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1
Casi Calloway and Mobile Baykeeper putting politics over their ‘environmental priorities’?

It “was written in typical Baykeeper fashion – to mislead the reader and promote scare tactics.” That’s what Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson wrote about a press release written and released by Executive Director Casi Calloway and Mobile Baykeeper.  In this one line, Wilson summed up what I heard from multiple sources as I followed up […]


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It “was written in typical Baykeeper fashion – to mislead the reader and promote scare tactics.” That’s what Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson wrote about a press release written and released by Executive Director Casi Calloway and Mobile Baykeeper. 


In this one line, Wilson summed up what I heard from multiple sources as I followed up on the actions of Baykeeper following the incident that sparked those scathing words.  


One of the most critical components of success for any advocacy group is earning and maintaining trust; this is a goal that seems to elude Mobile Baykeeper and Calloway. Last month we reported on the conflict between and Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson.  


If you missed it, Callaway made serious allegations against the City of Fairhope and Mayor Karin Wilson for what she insinuated was raw sewage being dumped in the Mobile Bay. Even local news outlet and frequent Callaway sympathizer Lagniappe criticized her in an Aug. 13, 2019 article for her overzealous attempt to grab headlines without the actual facts in hand. As Lagniappe wrote, “To be fair, maybe Mobile Baykeeper Executive Director Casi Callaway could have toned down the rhetoric in a July 30 news release about a viral video purporting to show untreated sewage floating on the surface of Mobile Bay.”


Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson was quick to respond to Callaway’s overt politicizing of the issue, firing a missive to Callaway and her board that said in part, “I have read Baykeeper’s mission featured on the website and do not see how divisive propaganda and the constant finger-pointing is effective? Why doesn’t Baykeeper hold itself to the same accountability as it does everyone else?”


That’s a question neither Callaway nor her board has ever answered. Now, Callaway and Baykeeper are again trying to grab headlines, and rake in new contributions, with their most recent politicizing the plan to comply with federal regulations by closing the Barry Steam Plant coal ash site.


According to Baykeeper’s annual report, the group credits itself as being an “Informed voice of reason.” At least one local voice, the Coastal Alabama Partnership’s Wiley Blankenship, finds that description more than a little dubious.


Blankenship has closely watched Baykeeper’s messaging on coal ash and monitored Alabama Power’s proposed plan to close its Mobile-area storage site. According to Blankenship, “The worst thing any group can do is put out information that’s half baked. Base it on science and back it up with science,” he says. “It appears that is not what Baykeeper is doing on this issue.”


For example, Blankenship says Baykeeper is claiming there’s going to be a problem with the coal ash site in the case of a hurricane. “I’m looking at it from a more logical standpoint. Why would you want to take 30 years to close the site, leaving it exposed to the environment and having to transport it through our community? You’re creating more potential for environmental damage to nature and to humans. If it’s responsibly closed in place, it’s secured and monitored.”


Blankenship went on to say, “I’ve been to this facility. No one is hiding anything. At some point, you have to trust the process and the fact regulators have said this is a safe approach. Moving it potentially creates more issues environmentally to the community than keeping it there and sealing it. Moving it is categorically riskier.”


In a phone interview with Casi Callaway, she explained that Mobile Baykeeper has multiple projects and priorities. She noted that among the issues the organization is actively involved in beyond opposing the coal ash storage plan are monitoring sewage spills and fighting problems with stormwater drainage due to construction projects. 


An analysis of both Mobile Baykeeper’s website and its Facebook page, however, provides little detail of the ongoing work they are purporting to do on these issues. In fact, most “priority items” aren’t highlighted or discussed with any regularity.  


On the other hand, there appear to be as many Facebook posts about Callaway’s 50th birthday in the last month than nearly any individual specific issue. In a review of posts since Aug. 1, 2019 the group’s criticism on coal ash received more than triple the coverage of any other single issue or event. Construction stormwater pollution got one post and that was a repost of the Cahaba Riverkeeper rather than any progress, updates or information on the issues facing Mobile Bay.


It’s not just Facebook either. Baykeeper’s website currently features five topics in the slider at the top of its page, it currently includes coal ash (the main slide), its water testing program “Swim”, an upcoming fundraising event and community celebration, the group’s store, and a link to join. As for the group’s priorities on its website, the last time the page for sewer issues page was updated was nearly two years ago on Dec. 19, 2017.


Blankenship found this disproportionate pattern of attention puzzling saying, “Coal ash has become the Baykeeper’s rallying call when the greatest threats to the environment in this area continue to be the stormwater and wastewater issues that are constantly impacting residents.”    In a Facebook post on August 10, 2019, Baykeeper wrote, “Actions speak louder than words.” That’s advice worth following for the group itself.    


A growing chorus of voices is asking why Mobile Baykeeper and Casi Callaway continue to sensationalize and politicize important environmental issues seemingly more concerned with speaking loudly than speaking meaningfully. That kind of approach, when repeated time and time again as they are doing, begs the question of their real motives. Is Callaway more interested in actual environmental protection and activism or raising money and furthering her own political agenda and potential future political aspirations?








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2
Alabama / Key takeaways from the 2020 democratic candidates’ debate
« on: September 14, 2019, 03:44:49 PM »
Key takeaways from the 2020 democratic candidates’ debate

Democratic debate night No. 3: Attacks and counter-attacks. Love for one former president, loathing for the current one. A 76-year-old front-runner essentially got called old, and he turned around and called another rival a “socialist.” But will it change the fundamentals of a nominating fight that remains remarkably stable at the top with five months […]


The post Key takeaways from the 2020 democratic candidates’ debate appeared first on Alabama Today.




Democratic debate night No. 3: Attacks and counter-attacks. Love for one former president, loathing for the current one. A 76-year-old front-runner essentially got called old, and he turned around and called another rival a “socialist.”


