Qualifying (almost) complete
Candidate qualifying for everything except Congress is now closed. There were some surprising developments in the final days of qualifying as well as some things we expected. Here’s a full rundown, starting with the top of the ticket and working our way down.
No other major candidates jumped in the U.S. Senate race, meaning we’ve maintained a three-way race between Mo Brooks, Katie Britt and Mike Durant. Lillie Boddie, Karla Dupriest and Jake Schafer also qualified as Republicans. Four Democrats have qualified to run for U.S. Senate: Will Boyd, Brandon Dean, Lanny Jackson and Victor Keith Williams. You’ll remember Boyd ran for Lt. Governor in 2018 and was his party’s nominee. Jackson previously ran for mayor of Birmingham in 2017. Dean is the former mayor of Brighton, Alabama, and is the youngest African American to be elected mayor in this state.
It goes without saying that the race will be heavily tilted toward any Republican candidate in the general. But getting quality candidates on the ballot matters for Democrats. Just think of what would have happened in 2017 if instead of Doug Jones, Democrats nominated an unserious person (See: Harry Lyon, 2012). Right now Roy Moore would probably be a U.S. Senator instead of in the middle of a defamation trial. The Moore debacle should be a once-in-a-generation political event, but this is Alabama and you never know what could happen before November.
We are going to put a pin in this until the district and qualification situation is clearer (more on that below). However, suffice to say that qualifying for Congressional races is wide open at the moment. And consider this: anyone who is currently qualified for another office could potentially switch over and run for Congress if their new district looked appealing. We could easily have a situation in which a race for State House is missing a candidate because someone decided to run for Congress. Which, again, shows why parties need to get candidates on the ballot just in case. So, yeah, there’s a lot riding on this redistricting situation.
We have a VERY crowded ballot for Governor on both the Democratic and Republican tickets. You know the usual suspects, but others you might not.
In her own party, Gov. Kay Ivey is being challenged by Lindy Blanchard, Lew Burdette, Stacy Lee George, Tim James, Donald Trent Jones, Dean Odle, Dave Thomas and Dean Young. Wait. Is that the Dean Young that ran for Congress in AL-1 a bunch of times and actually got pretty close in 2014? Yes, it is. Hoo boy, this will be fun.
On the Democratic ticket, candidates include Yolanda Flowers, Patricia Salter Jamieson, Arthur Kennedy, Chad “Chin” Martin, Doug “New Blue” Smith and – wait for it – State Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier (more on that below).
No surprise here, but Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth will go unchallenged for reelection. There are no other qualified candidates for the Republican or Democratic parties. Some had speculated whether Ainsworth might be a late entrant into the governor’s race based on a sketchy poll that was going around and his cryptic social media posts, but Ainsworth was never seriously considering jumping in. In fact, when you think about it Ainsworth needs Ivey to win. Should one of her primary foes somehow succeed in knocking her off, Ainsworth’s path to the governor’s office gets more complicated.
Attorney General Steve Marshall was not as fortunate as Ainsworth in avoiding a challenge. Harry Bartlett Still III, a Daphne attorney, is challenging Marshall in the Republican Primary and Wendell Major, the former police chief of Tarrant, Alabama, is running as a Democrat.
Justice Kelli Wise avoided a primary challenge or Democratic opposition for her Place 5 seat on the Alabama Supreme Court.
Greg Cook and Debra Jones for Place 1 on the Supreme Court is shaping up to be the cycle’s most intriguing judicial race. On paper, it is a classic business versus trial lawyers contest, but those tort issues don’t move voters like they used to. No other candidates qualified for the race. The winner will face Democrat Anita L. Kelly in November.
Secretary of State
The race for Secretary of State will be a crowded one. State Rep. Wes Allen and State Auditor Jim Ziegler are the headliners, but don’t sleep on longtime state elections official Ed Packard and Tennessee Valley Republican Club Chairman Chris Horn. Pamela Laffitte has qualified to run as a Democrat.
