuses on the same handful of people 24-7 as if they were the only humans alive, this is hardy the case.  It’s easy to see a crowd and simply dismiss each as a stranger with unknown faces and unknown feelings.  However, they are all real people, with real thoughts and feelings and struggles with all the things life deals us every day.  We cheat ourselves when we don’t recognize them as such.

People like my friend J. L. Strickland.

My father and his older brother used to sing an old song with lyrics that went, “Life’s evening sun is sinking low, a few more days, and I must go.”   To that generation from up in the sticks, death was often brutal, and frequently as familiar as a next-door neighbor. .  
 Yvonne’s sun has disappeared below the horizon, and, man, is it dark and cold right now. 
BTW, I can’t say enough good things about the Bethany House Hospice in Auburn.   That place is a blessing for terminal patients and their families.

“I’ve never experienced such a laid-back, subdued, comforting atmosphere. I never heard or saw anything other than kind acts and caring words during our stay.
Even the fellow who cleans the floors always had a smile and a kind word for everybody.   Yvonne and I were there only three days, but I felt like he and I had become old friends. 
A real rarity in this increasingly “not my problem” world.”  Someone put some real thought into how this place is designed and operated. I didn’t see or hear a single, jarring note in the place, only what can be described as a tangible calm. 
And if anybody ever needed a respite and a kind word, it was ol’ self-centered “woe is me.” 
Even the soft, overstuffed chairs in the place are like floating on a cloud — in contrast to the reinforced concrete furniture usually found in hospitals.

After a combined seven hospital stays over the past few years,  Yvonne and I had become experts in such matters. When she was admitted, I always stayed the entire time with her; and when I was admitted she did the same for me. 
Bethany House, a ten-patient facility–is the end of the line, for sure. The final exit. But, they make the passing as comfortable as possible. And it costs nothing.
Seriously ill patients can stay at Bethany House for up to six months, maximum.  However, I think the average stay is about a week or so.  Maybe less.  When a patient is sent to Bethany House, somebody better start making funeral arrangements. 
When they transferred her from East Alabama Hospital, I rode down to Bethany House in the ambulance with the comatose Yvonne; and walked into the place and pulled out my checkbook.

The friendly, soft-spoken angel who runs Bethany House immediately told me to put it away — there were no charges to patients at Bethany House.  They accept whatever Medicare pays with no cost to the patient. 
I thought I was hallucinating.   As it is, I’ll probably have to take a second mortgage on my soul to pay off East Alabama Hospital. (Not that I’m worried about it. With my many and nasty ailments, they’ll probably have to send the bill Resthaven Memorial Gardens, in care of my cemetery lot.) 
However, if I had a million bucks, I’d probably sign it over to Bethany House and move to the projects.   The place is a blessing on earth — for those who’s life script is ending, and their loved ones who really hate to see them go.
And, did I ever hate to see my darling brown-eyed girl go.”.. 

Are Public Schools The Last Bastion Of Democracy?

Earlier in July we celebrated the signing of the declaration of independence.  A document written by men worthy of being called “leaders” far more than those we now see every day on cable news.  Men who sought Divine Guidance instead of wondering how many follow them on Twitter.

The first line of the second paragraph of this document captures the essence of what this country is supposed to be all about when it declares, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Couple this with the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and your moral compass is pretty well complete.

No where do you find better examples of these than in the classroom of a public school.

A plaque at the Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  These words describe what public schools are all about.

As I am constantly dumbfounded by news from Washington and the on-going efforts to polarize our country even more, I wonder if public schools aren’t the last real bastion of democracy we have.

Where else do we work so hard to “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Where else do we have people working so tirelessly to make “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” a reality?

School bells will soon ring for a new year across Alabama.  And again public educators will hold high the torch of liberty.

You represent the best this country has to offer.  God bless you in your work.

Everyone Needs A Dean Simmons

I suppose it is only natural that when you realize you have far more yesterdays than tomorrows, you spend a lot of time thinking about the paths you have traveled in life and the people who made an impact on you.

I graduated from high school in 1961 and headed off to Auburn University that fall.

My first quarter almost ended my college career.  I made an F in math and chemistry, Ds in English and Chem lab, Bs in Engineering drawing and ROTC and an A in Basic PE.  It all added up to a GPA of 0.47 (on a three-point system)

Back then, all freshmen men were supposed to run in the ODK Cake Race each fall.  Seems that it was about two miles long.  The top 25 finishers all got a cake.  Our P:E instructor said that anyone who got a cake made an A in his course.  I got one.  So it may well have been my feet (certainly not my brain) that kept me in school.

Daddy wanted me to be an electrical engineer.  But growing up on a farm, we compromised on Agricultural Engineering.  I was going to have to navigate more chemistry and math than I could handle and after several quarters of struggling I told Daddy that the only way I would ever be an engineer was if he bought a railroad.

That’s when fate and Dr. Charles Simmons intervened. Dean Simmons was the associate dean of Ag School.  After a guidance counselor gave me some aptitude tests, he told me that I liked the outdoors and that I also liked to write.  He sent me to see Dean Simmons.

So, one day I sat in his office while he inserted journalism classes in an Ag Science curriculum and I spent the rest of my time at Auburn studying things like animal science and photo journalism.

A few days after graduating in 1966, I was working as an editor at Progressive Farmer magazine in Birmingham.

The point of this story is that if Dean Simmons, had not gone out of his way to help me, who knows what my life would’ve been.

I dare say that most of us had a Dean Simmons.  And every time I am with a group of educators I know there is a good chance that each of them has the opportunity to be a Dean Simmons.  Which is why I think so highly of those who work in education.  Each day they touch the future through your students.  What an awesome opportunity—and responsibility.