Category: 2018 Election

State Elections Chief Faces Criticism Over Partisanship

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has gotten into some intense partisan Twitter battles recently. Merrill is a Republican and he is running for re-election this Tuesday. Partisanship is to be expected among political candidates. But is it a problem when you are also the state’s top elections official?

In a recent campaign advertisement, Merrill stands outside in front of a red trolley car and urges the people of Alabama to get out and vote. Later in the video, he tells them how they should vote. “Go in the ballot booth and pull the red elephant’s tail,” he says, “voting for all the Republicans … We need your help and your support in making sure there’s a red tidal wave.”

Like many candidates running in Tuesday’s midterms, Merrill is campaigning for himself and his party. The thing is, as secretary of state, Merrill is Alabama’s chief elections official, so he oversees the election he is a part of. That has led to questions about whether that crosses an ethical line.

“I think it’s an unavoidable conflict of interest,” David Kimball, political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis says. Read more.

Kay Ivey’s Campaign for Governor out of Public Spotlight, in Friendly Terrain

Seen incumbent Gov. Kay Ivey on the campaign trail lately? If you have, you’re one of a small group of Alabamians.

Ivey’s drive for election to the state’s top office – a post she’s held since her predecessor, Dr. Robert Bentley, resigned in disgrace – has been low key, close to invisible. Since Sept. 20, Ivey has appeared at nine official events, but the only one geared toward the general public was a meet-and-greet on the Cullman County Courthouse steps held Friday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. — a time when many residents were well on their way to see their Cullman High Bearcats kick off at Hartselle an hour later.

All the rest have been at Republican Party rallies and dinners. They have run the gamut from the well-attended Tuscaloosa County GOP Lincoln-Reagan Dinner at Bryant-Denny Stadium, a Baldwin County GOP fish fry, and a hastily scheduled rally at a Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealership last Saturday morning in Pelham, where about 40 people met the governor.

The schedule has been light. Some of that is because Ivey still has gubernatorial duties that don’t go away come election time. Still, her appearances have been few and mostly geared toward party faithful. At nearly all the events, Ivey stuck to a well-rehearsed “stump speech” that has rarely varied from place to place.
A political analyst said the “boring” approach might have been just the thing for the popular Republican running in a deep-red state. Read more.

Maddox Defines Himself as Voice of Progress as Election Day Nears

At the end of what many have deemed a Sisyphean campaign, Walt Maddox is making a final appeal to voters. His argument? Think of the future.

Maddox, who has been mayor of Tuscaloosa since 2005, has always been a long shot to win the governor’s seat. He’s a Democrat in a deep-red state that hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1999, running against an opponent with one of the highest approval ratings in the country, a sizeable fundraising lead, and significantly more name recognition.

But Maddox’s campaign has attempted to frame him as a viable challenger, establishing him as a voice of progress for a stagnating Alabama. He’s worked to distance himself from the liberal Democrat label, saying he’s pro-life and supports gun rights. And in advance of a final campaign push this weekend, he says his polling shows him within the margin of error away from victory.

Most polls have placed Maddox well below Kay Ivey, who took office last year after her predecessor, Robert Bentley, resigned amid a sex scandal. She’s seeking her first full term in the office.

But she has been a spectral presence on the campaign trail, making few public appearances and refusing to debate.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Maddox has shifted from calling for that debate to insisting that the differences between the candidates are self-apparent — which is, essentially, what Ivey herself has argued. Read more.