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Inside Alabama Politics – November 10

Boyd departing Tuberville’s office

Stephen Boyd, Chief of Staff for U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, is departing after two years on the job, Inside Alabama Politics has learned. Boyd was Tuberville’s first hire, leveraging his extensive Capitol Hill experience to build out a Senate office with a staff rich in the political and government experience the outsider senator lacked. An 18-year veteran of Washington, Boyd is well known to Alabama politicos and business leaders, and inside Alabama’s congressional delegation. In addition to his time with Tuberville, Boyd departs government having served nearly four years as Assistant Attorney General of the United States, a Senate-confirmed officer at the Department of Justice that positioned Boyd as Attorneys General Sessions’s and Barr’s top representative to Congress during the Trump Administration. Previously Boyd served for 6 years as Chief of Staff to Rep. Martha Roby in the House of Representatives, and 6 years in the office of Senator Jeff Sessions and on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

“It’s been an honor to come back to the Senate-an institution I love – to work for Coach Tuberville and my home state of Alabama,” Boyd tells IAP. “We accomplished what we set out to do in the first two years, and that includes advancing our priorities on the armed services committee and building a great organization to support Coach and serve the people of our state. I’m confident that our service-first mentality will continue, and I can’t wait to see what Coach and his team accomplish in the future.”

Boyd’s plans are unannounced at the moment, but IAP is told he will move to the private sector after almost two decades in government to work on aerospace, defense, intelligence, and law enforcement issues—all matters of economic importance to Alabama.

IAP has also learned that Tuberville has chosen Mary Blanche Hankey as his new Chief of Staff. A Florence native, Hankey currently serves as Tuberville’s Chief Counsel and is known to be heavily involved in the drafting of legislation to reform college athletics Name, Image, and Likeness rules. Hankey also brings high level Washington experience to the top staff position in the office. She served at the Department of Justice with Boyd for both Sessions and Barr, as well as Legislative Counsel for Sessions in his Senate office. Hankey also led the DOJ Presidential Transition Team and served as the Department’s White House Liaison for the first six months of the Trump Administration. Hankey previously practiced law in the Birmingham office of Sirote & Permutt. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama and Cumberland School of Law. Capitol Hill insider’s see Hankey’s promotion as a continuation of Tuberville’s office operations and priorities, a development welcomed by those who have been impressed with what the football coach-turned Senator has accomplished during his first two years.


Staffing Senator-elect Britt

Ever since the May 24 primary election when it became pretty likely that Katie Britt was going to be Alabama’s next U.S. Senator, speculation has swirled as to who might be tapped to fill out her staff. Landing a Senate staff job is an honor for any up-and-coming politico, but working for Britt would be an especially plum job for many. She’s the first woman elected to the Senate from Alabama, will be the youngest Republican woman in the Senate and the only mother of school age kids in the GOP Caucus. She’s also served as a chief of staff in the Senate and knows what she’s doing. All that makes her different and exciting for eager would-be staffers.

It all starts with the Chief of Staff, and there was no shortage of those wanting to be considered for that job. But IAP has learned that Britt has tapped Clay Armentrout as her Chief of Staff. Armentrout is a veteran hill staffer who currently serves as Legislative Director to outgoing U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby. In fact, Armentrout has worked his way up the ladder in Shelby’s office over the last seven years, working as Legislative Correspondent, Legislative Assistant, Legislative Counsel and finally Legislative Director and Counsel. Part of that service occurred while Britt was Chief of Staff, so the two are well acquainted. Armentrout is a Mobile native who attended the University of Alabama and earned a law degree from Wake Forest.

Another key staff hire is the Communications Director. IAP has learned that Sean Ross, who led comms efforts on the campaign, will assume that role in Washington, D.C. Ross has impressed Alabama’s political class since starting out as the lone staffer on Twinkle Cavanaugh‘s run for Lt. Governor. After leading YellowHammer News for three years, Ross got back into the campaign world leading an impressive communications effort for the Britt campaign.

