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Video: Kay Ivey launches full term as Alabama governor

Inauguration is pinnacle for Republican who has labored 15 years in statewide office

Video from WIAT-TV CBS 42 via Facebook

Change in party control of U.S. House diminishes Southern clout

Just five House committees in new Congress will have Southerners at the helm

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com

WASHINGTON (CFP) — When it comes to Southern clout in the U.S. House, what a difference an election makes.

In the recently departed Congress, with Republicans in control, 13 of the 22 committee chairs hailed from the 14 Southern states; in the newly installed Congress, with Democrats in charge, that number will fall to just five.

Five Southern Republican chairs retired, and one, Pete Sessions of Texas, went down to defeat in November. Those who stayed find themselves in the minority for the first time in eight years.

The switch in control has shifted power from the GOP, in which Southerners made up nearly half of the caucus, to the Democrats, where Southerners only make up a fifth. And that has led to reduced numbers of Southerners among committee chairs.

All five of the committees that will be chaired by Southern Democrats in the new Congress were chaired by Southern Republicans in the last Congress, so there will be no loss of influence on those panels.

Also, the outgoing majority whip, Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana, will be replaced by the incoming majority whip, Democrat Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Both men remain the only Southern members in their party’s top leadership.

But eight other committees that had GOP chairmen will now be headed by lawmakers from outside the region. And that list contains a number of the most powerful and high-profile chairmanships in Washington, including Judiciary, Rules, Ways and Means, and Oversight and Reform.

The five Southern Democratic committee chairmen are John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Budget; Ted Deutch of Florida, Ethics; Bobby Scott of Virginia, Education and Labor; Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Homeland Security; and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, Science, Space and Technology.

Unlike Republicans, who select committee chairs by voting within the caucus, Democrats use seniority. All five of the Southern Democrats ascending to chairmanships had been the ranking Democratic member when Democrats were in the minority.

Scott, Thompson and Johnson, all members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are among eight new chairs who are African American or Latino. In the departing Republican Congress, all of the chairs were white, and 20 were men.

Southerners will make up a slight majority within the Republican caucus in the new Congress, which is reflected in the GOP’s new committee leadership. On 14 of the 22 House committees, the ranking Republican in the new Congress will be from the South.

Among the notable newcomers to that group are Kay Granger of Texas, who will be ranking member on Appropriations, and Doug Collins of Georgia, on Judiciary–the committee that would handle any impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Michael McCaul of Texas, who had been chairman of Homeland Security, has shifted to become the new ranking member of Foreign Affairs.

Six Southern Republicans who had been chairs of their committees will continue as ranking members in the new Congress–Mike Conaway of Texas, Agriculture; Mac Thornberry of Texas, Armed Services; Steve Womack of Arkansas, Budget; Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Education and Labor; Phil Roe of Tennessee, Veterans’ Affairs; and Kevin Brady of Texas, Ways and Means.

In addition to Granger and Collins, five other Southern Republicans were also newly named as ranking members–Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, Financial Services; Kenny Marchant of Texas, Ethics; Mike Rogers of Alabama, Homeland Security; Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Rules; and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Science, Space and Technology.

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U.S. Rep. Martha Roby survives GOP primary runoff in Alabama

Trump endorsement helps Roby overcome backlash for her criticism of him during 2016 campaign

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoitics.com editor

MONTGOMERY (CFP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby has easily survived a Republican runoff in her southeast Alabama district, overcoming a backlash over her critical comments of then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 that threatened to bounce her out of Washington.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

Roby took 68 percent in the July 17 runoff to 32 percent for Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor who held the 2nd District seat as a Democrat before losing it to Roby in 2010. He switched to the GOP earlier this year to challenge her in the primary.

Roby will now face Democrat Tabitha Isner, a business analyst and pastor’s wife from Montgomery. Roby will be a prohibitive favorite in the heavily Republican district, which takes in much of Montgomery and its northern suburbs, along with the Wiregrass Country in the southeastern corner of the state.