But will it change the fundamentals of a nominating fight that remains remarkably stable at the top with five months until voting begins? Here’s a look at some takeaways and potential answers:


STATUS QUO PREVAILED


The third Democratic debate seemed to end in a 10-way tie.


Former Vice President Joe Biden was sure-footed (until the end), at least for him and compared with the previous two debates. There were more attacks on President Donald Trump than on each other. No one dominated.


Biden took on the most fire, but parried it and, as front-runner, benefits the most from a no-decision. Sen. Bernie Sanders faced sharp criticism about his universal health care plan from several candidates, but his base has demonstrated its loyalty. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was more in the background than in prior debates but didn’t damage herself, and she closed with a compelling personal story. Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker were both crisp but got lost on the crowded stage at times.


Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Amy Klobuchar helped form a sensibility caucus, offering pragmatism and civic-mindedness. Andrew Yang, a tech entrepreneur, spoke eloquently about immigration and assured himself a mention with his proposal to give 10 families $1,000 a month, from his campaign. The normally mild-mannered Julián Castro, a former Housing secretary, decided that attacking Biden, often in personal terms, was one way to get noticed.


The likely result: little change in a primary that has been remarkably static for months.


FIGHT THAT DIDN’T BREAK OUT


The first matchup between Biden and Warren had so much anticipation — and so little fireworks.


There were a few criticisms of Warren on health care, though she not directly answer whether her plan would raise taxes on the middle class.


During a discussion on trade, Biden even said he agreed with Warren’s call to bring labor to the table.


Certainly, the head-to-head confrontation will come if Biden continues as the front-runner and Warren maintains her momentum as perhaps the most likely progressive alternative.


But perhaps the two campaigns were right after all when they said privately before the debate that September — five months before the Iowa caucuses — isn’t necessarily the time for a titanic fight at the top of the field.


BERNIE BATTERED ON HEALTH CARE


Sanders took heavy fire on his single-payer health insurance proposal, with Biden and others hammering the Vermont senator for the cost and the political palatability of effectively eliminating the existing private insurance market.


The former vice president went hardest at Sanders when the senator argued that his estimated $30 trillion cost over a decade is cheaper than the “status quo,” which he put at $50 trillion — with most of the money being what Americans spend privately on premiums, co-pays and out-of-pocket costs. Sanders’ argument is that most U.S. households would pay less overall under his system, even if their taxes go up.


Biden roared that Sanders would effectively be handing Americans a pay cut, arguing employers who now pay a share of workers’ premiums would pocket that money instead of giving workers raises if the government were to cover all health care costs. Biden punctuated the point with one of the quotes of the night: “For a socialist, you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.”


Buttigieg piled on Sanders, too. Buttigieg said he “trusts the American people to make the right decision” between private insurance and a public option. “Why don’t you?” he asked Sanders.


OF AGE AND EXPERIENCE


At the center of the debate stage were three candidates in their 70s who have had a collective headlock on the upper tier for months. Of the seven younger contenders, Castro, 44, was most explicit in arguing it was time for a new generation — and he specifically targeted the front-runner, 76-year-old Biden.


“Our problems didn’t start with Donald Trump,” Castro said in his opening statement. “We won’t solve them by embracing old ideas.”


Castro also seemed to allude to speculation about Biden’s mental acuity during an exchange about health care. When Biden denied that his health plan required people to buy into Medicare, Castro exclaimed, “Are you forgetting what you said 2 minutes ago?” He continued to suggest Biden didn’t remember what he’d just said about his own plan.


Later, during a discussion about deportations under the Obama administration, Castro mocked Biden for clinging to former President Barack Obama, but then saying he was only vice president when Obama’s conduct was questioned. “He wants to take credit for Obama’s work but not answer any questions,” Castro said.


MONEY FOR NOTHING


Yang is an unorthodox candidate, and he came to the debate with an offer to match his persona: a proposal to use his campaign funds to pay 10 randomly-selected families $1,000 a month.


Yang announced the maneuver in his opening statement. It’s intended to illustrate the center of his quixotic campaign, to provide monthly $1,000 payments to all Americans 18 and over. After lamenting how the country is in thrall to “the almighty dollar,” Yang, 44, urged viewers to go to his campaign website and register for the contest to win the money.
His offer drew cheers from the audience and chortles from some of the other candidates onstage. “It’s original, I’ll give you that,” Buttigieg said.


By Bill Barrow and Nicholas Riccardi Associated Press.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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3
Alabama / U.S. civil rights advocate Juanita Abernathy dies at 88
« on: September 14, 2019, 06:27:53 AM »
U.S. civil rights advocate Juanita Abernathy dies at 88

Juanita Abernathy, who wrote the business plan for the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and took other influential steps in helping to build the American civil rights movement, died Thursday. She was 88. Family spokesman James Peterson confirmed Abernathy died at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta following complications from a stroke. In a statement, Peterson said Abernathy […]


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Juanita Abernathy, who wrote the business plan for the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and took other influential steps in helping to build the American civil rights movement, died Thursday. She was 88.


Family spokesman James Peterson confirmed Abernathy died at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta following complications from a stroke. In a statement, Peterson said Abernathy died surrounded by her three children and four grandchildren.


The widow of the Rev. Dr. Ralph Abernathy, Juanita Abernathy worked alongside him and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others for the right to vote. She also taught voter education classes, housed Freedom Riders and marched on Washington, D.C., in 1963 seeking passage of what became the Civil Rights Act. Abernathy also was a national sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics.


Abernathy, of Uniontown, Alabama, was the youngest of eight children. She was educated at Selma University Prep School, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business education from Tennessee State University.


For 16 years, Abernathy served on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. She also served on the board of the Fulton County Development Authority and on the Board of Directors for Introducing Youth to American Infrastructure.


Abernathy was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Award from the National Education Association.


Survivors include her children, Juandalynn Abernathy, Donzaleigh Abernathy and Kwame Abernathy and grandchildren, Ralph Abernathy IV, Christiana Abernathy, Micah Abernathy and Soeren-Niklas Haderup.