This is the other down-ballot race that will be interesting to watch. Stan Cooke and Rusty Glover have both run statewide campaigns before but State Rep. Andrew Sorrell seems to have an inside track with the far right wing of the Republican Party that has a growing share of the electorate. There are no Democrats running. Not that many voters know or care what the State Auditor does, but you’d think the Democrats could have convinced one of the six candidates running for governor to instead fill the ballot for this race. And for that matter, Lt. Governor, Treasurer and Ag Commissioner.
Speaking of, Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate has secured a second term as no Republicans or Democrats will challenge him. The same goes for the once and future State Treasurer Young Boozer, who has avoided competition from either side.
There were definitely some surprises on qualifying for legislative races. With so few purple districts remaining, lawmakers mostly love to avoid primary challenges. Senators who were fortunate enough to do that were: Arthur Orr, Garland Gudger, Greg Reed, Larry Stutts, Sam Givhan, Steve Livingston, Clay Scofield, Andrew Jones, April Weaver, Jabo Waggoner, Rodger Smitherman, Bobby Singleton, Will Barfoot, Kirk Hatcher, Donnie Chesteen, Clyde Chambliss, Chris Elliott, Jack Williams, Vivian Figures and David Sessions.
Perhaps the most intriguing race in the works is on the Democratic side, as longtime former Sen. Hank Sanders is trying to win his old Senate seat back. His daugther, Sen. Malika Sanders-Fortier has held the seat since 2018. Few would have been surprised if she decided not to seek reelection particularly because she had missed so much legislative action due to her battle with cancer. She hadn’t raised funds ahead of this year’s election and dissolved her campaign account on Jan. 21. But hardly anybody saw a gubernatorial bid coming, and fewer still saw Hank Sanders returning to the Senate. Hank Sanders, who turns 80 this year, said he hadn’t planned to return to Montgomery. “Duty calls,” he told Alabama Daily News.
It’s also intriguing because sources told Inside Alabama Politics that State Rep. Prince Chestnut had been considering running for the District 23 seat if Sanders-Fortier stepped aside. Chestnut is a cousin of the late civil rights attorney J.L. Chestnut Jr., who had what was once of the most known Black-owned law firms with Hank Sanders and his wife, Faya Rose Sanders. The Chestnut, Sanders and Sanders law firm in Selma once had nearly 40 employees and handled high-profile cases but had shrunk dramatically and struggled with financial problems. Chestnut’s family had a legal battle with the Sanders over legal division of legal fees from the landmark Black farmers discrimination case.
But Chestnut said he made the decision not to run separate from the Sanders news.
State Sen. Tom Butler is being challenged in the primary by the former occupant of his seat. Former State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw qualified with the ALGOP on Friday, a move that surprised most Alabama politicos, including Butler himself. Holtzclaw’s intentions are unclear at the moment. After all, he voluntarily stepped aside in 2018. But he was a part of an ultra-conservative block of senators, a mini Freedom Caucus if you will, whose influence within the Senate waned as the rank-and-file tired of their antics. Now with the Alabama Policy Institute acting more like Club for Growth, we may see more of these type candidates take on incumbents.
Sen. Tim Melson is getting a primary challenge from John Sutherland, a member of the Lauderdale Citizens for Responsive Government. That group has sued to block the construction of a new agricultural center that Melson is heavily involved in, so Sutherland’s candidacy is likely at least partly about that.
SD 21 & SD 27
Both senators representing the state’s major college towns are getting primary challenges. As IAP has previously reported, Auburn City Councilman Jay Hovey is challenging Sen. Tom Whatley and Tuscaloosa businessman Tripp Powell is challenging Sen. Gerald Allen. It remains to be seen just how serious the challenges are, but what is clear is that Whatley and Allen are taking them seriously. In fact, Whatley has been on television and radio for a month. The Powell campaign seems a bit more organized. Sources tell IAP that Joe Perkins and Matrix are involved with Powell, which certainly raised our eyebrows.