Future key positions to be filled include State Director, Legislative Director, General Counsel and Personal Aide/Executive Assistant. Britt explained her philosophy and game plan for hiring staff recently on Capitol Journal.


Speaker’s race update

Elections behind them, the Alabama House and Senate today get down to the business of internal leadership selections. The most anticipated contests are in the House leadership elections at a special meeting of the House Republican Caucus. Unlike the last race for Speaker, which was more or less rushed after the previous Speaker’s conviction, this time around the candidates have had months to campaign among their colleagues for the gavel.

That process continued in earnest over the last few days as both House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter and Ways & Means General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse sent emails to members of the Caucus making their cases for the Speakership. Inside Alabama Politics has obtained both emails the contents of which are below.

The first one, from Clouse, was sent Sunday evening to individual members.

On Thursday, our Caucus will elect new leadership. I am running for Speaker of the House to institute a process that will allow us all to be successful and to serve with credibility and respect.
As we head into a new quadrennium I will be one of the most senior members of the Republican Caucus, but if you want more of the same, I am not your guy. I have seen what works and what does not in House leadership and in the Speaker’s chair.  I intend to use my experience to improve our process and outcomes.
As Republicans, we have committed to leading ethically as prudent stewards of government resources. We must practice what we preach, holding ourselves to a high standard in shaping policy and, internally, with caucus resources donated to further our conservative cause. Each of us is here on behalf of our communities representing every corner of our state. Your success in office should not depend on your favor with the Speaker’s office. That would be a broken system. If elected, my office will be organized with the goal of optimizing your ability to do your jobs.
I am prepared to lead by example, help new members understand the job and give all Caucus members the tools to succeed. Having served as Chairman of the General Fund for the last decade, my leadership is tested. Whether it is initiating a comprehensive policy effort, responding to an acute crisis, becoming a subject matter expert on a policy matter important to you or navigating the Senate — whatever your needs and goals — I will help you.
Attached to this letter is my plan for us. It reflects a long-term outlook, addresses concerns shared with me and is informed by my experienced perspective. You will see that each component of my plan is rooted in fairness, with the goal of establishing a structure and transparent process within the Republican Caucus to promote collective faith in each decision. No decision or outcome will please everyone, but at the end of the day, everyone including the public will know the process was objective and fair.
My style of leadership is clean, transparent and efficient.  I will not make hollow promises or tell you what you want to hear for the sake of it. I believe the secret to effective leadership is straightforwardness grounded in honesty. I will make decisions thoughtfully and you will always know where I stand. Under my leadership, we will be positioned to meet the highest of expectations no matter the circumstances of the day. You will be proud of the work we do together in the Alabama House of Representatives.
I humbly ask for your vote.
Best Regards,
Steve Clouse
District 93, Alabama House of Representatives
Clouse’s email included a slide deck entitled “The Clouse Plan” that lays out his plans for legislative and caucus procedure if elected. Link: TheClousePlan
On Wednesday morning, Ledbetter sent the following to all Caucus members, noting their electoral success and a commitment to retiring campaign debt.


Congratulations on your election to the Alabama House of Representatives. I look forward to serving with you throughout the next four years as we work to make an already great state even better.

Please note, as well, that if you have campaign debt from your election, we will work to help you fully retire it before the fundraising deadline arrives in 120 days.

Serving as House Majority Leader since my election in 2017 has been an honor.

The best people I have ever known are those I have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with in this Caucus, and the members of the Alabama House Republican Caucus represent friendships I will treasure until my last breath.

In all candor, it hasn’t always been easy.

In my first term as a state representative, the Speaker of the House was convicted on corruption charges, the Governor resigned to avoid certain impeachment, and the Chief Justice was removed from office.

I became Majority Leader under less than ideal circumstances when my predecessor faced his own issues.

But instead of letting those challenges splinter us, we pulled together as Republicans and came back even stronger than before.

Our supermajority passed legislation that has helped create more than 65,000 new jobs.

We have brought new hope and opportunity to rural Alabama through high-speed, broadband expansion.