Funeral arrangements are pending.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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4
Alabama / Is it impeachment if Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t say so?
« on: September 13, 2019, 10:15:32 AM »
Is it impeachment if Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t say so?

Bristling over the “I” word, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stopped short Thursday of saying the House is ready to launch an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, even as Judiciary Committee Democrats set the stage to do just that. Pelosi has been a moderating force in her divided caucus, as liberals push to impeach and […]


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Bristling over the “I” word, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stopped short Thursday of saying the House is ready to launch an impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, even as Judiciary Committee Democrats set the stage to do just that.


Pelosi has been a moderating force in her divided caucus, as liberals push to impeach and centrist Democrats are wary of fixating on Trump. She’s been consistent in her restraint.


But in having it both ways, opening the door to impeachment while not leading the charge, she was giving space for different opinions but leaving Democrats with a mixed message .


By approving ground rules for impeachment hearings Thursday, the Judiciary Committee sparked the questions anew.


“If we have to go there, we’ll have to go there,” Pelosi said Thursday about the impeachment investigation. “But we can’t go there until we have the facts.”


Pelosi cut off repeated questions on the topic during her weekly press conference. She said she was done discussing it.


“People are impatient about it,” she conceded. “We can’t go any faster than the facts.”
She said, “We’re still on the same path.”


The approach from Pelosi and her leadership team comes as the Judiciary Committee pushes ahead with its first impeachment hearings this fall, backed by more than half the House Democrats who want some sort of an investigation.


Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler says there’s no uncertainty about what his committee is doing: It’s an impeachment investigation, no matter how you want to phrase it.


As the committee voted Thursday to approve guidelines for impeachment hearings, Nadler promised an “aggressive” fall schedule, starting with next week’s public session with Trump aide Corey Lewandowski.


“Some call this process an impeachment inquiry. Some call it an impeachment investigation. There is no legal difference between these terms, and I no longer care to argue about the nomenclature,” Nadler, Democrat-New York, said earlier as he opened the meeting.


“But let me clear up any remaining doubt: The conduct under investigation poses a threat to our democracy. We have an obligation to respond to this threat. And we are doing so.”


Impeachment has divided Democrats who control the House, a split that is becoming even more pronounced ahead of the 2020 election as the party measures the weight of its oversight responsibility with the mood of public opinion.


Democrats on Nadler’s committee, including some of the most liberal members of the House, have been eager to move forward with the process. But moderates, mostly first-term lawmakers who handed their party the majority in the 2018 election, are concerned about the committee’s drumbeat on impeachment especially in districts where Trump remains popular.


Given those divisions, Nadler and Pelosi have been talking about impeachment very differently. While Nadler has been clear that his committee is moving ahead, Pelosi is reluctant to mention the “I” word.


In private meetings, Pelosi has urged caution and told the caucus that the public isn’t there yet on impeachment.


At the same time, Pelosi has quietly signed off on the committee’s moves and said Thursday she supports its work.


She said Thursday that when she travels the country, “people are saying it’s good to be careful about how we proceed.”


Outside groups that spent the month of August flooding lawmakers’ telephone lines and showing up at town hall meetings to push impeachment find Pelosi’s approach out of step with the party’s priorities.


“It’s just an absurd position,” said Zac Petkanas, a Democratic strategist and president of Defend the Republic, a messaging group around the issue. He is a former campaign aide to Hillary Clinton.


Petkanas said the “discombobulation of some of the leadership messaging is disappointing,” but not a blow to the efforts to push Judiciary Committee Democrats to act. “It kind of doesn’t even matter what she calls it, they’re doing the thing.”


The confusion was highlighted this week as leadership split on what to call what was happening. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Democrat-Maryland, indicated to reporters that there was not an impeachment investigation — and then issued a clarification saying the House is not considering one “at this time.” The caucus chairman, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat-New York, tweeted that committee adopted the resolution for the “IMPEACHMENT INVESTIGATION.”


Ahead of the committee vote, several freshman lawmakers met with Nadler on Wednesday and expressed concerns about the path ahead. Hoyer’s office had encouraged them to raise their questions.


“It’s sucking the air out of all the good stuff that we’re doing, so that’s our concern,” said Florida Rep. Donna Shalala, who attended the meeting.


As soon as the committee voted Thursday, the House GOP’s campaign committee began singling out Democratic freshmen who voted for the resolution, warning they will “pay dearly for this decision at the ballot box.”


With Democrats divided and the 2020 campaign ahead, it’s unclear whether the impeachment process will ever move beyond the committee’s investigation.


The Republican-led Senate is unlikely to convict Trump and remove him from office.


The GOP’s House leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, a close ally of Trump, said there’s “no reason’ to move forward with impeachment. “This is not something to play with,” he said.


Still, the committee has persisted in advancing the issue, keeping questions swirling about Trump’s actions in office. Its work is also intended to bolster the Democrats’ lawsuits against the Trump administration to force witness testimony and documents as the White House has repeatedly blocked both.


The committee says the resolution approved Thursday is similar to the approach taken at the beginning of the impeachment investigations into Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.


The first hearing scheduled under the new impeachment rules is with Lewandowski, the former Trump campaign manager, on Sept. 17 over questions of obstruction of justice.


According to special counsel Robert Mueller’s report , Trump asked Lewandowski to deliver a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting that he limit Mueller’s inquiry.


The committee also intends to hold hearings as it is investigating the spending of taxpayer money at the president’s hotels and properties and hush money payments Trump made to kill potentially embarrassing stories about alleged affairs.


Nadler said all of those investigations will inform the decision on whether to move ahead and vote on articles of impeachment.


Republicans expressed their frustration with the entire process.


Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel, said the committee “has become a giant Instagram filter … it’s put in there to look like something, but it’s really not.”


Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Baltimore contributed to this report.