On the Republican side, open seats in SD 12 and SD 31 are the ones to watch. With Sen. Del Marsh retiring, a field of Wendy Ghee Draper, Keith Kelly and Wayne Willis is competing to fill the seat. Kelly seems to have the inside track with the endorsement of Congressman Mike Rogers and other prominent folks around the district. Sen. Jimmy Holley is also retiring. Vying to fill his shoes are State Rep. Mike Jones, Josh Carnley and Stormin Norman Horton (no joke, that’s his name on the ballot). Jones would seem to be the favorite given his name recognition, but things can get wild and woolly in the Wiregrass.
On the Democratic side, Senate District 19 is the one to watch besides the Sanders-Melton affair. Two current House members are running: Reps. Merika Coleman and Louise Alexander. There’s not question Coleman gets more face time in the media given all the issues she’s involved in.
Updated Senate Chart
|District||Incumbent||2022 Status||Announced candidates|
|1||Tim Melson||Running||John Sutherland (R)|
|2||Tom Butler||Running||Kim Caudle Lewis (D), Bill Holtzclaw (R)|
|7||Sam Givhan||Running||Korey Wilson (D)|
|11||Jim McClendon||Open Seat||Lance Bell (R), Michael Wright (R)|
|12||Del Marsh||Open Seat||Keith Kelley (R), Wendy Ghee Draper (R), Wayne Willis (R), Danny McCullars (D)|
|13||Randy Price||Running||John Allen Coker (R)|
|15||Dan Roberts||Running||Brian Christine (R)|
|17||Shay Shelnutt||Running||Mike Dunn (R)|
|19||Priscilla Dunn||Open Seat||Merika Coleman (D), Louise Alexander (D)|
|20||Linda Coleman-Madison||Running||Rodney Huntley (D)|
|21||Gerald Allen||Running||Lisa Ward (D)|
|22||Greg Albritton||Running||Stephen Sexton (R)|
|23||Malika Sanders-Fortier||Open Seat||Darrio Melton (D), Michael Nimmer (R), Hank Sanders (D), Thayer Bear Spencer, (D) Robert Stewart (D)|
|27||Tom Whatley||Running||Jay Hovey (R), Sherri Reese (D)|
|28||Billy Beasley||Running||Frank "Chris" Lee (D)|
|29||Donnie Chesteen||Running||Nathan Mathis (D)|
|31||Jimmy Holley||Open Seat||Mike Jones (R), Josh Carnley (R), Norman Horton|
|33||Vivian Figures||Running||Pete Riehm (R)|
House of Representatives
The most interesting development on the House side is State Rep. Will Dismukes qualifying to run for reelection in HD 88. Just a few weeks ago, Dismukes told the Montgomery Advertiser’s Marty Roney that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection as he faced prosecution in Montgomery County.
Apparently he has changed his mind. According to the ALGOP, Dismukes and Prattville City Councilman Jerry Starnes are the two candidates qualified to run for the seat. Asked Sunday night whether he is really running or qualifying for other reasons, Dismukes confirmed his candidacy is for real.
“I’m actually running,” Dismukes texted. “If you qualify you will be placed on the ballot.”
Also of note is that former State Rep. Elaine Beech has qualified to run for her former seat in HD 65. That seat is currently held by State Rep. Brett Easterbrook and he has qualified to run for reelection. There had been talk of Easterbook stepping away for other pursuits, but as of Friday his name was on the qualified list. Dee Ann Campbell has also qualified to run as a Republican. Beech is running as a Republican for the first time. She was previously known as one of the House’s most conservative Democrats before retiring in 2018.
In HD1, Rep. Phillip Pettus, R- Green Hill, has a primary challenger in Maurice McCaney.
Longtime Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, announced this month that he’s not seeking reelection. Four Republicans qualified to run to replace him. Another crowded contest in the Shoals this year is House District 3. The field to replace Rep. Andrew Sorrell, the Muscle Shoals Republican who is running for state auditor, has expanded to four. There are: Republicans Fred Joly and Kerry Underwood and Democrats Susan Bentley and Wesley Thompson.
Three Republicans and a Democrat are in the House District 10 seat being vacated by Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison.
House District 25 is an open seat because Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, is not seeking reelection. There are now two Republicans and a Democrat in that contest.