In the first round of primary voting in June, Roby took just 39 percent of the vote, which was seen as a rebuke to Roby by Trump voters, who have been furious over her decision in October 2016 to rescind her endorsement of him after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women.

At the time, Roby said she would not vote for Trump because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

However, she has since tempered her criticism of the president, and he gave her a coveted tweeted presidential endorsement ahead of the runoff, in which he pointedly noted that Bright was “a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat.”

Roby’s survival contrasts with the fate of another House member critical of Trump — U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina — who lost his primary in June. In that race, Trump endorsed his opponent, State Rep. Katie Arrington, on election day.

Roby, 41, is seeking her fifth term in Congress.

President Trump endorses U.S. Rep. Martha Roby in Alabama primary runoff

Roby has faced backlash for her criticism of Trump during 2016 campaign

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPoitics.com editor

MONTGOMERY (CFP) — With three weeks to go before voters in Alabama’s 2nd District decide a contentious runoff for the U.S. House, President Donald Trump has weighed in with an endorsement of U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, who has faced a backlash for her decision to unendorse Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Congresswoman Martha Roby of Alabama has been a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda,” Trump said in a June 22 tweet. “She is in a Republican Primary run-off against a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat. I fully endorse Martha for Alabama 2nd Congressional District!”

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

Roby is in the July 17 runoff against Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor who held the seat as a Democrat before losing it to Roby in 2010. He switched to the GOP earlier this year to challenge her.

In the first round of voting, Roby took 39 percent to 28 percent for Bright, beating out three other candidates for the two runoff spots.

The result was seen as a rebuke to Roby by Trump voters, who have been furious over her decision in October 2016 to rescind her endorsement of him after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women.

At the time, Roby said she would not vote for Trump because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

A month later, almost 30,000 people cast write-in votes against Roby, reducing her vote total to just 49 percent of the vote in a strongly Republican district and virtually ensuring she would face a primary fight in 2018. She has since toned down her criticisms of Trump and has highlighted her support for Trump’s agenda in Congress.

House candidate Bobby Bright, R-Alabama

During his time in the House, Bright, far from being a Nancy Pelosi Democrat, was considered to be one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus, opposing legal abortion and restrictions on firearms.

During this campaign, he has also cast himself as a supporter of Trump’s trade policies and his call to “drain the swamp” in Washington. He has also run a TV ad criticizing Roby for “turning her back on President Trump when he needed her the most.”

The 2nd District, which is strongly Republican, takes in much of Montgomery and its northern suburbs, along with the Wiregrass Country in the southeastern corner of the state.

The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Tabitha Isner, a business analyst and pastor’s wife from Montgomery.

Alabama Primary: Governor Kay Ivey avoids runoff; U.S. Rep. Martha Roby doesn’t

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox wins Democratic nomination for governor

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

BIRMINGHAM (CFP) — Governor Kay Ivey cruised to an easy win in Alabama’s June 5 Republican primary, defeating three opponents without a runoff and clearing a major hurdle in her quest to win in her own right a job she inherited after her disgraced predecessor resigned.

However, in another closely watched race, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby will face a July 17 runoff for her seat in southeast Alabama’s 2nd District, after facing a backlash from her pointed criticism of President Donald Trump during last year’s presidential race.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey

In the GOP governor’s primary, Ivey took 56 percent of the vote to defeat Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who won 25 percent, and Scott Dawson, an evangelist from Birmingham, with 14 percent.

Her Democratic opponent in November will Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, who took 55 percent in the Democratic primary to defeat Sue Bell Cobb, former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court,

Ivey, 73, became governor in April 2017 after her predecessor, Robert Bentley, resigned amid allegations that he used state resources to try to hide an extramarital affair with a female aide, a scandal complete with salacious audio recordings that roiled state politics for months.

Ivey decided to seek the governorship in her own right after winning plaudits for her handling of the Bentley debacle and its aftermath. A Morning Consult poll earlier this year  put her approval rating at 67 percent, making her one of the most popular governors in the country.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

In the 2nd District GOP race, Roby took 39 percent, to 28 percent for Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor who held the seat as a Democrat before losing it to Roby in 2010

State Rep. Barry Moore from Enterprise came in third at 19 percent, while Rich Hobson, the campaign manager for failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, managed just 8 percent.

