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Inside Alabama Politics – October 31, 2022

As a special bonus for ADN Insiders, the polling crosstabs from Cygnal are available HERE.

New poll shows where voters stand a week out from Nov. 8 election

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

A new Cygnal poll conducted for Alabama Daily News and Gray Television shows all Republican statewide candidates winning a majority of general election voters and with sizable leads over their Democratic opponents.

This probabilistic survey was conducted October 27 – 29, 2022 with 616 likely general election voters. It has a margin of error of ±3.94%. Known registered voters were interviewed via interactive voice response and text message. This survey was weighted to a likely general election voter universe. 

Governor Kay Ivey is setting the pace for the field, leading with 59.5% of the vote to Democrat Yolanda Flowers 25.3% and Libertarian James “Jimmy” Blake’s 4.7%.

Close behind Ivey with similar numbers are Greg Cook, Republican nominee for Alabama Supreme Court, Attorney General Steve Marshall and Katie Britt, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

Britt was the choice of 57.1% of voters, compared to 27.5% for Democrat Will Boyd and 6.3% for Libertarian John Sophocleus, with 9.1% undecided.

Marshall leads Democrat Wendell Major 57.9% to 29.7%, with 12.4% remaining undecided in the race.

Cook leads Democrat Anita Kelly 58% to 30.2%, with 11.8% undecided.

State Rep. Wes Allen, Republican nominee for Secretary of State had the smallest advantage but still saw a majority among voters, leading with 51.7% to Democrat Pamela Laffitte’s 29.6% and Libertarian Jason “Matt” Shelby’s 4.6%, with 14.1% undecided.

 

The survey did not test each congressional district, but did ask voters what party they plan on supporting in the 2022 midterm elections that will decide control of Congress. Unsurprisingly, Republicans held a significant advantage statewide, with 62.4% of voters saying they’ll support the GOP candidate with 30.7% saying they’ll support the Democratic candidate, while 6.8% remain undecided.

Interestingly, the survey also tested how many voters would plan to vote a straight-party ticket. Alabama allows voters to check one box at the top of the ballot to cast votes for the entire slate of candidates of the selected party. Straight ticket voting is now a major advantage for Republicans whereas it was originally an advantage for Democrats when they dominated elections decades ago.

A full 53.4% of voters say they plan to vote a straight Republican ticket, compared to 24.4% saying they’ll vote a straight Democratic ticket and 2.3% saying they’ll vote straight Libertarian. Just 15.7% of voters said they do not plan to vote a straight part ticket and 4.2% remained unsure.

 

 

Amendments faring well with voters

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

Several constitutional amendments are on the general election ballot this year along with a plan to recompile and reorganize the document itself. Cygnal tested how voters are likely to vote on the amendments by simply reading the text that appears on the ballot.

On Amendment 1, better known as Aniah’s Law, 66.6% of voters say they plan to approve the amendment, compared to just 12.3% who said they’ll vote no and 21% saying they’re unsure.

On Amendment 2, which is needed to allow local governments to work with private entities to expand access to Broadband internet, 56% of voters said they support it while 13.2% said they wouldn’t and 30.8% remained unsure.

 

Finally, on recompiling the 1901 Constitution and removing racist language from the document, 53.8% of voters say they’ll vote to approve that plan, while 15.5% of voters said they’d vote against it and 30.7% remained unsure.

 

Looking at approval / disapproval ratings

The Cygnal poll also looked at the general favorability ratings of notable politicians, including the president, the governor, the former president and two potential contenders for future higher office.

Unsurprisingly, President Joe Biden is deeply underwater in this right-leaning state, with just 30% of voters having a favorable opinion and 66.3% having an unfavorable one. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump is the opposite, enjoying a 59.3% favorability rating compared to 36.6% who view him unfavorably.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s approval closely tracks her ballot test number, with 59.8% of voters having a favorable opinion compared to 34.6% having an unfavorable one.

Testing favorability among Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and Attorney General Steve Marshall is interesting given their potential to run for higher office in four years (or perhaps sooner). More voters know who Marshall is both on the favorable and unfavorable side, but neither are very well known among the Alabama electorate.

The following is a list of names of various people who may have been mentioned in the news recently. For each one, please indicate if you have heard of the person and if you have, whether you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of them. If you haven’t heard of a name, choose so. 

Medical marijuana enjoys high approval

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

A recent survey of likely Alabama voters showed strong support for medical marijuana in Alabama.

The poll, conducted for the new Alabama Medical Cannabis Association, showed 79% of respondents are in favor of legal medical cannabis, including 69% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats. 

Conducted by Mowery Consulting Group and polling company co/efficient, and with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5%, the survey also showed:

  • 59% of respondents said they’d be less likely to vote for a legislative candidate who would recriminalize all forms of cannabis;
  • 52% said they thought medical cannabis could help stop opioid abuse and overdoses;
  • And 74% were aware of the state’s 2021 medical marijuana legislation. 

The law allows for people with a few specific medical conditions to have access, with a physician’s approval, to select cannabis products. 

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which oversees implementation of the law, received 607 requests for application from businesses interested in being part of the supply chain. State law says the products must come from Alabama and the commission can award up to 12 cultivator licenses, four processor licenses, four dispensary licenses, five integrated facility licenses and an unspecified number of secure transport and state testing laboratory licenses. 

Entities that submitted requests earlier this month now have until the end of the year to submit their business applications, along with a non-refundable $2,500 application fee.

That fee will likely help shrink the pool, commission Director John McMillan told Inside Alabama Politics.

“I think a lot of people probably applied out of curiosity,” McMillan said. “But what’s going to really separate them … is the fee. I think the number (of applicants) will go down by about half that are really serious.”