By Mary Clare Jalonick and Lisa Mascaro Associated Press.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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Alabama / Democratic debate: Top 2020 contenders finally on same stage
« on: September 13, 2019, 04:06:38 AM »
Democratic debate: Top 2020 contenders finally on same stage

Progressive Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders share the debate stage for the first time with establishment favorite Joe Biden Thursday night in a prime-time showdown displaying sharply opposing notions of electability in the party’s presidential nomination fight. Biden’s remarkably steady lead in the crowded contest has been built on the idea that the former […]


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Progressive Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders share the debate stage for the first time with establishment favorite Joe Biden Thursday night in a prime-time showdown displaying sharply opposing notions of electability in the party’s presidential nomination fight.


Biden’s remarkably steady lead in the crowded contest has been built on the idea that the former vice president is best suited to defeat President Donald Trump next year — a contention based on ideology, experience and perhaps gender. Sanders and Warren, meanwhile, have repeatedly criticized Biden’s measured approach, at least indirectly, by arguing that only bold action on key issues like health care, the economy and climate change can build the coalition needed to win in 2020.


The top-tier meeting at center stage has dominated the pre-event talk, yet each of the other seven candidates hopes for a breakout moment with the attention of the nation beginning to increase less than five months before the first primary votes are cast.


“For a complete junkie or someone in the business, you already have an impression of everyone,” said Howard Dean, who ran for president in 2004 and later chaired the Democratic National Committee. “But now you are going to see increasing scrutiny with other people coming in to take a closer look.”


The ABC News debate is the first limited to one night after several candidates dropped out and others failed to meet new qualification standards. A handful more candidates qualified for next month’s debate, which will again be divided over two nights.


Beyond Biden and Sens. Warren and Sanders, the candidates on stage Thursday night include Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, New York businessman Andrew Yang, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and former Obama administration Housing chief Julian Castro.


Viewers will see the diversity of the modern Democratic Party.


The debate, held on the campus of historically black Texas Southern University, includes women, people of color and a gay man, a striking contrast to the Republicans. It will unfold in a rapidly changing state that Democrats hope to eventually bring into their column.


Perhaps the biggest question is how directly the candidates will go after one another. Some fights that were predicted in previous debates failed to materialize with candidates like Sanders and Warren in July joining forces.


The White House hopefuls and their campaigns are sending mixed messages about how eager they are to make frontal attacks on anyone other than Trump.


That could mean the first meeting between Warren, the rising progressive calling for “big, structural change,” and Biden, the more cautious but still ambitious establishmentarian, doesn’t define the night. Or that Harris, the California senator, and Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, look to reclaim lost momentum not by punching rivals but by reemphasizing their own visions for America.


Biden, who has led most national and early state polls since he joined the field in April, is downplaying the prospects of a clash with Warren, despite their policy differences on health care, taxes and financial regulation.


“I’m just going to be me, and she’ll be her, and let people make their judgments. I have great respect for her,” Biden said recently as he campaigned in South Carolina.


Warren says consistently that she has no interest in going after Democratic opponents. Yet both campaigns are also clear that they don’t consider it a personal attack to draw sharp policy contrasts.


Warren, who as a Harvard law professor once challenged then-Sen. Biden in a Capitol Hill hearing on bankruptcy law, has noted repeatedly that they have sharply diverging viewpoints. Her standard campaign pitch doesn’t mention Biden but is built around an assertion that the “time for small ideas is over,” an implicit criticism of more moderate Democrats who want, for example, a public option health care plan instead of single-payer or who want to repeal Trump’s 2017 tax cuts but not necessarily raise taxes further.


Biden, likewise, doesn’t often mention Warren or Sanders. But he regularly contrasts the price tag of his public option insurance proposal to the single-payer system that Warren and Sanders back.


In a pre-debate briefing, Biden campaign officials said he would reject the premise that he’s an incrementalist, either in his long career as a senator and vice president or in his proposals for a would-be presidency. In an apparent rebuke of Warren, known for her policy plans, the advisers said Biden will hit on the idea that “we need more than just plans, we need action, we need progress.”


Health care will top the list of examples, they said. They note that Biden’s proposal for a government-run “public option” to compete with private insurance still would be a major market shift, even if it stops short of Sanders’ and Warren’s proposal for a government insurance system that would effectively end the existing private insurance system. And, by extension, the difference may make Biden’s plan more likely to make it through Congress, they contend.


There are indirect avenues to chipping away at Biden’s advantages, said Democratic consultant Karen Finney, who advised Hillary Clinton in 2016. Finney noted Biden’s consistent polling advantages on the question of which Democrat can defeat Trump.


A Washington Post-ABC poll this week found that among Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters, 45 percent thought Biden had the best chance to beat Trump, though just 24 percent identified him as the “best president for the country” among the primary field.


“That puts pressure on the others to explain how they can beat Trump,” Finney said.
Voters, she said, “want to see presidents on that stage,” and Biden, as a known quantity, already reaches that threshold. “If you’re going to beat him, you have to make your case.”
Harris, said spokesman Ian Sams, will “make the connection between (Trump’s) hatred and division and our inability to get things done for the country.”


Buttigieg, meanwhile, will have an opportunity to use his argument for generational change as an indirect attack on the top tier. The mayor is 37. Biden, Sanders and Warren are 76, 78 and 70, respectively — hardly a contrast to the 73-year-old Trump.


There’s also potential home state drama with two Texans in the race. O’Rourke and Castro clashed in an earlier debate over immigration. Castro has led the left flank on the issue with a proposal to decriminalize border crossings.


For O’Rourke, it will be the first debate since a massacre in his hometown of El Paso prompted him to overhaul his campaign into a forceful call for sweeping gun restrictions.


O’Rourke has recently used the F-word in cable television interviews. He’s given no indication whether he’ll bring that rhetorical flourish to broadcast television.

Peoples reported from Washington.