Roby faced criticism from her opponents for being insufficiently supportive of Trump, stemming from her decision in October 2016 to rescind her endorsement of him after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women, Roby said she would not vote for Trump because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

But in November, almost 30,000 people cast write-in votes against Roby, reducing her vote total to  just 49 percent of the vote in a strongly Republican district and virtually ensuring she would face a primary fight in 2018.

Roby, who has toned down her criticisms of Trump since the election, opened up a huge fundraising advantage, taking in $1.4 million — more than twice as much as all of her GOP opponents combined, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

The winner of the runoff will be heavy favorite against Democrat Tabitha Isner from Montgomery, a pastor’s wife and business analyst for a software company who easily won the 2nd District Democratic primary.

Southern Primaries: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey seeks full term; U.S. Rep Martha Roby tries to survive backlash over Trump criticism

6 Republicans also battle for open U.S. House seat in Mississippi

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

BIRMINGHAM (CFP) — Governor Kay Ivey, who became Alabama’s chief executive last year after her disgraced predecessor resigned amid a sex scandal, will take the first step toward winning a new term in her own right in Tuesday’s Republican primary against three challengers.

In another closely watched race in Alabama, Republican U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is trying to survive the backlash from her pointed criticism of President Donald Trump during last year’s presidential race, facing four GOP challengers who have hit her hard for being insufficiently supportive of the president.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Mississippi, the marquee race in Tuesday’s primary is in the state’s 3rd U.S. House District, where six Republicans are vying for two runoff spots in a race likely to be decided in the GOP primary.

Six Democrats are also vying for their party’s nomination to take on Republican U.S. Senator Roger Wicker in November, a race in which Wicker will be heavily favored.

Polls in both states are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey

Ivey, 73, became governor in April 2017 after her predecessor, Robert Bentley, resigned amid allegations that he used state resources to try to hide an extramarital affair with a female aide, a scandal complete with salacious audio recordings that roiled state politics for months.

After five months in office, Ivey, who won plaudits for her handling of the Bentley debacle and its aftermath, announced that she would seek a full term as governor. A Morning Consult poll earlier this year  put her approval rating at 67 percent, making her one of the most popular governors in the country.

However, she still drew primary challengers from Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, State Senator Bill Hightower from Mobile and Scott Dawson, an evangelist from Birmingham. A fourth candidate, Michael McAllister, died in April, too late for his name to be removed from Tuesday’s ballot.

The governor’s campaign was thrown a curve ball in May when Alabama’s only openly gay legislator, Democratic State. Rep. Patricia Todd, posted on social media that Ivey was a closeted lesbian.

The governor’s campaign called the assertion “a disgusting lie.” Todd later said she has no evidence to back up the claim.

Pre-primary polling showed Ivey with a wide lead over her opponents; she will need a majority to avoid a July 17 runoff.

Six Democrats are competing in the primary to face the eventual Republican winner in the fall, including Sue Bell Cobb, former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court; four-term Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox; and former State Rep. James Fields from Hanceville.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama

In the 2nd District U.S. House race in southeast Alabama, Roby is facing four Republican challengers motivated by the congresswoman’s decision to distance herself from Trump during the 2016 election.

In October 2016, after the infamous Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women, Roby withdrew her endorsement and announced she would not vote for him because his “behavior makes him unacceptable as a candidate for president.”

In November, almost 30,000 people cast write-in votes against Roby. Although she won in the end, she wound up with just 49 percent of the vote in a strongly Republican district, virtually ensuring she would face a primary fight in 2018.

Among those running against Roby are Bobby Bright, a former Montgomery mayor whom Roby beat to win the seat in 2010 when Bright was a Democrat; Rich Hobson, the campaign manager for failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore; State Rep. Barry Moore from Enterprise; and Tommy Amason from Prattville, a military veteran making his first run for office.