We have taken bold steps toward addressing problems in our prison system that were ignored and allowed to metastasize for decades.

We have reduced our bonded indebtedness by billions while cutting taxes for working families.

We have dramatically improved mental health services and made it easier for those who need help to receive it.

All of those things and countless other achievements were made possible because our Caucus was united and worked together.

We shared a vision, and we moved Alabama forward, and, as Speaker, I want to build on that already impressive record.

The men and women in our Caucus have been blessed by God with tremendous talent, and because of this, I believe to my core that our best days are yet to come.

My top goal as Speaker is to provide the tools that will allow you to be successful in your district, which, in turn, will help our state prosper.

I humbly ask for your vote as Speaker of the House and look forward to seeing each of you on Thursday.

Nathaniel Ledbetter

Since our last writing, sources close to the contest say the race for Speaker is “closer than it has ever been” as the Caucus prepares to meet. Some issues that have arisen internally in the Caucus are:

  • staffing in the Speaker’s Office, to include the retention of current Chief of Staff Mark Tuggle, who himself was a House Republican from 2010-2018;
  • committee chairmanships, especially the all-important Rules Committee;
  • the balance of power between north and south Alabama;
  • Clouse’s retention of the General Fund Budget Committee should he lose. Typically, a prevailing Speaker wouldn’t hand over such a top spot to his opponent, but several members have insisted on it given Clouse’s experience.

Meanwhile, in the race for Majority Leader, State Rep. Scott Stadthagen continued to make his outward appeal to Caucus members with a Wednesday night dinner at Montgomery Country Club sponsored by his STACK PAC. Rep. Joe Lovvorn has chosen the quieter path, without utilizing his TEAM PAC to fundraise, at least not before the vote. Multiple sources tell IAP that the involvement of the Blanchard family in the race, which we previously reported, has been noticed by Gov. Kay Ivey and her top advisers. Lindy Blanchard this year challenged Ivey in the Republican primary, spending as much as $15 million in personal wealth on the losing effort. But Ivey and her staff have so far not interfered in the Caucus contest.

And don’t forget the crowded race for Speaker Pro Tem that includes: Rep. Terri Collins, Rep. Chris Pringle and Rep. Jim Hill, Rep. Phillip Pettus and Rep. Craig Lipscomb.


What about Senate Leadership?

Senate Republicans caucus today in Montevallo where they’re expected to formalize their support for the body’s top leaders — President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, and Majority Leader Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville. Both men held the same leadership spots in the 2022 legislative session.

Though incumbent Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, lost in the GOP primary, Republicans held onto 27 of 35 seats in the Senate. Reed and Scofield are getting credit for their involvement in races, including incumbent Sen. Tom Butler’s comfortable win Tuesday in Senate District 2 in Madison County. That race had been considered a possible toss up.

Overall, Reed and Scofield deployed nearly $430,000 in contested races through their Conservative Leadership PAC.Senate Republicans — contested and uncontested — raised $5.37 million this election cycle.


What happened in Senate District 23?

More than 48,000 people voted in Tuesday’s contested race in Senate District 23, long a Democrat stronghold and held by a Sanders for four decades.

Democrat Robert Stewart, a Selma native, is the new senator, winning about 53% of the vote.

“There’s a lot of passion on both sides, on certain issues,” Stewart told Alabama Daily News. “And our campaign, we were able to galvanize a strong grassroots movement. People were excited and we had an energetic campaign, so I’m very grateful.” 

Stewart works for the non-profit consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, based in Washington, D.C.. He’s a former staffer for Congresswoman Terry Sewell.  

Republican Robert Nimmer received 21,659 votes. That number is more than the total votes cast in several other state Senate races Tuesday.

And it’s even more impressive since Nimmer didn’t report spending a dime on the race, according to campaign finance records kept by the Alabama Secretary of State. Nimmer filed the initial paperwork and one monthly report, but didn’t report in it any contributions or expenditures. The required GOP filing fee of $1,079 alone should have triggered at least one expense report under the state’s campaign finance law.

