Thanks to the retirement of Congressman Spencer Bachus in Alabama’s 6th Congressional District, which encompasses all of Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Coosa and Shelby Counties and most of Jefferson County, seven candidates are vying for our votes. The race has been called “the most moneyed primary in the South” http://www.rollcall.com/news/the_most_moneyed_house_primary_in_the_south-230516-1.html which seems accurate considering the obscene amount of money that has been raised and spent, particularly by candidates DeMarco, Mathis and Brooke.
I live in Shelby County, often described as one of the reddest and fastest growing counties in what’s considered one of the reddest states in the country. Based on the voting scorecards of our House delegation, I often argue the accuracy of that characterization, but that’s a discussion for another day. What’s clear is we have a golden opportunity to send a conservative to DC to replace Bachus who has held the seat since 1993. Before I get into the candidates, let me tell you about myself. I am a lifelong conservative whose biggest political regret is having voted for Carter when I was 19. Chalk it up to being uninformed and somewhat idealistic. I haven’t made that mistake again at any level – local, state or federal. Though I may not have won all my picks, I haven’t regretted my votes. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten more involved in local politics, and I currently serve on the Steering Committee and the Executive Committee of the Shelby County GOP. I am a member of the Republican Women of Shelby County. I am also an active member of the Rainy Day Patriots, a local tea party which was named one of the top 5 most influential groups in Alabama. See http://yellowhammernews.com/statepolitics/the-top-5-conservative-groups-in-alabama/ I am familiar with the issues facing Alabama, Shelby County and the 6th District. I live here.
In the last few months, there have been a number of debates and forums, including those sponsored by Republican Women of Shelby County and Eagle Forum of Alabama; Shelby County GOP, Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and Shelby County Reporter; Jefferson County GOP and NBC13; WERC; and Rainy Day Patriots and 60+ Alabama. I’ve been to most and taken notes, read analyses from others, hashed out positions with friends and fellow conservatives, and personally questioned most of the candidates. For the most part, the candidates are all pro-life, pro 2nd amendment, anti-Obamacare, pro small business, anti-overregulation, anti-illegal immigration - all of the buzz words that make conservatives do our happy dance. Some candidates have been better than others in giving more detailed responses and outlining plans and policies. Others have been vague on the details, and one has tunnel vision on how corrupt Congress is (not that I disagree). There is neither the time nor the space to write in detail about each of the candidates, so I’ll limit my personal observations and opinions to a couple of paragraphs on each.
Scott Beason – http://scottbeason.com/
Beason is a Christian conservative family man who supports tea party principles of constitutional small government and fiscal responsibility. Beason served in the Alabama Legislature and has a proven record of sponsoring conservative legislation, including the nation’s leading anti-illegal immigration bill, the bill to exempt Alabamians from Obamacare, and the omnibus gun bill to protect our Second Amendment rights. He supported pro-life bills to passage and spearheaded the effort to repeal Common Core. He exposed corruption on both sides of the aisle and opposed the largest proposed tax increase in Alabama’s history which fellow Republicans supported. He has been described as an “anti-tax hawk” by liberals and is widely considered to be one of the most conservative members of the Alabama Legislature. He has no special interests money, and his support comes largely from local tea partiers and conservatives. He is a member of the Rainy Day Patriots tea party (so am I) and has supported us from the beginning without expecting anything in return. He has been in the middle of almost every controversial bill taken up by the Alabama legislature despite attacks from opponents on both sides of the aisle as well as the media. I haven’t had the chance to meet his wife personally since they have three children to raise. Their school, extracurricular and church activities have prevented her from being on the campaign trail as much as other wives have been. Bottom line is, conservatives need to send Scott Beason to Washington. I’ve posted a more in-depth look at Beason http://www.redstate.com/diary/rightwingmom52/2014/06/02/alabamas-tea-party-conservative-scott-beason/
Brooke is a successful businessman who launched his campaign with an ad in which he literally shoots up the Affordable Care Act. Brooke says all the right things with an air of authority and sophistication, but there are three non-starters for me.
