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Jim Bonner appealing Alabama GOP move to disregard votes

By JAY REEVES, Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A statewide candidate censured over “egregious” public comments said Friday that he is appealing the state GOP’s decision to disregard any votes he receives in next week’s primary, but it may not matter.

Jim Bonner, who is running for Alabama’s utility-regulating Public Service Commission, said Republican officials could face a backlash if they don’t treat his case seriously.

“They risk alienating 1 million voters with this,” he said.

But party chair Terry Lathan said Bonner’s request for an appeal hearing won’t be considered until Aug. 25, weeks after Tuesday’s election, and the full state executive committee would have to agree to hear it.

Bonner, 65, is a former community college teacher and two-time delegate to the Republican National Convention. Party officials this week censured the Phil Campbell man over comments he made on social media and radio that could be offensive to groups including women, blacks, Jews and Muslims.

The party took the added step Thursday of saying it wouldn’t certify Bonner’s votes against Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden.

“When our state party chooses to take these steps, it is a serious and rare occurrence. We strongly believe that this is one of those solemn moments. This vote was carefully considered and was not taken lightly,” Lathan said in a statement.

The decision came during a telephone conference call in which Bonner said he told a party committee he was being outrageous partly to attract free publicity since he has raised little money and can’t afford advertising.

“I can’t get on the radio and do a lot of advertising about me or my opponent,” Bonner said in an interview.

Bonner said Republican leaders are against him because he’s campaigning for tighter regulation of the politically powerful Alabama Power Co.

While Bonner hasn’t held elected office, he may be benefiting from his last name.

The Montgomery-based political consulting firm Cyngal said a recent survey showed Bonner in a tight race with Oden among decided voters, although nearly 70 percent of voters are undecided. The firm said voters may be picking Bonner because former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner used to represent southwest Alabama in Congress, and Jo Bonner’s sister Judy Bonner was president of the University of Alabama.

Jim Bonner said he is a distant relative of the brother and sister but has no relationship with either.

In a bid to clear up any confusion, Jo Bonner held a news conference in Mobile on Friday to say he’s not running for office. He said he doesn’t know that he’s ever met Jim Bonner and doesn’t believe they are related.

Jo Bonner told reporters he has received calls “from all over the state” recently from people who mistakenly thought he was re-entering politics.
AP writer Kim Chandler contributed from Montgomery.

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