Roby, who has toned down her criticisms of Trump since the election, opened up a huge fundraising advantage, taking in $1.4 million — more than twice as much as all of her GOP opponents combined, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

The Democratic race in the 2nd District is between Tabitha Isner from Montgomery, a pastor’s wife and business analyst for a software company, and Audri Scott Williams, a former college dean.

In Mississippi, six Republicans and two Democrats are running in the 3rd District, which stretches across the southern part of the state from Natchez to Meridian and also includes Jackson’s northern suburbs

The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, is retiring after five terms.

Republicans in the race include Michael Guest, the chief prosecutor for the judicial district that includes Madison and Rankin counties; Whit Hughes, a hospital executive and aide to former Governor Haley Barbour; Perry Parker, a farmer and investment executive from Seminary, near Hattiesburg; State Senator Sally Doty from Brookhaven; Morgan Dunn, a healthcare consultant from Magee; and Katherine “Bitzi” Tate, a former high school teacher.

If no candidate captures a majority Tuesday, the top two finishers will meet in a June 26 runoff.

The Democratic race is between State Rep. Michael Ted Evans of Preston and Michael Aycox, a police officer from Newton. The district is heavily Republican, making it a long shot for Democrats to flip a Mississippi seat.

In the Senate race, six Democrats are running to take on Wicker, including State House Minority Leader David Baria from Bay St. Louis; State Rep. Omeria Scott from Laurel; and Howard Sherman, a venture capitalist from Meridian who is married to actress Sela Ward, a Meridian native.

The Magnolia State’s other Senate seat is also open, after the retirement of Thad Cochran earlier this year. It will be filled in an all-party special election in November that features Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed as a temporary replacement for Cochran; GOP State Senator Chris McDaniel, who ran unsuccessfully to unseat Cochran in 2014; and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Espy, who served as agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration.

Alabama Democratic U.S. Senator Doug Jones sworn in

Jones is first Alabama Democrat to sit in the Senate since 1997

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Democrat Doug Jones has been officially sworn in as a U.S. senator, capping the remarkable and improbable political feat of capturing a Senate seat in one of the nation’s most Republican states.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones is sworn in. (Courtesy C-SPAN)

Jones, flanked by former Vice President Joe Biden, was sworn in on January 3 by Vice President Mike Pence, alongside Democrat Tina Smith, who assumed the Senate seat from Minnesota vacated by Al Franken. The ceremony was then re-enacted in the Old Senate Chamber, where Jones was accompanied by his family.

Jones assumed the seat once held by his mentor and former boss, the late U.S. Senator Howell Heflin, who was the last Democrat to represent the Yellowhammer State when he retired in 1997.

With Jones in the Senate, Republicans will hold a scant 51-49 advantage. With Pence available to break ties, Democrats need just two Republican votes to stop the majority from passing legislation.

Jones, 63, a former federal prosecutor from Birmingham, was given little chance to win the seat when a special election was called in April to pick a permanent replacement for Republican Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become U.S. attorney general.

But interest in Jones began picking up after the man picked to fill Session’s seat on a temporary basis, Luther Strange, was defeated in a Republican primary runoff by Roy Moore, the controversial former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. And then, a month before the December 12 election, the race was rocked by allegations that Moore had sexually pursued teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

Moore vehemently denied the charges. But GOP Senate leaders quickly disavowed him and tried to push him out of the race, to no avail. Alabama Republican U.S. Senator Richard Shelby was among Moore’s detractors, saying publicly that he would not vote for Moore.

Almost alone among Republicans, President Donald Trump stood by Moore, telling his supporters that letting a “liberal” like Jones into the Senate would harm his agenda. But Republican defections, coupled with a strong turnout by African American voters, put Jones over the top by 22,000 votes.

Jones is one of only five Democrats representing Southern states in the Senate, joining U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Bill Nelson of Florida. The other 23 Southern senators are Republicans.

Jones will now serve the remainder of Sessions term, which comes up for election again in 2020.

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