By Bill Barrow and Steve Peoples Associated Press


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press


 


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Alabama / Parole hearings to resume in November
« on: September 12, 2019, 10:16:05 PM »
Parole hearings to resume in November

The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles says parole hearings are expected to resume around Nov. 1. The agency made the announcement Wednesday after hundreds of parole hearings had been postponed. The agency said the postponements were necessary after the board’s operations division could not ensure the new director that they were in compliance with […]


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The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles says parole hearings are expected to resume around Nov. 1.


The agency made the announcement Wednesday after hundreds of parole hearings had been postponed.


The agency said the postponements were necessary after the board’s operations division could not ensure the new director that they were in compliance with a new notification law.
Director Charlie Graddick called it an “uncalled-for-situation.”


He says he expects to have the system up and running on, or around, Nov. 1.
The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles said a total of 627 hearings were postponed that had been scheduled for September and October.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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Alabama / Ivanka Trump makes workforce announcement in Alabama
« on: September 12, 2019, 04:25:01 PM »
Ivanka Trump makes workforce announcement in Alabama

Ivanka Trump visited a robotics training center in Alabama to make a workforce development announcement. News outlets report that President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter and senior adviser on Tuesday visited the Alabama Robotics Technology Park outside Decatur. The younger Trump announced an expansion of a skills training program created by Toyota Motor North America. The […]


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Ivanka Trump visited a robotics training center in Alabama to make a workforce development announcement.


News outlets report that President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter and senior adviser on Tuesday visited the Alabama Robotics Technology Park outside Decatur.


The younger Trump announced an expansion of a skills training program created by Toyota Motor North America. The program called the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education, FAME, will be managed by the National Association of Manufacturer’s Manufacturing Institute.


She says apprenticeship programs will be expanded across the nation.


The younger Trump tweeted that it was an “incredible day” visiting with students at the center.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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8
Nancy Worley: DNC chair trying to ‘beat Alabama into submission’

The chair of Alabama’s Democratic Party accused the party’s national chairman on Tuesday of trying to beat “Alabama into submission” by portraying the state party as in a shambles, just the latest twist in an ongoing dispute between state and national party officials. In a written statement, Alabama Democratic Party Chair Nancy Worley said there […]


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The chair of Alabama’s Democratic Party accused the party’s national chairman on Tuesday of trying to beat “Alabama into submission” by portraying the state party as in a shambles, just the latest twist in an ongoing dispute between state and national party officials.


In a written statement, Alabama Democratic Party Chair Nancy Worley said there has been an all-out attack on the state party since she won last year’s election as chairwoman. She said her opponents include U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, who endorsed a different candidate after calling for new leadership.


“From a continuous, ‘the sky is falling’ media assault on the party and its leadership, to the DNC’s withholding $10,000 per month to Alabama, they have bombarded the Alabama Democratic Party from every side” the statement released by the state party and Worley read.


In a letter Monday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said the national party was keeping funds from the state party because it had “fallen far short of meeting its basic obligations to develop an effective strategic plan and build the necessary infrastructure for success.”


He said Alabama is the only state where monthly party development funds have been withheld because of problems.


“The ADP has chronically underperformed in virtually every aspect of operation,” Perez wrote.


Worley called the letter just another example of her opponents “stirring the pot against the Alabama Democratic Party.”


The DNC in February ordered Alabama to hold new chair and vice-chair elections after finding there were irregularities with Worley’s election. The national committee also ordered the state party to revise its bylaws. The DNC last month stripped Worley and Vice Chair Randy Kelley of their seats on the DNC because of missed deadlines to hold the new elections and get new bylaws approved.


Both the DNC and the Jones campaign declined to comment on Worley’s statement.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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Alabama / Bradley Byrne: August recess roundup
« on: September 12, 2019, 04:35:47 AM »
Bradley Byrne:  August recess roundup

It is a very old tradition for Congress to recess during the hot and humid month of August. Years ago, Congress had completed its work by this time and took the rest of the year off. However, we now reconvene after what has become known as the August District Work Period. This time has always […]


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It is a very old tradition for Congress to recess during the hot and humid month of August. Years ago, Congress had completed its work by this time and took the rest of the year off. However, we now reconvene after what has become known as the August District Work Period.

This time has always been valuable for me to spend listening to my constituents. This year, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi setting aside six whole weeks for my colleagues and me to spend in our respective districts, I took advantage. I was glad to be able to see so many old and new friends and speak directly with people I represent throughout the district.

During the first week of the District Work Period, Alabama got some good news. That week, I received a call from Seema Verna, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. Administrator Verma informed me that the Trump Administration had finalized a new rule containing reforms to the Medicare Wage Index I have fought for since coming to Congress.

These reforms mean millions of dollars that should have been coming to Alabama hospitals will now come our way. In the past, these dollars were going to hospitals in more populated areas like New York and Los Angeles. This important news will especially aid our rural hospitals who have struggled for too long.

Our district has a diversity of interests including our Gulf fisheries, manufacturing and industry, diversity small businesses, and agriculture. I held an Economic Development Roundtable in my Mobile office with community leaders from the district to discuss all the issues and challenges they face. I also attended a franchise roundtable at CertaPro Painters in Daphne.

Fortunately, the Trump economy is benefitting small businesses and local economies, and tax cuts and reduced regulations have freed business owners to do what they do best.

Of course, the water resources in our district are second to none. It was a pleasure to speak at the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Conference about our port and waterways and the need to responsibly manage these valuable resources.

In Spanish Fort, I was able to speak to the Society of Military Engineers about all the work they do for our national security. And I was able to make the drive to Ozark to speak with members of the Association of the United States Army.

As you probably know, I enjoy hosting town hall meetings so I can hear directly from constituents. Since taking office in 2014, I have held over 100 district town halls. In August, I held lively town halls in Grand Bay and Atmore.