In House District 26, there are three Republicans and a Democrat vying to replace Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville.
Former House member Mack Butler, a Republican from Rainbow City who ran for state Senate in 2018, is running for House District 28 this year, challenging Rep. Gil Isbell, R-Gadsden.
In House District 31, three Republicans are vying to replace Rep. Mike Holmes, R-Wetumpka, who is not seeking reelection.
In House District 40, the field of candidates seeking the seat being vacated by K.L. Brown, R-Jacksonville, has grown to seven.
Several sitting GOP lawmakers have drawn Democrat challengers, including Rep. Corley Ellis, R-Columbiana, and Rep. Van Smith, R-Clanton. Meanwhile, incumbent Democrats Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, and Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, Rep. Prince Chestnut, D-Selma, Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, and have primary challengers. And a second Democrat primary opponent is challenging incumbent Rep. Neil Rafferty, D-Birmingham.
Four Democrats have qualified for the seat held by Rep. Rod Scott, D-Fairfield, who is seeking reelection.
In House District 47, David Wheeler, R-Vestavia Hills, has drawn Democrat challengers.
Four Democrats qualified in House District 56. Current Rep. Louise Alexander, D-Birmingham, is running for state Senate.
And in nearby House District 57, Democrats Kevin Dunn, Danielle Matthews and Charles Ray Winston III want the seat of current Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, who is running for state Senate.
In the newly-redrawn House District 74, incumbent GOP Rep. Charlotte Meadows, R-Montgomery, will now have two Democrat challengers. Phillip Ensler, a former policy advisor to Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, and Malcolm Calhoun, an insurance agent, have qualified to run. The new district is decidedly more Democratic so this will be a race to watch. Meadows protested changes to her district in the fall reapportionment process when it became Democrat leaning.
In House District 82, Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, has both a primary and general election challenger.
In House District 91, Rep. Rhett Marques, R-Enterprise, has a primary challenger in Leg Hogan.
Long-time lawmaker Rep. Joe Faust, R-Fairhope, has a Republican challenger, Jennifer Fidler, in House District 94. And in House District 96, incumbent Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, is being challenged by Republican Danielle Duggar.
Other sitting Republicans with primary challengers are House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, Rep. Proncey Robertson, Rep. Ginny Shaver, Rep. Russell Bedsole and Rep. Jeff Sorrells.
The field in House District 95 has grown to three: Republicans Frances Holk-Jones and Michael Ludvigsen and Democrat Richard Brackner. Current Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores is not seeking reelection. He’s currently undergoing treatment for brain tumors.
Updated House Chart
|District||Incumbent||2022 Status||Announced candidates|
|1||Phillip Pettus||Running||Maurice McCaney (R)|
|2||Lynn Greer||Open seat||Jason Spencer Black, (R), Kimberly Butler (R), Ben Harrison (R), Terrance Irelan (R)|
|3||Andrew Sorrell||Open Seat||Susan Bentley (D), Wesley Thompson (D). Fred Joly (R), Kerry Underwood (R)|
|4||Parker Moore||Running||Patrick Johnson (R), Sheila Banister (R)|
|7||Proncey Robertson||Running||Ernie Yarbrough (R), Moses Jones Jr. (D)|
|10||Mike Ball||Open Seat||David Cole (R), Marilyn Lands (D)|
|12||Corey Harbison||Running||James C. Fields Jr. (D)|
|13||Connie Rowe||Open Seat||Greg Barnes (R), Keith Davis (R), Christopher Dozier (R), Charles Waits (R), Matt Woods (R)|
|14||Tim Wadsworth||Running||Cory Franks (R), Tom Fredricks (R)|
|15||Allen Farley||Open Seat||Leigh Hulsey (R), Richard Rouco (D), Brad Tompkins (R)|
|20||Howard Sanderford||Open Seat||James D. Brown (R), Frances Taylor (R), Angela McClure (R), James Lomax (R)|
