Daily News Digest – February 9, 2018

Good morning!  Hope you’ve had your coffee. There’s a lot to talk about in your Daily News Digest for Friday, February 9. 

1. Buckle up for a wild day

  • Today is the last day for candidates to qualify for the Alabama Republican and Democratic 2018 primary elections.
  • Buckle up because it’s going to be a wild ride.
  • Here are the story lines developing…

What year is it again?

  • Troy King is running for Attorney General. Bobby Bright is running for Congress (more on that in a minute). Sue Bell Cobbis on the ballot. Old rivalries are resurfacing in other races as well.
  • What was old is new again. All we need is Parker Griffith to run for something to complete this throwback party.

AG race will be ????

  • The current Attorney General. The former Attorney General. A former U.S. Attorney. And a well-funded outsider.
  • The GOP Primary for AG is setting up to be Alabama’s most competitive race.
  • Since assuming office last year, current Attorney General Steve Marshall has focused on doing the job: combatting the opioid problem, working with local and federal authorities to crack down on violent crime, proposing legislation to protect consumers from data breaches, etc.
  • But that hasn’t stopped ambitious candidates from getting in the race. Alice Martin has been running for months. So is Troy King now, which I wouldn’t have believed if you told me a year ago. Chess Bedsole is the most unknown in the race, but that might not be a bad thing when the mud starts flying, plus he at least appears to have some family money to spend.
  • This one is going to be wild. I doubt any other Republicans will announce by the end of the day, but who knows.

Democrats sandbagging?

  • It has been noted by keen observers that Democrats have not been actively qualifying for a lot of State House races.
  • One rule in politics is that, even if a district isn’t competitive on paper, you want to have a candidate on the ballot because you never know what will happen. See: Roy Moore vs Doug Jones.
  • I’m hearing that a flood of Democrats could be waiting until the last day – today – to enter the race.
  • They might be betting that if things go south for President Trump and the GOP Congress, they could catch a Democratic wave in 2018.

DeMarco getting in?

  • One red hot rumor is that former State Rep. Paul DeMarco will qualify to challenge Congressman Gary Palmer in the GOP Primary.
  • You may remember that Palmer defeated DeMarco in a runoff to win the seat back in 2014. That primary was pretty bitter.
  • In Congress, Palmer has been a mostly drama-free Member, sticking to pet causes like fiscal responsibility. The no drama part might be changing if the rumors are true.

Will Roy Moore pull the trigger?

Dean Young running?

  • Even if Moore doesn’t run, his political progeny appear to be up to the task.
  • Moore campaign manager Rich Hobson is running against Rep. Martha Roby. And word is longtime Moore acolyte Dean Young will once again challenge Rep. Bradley Byrne for Alabama’s 1st District.
  • By my count, this will be the third time Young has run against Byrne for the congressional seat. The only reason I’m fuzzy on that is Young also ran a few times against former Congressman Jo Bonner.
  • Anyway, I look forward to more videos from his bunker/basement/campaign headquarters.

2. New party, who dis?

Bobby Bright is back. The former Democratic Congressman is running for the seat he held from 2009-2011, but this time as a Republican.

As you can imagine, I have lots of thoughts about this. And yeah, I’m pretty close to it, but I also happen to know quite a bit about AL-2 politics.

So, here are a few quick takeaways…

General vs Primary voters

  • Nobody knows how Bright – a former Democratic Congressman – would fare in a Republican primary. If someone tells you they know without solid polling to back it up, don’t believe them.
  • There’s no question Bright won over some moderate Republicans back in 2008 when he edged out Jay Love to win the general election. I was there. I remember. But, how many of those were GOP primary voters?
  • In any case, that was before the Tea Party movement took hold and the GOP has gotten decidedly more conservative since then.

Campaigning for a demotion?