Even when I am not in the district, my staff is working for you. They hold monthly community office hours in each of the six counties I represent. Here members of my staff can personally help you with any problems you may be experiencing with federal agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, and Social Security. We can help you with your passport too.

Of course, you can always call or email my office as well if you need our assistance. I am proud that we have helped hundreds of constituents navigate the federal bureaucracy. Little is more satisfying to me or my staff then helping a veteran get the assistance he or she deserves.

Speaking with Alabama nurses, farmers, mechanics, veterans, teachers, and retirees over the past six weeks was a great pleasure. Getting the chance over Labor Day to spend time with my grandkids was a wonderful treat too.

With Congress reconvening this week, I look forward to continuing my service to you and bringing Alabama values to Washington.


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Alabama / Rachel Bryars: Alabama Epstein? It happens here all the time
« on: September 11, 2019, 10:36:03 PM »
Rachel Bryars:  Alabama Epstein?  It happens here all the time

As the nation learns more about the salacious life and mysterious death of billionaire and serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, it’s important to remember his crimes are far from uncommon. In fact, they happen all the time. Even in Alabama. It’s a problem that experts agree is growing, though exact numbers are difficult to quantify, […]


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As the nation learns more about the salacious life and mysterious death of billionaire and serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, it’s important to remember his crimes are far from uncommon.


In fact, they happen all the time.


Even in Alabama.


It’s a problem that experts agree is growing, though exact numbers are difficult to quantify, according to researchers at the University of Alabama who conducted a study estimating there were more than 900 potential survivors of human trafficking across the state in 2017 alone, and that more than half the victims were minors.


Awareness is also growing as alliances of lawmakers, advocates, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors grapple with stopping the problem and educating community members.


It’s going to take a concerted effort, from everyone, to combat human trafficking. Here are just a few tips:


No. 1: Learn the paths into human trafficking


“Every single victim we’ve encountered has some type of [economic, social, or emotional] vulnerability that has been exploited by the trafficker,” said Doug Gilmer, resident agent in charge for the Department of Homeland Security Investigations team in Birmingham during a recent deep-dive discussion of human trafficking on 1819 podcast.


Traffickers are very good at grooming their victims and “luring girls into this world,” often by developing an online relationship and developing a strong “father figure” bond before slowly coercing them into sex trafficking, according to Gilmer.


“These are young ladies who have had their childhoods stolen from them,” said Carolyn Potter, executive director of The Wellhouse, a residential treatment facility near Birmingham for sexually exploited trafficking victims.


Potter said in an 1819 interview that every case is different; however, there are commonalities among victims’ stories. Victims tend to be runaways, neglected or abused children, and at-risk youth aging out of foster care who become easy prey for traffickers.


“A typical scenario would be a young lady who was first [sexually] victimized as a child,” has experienced “complex trauma,” which means traumatic events have repeatedly happened, often daily, throughout much of her life, and that substance use is either forced upon her or is used as a coping mechanism, Potter said.


“I ended up doing so much drugs because he was requiring me to do so much,” said Dixie Shannon in a new Alabama Public Radio series about human trafficking in Alabama.


Shannon was a runaway whose coercion into a life of commercial sex began at 17-years-old and included dependence upon her trafficker and punishment for not performing.


“I couldn’t take a shower without making a certain amount of money,” Shannon told APR’s Pat Duggins. “I couldn’t eat … I couldn’t rest. …And, I ended up getting to a point where I was either going to kill myself because I’m going to overdose on these drugs, or he’s going to kill me.”


No. 2: Learn where the real risk is


Parents misplace their fear by not allowing kids to play alone or outside for fear of kidnapping, according to Gilmer, who said statistics show kidnapping is exceedingly rare.


“The biggest mistakes we make in society today is the boogey-man syndrome,” Gilmer said. “That there’s a creep out there on every block, around every corner, on every aisle in Walmart or Target that’s getting ready to snatch our kids.”


The real threat, he said, is on cell phones and the Internet – where predators know how to get in touch with our kids within 20-30 keystrokes.


The risks aren’t just of becoming preyed upon. There are risks of becoming the predator.


Gilmer said there is no typical profile and that the “Johns” come from every walk of life and socioeconomic level, although DHS is collecting data in partnership with advocacy group Trafficking Hope to understand any trends.


“We do know that all of the Johns, I think statistically probably 100 percent, all had or have a problem with pornography,” said Gilmer. “That’s how it starts for them and then it progresses over time. They need something more and then they get to the point they start purchasing sex.”


Attorney General Steve Marshall said in an 1819 podcast interview that the 2014 arrest of a well-respected former Guntersville High School soccer coach for child sexual abuse and human trafficking was “the moment” that he first realized the scope and significance of the problem in Alabama and the importance of the human trafficking statutes being developed at the time.


“That was [the case] for me that… not only broadened my awareness of the traditional view of the pimp and the prostitute and the Johns, but also showed that children themselves are victims of human trafficking,” Marshall said.


No. 3: Recognize the signs of human trafficking and help at-risk youth


“It’s very hard to encounter a person who is being trafficked and not realize that something is going on, even if you can’t identify what it is right away,” Potter said.


Here are some of the warning signs that someone may be a human trafficking victim that are listed on The Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force website:


– Inability or fear to make eye contact.
– Presence of an older male or “boyfriend” who seems controlling.
– Shows signs of physical, mental, or sexual abuse.
– Inappropriately dressed for the age of the child (sexy, low cut, too short).
– Is not in school or has significant gaps in schooling.
– Demeanor is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, nervous.


Also, Potter said she has never seen a victim who did not have some kind of branding or tattoo, such as a young woman who came to The Wellhouse with the street address of her trafficker tattooed on her forehead.


“If you see something, say something,” Potter said. “It’s not going to hurt to make a report. If you’re wrong, that’s okay, but if you’re not, you may have saved a life.”