|23||Tommy Hanes||Running||Mike Kirkland (R)|
|24||Nathaniel Ledbetter||Running||Don Stout (R)|
|25||Mac McCutcheon||Open Seat||Buck Clemons (R), Mallory Hagan (D), Phillip Rigsby (R)|
|26||Kerry Rich||Open seat||Ben Alford (D), Brock Colvin (R), Annette Holcomb (R), Todd Mitchem (R)|
|27||Wes Kitchens||Running||Herb Neu (D)|
|28||Gil Isbell||Running||Mack Butler (R)|
|29||Becky Nordgren||Open Seat||Mark Gidley (R), Jamie Grant (R)|
|31||Mike Holmes||Open seat||R.T. Barksdale (R), Chadwick Smith (R), Troy Stubbs (R)|
|32||Barbara Boyd||Running||Evan Jackson (R)|
|33||Ben Robbins||Running||Fred Crum Sr. (D)|
|38||Debbie Wood||Running||Micah Messer (R)|
|39||Ginny Shaver||Running||Brent Rhodes (R)|
|40||K.L. Brown||Open Seat||Gayla Blanton (R), Julie Borrelli (R), Katie Exum (R), Pam Howard (D), Bill Lester (R), Bill McAdams (R), Chad Robertson (R), Jakob Williamson (D)|
|41||Corley Ellis||Running||Chris Nelson (D)|
|43||Arnold Mooney||Running||Prince Cleveland (D)|
|45||Dickie Drake||Running||Susan Dubose (R)|
|47||David Wheeler||Open Seat||Christian Coleman (D), Jim Toomey (D), Republican yet to be named|
|48||Jim Carns||Running||William Wentowski (R)|
|49||Russell Bedsole||Running||Michael Hart (R)|
|52||John Rogers||Running||LaTanya Millhouse (D)|
|54||Neil Rafferty||Running||Britt Blalock (D), Edward Maddox (D)|
|55||Rod Scott||Running||Travis Hendrix (D), Phyllis Oden-Jones (D), Fred "Coach" Plump (D), Antwon Womack (D)|
|56||Louise Alexander||Open Seat||Tereshia Huffman (D), Cleo King (D), Jesse Matthews (D), Ontario Tillman (D)|
|57||Merika Coleman||Open Seat||Kevin Dunn (D), Danielle Matthews (D), Charles Ray Winston III (D), Delor Baumann (R)|
|60||Juandalynn Givan||Running||Nina Taylor (D)|
|61||Rodney Sullivan||Open Seat||Ron Bolton (R), Kimberly Madison (R)|
|62||Rich Wingo||Open Seat||Brenda Cephus (D) Bill Lamb (R)|
|63||Cynthia Almond||Running||Samual Adams (D)|
|64||Harry Shiver||Open Seat||Angelo Jacob Fermo (R), Donna Givens (R)|
|65||Brett Easterbrook||Running||Dee Ann Campbell (R), Marcus Caster (D)|
|67||Prince Chestnut||Running||Laurine Pettway (D), Jarmal Jabbar Sanders (R)|
|68||Thomas Jackson||Running||Fred Kelley (R)|
|69||Kelvin Lawrence||Running||Karla Knight Maddox (R)|
|72||Ralph Howard||Running||Curtis Travis (D)|
|74||Charlotte Meadows||Running||Malcolm Calhoun (D), Phillip Ensler (D)|
|82||Pebblin Warren||Running||Terrence Johnson (D), Lennora Tia Pierrot (R)|
|85||Dexter Grimsley||Running||Payne Henderson (R)|
|87||Jeff Sorrells||Running||Eric E. Johnson (R)|
|88||Will Dismukes||Running||Will Dismukes (R), Jerry Starnes (R)|
|89||Wes Allen||Open Seat||Marcus Paramore (R)|
|91||Rhett Marques||Running||Les Hogan (R)|
|92||Mike Jones, Jr.||Open Seat||Steve Hubbard (D), Greg White (R), Matthew Hammett (R)|
|94||Joe Faust||Running||Jennifer Fidler (R)|
|95||Steve McMillan||Open Seat||Frances Holk-Jones (R), Richard Brackner(D), Michael Ludvigsen (R), Reginald Pulliam (R)|
|96||Matt Simpson||Running||Danielle Duggar (R)|
|99||Sam Jones||Running||Levi Wright Jr. (D)|
|100||Victor Gaston||Open Seat||Pete Kupfer (R), Joe Piggot (R), Mark Shirley (R)|
Implications from monster court ruling
By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
It is difficult to overstate the significance of a federal court panel’s ruling that Alabama’s new congressional districts cannot move forward and must be redrawn. Before we get to all of them, let’s acknowledge that the state is appealing the decision and there’s always a possibility the Supreme Court will allow the districts to go forward as they are. After all, it is a decidedly conservative court at the moment, with only three liberal justices to the six conservatives. But, then again, the three judge panel was conservative, too. Judges Stanley Marcus and Anna Manasco were appointed by former President Donald Trump and Judge Terry Moore was first appointed at the district level by former President George W. Bush and then promoted to the appellate level by former President Donald Trump. In any case, it wasn’t a liberal panel.