First, after the first debate in Shelby County held by Republican Women of Shelby County and Eagle Forum of Alabama, I made an effort to meet all the candidates. During my conversation with Brooke, he commented that someone had told he was “tea party” but he didn’t think so. When I questioned as to why, he replied because he didn’t believe in setting tires on fire in the middle of the road and watching them burn and that he believed in solutions. After the last debate in Jefferson County held by Rainy Day Patriots tea party and 60 Plus Association which was attended by 200+, I had another conversation with Brooke and pointed out to him that we didn’t set any tires on fire during the debate and that our tea party was solutions driven. I explained to him the many efforts we made to build relationships with our state legislators and to offer solutions to help resolve the issues facing Alabama. Further, that he had painted with far too broad a brush since there were many tea parties and no two were exactly the same.
Second, albeit a small percentage of his donations, he donated to liberal Democrats, including Terri Sewell who holds the seat in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District, and Senator Ben Nelson (NE) of Cornhusker Kickback fame who is considered to have cast the deciding vote to pass Obamacare. Brooke’s explanation is here: http://blog.al.com/wire/2014/02/congressional_candidate_brooke.html
Third, Brooke has had a problem with his answers on immigration. He’s been vague about whether or not he supported the anti-illegal immigration bill passed by our state legislature. He favors a path to legal status but says that’s different than a path to citizenship. Listen to Laura Ingraham take him to task for dodging the question on amnesty and immigration. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTGUTQ30JFo
Finally, it seems Mathis isn’t the only candidate drawing outsiders into Alabama’s business. According to this article http://www.therightcurmudgeon.com/tag/alabamas-6th-congressional-district/,
The deputy finance director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) helped raise money for a candidate in a contested Alabama GOP congressional primary in what some Republicans are calling a major breach of protocol.
In November and December, Alabama 6th congressional district candidate Will Brooke paid NRSC staffer Brittney Ingalls Godoy thousands of dollars to fundraise for him.
“I’ve been staff or a consultant for every Republican Hill committee and never in all my years have I seen special dispensation made for a titled aide to engage in primaries,” said a GOP operative watching the race.
Godoy is a close personal friend of Brooke, and her husband, Billy Godoy, is a senior official with the campaign. Brooke attended the Godoy’s wedding, an intimate gathering of only a few close friends, for example.
An NRSC official, who noted that there would be a “natural tendency” for Godoy to have a personal interest in the race because of the “long-standing family connection,” said Godoy consulted for Brooke’s campaign on her own personal time and that her work for him did not mean the NRSC was intervening in the race.
“The actions that employees take in their spare time during non-work hours is their own business. The NRSC has no interest in campaigns for the House of Representatives nor does it have a preference of candidates,” the official said.
Still, Godoy’s involvement, particularly with a candidate who has previously donated more than $10,000 to Democratic lawmakers, is rankling some Republicans.
“Impartiality in nomination contests, even those outside of a committee’s narrow campaign focus, is paramount. Anything else is wrong and fundamentally unfair,” the operative said.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show that BIG Capital Resources, LLC, a company registered to Brittney Ingalls Godoy, received nearly $3,000 for “fundraising consulting” for “Will Brooke for Congress Inc” in 2013. Brooke is running in a primary in the state’s sixth congressional district to replace retiring Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL).
One thing Brooke has going for him is his wife, Maggie. She’s been to most if not all campaign events and makes it a point to speak and shake hands with everyone she can – even when you’re wearing a sticker for another campaign. She is a genuinely nice lady. She can even be seen in the video shaking hands with Mathis as he’s walking toward the cameras to go another round regarding the negative ads (linked below in the Mathis analysis).
Paul DeMarco – http://www.pauldemarco.org/
Currently represents Alabama’s House District 46 which is composed of some of the wealthier areas in the state. He is an attorney, primarily practicing in the defense of premises liability, workers compensation, pharmaceutical malpractice, and automobile and truck liability claims. It’s believed that DeMarco has been angling to run for Congress since he won his seat in 2005. He’s built a lot of relationships, especially with the business community (Business Council of Alabama and various Chambers of Commerce), over the last few years by attending community events, especially in his home district. He says we need a candidate who will be “accessible, approachable and visible throughout his or her term.” I would note, however, that I don’t think he has cultivated those relationships to the same extent in Shelby County which could hurt him since the 6th District only covers a sliver of Jefferson County where he lives, although that sliver is the most populated area of the 6th. Like it or not, there is likely to be some class warfare between the perceived have’s in those Birmingham suburbs and the have not’s in the surrounding counties.
