Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice and U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore speaks to guests at Friday night's Republican dinner. / Andrew Cryer
CULLMAN – More than 150 area Republicans turned out Friday evening, when the Cullman County Republican Party held its first fundraising dinner, welcoming numerous hopeful candidates planning to make runs in 2018, and drawing three who are running in this year’s special U.S. Senate election. One noticeable absence was that of U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, whose plane was said to be stuck in Washington, D.C. The show went on, however, with guests enjoying dinner catered by Stone Bridge Farms, a silent auction and some face-to-face time with local elected officials and candidates.
Said County Republican Party Chairman Waid Harbison just before the evening got underway, “This is kind of the first year we’ve done this event, something I wanted to start when I took over as chairman of the party. Just a few things we want to do with this: we want it to be an annual thing where we kind of come together to celebrate the party’s accomplishments, because this is kind of like our annual meeting. We have breakfast meetings once a month, but just something for everyone to get together, one big shindig (to) highlight some of our elected officials locally, highlight some of our accomplishments as a Republican party. Obviously, we have some featured speakers that are going to be here, too. This is something I would like to start, in the future going down the road, for us to have as a Republican party.”
Harbison invited all persons running for office to come to the stage and be recognized. The line stretched out as eight candidates (in addition to the three Senate candidates) introduced themselves to the audience:
- Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, running for governor
- Alabama Sen. Rusty Glover, running for lt. governor
- Scott Dawson, running for governor
- Alabama Attorney Gen. Steve Marshall, seeking re-election
- Alabama Sec. of State John Merrill, seeking re-election
- Jefferson County Commission President David Carrington, running for governor
- Alabama Public Service Commission, Place 1 Jeremy Oden, seeking re-election
- Blount County Criminal Court Judge Chess Bedsole, running for Alabama attorney general
The big draw of the night was the promise of presentations by the leading candidates for the upcoming special U.C. Senate election. Incumbent Strange, appointed to fill the seat left vacant by current U.S. Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions by then Gov. Robert Bentley, was supposed to appear, but reportedly had to cancel due to a late flight from Washington. His leading challengers, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Rep. Mo Brooks, were joined by lesser-known candidate Trip Pittman to present their platforms to the crowd.
Alabama Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose
Pittman’s presentation emphasized his background as a businessman.
“We need to understand, businessmen get things done,” he said. “They have to accomplish things, they have to be successful, they have to build relationships and have repeat business and have referrals. So I think it’s extremely important that we understand and consider the fact that we have a businessman in the U.S. Senate.”
He also pointed to his recent 10-year career as a state senator, with seven years as budget chairman overseeing multiple balanced budgets. Though a multi-election politician, Pittman stated that he supports term limits; and promised to serve no more than two terms in the U.S. Senate.
Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore
Moore pointed to himself as a Washington outsider who is feared by the establishment represented by both Democrat Charles Schumer and Republican Mitch McConnell. Pointing to the Republican legislative majority’s inability to overturn “Obamacare,” he claimed that Washington needs anti-establishment leaders to get things done.
Responding to Republican establishment leaders’ fundraising efforts to boost Luther Strange’s campaign, Moore replied, “(Why) I am very upset about this is that they are trying to buy the people of Alabama, and buy their vote out of Washington D.C. . . . They’re trying to tell you who should be senator, who they want to keep there; and it’s this establishment that is preventing things from moving, and we’ve got to wake up to that fact.”
Moore also called for a stronger military, stating that the current military culture is plagued by political correctness and social experimentation. He argued for a reduction in federal regulations and taxes to promote American business, and called for a legal system that strictly interprets and follows the U.S. Constitution.
As would be expected of the candidate who has always displayed his faith openly, Moore called for a return to morality and traditional values.
“We cannot be great again,” said the candidate, “unless we are good again.”
U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama
Brooks went right after Strange, arguing that the incumbent is portraying him as a “Nancy Pelosi lover.” He spent a fair amount of time responding to establishment claims that he is an anti-Trump politician, pointing to funds he personally raised for the president’s campaign and saying that, while he wished Trump was stronger in certain respects, he still supports him.
Brooks pointed to himself as the kind of ethical candidate needed by a corrupt system; taking pride in the fact that, in his entire political career, he has never been the subject of a single ethics complaint. He viewed his nine re-elections as evidence of Alabamians’ opinions about the quality of his work, pointing out that he has won every election by at least 30 percentage points.
“I mention that for this reason,” said Brooks, “I want you to know that if you honor me with this election, that I will serve you as I have served the people who have asked me to represent them in those 12 different elections, nine of which were re-elections.”
The U.S. Senate special election primary will be held on Aug. 15, with an if-needed runoff on Sept. 26. The special election will take place on Dec. 12.
The deadline to register to vote in the special election is July 31.
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