Smart sources tell IAP that the best thing working in the state’s favor for SCOTUS to take up the case and possibly overturn it is how relatively sloppy the judges’ work was. For example, ordering the Secretary of State to delay candidate qualifying without understanding that it is the parties, not the state, who determine such things shows a lack of awareness of how elections work. That could at least make the justices curious to see what else is in the ruling.
That said, most IAP sources say they expect the ruling to be upheld in one form or another. In other words, Alabama is likely to have new and very different congressional districts this election.
Should the ruling stand, the first question becomes will the Legislature redraw the map as ordered or just leave it to the courts. The court basically gave them that option by promising to draw the map itself if the Legislature refused to. That’s becoming a more and more attractive option among Republican lawmakers. For one thing, they really don’t want to spend any more time on it. The redistricting special session was a slog to begin with and now they’ve been in Montgomery almost a month and nobody’s bills have had a chance to pass. For another thing, if they did redraw the maps, who’s to say the courts wouldn’t block them again? Also, consider this: with two new “opportunity districts,” Republicans will have a puncher’s chance of winning one or both of those seats at some point down the line. Should that happen, and Alabama no longer has a black Democrat in Congress, the national media’s talking heads will explode. For Republicans, it would be advantageous to simply say they had no hand in drawing the districts and that Democrats only have themselves to blame.
Speaking of Alabama’s lone black Democrat in Congress, word to IAP is that Congresswoman Terri Sewell is none too pleased with this outcome. Since being elected in 2010, Sewell has only faced token opposition, which has allowed her the space to become both a leader within her party and someone who delivers for the state on certain needs. Now, she could face difficult elections in both the primary and general. Of course, Sewell has publicly expressed support for the court challenge because that’s what you do. But behind the scenes there is concern about the unintended consequences this could bring.
Republicans aren’t exactly rejoicing themselves. In all likelihood, this ruling will result in the loss of one Republican-held seat. It also could make for some awkwardness if Congressman Jerry Carl is drawn into the same district as fellow freshman Congressman Barry Moore.
And below is a map being proposed in the lawsuit.
One astute observer told IAP of an interesting point: because redistricting was so hurried, nobody has really seen down to the granular level where these district lines are drawn. But since the new proposed map keeps counties whole, the data would probably be easy to generate. We know how counties vote because that’s how we count for statewide elections. Suddenly, GOTV would become super important. That means voter lists would be like gold, not just in the primaries but in the general election. It has been since 2010 that we had truly competitive races for Congress, so the data is rather dusty. Plus, updated voter data from the Secretary of State’s office can be wildly expensive, something the Legislature could address this session.
There’s a lot to consider as we await the next steps from the courts and the Legislature.
Dust up over Auburn trustee appointment leads to Ainsworth’s lion tweet
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth’s social media post a few weeks about an old lion losing its power had Alabama political Twitter doing a collective head scratch and wondering if that was an odd prelude to a gubernatorial announcement.
It was even stranger considering Ainsworth days before had appeared on Alabama Public Television’s Capitol Journal, praising Gov. Kay Ivey’s job performance and saying she would “win in a landslide.”
