On Saturday, June 10, 2017, more than one hundred delegates from Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC) chapters across the state gathered in Montgomery for their Spring Convention. ANSC members heard from seven candidates running for the Alabama U. S. Senate seat to be voted on this year and two perspective candidates for Governor in 2018.
Among the candidates for U. S. Senate, the group heard from Doug Jones, former U. S. Attorney from Birmingham and three other Democratic candidates – Vann Caldwell, Jason Fisher and Dr. Will Boyd. Three Republican candidates for U. S. Senate – James Paul Beretta, Mary Maxwell and Bryan Peeples, also spoke.The primary for the U. S. Senate seat will be held on August 15, with a runoff if necessary on September 26, 2017.
Two Democratic candidates who plan to run for Governor of Alabama in 2018 also spoke to the group. Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb of Evergreen, Alabama and Walt Maddox, Mayor of Tuscaloosa, Alabama gave a preview of their plans to run for Alabama’s highest office in 2018.
Before the luncheon political speeches, Senator Hank Sanders of Selma, who many in ANSC call –“our Alabama Senator” – spoke on the political landscape in Alabama. He reviewed the problems of state, where every statewide elected official including Supreme Court and Appellate Court Judges are white and Republicans. Where Republicans hold a ‘super-majority’ in both houses of the Alabama Legislature and can cut off debate and pass legislation at will. Where President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are sending out bad messages signaling that you can attack Black, Hispanic and gay people at will. Sanders explained that the current problems of Alabama came out of a “history of white supremacy and state sanctioned terrorism by the Klu Klux Klan and other forces, which has been hard to shake off or change.
A panel on Voter Education, Registration and Mobilization followed where grassroots activist gave their views on how best to support, unify, and strengthen Black and progressive voters in the state. The members of this panel included: Sherry McClain of Birmingham, Jerome Gray of Conecuh County and Rev. Tonny Algood from Mobile. A lively discussion by ANSC chapter leaders followed this panel.
The second panel was one of young people involved with ANSC and the 21st. Century Youth Leadership Movement on engaging young people in political action and passing or sharing the baton between generations. The young leaders on this panel suggested ways to involve more young people from their generation in the political process and organizations like ANSC.
There was a good discussion and interchange with the audience on the issues raised by the panel.
At the luncheon, Doug Jones, Democratic candidate for U. S. Senate said, “ I want to take back the U. S. Senate seat in Alabama that Jeff Sessions and the Republicans took from Howell Heflin. I am running on a program of quality education, economic development, and reform of the civil and criminal justice. It is wrong for the United States, which has 5% of the world’s population to have 25% of the people in jail worldwide. We must find ways to stop mass incarceration and reform our justice system.”
Sue Bell Cobb said, “I am running for Governor, as a Democrat, from Fairhope to Fort Payne in Alabama. I am most concerned about domestic violence and juvenile justice for the people of Alabama. It is time for us to speak honestly about race in Alabama and confront some of the problems we have had for many years.”
Walt Maddox, who has served as Mayor of Tuscaloosa for more than 12 years, said he was planning to run for Governor in 2018 as a Democrat. “We in the Democratic Party are the party of compassion, mercy and justice. We are the party of the people in this state and we must take the high ground in fighting poverty, supporting 21st. Century education for all, healthcare for all and not just be an opposition party but one that helps to shape policies that improve the quality of life for all Alabamians.”
ANSC’s sister organization, the Alabama New South Alliance plans to hold a screening and endorsement of candidates for U. S. Senate in July before the August 15 primary.