And if you are in a position to help at-risk youth by becoming a foster parent, there are thousands of Alabama children in need of safe and stable care.


“If we could make this group not the most ‘preyed upon,’ but the most ‘prayed upon,’ what a different outcome we’d have,” said Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries President and CEO Rod Marshall in an 1819 interview.


“If we were prayer warriors for this vulnerable population,” Marshall said, “if we were the safety net, if we refused to allow children to go through life with no margin for safety, if we could be there for these families to keep them from disintegrating and needing to put their children in foster care … the predators might find themselves having far fewer victim pools to draw from.”


If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888–373–7888.


To report suspected human trafficking to federal law enforcement, please call 866-347-2423.


And if you need help here in Alabama, please call the Wellhouse’s rescue and recovery helpline at 800–991–0948.


Together, we can put a stop to human trafficking in Alabama.


Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at rachel@alabamapolicy.org or on Instagram @RachelBlackmonBryars.


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Alabama / States can fight lawsuit to exclude migrants in census
« on: September 11, 2019, 01:55:18 PM »
States can fight lawsuit to exclude migrants in census

A federal judge on Monday allowed a coalition of 15 states and several major cities to oppose Alabama’s fight to count only citizens and legal residents in U.S. Census numbers used for apportioning congressional seats. U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor granted the coalition’s motions to intervene as defendants in the lawsuit filed by Alabama […]


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A federal judge on Monday allowed a coalition of 15 states and several major cities to oppose Alabama’s fight to count only citizens and legal residents in U.S. Census numbers used for apportioning congressional seats.


U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor granted the coalition’s motions to intervene as defendants in the lawsuit filed by Alabama against the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Commerce. The coalition, that includes New York, California, Virginia, the District of Columbia and others, will defend the longstanding practice of counting all U.S. residents.


New York Attorney General Letitia James said they are intervening because the lawsuit deserves a “robust defense” and questioned the Trump administration’s commitment to providing it. President Donald Trump had pushed to add a citizenship question to the Census.


“We will continue to fight to ensure that every person residing in this country is counted — just as the framers intended. Despite the Trump Administration’s attempts to tip the balance of power in the nation and Alabama’s endeavor to continue down that path, we will never stop fighting for a full and accurate count,” James said in a Friday statement after the judge first indicated he would let the states and cities join the suit.


Mike Lewis, a spokesman for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the state opposed letting the others join the suit “on the grounds that their interests would be adequately represented by the parties who are already in the case and who are opposing Alabama’s position.”


Marshall and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville filed the 2018 lawsuit that says the practice of counting everyone unfairly shifts political power and electoral votes from “states with low numbers of illegal aliens to states with high numbers of illegal aliens.” Alabama has said it is in danger of losing a congressional vote.


The U.S. Constitution says there should be “actual enumeration” of the population counting “the whole number of persons in each State.”


The intervening states say that language is clear.


Alabama argues that was supposed to be limited to people lawfully admitted to the body politic.


In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against two Texas residents who argued their votes were diluted by the practice of using the whole population to draw legislative district lines.


“As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote,” the court ruled.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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12
Alabama / DNC: Alabama democratic party hasn’t met basic obligations
« on: September 10, 2019, 11:40:02 PM »
DNC: Alabama democratic party hasn’t met basic obligations

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee said Monday that the Alabama Democratic Party is failing to meet basic obligations and national party officials have withheld funds because of the chronic problems. DNC Chairman Tom Perez delivered the rebuke in a letter outlining the status of challenges filed against the state party. He said Alabama […]


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The chairman of the Democratic National Committee said Monday that the Alabama Democratic Party is failing to meet basic obligations and national party officials have withheld funds because of the chronic problems.


DNC Chairman Tom Perez delivered the rebuke in a letter outlining the status of challenges filed against the state party. He said Alabama is the only state where monthly party development funds have been withheld because of problems.


“Alabama has fallen far short of meeting its basic obligations to develop an effective strategic plan and build the necessary infrastructure for success,” Perez wrote in a letter. “The ADP has chronically underperformed in virtually every aspect of operation.”


The harsh assessment was the latest sign of frustration by national party officials with the leadership of the Alabama party. Perez wrote the letter to Jefferson County Democratic Party Chair Richard Mauk who had inquired about the status of two challenges against state party leadership.


The DNC last month stripped Alabama Democratic Party Chair Nancy Worley and Vice Chair Randy Kelley of their seats on the DNC because of missed deadlines to hold new leadership elections and bring party bylaws into compliance.


The DNC in February ordered the Alabama party to hold new elections for state party chair and vice-chair after finding multiple irregularities with Worley’s and Kelley’s election last year. Party officials also ordered the state party to develop an affirmative action plan and revise bylaws to provide representation of other minorities, not just African Americans.


Perez wrote that since September 2018 the DNC has withheld a monthly payment of at least $10,000 from the Alabama party because of the problems.


“We have not had to take this serious action with any other state party,” he wrote.
Worley did not return a text message seeking comment.


The letter also indicated the state’s participation in Democrats’ presidential nominating convention next year could be in jeopardy.


A DNC panel had said it won’t approve the state’s delegate selection plan until the state party holds new leadership elections under properly approved bylaws.


Perez told Mauk that they are willing to help.


“Democrats can win and are winning in Alabama,” Perez wrote. “But we need a functional state party.”


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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Alabama / Parole board director: It will take weeks to resume hearings
« on: September 10, 2019, 10:49:49 AM »
Parole board director: It will take weeks to resume hearings

The new director of Alabama’s Bureau of Pardons and Paroles said Monday that it will take weeks to resume parole hearings canceled last week. Director Charlie Graddick said in a news release that the agency must ensure compliance with a new law signed by Gov. Kay Ivey. The office said the law requires that victims […]


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The new director of Alabama’s Bureau of Pardons and Paroles said Monday that it will take weeks to resume parole hearings canceled last week.