DeMarco is personable, but let’s talk record. He’s on point as far as the issues raised but has provided few details in the debates and is somewhat repetitive with his talking points that he will “fight” for us in Washington. His legislative record doesn’t come close to Beason’s, and he just hasn’t put himself out there to take the hits like Beason. I read a comment on another blog that if DeMarco is elected, we’ll wish we had Bachus back. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I don’t want to take that chance. Watch the videos linked below and judge for yourselves.
Jacqueline DeMarco, a clinical psychologist, also a delightful young woman, just had their first baby.
Chad Mathis – https://drmathisforcongress.com/
Mathis has said “I’m a doctor and I want to repeal Obamacare” so many times it’s become fodder for Twitter to the point that Matt Murphy, a local radio talk show host, tweeted during one of the debates that “Chad Mathis is still a doctor.” It’s his talking point. Singular. Talking point. Unless he’s trash talking the other candidates.
Mathis approached local tea parties and asked for our votes. Many of us told him we’d consider supporting him unless Beason decided to run. He had a very nice young man as his campaign manager who came to our meetings and made his case. Some members even agreed to support Mathis. Until he replaced the nice young man with a DC consultant and the mudslinging started. Some of his supporters claim this isn’t the Mathis they know but with each attack ad, it’s become more difficult for them to defend him. Regardless, he’s ultimately responsible for what his campaign does.
Let me interject that I have no problem going after another candidate’s record or statements they’ve made. However, it’s the other side that distorts, mischaracterizes and takes statements out of context and makes personal attacks. Further, outsiders do not, I repeat, do not get to decide for us who the tea party candidate is. We, the activists on the ground, the very same ones Mathis asked for our votes, get to make that decision. Our members are free to decide for themselves who to support, but there is little disagreement, in fact, I’d go so far as to say none, that Mathis is not and never has been involved with any tea party in Alabama, much less been a tea party leader. He has not attended regular monthly meetings nor has he attended any of our events, like our repeal common core rally in Montgomery. Neither do the “national” tea parties speak for us. In response to outsiders, local tea parties released the following:
Mathis has made some pretty outrageous claims about his strongest opponents, the vilest and most recent of which is that Brooke and Palmer have attacked their children. A screenshot of his FB page shows a message from his wife, Angie, in which she states that their “opponents are launching some serious false attacks, one even questioning the strength of Chad’s relationship with our children.” https://twitter.com/mattmurphyshow/status/471783449808732160
As Quin Hiller tweeted in the same thread, “Mathis, king of gutter politics, accusing opponents -- who merely defended themselves from falsehoods -- of gutter politics!” But that wasn’t enough. In a robocall, a woman, presumably his wife, Angie, claims that “Will Brooke and Gary Palmer have personally attacked our family.” Listen to it: http://cdn.stationcaster.com/stations/wapi/media/mp3/Matt_on_the_Angie_Mathis_Robo_Call-1401377139.mp3
Yet Mathis can’t or won’t provide evidence to back up his claim, and I can’t find anyone who has seen or heard any such ads.
Perhaps Palmer said it best in his press conference earlier this week. “Mathis moved to Alabama only a few years ago and is clearly out of touch with Alabama priorities and values. His opposition to economic development and to honoring our commitment to our teachers is a clear indication that his positions on these issues are in opposition to 80% of Alabamians. And his willingness to allow millions of dollars to flow to Planned Parenthood clearly shows his values are not Alabama values.”
Mathis has burned a lot of bridges in his quest to become a congressman. If he’s elected and ever finds himself in need of back-up, he may very well wish he hadn’t struck those matches, especially if he has any aspirations to go higher. Personally, I won’t lift a finger for him politically. Ever. Not that he’d come calling again.
Gary Palmer – http://palmerforalabama.com/
Palmer is known as the policy wonk among the political junkies like myself who are following this race. He has an amazing ability to spit out numbers and facts on just about every subject that comes up and has gotten better at not getting too deep in the weeks at the debates. He also promised to smile more often (inside joke for the aforementioned junkies). According to his campaign website, “For 24 years Gary Palmer led the Alabama Policy Institute (API), a research and education organization whose purpose is to identify, develop and promote sound public policies that emphasize a limited government, free markets, the rule of law and strong families. API, which is ranked as the most influential conservative organization in Alabama, is very involved in working with the State Legislature and the Governor’s Office to provide detailed research and analysis on such issues as charter schools, state employee pension and benefit reform, rewriting the state constitution as well as developing solutions and ideas for improving state government.”