  • At his announcement, Bright told AL.com’s Howard Koplowitz he wanted to return the district’s representation to the House Armed Services Committee. That’s important for Fort Rucker and Maxwell Air Force Base, he said.
  • That might sound about right until you realize that Roby left the Armed Services Committee for a coveted seat on Appropriations. She now sits on Defense Appropriations – a much more influential position when it comes to military funding decisions critical for Rucker and Maxwell
  • Bright is essentially campaigning for a demotion. The reason that matters is that, if he keeps it up, it might serve to actually highlight Roby’s plum committee assignments and their benefits for the state (F-35, c-130s, etc).

Getting crowded  

  • Up to now, the question has been whether the trio of previously announced candidates – Barry Moore, Rich Hobson and Tommy Amason – could earn enough support to force Roby into a runoff by keeping her below 50 percent plus one of the vote.
  • The entrance of a fourth challenger – particularly one with high name recognition – makes the possibility of a runoff much more likely.
  • Bright’s history as a Democrat notwithstanding, his candidacy might work to overshadow the lower profile challengers. And let’s face it, Moore, Hobson and Amason haven’t been running impressive campaigns so far.
  • So, if Bright crowds out the other candidates and forces Roby into a runoff, it could be…

A blessing in disguise? 

  • In a runoff with Bright, Team Roby would get the one thing they never expected to have in a GOP primary: an opponent they can tie to Nancy Pelosi.
  • Rich Hobson would probably love for the race to be about Roy Moore. Barry Moore would surely love for the race to be about Donald Trump. Tommy Amason – okay, I have no idea what he wants.
  • But, you know who would love for the race to become about Nancy Pelosi? Martha Dubina Roby, Congressman from Alabama’s 2nd District.
  • Sure, Bright will say he’s changed and that his vote to make Pelosi speaker didn’t really matter. But, when the ads start flying, which candidate are you betting on? The one who voted to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker or the one who didn’t?

The Pelosi Factor

  • Like the Jelly of the Month Club, Pelosi is the gift that keeps on giving to House Republicans. Her name is ballot box poison in conservative districts.
  • When Bright voted to make Pelosi Speaker of the House back in 2009, Roby and the National Republican Congressional Committee made him wear it around his neck for the next 18 months.
  • That history is not lost on the NRCC, which appears to be eager to defend Roby in this primary (that’s pretty significant itself, btw). Spokesman Maddie Anderson had this to say:
  • “A candidate running as a Republican in Alabama who voted for Nancy Pelosi is definitely the most shocking news of the day – even in 2018. Nancy Pelosi is the most unpopular political figure in the entire country and I look forward to watching Bobby Bright explain to Alabamians how exactly he supports both Pelosi and the tax-cutting GOP agenda.”
  • Spittin’ fire

3. Budget Deal Done

While you were sleeping, the government shut down for a few hours. But now Congress has voted to reopen it by way of a two-year budget agreement.

Read more from the Associated Press here.

What happened

  • After stalling for a year over how to fund the government, Senate leaders agreed to a massive $400 billion appropriations plan that increases spending both for the military and domestic government programs.
  • Tea Party fiscal hawk Sen. Rand Paul tried to filibuster the bill because of how much it adds to the national debt. Liberal House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also did all she could to derail the bill because it does not included an immigration reform plan. Go figure. In the end, there were enough votes to pass it.

Military Spending

  • Remember sequestration? That policy of automatic spending cuts most everybody hates? This bill basically undoes that law for the next two years, raising the cap on defense spending by $80 billion in fiscal year 2018 and $85 billion in fiscal year 2019.
  • With installations like Redstone Arsenal, Fort Rucker and Maxwell Air Force Base – not to mention many major defense industry companies – Alabama has a significant military footprint.
  • Read more about what’s in the bill for the military from USA Today.