After that, the commission will evaluate the applications with the goal of awarding licenses in mid-June, McMillan said.

 

Elliott considers tweaking ALDOT industrial fund

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Sen. Chris Elliott says he’ll propose legislation next session that could expand how a pot of Alabama Department of Transportation money is used for public roads near new industrial projects.

The Industrial Access Road and Bridge Corporation is allocated $11 million per year in the ALDOT budget, but Elliott, R-Daphne, questioned why the money, essentially an economic incentive, has been awarded to projects in “dribs and drabs” over the years.

Elliott questioned ALDOT officials about the funding program at a recent State House meeting of the Joint Legislative Transportation Committee.

“I am concerned, again, and probably this session I’m going to do something about those concerns instead of just talking about them, but I’m concerned about the balance that continues to accrue there,” Elliott said. “I think it was the legislative intent for that money to be used for industrial access and not simply accrued …”

Ed Austin, ALDOT’s chief engineer, told Elliott and the rest of the committee that the corporation’s hands were tied in how the money is spent.

According to state code, allocations can be used for “the planning, design and construction of roads and bridges on the public highway and street system providing access to active military installations or property used primarily for military purposes” or industrial projects.

Essentially, anything built with the money has to be part of public roads, not private, according to ALDOT.

“I don’t think it’s the situation, senator, of the (corporation) being unwilling to help to the extent they can, but … the (corporation) is required to follow the rules as the statute dictates,” Austin said.

To which Elliott said: “My simple response to that would be if we need to change the rules, let’s look at changing the rules.”

The department said there is currently $20.2 million in the fund, including the new fiscal year 2023 allocation.

The corporation that allocates the funds, based on applications, is made up of the state transportation director, finance director and treasurer. At its October quarterly meeting, the corporation approved nine new applications for funding in eight counties ranging from $1.9 million to about $294,000.

Elliott specifically mentioned a $2.5 billion aluminum mill being built in northern Baldwin County that he said was worthy of some of the funding. Its application is pending.

“If the Legislature wants to pass something that changes the types of projects that are eligible under this law, that’s their prerogative and we would administer them accordingly,” Tony Harris, ALDOT’s government affairs director, told Alabama Daily News. 

 

Race for Majority Leader gets interesting

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

The Majority Leader of the Alabama House of Representatives is the second highest ranking position in the body and, perhaps more importantly, a stepping stone toward a future run at Speaker. And yet, it comes with no real legislative authority. It’s more about organizing caucus meetings and events, plus raising money and helping current and future caucus members get elected. Unlike Majority Leader in the U.S. House and especially in the U.S. Senate, the position isn’t terribly consequential toward legislation unless the Speaker wants it to be.

Which is why many in the world of Alabama politics are scratching their heads as to why the current race for Majority Leader is seeing so much financial activity. State Rep. Scott Stadthagen is going all in on his bid to win the office and has continued to raise and spend serious dollars. As of last week’s campaign finance disclosures, Stadthagan had raised another $60,000, bringing total contributions to more than $185,000. John Blanchard, ex-husband of Lindy Blanchard who appeared with her in campaign ads and events, was the source of that $60,000, brining his total contributions to Stadthagen’s STACK PAC up to $90,000. Granted, the Blanchards have many, many millions and have demonstrated they are willing to part with their money for political causes. Still, that’s a lot of dough to put toward an internal legislative race.

Last week, Stadthagen began making real use of the funds by contributing to the campaigns of almost all of his House Republican colleagues. Some who are in close races got more money, including David Cole in House District 10 and Phillip Rigsby in House District 25, who got $5,000 checks and State Rep. Charlotte Meadows, who got a $2,500 contribution. Most everyone else got either $1,000 or $500 from STACK PAC, even the ones with no opponents. The notable exception was State Rep. Joe Lovvorn, who is Stadthagan’s competition for Majority Leader. There are plans to use the remaining funds on a multi-media advertising campaign (including on ADN) to encourage voters to vote straight ticket Republican. We may see more of that when the next weekly finance reports are filed Monday.

Contrast Stadthagen’s aggressive, well-funded campaign to that of Lovvorn, who has a leadership PAC in TEAM PAC, but has not used it to raise money or curry favor with campaign contributions. His supporters say the lower-profile approach is more appropriate for an internal caucus election and that many caucus members may be uncomfortable with so much outside money being used to influence the vote. Meanwhile, Stadthagen’s supporters say the ability to raise money in support of Republican candidates is a function of the Majority Leader job and his campaign merely demonstrates that he’s up to it.

We’ll see which strategy works when the House Republican Caucus votes on November 10.

Three shots fired! Murder in the Capitol!

In case you needed some spooky Halloween flavor to add to your Alabama Politics fix, today is the 110th anniversary of the infamous murder in the Alabama State Capitol. Most everyone who has taken a tour of the Capitol (or worked within its hallways) has heard this story recanted by those leading tours. David Azbell does a nice job re-telling the story on his Art of Alabama Politics page this morning.

Potpourri

Ashley McLain has been named Director of Advocacy and Engagement at the School Superintendents of Alabama (SSA). McLain most recently served as the Assistant Executive Director for Member Advocacy for the Alabama Education Association, where she was the head lobbyist and oversaw both government relations and public relations for the association. McLain, a 20-year education advocate, will now oversee the state legislative lobbying efforts for SSA.

Joey Ammons is leaving his post as General Counsel at the Alabama Department of Labor to lead the Alabama Forestry Fund, a special program sponsored by the Alabama Forestry Association to provide workers compensation to its members. Alabama politicos will remember that’s the role Boyd Kelly held for many years.

Congrats to all!

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