Turns out the picture of the raggedy lion almost assuredly was a dig at Ivey, but it was specific to a pending appointment to the Auburn University Board of Trustees.
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Ainsworth’s father, Billy Ainsworth, an Alabama business leader and Auburn alumnus, was being considered for the board. Ainsworth allies said Ivey promised the appointment to many in the Auburn and business communities.
But that’s not what’s happened. Per the state constitution, there’s a five-member “trustees appointing committee” that includes current board members, two alumni representatives and the governor or her designee. Generally, the alumni representatives and the trustees disagree about whom to nominate. Thus, the governor can be a tie breaking vote.
Ivey opened an application process to fill three board seats in early November through early December. Board trustees can serve two seven-year terms. When it last met, the committee voted to nominate Alabama Power executive Zeke Smith to the at-large seat being vacated by Charles McCrary, Caroline Aderholt, wife of Congressman Robert Aderholt, to the District 7 seat being vacated by Sarah Newton, and Tim McCartney, chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council to the District 5 seat being vacated by Gaines Lanier.
Billy Ainsworth’s name had been in consideration by the committee as well for the District 5 seat, but after Ivey indicated she liked McCartney for that seat, the committee voted and was finished.
It’s no secret that the governor and lieutenant governor have had their political differences during this term. Ainsworth publicly chided Ivey for her various COVID-19 policy decisions multiple times, and Ivey in turn clapped back. Sources tell IAP that relationship had been patched up of late, with Ivey attending Ainsworth’s campaign kickoff and Ainsworth publicly backing Ivey’s bid for reelection. But politicians tend to have long memories. Ivey and her team surely haven’t forget the criticism during the height of the crisis that has largely defined this term. And memories work both ways. Trustee nominations must be approved by the Senate, over which Ainsworth presides, though he doesn’t control, the flow of legislation himself. Asked what will happen when the appointment gets to the Senate one source said, “That’s a good question.”
What will the Durant story fallout be?
We have our first scandal in the U.S. Senate race. Well, maybe not a scandal, but the first serious mud to get slung. The story about Mike Durant, his estranged sister and the unspeakable abuse their father inflicted on her as a child is just awful. It’s certainly no fun to write about. But it remains an issue in this Senate race partly because of the way the Durant campaign, and the candidate himself, have responded to the story. On the Dale Jackson radio show, Durant insisted that he had done nothing wrong. Durrant also sought to correct the timeline to clarify that it was him that got his father to confess after decades of denials. His campaign then sent out multiple press releases blaming his opponents for dredging up the decades old situation and calling on them to denounce the story and/or apologize. Correct or not, the radio interview almost certainly prompted Durant’s sister to issue new statements of her own.
Let’s be real, this is absolutely an oppo dump. Sources tell IAP that spook extraordinaire Joe Perkins and his Matrix firm helped gather the information. As one source told IAP, “the devil works hard, but Joe Perkins works harder.” All that said, opposition research is part of politics. Durant’s team should have seen this coming and prepared better for how to respond. There likely will be opportunities to get another shot at that in the future.
The real question is will this story be used in attack ads against Durant. Conventional wisdom says absolutely yes. And they would be brutal. Think of the words “incest” and “molesting” appearing on TV or in a mailer attacking Durant. Fair or not, it’s potent stuff. But it’s not that easy. Durant’s primary opponents, Mo Brooks and Katie Britt, wouldn’t dare running such ads themselves. It would take an outside group to do it, and don’t be surprised if that happens. And because of the way campaign finance rules work, it could be done almost completely anonymously.
Hope Brasell has been promoted to Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed. Brasell, a longtime Senate staffer, has worked closely with Reed since his tenure as Senate Majority Leader. In addition to coordinating Pro Tem Office appointments, scheduling and other legislative matters, she will oversee Reed’s communications efforts.
Justin Barkley has been hired as Deputy General Counsel in Gov. Key Ivey’s office. Barkley is an attorney at Hill, Gossett, Kemp & Hufford and previously ran for the State Board of Education in 2016 and State House of Representatives in 2014.