Health care funding & policy changes

  • $7 billion for Community Health Centers; $2 billion for the National Institutes of Health; $6 billion for opioid addiction and mental health treatment; $4 billion to boost Veterans health services through the VA.
  • It finally repeals the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB. This was the ObamaCare mandated 15-member board that was supposed to make Medicare cost saving decisions. It never got off the ground because most everyone hated the idea and now it has been repealed.
  • Another unpopular ObamaCare provision – cuts to Disproportionate Share Hospital reimbursements – have been forestalled once again. That’s good news for Alabama’s rural hospitals, as I explained a few days ago.
  • The Medicare “doughnut hole” has been filled in. This is the funding gap that could cause many seniors to pay thousands of out-of-pocket before catastrophic coverage kicks in.
  • CHIP is reauthorized for 10 years.
  • For a full rundown of the health care funding and policy changes in the bill, check out this report from Kaiser Health News.

Debt ceiling 

  • Instead of raising the debt ceiling, the bill “suspends” debt ceiling until March 1, 2019. That way there won’t by any more uncomfortable votes like this for a while.

How Alabama’s Delegation Voted

  • Sen. Richard Shelby – Yes
  • Sen. Doug Jones – Yes
  • Rep. Bradley Byrne – Yes
  • Rep. Martha Roby – Yes
  • Rep. Mike Rogers – Yes
  • Rep. Robert Aderholt – Yes
  • Rep. Gary Palmer – No
  • Rep. Mo Brooks – No
  • Rep. Terri Sewell – Yes

Headlines

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Judge sets Friday deadline for mentally ill inmates in Alabama prisons

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – Spirit Airlines to bring $39 flights to Birmingham 

ALABAMA DAILY NEWS – The Latest: Omarosa says she wouldn’t vote for Trump again

FOX NEWS – Toyota-Mazda’s $1.6 billion bet on Alabama set to turn it into the carmaking capital of the South

THE MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Senate passes Sen. Clyde Chambliss’ anti-voyerism or ‘upskirting’ bill.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Flu outbreak shutters 5 Alabama school systems.

MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER – Contributor Michon Trent:  Humanities engagement key to Alabama’s past, future.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Concerns over Alabama fentanyl crackdown.

YELLOWHAMMER NEWS – Alabama candidates for governor speak Saturday. 

AL.COM – President Trump’s latest approval rating: Numbers best in 7 months, poll shows.

AL.COM – Jeff Sessions’ wild ride: AG for a year, it’s been SNL, Trump, pot and controversy.

AL.COM – Federal judge orders mentally ill Alabama inmates removed from solitary.

AL.COM – Mo Brooks continues fight against spending bill, opponent rips Brooks’ position.

AL.COM – 89 percent oppose Trump military parade plan, poll shows.

AL.COM – Bill to make ‘upskirting’ a felony passes Alabama Senate.

AL.COM – Bobby Bright seeks old House seat — as a Republican.

AL.COM – Sessions on opioid crisis: ‘Take some aspirin; tough it out’.

AL.COM – Will Roy Moore run for governor? Final decision looming.

AL.COM – Contributor Anne Marie Bonds:  Juvenile justice: A broken system with harmful effects on Alabama’s youth.

AL.COM – The word from Ireland: Mobile looking good on aerospace.

AL.COM – Hyundai rolls out Shopper Assurance program, offers money-back guarantee.

ALABAMA POLITICAL REPORTER – Knight v. Burkette: A near riot, unpaid bills and a campaign manager calls it quits in the District 26 race.

DECATUR DAILY – Family experience led Tomerlin into autism advocacy role.

FLORENCE TIMES DAILY – Reality Check: Making ends meet can be a struggle.

ANNISTON STAR – New program offering mental health services to troubled Calhoun County children.

WASHINGTON POST – A quiet protest of the spending bill, a loud chorus of senators ready to move on.

NEW YORK TIMES – 18 States, Coal Group, US Chamber Want Ash Order Overturned.

NEW YORK TIMES – Republicans Learn to Love Deficit Spending They Once Loathed.

Today’s front pages (images link to newspaper websites, which you should visit)