Director Charlie Graddick said in a news release that the agency must ensure compliance with a new law signed by Gov. Kay Ivey. The office said the law requires that victims get a 30-day notice prior to hearings.


“We’ll resume parole hearings as soon as we’re sure legal requirements have been met,” Graddick said.


The agency on Friday abruptly canceled more than 100 parole hearings that were supposed to take place this week. He said that was done after the Board of Operations division was “unable to assure me that the docket complies with the law.”


Graddick took office Sept. 1.


Lawmakers this year approved changes in parole board procedure and made the director a gubernatorial appointee. Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall pushed for the legislation.


Ivey appointed Graddick, a former Alabama attorney general and circuit judge, as the director.


Graddick’s first action was to place three agency officials, including his predecessor, on leave pending an investigation into their job performance. The agency did not elaborate on the reasons.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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Alabama / Doug Jones kicks off 2020 reelection
« on: September 10, 2019, 06:05:31 AM »
Doug Jones kicks off 2020 reelection

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat who pulled off a stunning political upset in Alabama two years ago, launched his reelection bid Sunday, seeking to create another Deep South victory in a Republican-dominated state. Before several hundred cheering supporters in Birmingham, Jones kicked off his 2020 campaign. Invoking the campaign theme of “One Alabama,” Jones […]


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U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat who pulled off a stunning political upset in Alabama two years ago, launched his reelection bid Sunday, seeking to create another Deep South victory in a Republican-dominated state.


Before several hundred cheering supporters in Birmingham, Jones kicked off his 2020 campaign. Invoking the campaign theme of “One Alabama,” Jones said he is a senator who represents all of Alabama and will fight for everyone in the state.


“The success of our state depends on engaging the power and the spirit and the intellect of our millions of citizens,” Jones said. “No matter the zip code you live in, your race, your religion, your disability, your economic status — no matter who you love— we all want to succeed in a world where no one, no one is left behind,” Jones said.


The Deep South Democrat defeated Republican Roy Moore in a 2017 special election to fill the Senate vacancy created when Jeff Sessions became President Donald Trump’s first U.S. attorney general. Now considered the Senate’s most endangered Democrat, Jones is seeking a full term in office in the usually reliably red state.


His 2017 victory was aided by scandal when Moore, already a divisive figure among state voters, was accused of sexual misconduct. Several women said Moore pursued romantic and sexual relationships with them when they were teens and he was a prosecutor in his 30s. One of the women was as young as 14.


Moore vehemently denied the accusations and is now part of a crowded GOP field vying for a chance to challenge Jones in 2020.


David Hughes, a political scientist at Auburn University at Montgomery, said Jones will face an “extremely uphill battle.”


Jones is running in a year when Trump, who is intensely popular in the state, will be on the ballot, driving GOP turnout, Hughes said. Hughes said Jones also could face a more mainstream Republican who doesn’t have the negatives that Moore carried.


“There would have to be something calamitous to prevent Republicans from turning out,” Hughes added.


With partisan control of the Senate on the line, Republicans have made defeating Jones a top priority in 2020.


The Alabama Republican Party has a countdown on its website ticking off the days until he is out of office. The National Republican Senatorial Committee drove a billboard carrying truck outside the Birmingham venue calling him “Anti-Trump Democrat Doug Jones” who “sides with socialists.”


“For goodness sake, a socialist? Come on,” Jones cracked to the crowd at his kickoff rally.


The son of a steel mill worker, Jones grew up in the working class city of Fairfield, just west of Birmingham. As U.S. attorney during then President Bill Clinton’s administration he was best known for prosecuting the Klansmen who bombed a Birmingham church in 1963, killing four black girls.


Jones is positioning himself as a moderate— a gun owner who supports “narrowly tailored” universal background checks for gun purchases. He is urging the state to expand Medicaid in a state with high rates of infant and maternal mortality.


GOP opponents are expected to highlight Jones’ support of abortion rights – in a state where voters put anti-abortion language in the state Constitution and lawmakers are attempting to ban abortion outright — and his opposition to some of Trump’s judicial nominees.


Speaking to reporters, Jones acknowledged that he has a political “target on my back and on my chest.”


And he retorted that no one gave ever “gave us a chance” of winning in 2017. He urged voters to “look at my record” and not just labels slung at him by opponents.


“There is no way … if they look at my record they can say I’m a liberal, a real far conservative. I keep telling people. ‘I’m just Doug. I do what I think is right for the state.’”


“If that’s the best they’ve got,” Jones said of labels like the truck outside. “Bring it on.”
For Alabama Democrats and some moderates, Jones ’2017 victory was water in the red state desert. Packing his campaign kickoff, many acknowledged the tough fight to come, but said they remain hopeful.


“We need him,” said Sally Livingston, a 58-year-old educator in attendance.
Republicans disagree.


“Whether it was voting against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, supporting on-demand abortions, or advocating for gun control, Doug is totally out of touch with Alabama,” said U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, a congressman running for the Senate seat.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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Department of Transportation had spent nearly $60 million on toll project

Alabama had already spent almost $60 million on a south Alabama toll bridge project before the governor pronounced the project “dead.” Alabama Department of Transportation spokesman Tony Harris says the department spent about $40 million since 1997 on alignment studies, preliminary engineering and other costs. He says the state also spent another $19.6 million to […]


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Alabama had already spent almost $60 million on a south Alabama toll bridge project before the governor pronounced the project “dead.”


Alabama Department of Transportation spokesman Tony Harris says the department spent about $40 million since 1997 on alignment studies, preliminary engineering and other costs. He says the state also spent another $19.6 million to buy land for the bridge.


The proposed bridge across Mobile Bay would have had tolls of up to $6.


Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey last week pronounced the project “dead.” The pronouncement came after the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization removed the bridge from the area’s transportation plan. The project must be in the plan detailing the region’s transportation priorities to qualify for federal funding.


Harris says it was too early to speculate about next steps.


Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.


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