Politics flying heavy in recent days

Ed Howell
Posted 7/19/17

Let’s clean out the notebook...

• It has been a wild few days on the political front, and I need to be cloned to write all I need to. One afternoon I wrote four stories and I covered two …

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Politics flying heavy in recent days

Posted

Let’s clean out the notebook...

• It has been a wild few days on the political front, and I need to be cloned to write all I need to. One afternoon I wrote four stories and I covered two events Saturday morning; Tuesday’s events with the governor and the sales tax referendum had me going non-stop from 1-8 p.m. I am hoping to catch up this week.

• State Sen. Trip Pittman, running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican, came by last week and met with maybe 20 or so people at Warehouse 319. As it turned out, the tables were spread out, so it was not easy to catch everything, and people were coming in and out. But Pittman seemed happy to see everyone, making sure he greeted everyone; he certainly had an easy personality and connected with people. State Rep. Connie Rowe and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed were certainly in his corner; Reed gave such a passionate endorsement of his character that Pittman got up out of his seat, obviously moved, to shake his hand. (In a way, Reed’s glowing introduction of Pittman was returned a few days later when Jasper Mayor David O’Mary and Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker gave glowing introductions of Reed during the governor’s visit this week.)

Alas, Pittman is not given higher chances, but at least he visited Walker County during the race, which hasn’t happened with the other GOP Senate candidates that I know of late, unless they came under the radar. I am hearing that Moore and Strange may have a better chance to be in the runoff; attack ads may take a toll on Mo Brooks. With money and incumbency, the only thing that could hurt Strange is his connection to Gov. Robert Bentley, our self-proclaimed best governor ever (who isn’t). Moore’s hit-and-miss performance statewide in the past, as well as being thrown out of the Supreme Court again, shows he is not invulnerable. Watch for lots of ad spending, especially by Strange.

• Then there was the Democratic Party rally, which afforded me a chance to cover one of their meetings and certainly the chairman. (I wrote a piece when Steven Aderholt spoke after becoming chairman of the local Republican Party, thanks to the fact Carbon Hill City Council was not meeting that night.) Facebook blew up with comments, as you can imagine. Democratic Chairman Tim Bowen’s laundry list of party stands is not going to be popular in a congressional district considered by some to be the most lopsided in favor Trump, at least in terms of the 2016 vote. About 20 people came for the Democratic event as well, which is pretty small but enthusiastic. It will take some time to build back the party in the county.

I had expected a Senate candidate to possibly come that day; Jason Fisher of the Mobile area was unknown to me (and probably the state) but he was quite articulate. The big surprise was Sue Bell Cobb, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, who is running for governor. She did make me laugh when she noted that early in her political career her father warned her on the trail that a vicious dog was coming, yelling, “Run, Sue, run!” (She got into the truck in a nick of time, with the dog left to gnaw at the tires.) Naturally, she could tie that phrase into her campaign.

• If Bentley wants to see what a popular governor looks like, he should look again at Kay Ivey. A national poll reported by al.com says Ivey has the sixth highest approval rating among governors, sitting at 64 percent in favor and 13 percent against. She is the eighth governor I have now covered in my career, and maybe the most popular in the wake of the Bentley scandal, even more than Bob Riley in his heyday. The unanimous verdict on the street and among pendants is that she is cleaning up his mess with great success.

Publisher James Phillips got to speak with her a minute, and I sat in on a two- or three-question press conference earlier in the day, but I never got to speak to her personally. The staff seemed to protect her a good bit of the day. Frankly, her speeches at the podium were short and she sat down for most of the last event. Many noted Ivey didn’t have the energy level that we are accustomed to seeing Ivey display in years past and didn’t extensively interact in private, although she shined in her public comments. I understand this observance is echoed in Montgomery.

• There were a number of good statements from Walker and Winston counties at the later afternoon forum (which was really reserved for important area officials instead of Joe Q Public). I will say that I was dying to tell Ivey during the event about the need to complete the state welcome center on U.S. Interstate 22 at the state border in Marion County, which would help this whole region. It has been delayed for years, long after Mississippi had one. Someone got up in the back and called for the welcome center, and I wanted to cheer. But I will try to dig up some of the data I had later on why the welcome center should mean a lot for this area, as it would benefit restaurants, hotels, festivals, nature parks and lakes, retail and so much else in Walker, Marion, Fayette, Winston, Lamar, Cullman and Jefferson counties. I quickly cornered all the Walker legislators there (plus Kyle South from Fayette) and made sure they understood what it meant; they were all quick to agree it would be very helpful.

• My third major event on Tuesday immediately followed the last Ivey event, as the mayors in Walker County met with the Walker County Commission. It was actually the best discussion I have heard about the proposed 1-cent sales tax. Walker County Commissioner Keith Davis laid it out in stark terms of how do-or-die this tax will be. (I think he may be the most effective at spelling out the urgency among the commissioners.) There was talk of a live Facebook stream to lay it out to the public, which would be excellent. The commissioners are working separately from the business group directing the Walker County at the Crossroads campaign, headed up by insurance agent Roger Wilson, although they know what the group’s plans are.

As other commissioners are working at their regular jobs, Chairman Jerry Bishop is trying to handle the bulk of the speaking engagements, even though he is still suffering from the aftereffects of pneumonia and really could use some rest. But commissioners are encouraged they can get this passed, although they are running hard, concentrating on the undecided vote.

Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s news editor.