The man knows his stuff. He’s been fairly successful at fundraising and has gotten his share of endorsements, including that of Governor Mike Pence (IN). Mathis claims Palmer favors higher property taxes. Palmer’s response: “The federal government doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. Raising taxes is not the answer. I will not support a tax increase.”
As for Obamacare, Palmer says “We can’t talk about repealing without talking about replacing,” Palmer said of Obamacare, citing health saving accounts and buying health insurance across state lines as replacement solutions.”
The Mathis campaign claims that Gary Palmer supported raising property taxes and links to an article he wrote as it appeared in the Southeast Sun paper in Enterprise, AL. Here is a link to the same article as it appeared in the Tuscaloosa News. Seems pretty clear to me that Palmer provides several solutions to raise revenues without raising taxes, but I guess when a campaign wants to spin, it sees what it wants.
Further, Palmer opposed Governor Riley's $1.2 billion dollar tax increase. From a Palmer article re that increase: "The vast majority of Alabamians are smart enough to know that raising our taxes by $1.2 billion dollars will have a significant negative impact on Alabama's economy."
Palmer rebuts another Mathis’ claim that he favors higher taxes by supporting a convention to re-write Alabama’s constitution in his editorial "Constitution Call Really About Taxes" which exposes the proponents agenda. If Palmer supports raising taxes, he's sure got a funny way of showing it.
Palmer also attended the University of Alabama (Roll Tide) where he played football for the infamous “Bear Bryant.” That alone will probably get him a few votes. On a personal level, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like care and think he’s a fine man, except the Mathis campaign I guess.
Robert Shattuck – http://al6thcongdist-ihaveuntiljan13.blogspot.com/
Shattuck answered most questions in the first few debates with “Congress is dysfunctional,” and then switched to “Congress is corrupt.” I don’t disagree with either. Shattuck, an attorney, said fixing Congress should be the first priority to solving government dysfunction. “It’s almost moot to discuss issues and solutions until we fix Congress.” He adds that Republicans and Democrats have transformed politics into an unproductive “us against them” battle. Shattuck is a man with a message which unfortunately gets a little lost in the translation. However, it’s worth taking a look at his blog linked above.
Tom Vignuelle – http://tomforalabama.com/
Tom is one of the nicest men you’d ever meet. A self-made man and successful businessman, down to earth, relatable on every level and with a great wife as well. Problem is he has little name recognition or money. Not that anyone asked me, but I wish he had run for a state seat first. I’ve heard others comment the same. Hopefully, he’ll take another shot at public office because we surely need more candidates like him.
The Outsiders - Finally, I’d like to say a thing or two about national groups, bloggers and outsiders’ endorsements of candidates. I’ve certainly done my share of supporting candidates in other states, though I have neither the bully pulpit nor the deep pockets to affect a race in quite the same way. So endorse if you will, but if you’re going to claim that the candidate you endorse is tea party and conservative, you might at least do a little research first, perform your due diligence and ask local activists about the issues and the candidates rather than simply taking a candidate’s word for it, or worse, selling your endorsement. We don’t really cotton to having outsiders decide our elections for us, especially when we have candidates with proven records who have worked hand in hand, side by side, with conservatives and tea partiers. Neither do we appreciate having what started out as a positive campaign season turn ugly after your candidate, Dr. Chad Mathis, began the mud-slinging and personal attacks on other candidates. I have no problem going after someone’s record, however, it’s the other side that’s known for taking statements out of context, mischaracterizations and misrepresentations (and I’m being nice), not to mention that when you’re challenged on the facts, claiming that what you printed on your mailers was in all the papers is a weak excuse, especially when you’re talking about The Birmingham News or al.com. Now that the other candidates are pushing back, Mathis’ campaign is claiming that his “opponents are launching some serious false attacks, one even questioning the strength of Chad’s relationship with our children.” Based on my personal relationships with half of the candidates and the conduct I’ve seen from the others, I strongly question this accusation and have asked the candidate to name names. As Quin Hillyer tweeted, “Mathis, king of gutter politics, accusing opponents -- who merely defended themselves from falsehoods -- of gutter politics!
For more information and analysis on the candidates and the debates, visit the sites linked below, particularly the first one at YellowhammerNews which has videos of the candidates answering a question re the 4th Amendment and has links to videos re other questions.