Thoughts On Tuesday’s Election

Since most of us have now thanked the Good Lord that another election day has come and gone and we’ve had time to take a deep breathe, let’s spend a few minutes reflecting on what happened across Alabama.

A few days ago I posted that I would be watching five legislative races in particular.  These were Senate races in northwest and northeast Alabama, as well as one in east Alabama, along with a House race in Baldwin County and one in Huntsville.

I made no forecasts, just gave some details on both Republican and Democratic candidates and passed along thoughts I picked up from others.  Had not seen any polls, nor had a dog in any of these fights.

But what I thought might be highly contested races turned out to be anything but, except in one case.  Let’s begin there.

Veteran Democrat House member Johnny Mack Morrow challenged first-term Republican Senator Larry Stutts in the northwest corner of the state.  There were 42,363 votes in this race, Stutts got 899 more than Morrow.  While the race in Huntsville between Democrat Amy Wasyluka and veteran Tom Butler was somewhat competitive, 54 percent to 46 percent for Butler was a very comfortable win.

The other three went strongly for the Republican candidates.  Veteran Democrat House member Craig Fold of Etowah County ran as an Independent against newcomer Andrew Jones of Cherokee County.  Jones got 61 percent.  In the Mountain Book section of Birmingham, newcomer Democrat Felicia Stewart challenged incumbent Republican David Faulkner to no avail.  He got 62 percent.  Down in Fairhope, newcomer Danielle Mashburn-Myrick went against veteran Republican House member Joe Faust.  He beat her better than two to one.

Takeaway one.  If millennial, suburban females are breaking away from the Republican party in some parts of the country, the memo never got to Alabama.  Wasyluka, Stewart and Mashburn-Myrick definitely fit the image.  Each was a new comer to politics, bright, articulate and personable. Didn’t matter.  They were Democrats in a deep, deep red state.

According to the secretary of state, 65 percent of all ballots voted Nov. 6 were straight ticket.  Some 661,898 were Republican, 460,408 were Democrat.  This 201,490 advantage to Republican candidates put all Democrats in a deep hole.  Especially those running for statewide offices such as Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Supreme Court Chief Justice, Auditor, etc.  In almost all of these cases, Democrats found it hard to break 40 percent.

Walt Maddox for governor (40.3); Will Boyd for Lt. Governor (38.6); Joseph Siegelman for attorney general (41.1); Bob Vance for Chief Justice (42.5) Miranda Joseph for auditor (39.4)

Editor’s note: I have never voted a straight ticket and don’t plan to any time in the future.  How folks can just blindly give their vote because of party affiliation is something I don’t understand.  I take my vote more seriously than this.

Takeaway two:  Alabama does have a two party system, but it is not Democrat and Republican, it is black party and white party.  The 2019 session of the legislature will have only two white Democrats and no black Republicans.  Montgomery is 55 percent black.  While trounced statewide, here Maddox got 63 percent, Boyd 63 and Siegelman 66.

Macon County is 82 percent black.  Maddox got 81 percent; Boyd 84 and Siegelman 85.  But flip to Winston County which has less than one percent black population and Maddox got 14 percent; Boyd 11 and Siegelman 15.

Alabama is 26.2 percent black, Georgia is 30.5 and Florida only 16.  However, black Democrats in both Georgia and Florida came within an eyelash of being elected governor Nov. 6.

Could that happen here?  I’ll let you mull that one over.



Dig Where The Taters Are

After posting the piece about Republican candidates getting campaign contributions from the PAC, Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education, a number of emails showed up in my inbox with folks wondering what is going on and if giving to people who have traditionally fought public schools makes any sense.

The ONE thing all successful politicians have in common is that they can each count.  Doesn’t matter if they are Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, white or black, they know that most political battles are won by those with the most troops.  In Alabama these days, that means Republican and it’s easy to figure out that it is good to be friends \with those in charge.

There is no doubt that the quickest way to a legislator’s heart is through their pocket book.  Campaigns cost a lot of money, way too much in many cases.  Raising money for campaigns ain’t much fun.  I’ve done enough of it to know first hand.  So when someone offers to help, you are all ears.

For years I’ve understood that you best “dig where the taters are.”  Today, the Republicans in the state house have most of the taters.  AVOTE, and lots of others, have figured this out.  Makes perfect sense to me.

Think of a beach and the waves rolling in.  Every time a wave retreats, the beach has been changed in some small way.  That’s politics.  Always shifting and changing.  And so you either shift–or get washed away.

Republican Candidates Gobble Up AEA Money

There was a time not so long ago when the Alabama Republican party could not mention the Democratic party without also mentioning the Alabama Education Association AND trial lawyers.  If a Democrat was being vilified, so was AEA and trial lawyers.

Then something strange happened.  Almost overnight the Republicans stopped cussing trial lawyers.  It wasn’t hard to figure out why.  All you had to do was look at the campaign financial disclosure paperwork of Republican candidates.  As if by magic, they discovered that campaign contributions coming from trial attorneys were as green as dollars coming from the Business Council of Alabama.

And lo and behold, folks like me who look at campaign contributions found lots and lots of dollars coming from a political action committee by the name of Trust Representing Involved Alabama Lawyers (TRIAL) on Republican financial records.

From the looks of campaign donations in this year’s cycle, one has to expect that Republicans will soon stop speaking ill of the Alabama Education Association.  And they have 1.1 million reasons to do so.  Because since the first of the year, 75 Republican legislative candidates took $1.1 million from AEA.

Of these, 19 were incumbent senators or candidates seeking to be elected to the senate as a Republican.  And 56 were incumbent House members are wannabes.  AEA picked those it supported well as only six of the 75 candidates they supported lost.