Nimmer, of Butler County, ran unopposed in the GOP primary and kept a low profile in the race. So how’d he get more votes than many candidates who won other contested Senate races Tuesday?

Nimmer did not return calls on Wednesday. 

The lack of spending records didn’t go unnoticed by Stewart.

“I (think) it’s unfair to candidates who do the right thing and file reports and communicate with the secretary of state,” Stewart said. “There should be rules of fairness for everyone, regardless of what party you’re in.”

He reported raising more than $283,000 and spending about $194,000.

Stewart said straight-ticket voting probably helped Nimmer.

Former Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, held the seat for nine terms, and then his daughter, Malika Sanders-Fortier, had it for one term until she ran unsuccessfully to be Democrats’ nominee for governor earlier this year.

The elder Sanders ran again for the seat, but was defeated by Stewart in the June Democrat primary runoff for the eight-county district. Sanders raised about $157,000.

Some have speculated that Sanders turned his supporters to Nimmer in retaliation against Stewart. Sanders didn’t return messages on Wednesday.

Stewart said he’s grateful to those who supported him.

“And regardless of who voted for me or who didn’t, I want to support them and advocate for them and the betterment of our region,” he said.


Ivey signals a lean into government belt-tightening

Looking toward her next term, Gov. Kay Ivey has routinely pointed to improving education as her key priority. However, in recent campaign speeches, Ivey has hinted at another area of focus that has been rumored in government circles for weeks: government efficiency.

The governor is apparently wasting no time in making good on this campaign promise. Inside Alabama Politics has obtained a memo sent by the governor to executive agencies asking them to take stock of their use of state vehicles and report back to her office. Here is that memo.

Though this memo is specific only to vehicle use, sources tell IAP this will be a recurring theme as the inauguration approaches and the new term begins in an effort to trim the fat of state government and cut down on waste. Asked for a comment about the memo’s intent, Ivey Communications Director Gina Maiola said the following:

“Wednesday, following the election, Governor Ivey sent a memo, along with a survey, to all state agency heads to gather information about our current fleet of state vehicles, and specifically, details on the usage. The purpose of the state vehicle survey is very simply to gather information necessary to guide any future decisions, if any. As Governor Ivey has traveled the state over the past few months, she has said very matter-of-factly that she wants government to better serve Alabamians. I fully expect the governor to focus her efforts on keeping state government accountable to work most efficiently for the people of Alabama. I believe we will continue hearing from Governor Ivey on this issue as we approach her inauguration and on into the next four years.”



Drew Harrell is making a move from the Business Council of Alabama to the Governor’s Office. Harrell, now a BCA veteran, is best known for his work spearheading the “Rebuild Alabama” infrastructure plan and most recently led Progress PAC’s 2022 campaign efforts. He goes to the Governor’s Office to help lead Ivey’s legislative efforts, replacing William Fillmore.

William Fillmore is departing the Governor’s Office to lead legislative affairs effort for Troy University. That role had been filled by Marcus Paramore, who was just elected to the House of Representatives. Fillmore is a Troy alum and well respected in State House circles. He’s also the husband of Liz Fillmore, Ivey’s Chief of Staff.

Jane Adams is leaving Alabama Arise for the American Cancer Society as their Government Relations Director for Alabama. Adams most recently led the “Cover Alabama” effort seeking to expand Medicaid. Don’t expect that goal to wane, thought. The American Cancer Society recently played a key role in expanding Medicaid in South Dakota and got parties to the negotiating table in North Carolina.

Justin Barkley has been promoted to Chief Deputy General Counsel in the Governor’s Legal Office. Barkley joined the office in January after various stints in the private sector, including at a prominent Birmingham law firm and in-house at a healthcare services company.

Zack Wilson and Sarah Telofski have joined the Governor’s Legal Office as Deputy General Counsels. Wilson comes to the office having served three years in the Attorney General’s Consumer Interest Division; Telofski joins the office after a two-year tenure as counsel in the Secretary of State’s Office.

Congrats to all!



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