On the Senate side, my friend Chris Elliott, Republican in Baldwin County who was elected to succeed Trip Pittman got more than anyone else, $55,000.  Next came Republican Tom Whatley of Auburn with $42,500.

Incumbent Republican House member Dickie Drake of St. Clair county won the sweepstakes for State Representative with $37,555.  He was followed by incumbent Republican Chris Sells of Greenville with $27,500.

The irony of all this is hardly lost on me because when I ran as a Republican last spring for the Montgomery school board, I was attacked for  once having a contract with AEA.  (I also had contracts with the School Superintendents Association and the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools at one time but those opposing me never mentioned that.)

So while mailboxes across my district were filled with fliers saying: “Larry Lee is a lackey for the AEA.” Republican legislative candidates were filling their war chests with AEA contributions.

But as we’ve just seen nationally, politics is often not what some would have us believe.

And when you couple this development with the fact 30 percent of the Alabama Senate and 25 percent of the House will be first time members in 2019, the dynamics of legislation may be very different than in the recent past.


Why Is California Millionaire Supporting Legislative Candidates In Alabama?

William Oberndorf is a hedge fund manager in California apparently with LOTS of money.  Enough that he sent $100,000 to Alabama in 2014 and $85,000 in 2018 to be used to support political candidates.  He does this by giving to something called “The Alabama Federation for Children.”

I have written about this group before.  As best I can determine, they are a “federation” in name only.  For example, if they have a board of directors I can’t find them.  They do have web site which makes it clear they strongly support the Alabama Accountability Act, school choice, vouchers, etc.  We know they are affiliated with the American Federation for Children which was created by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.  (Which tells you about all you really know.)

They obviously have a good relationship with Oberndorf since he is their only contributor for the 2018 election cycle.  Though the Californian is a staunch Republican and has given more than $1 million to the California Republican Party, he did not support Donald Trump for President and told the New York Times he planned to vote for Hillary Clinton.

According to Secretary of State figures, here is who has benefited from the Oberndorf money (listed in order of how much they received.)

  1. Republican Debby Wood, running to replace Issac Whorton in House Distrct 38 in east Alabama.  $19,792
  2. Andrew Sorrell, Republican, running for House District 3 in northwest Alabama.  $15,404
  3. Incumbent Republican House member Mike Ball, District 10.  $8,452
  4. Republican Bull Corry challenging incumbent Tim Wadsworth in House District 14.  He lost.  $8,400
  5. Republican Pouncey Robertson in House District 7, an open seat.  $8,134
  6. Ginny Shaver is a Republican who won House District 39.  AFC spent $8,012 to oppose her.  She defeated T. J. Malony in the primary.
  7. Incumbent Terry Collins, House District 8.  $7,782
  8. Republican challenger Ted Crockett ran against incumbent Dickie Drake in House District  45.  AFC spent $7,702 opposing him.  Drake won.
  9. Incumbent Demitri Polizos, House District 74.  $7,000
  10. New comer Republican Shane Stringer in House District 102.  $6,158
  11. Democrat Jelani Coleman ran against incumbent Prince Chestnut in House District 67.  $6,019  Chestnut won.
  12. Republican Tom Fredricks ran against Parker Moore in the primary in House District 4..  AFC spent $4,044 opposing him.  Moore won.




Time To Go To Work

When the legislature convenes in January 2019, about 25 percent of both the Senate and House members will be new.  This is nearly 40 new faces (though there will be some current House members moving to the Senate.)

This is a tremendous opportunity for education.  We need to tell our story to these new members and help them understand that legislation like the A-F school report cards and the Alabama Accountability Act are not at all beneficial to public schools.

As best I can count, there are already three new senators and nine house members who have no opposition in November and therefore, we know they will have a seat after the first of the year.  (Sometimes sorting through all the info as to who is running in November and who many have withdrawn is a challenge, so I make no guarantee that this info is 100 percent accurate.  But it’s my best shot.)

Here is my list….

Senate:  Gary Gudger defeated incumbent Republican Paul Bussman in the primary.  Senate district 4 includes portions or all of Cullman, Lawrence, Winston and Marion counties.,

House member Jack Williams in west Mobile County is moving into senate district 34 that was held by Rusty Glover, who ran for Lt. Governor.

Republican Dan Roberts is replacing Slade Blackwell in senate district 15 that includes portions of Jefferson, Shelby and Talladega counties.

House:  Tracy Estes is replacing Republican Mike Millican in house district 17 that has portions of Marion, Lamar and Winston counties.

Republican Chip Brown will represent district 105 in south Mobile County.  This was represented by David Sessions, who is running for senate.

Shane Stringer will take the seat for district 102 in Mobile County that is now held by Jack Williams.

Coffee County’s district 91, now held by Barry Moore, will be represented by Rhett Marques.

Jeff Sorrells is replacing Donnie Chesteen in district 87 in Geneva and Houston counties.  Chesteen will represent senate district 29 vacated by Harri Anne Smith.

District 6 (Madison and Limestone counties) will be presented by Republican Andy Whitt.  He replaces Phil Williams.

Ginny Shaver of Centre takes over district 39, held for many years by Richard Lindsay.

Tashina Morris will represent district 77 in Montgomery County.  John Knight had this seat for years.

Scott Stadthagen won the campaign to replace Ed Henry in district 9 in Morgan County.

(All email addresses were taken from candidate info on Secretary of State web site.  Hopefully they remain in operation.)

Please join me in emailing each of these new legislators and encouraging them to support public education.




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.