Sen. Hank Sanders

Number 1592 - December 12, 2017          

           The election is coming.  The election is coming.  The election is coming.  The election will be here by the time you read this Sketches.  However, I will explore the election from my perspective.  As an Alabama State Senator, I have a firsthand perspective of the twists and turns of the coming election.  The election is coming.

            Senator Jeff Sessions resigned from the U.S. Senate on February 8, 2017 to become the U.S. Attorney General.  Governor Robert Bentley immediately appointed Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.  At the time, Strange was investigating Bentley on allegations of abuse of power and misuse of governmental resources springing from an alleged romantic relationship.  Many people felt there was a deal between Bentley and Strange.  A powerful backlash occurred that would haunt Luther Strange.  The election is coming.

            There was lots of debate about whether the newly appointed U.S. Senator Strange would have to stand for election in a special election in 2017 or in the 2018 general election.  Strange wanted the latter date.  Governor Bentley decided that Strange could run in 2018.  Senator Strange was happy about the decision, but many were unhappy.  It intensified the backlash that haunted Strange.  The election is coming.

            Then Governor Bentley resigned from the Governorship as he pled guilty to two misdemeanor criminal charges.  Lt. Governor Kay Ivey ascended to the Governorship.  She soon declared that the law required the election should be held in a 2017 special election rather than the general election in November of 2018.  The special election dates were August 15, 2017 for the primary, September 26th for the primary runoff and December 12th for the general election.  The election is coming.

            Nine candidates qualified for the Republican primary and eight qualified for the Democratic primary.  I participated in the Alabama New South Alliance (ANSA) endorsement meeting.  All qualified candidates, Republican and Democratic, were invited.   Eight came to the endorsement event in Montgomery: four White Democrats; three Black Democrats; and one white Republican.  ANSA overwhelming endorsed Doug Jones.  We were impressed that he had the courage to indict and convict two KKK members who murdered the four little Black girls by bombing a Birmingham church on a Sunday morning in 1963.  These convictions came 38 years after the murders.  This was a powerful statement about Doug’s courage, commitment to justice and what he may do in the U.S. Senate.  The election is coming.

            In the primary, Jones won without a runoff with 66 percent of the vote.  Luther Strange and Roy Moore were in a runoff.  Roy Moore led with 34 percent of the vote to Luther Strange’s 24 percent.  This was the result in spite of the fact Strange had the robe of incumbency and strong support by President Trump and an immense fundraising advantage.  The questionable appointment continued to haunt Strange.  The election is coming.

Whichever Republican won the primary runoff would be greatly favored to win the general election on December 12th.  Many Democrats were hoping Roy Moore would win.  They felt that he would be the best candidate to challenge.  While Moore had a strong base, he had also turned off a lot of voters.  Republicans had twice removed Moore as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for violating federal law.  In 2012, he won the Chief Justice position by 52 percent to 48 percent against Democrat Bob Vance.  Moore won the runoff with 54.6 percent to 45.4 percent for Strange.  The election is coming.

The primary voter turnout was just 17 percent of registered voters.  The turnout in the run-off was just 14 percent.  These were dismal voter participation rates even for a special election.  And this was a very important special election.  Therefore, Alabama New South Coalition (not Alabama New South Alliance) commenced a nonpartisan get out the vote initiative.  The election is coming.

            The initiative was not supportive of any candidate.  It was called Vote or Die.  Basically the concept is that our vote determines whether we live longer or die early.  For example, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act could result in as many as 43,000 deaths per year.  People would die sooner based upon decisions made about the environment, education, business, law enforcement, employment and so on.  For a long time, Vote or Die was the only visible activity in the African American community.  The election is coming.

            I was very concerned about the limited voter education, voter registration and voter mobilization efforts in the community and state.  For the longest, it appeared to just be Vote or Die activities.  The effort was really led by my energetic 72-year-old wife (she owns her age publicly).  I participated through radio ads on the power of one vote, the importance of this election and the need to vote.  I spoke at rallies. I wrote news columns.  I participated in various other Vote or Die activities including human billboards at the Edmund Pettus Bridge; shared my activities on social media; wrote articles on Vote or Die; was interviewed by many newspersons nationally and locally; and organized in various other ways.  The election is coming.

            Two weeks before the election, I became partisan in my activities.  I publicly supported Doug Jones.  I did radio ads and robo calls.  I made remarks at various events.  I sent out community notices, worked across the state, and undertook various other efforts.  Many others were also working in their own ways.  The election is coming.

            I don’t know how the special election for the U.S. Senate will turn out.  I believe that it will be determined by voter turnout.  I am so proud of those who participated in the Vote or Die Movement and other efforts to increase voter education and turnout.  They gave their best in time, effort and sacrifice.  I also did my best.  In my mind, our best is always good enough.  The election is coming.

Now on to the Daily Diary:

Saturday, December 2, 2017 - I walked, participated in an Alabama New South Coalition Board meeting by conference call, handled many matters, traveled to Wilcox County, attended the funeral of Mensa Gamble Pettaway, returned to Selma and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following: Felecia Pettaway, William Pompey, Brenda Pompey, and Dr. Zenetta Erwin of Wilcox County; Dallas County Circuit Judge Collins Pettaway;  Synethia Pettaway, Sam Walker and Khadijah Ishaq of Selma; Bruce Cohen of California; and Tony Harrison of Washington, D.C.

Sunday – I participated on The Jesse Jackson Radio Program, hosted The Sunday School Lesson with Dr. Margaret Hardy and did Radio Education with Perry County School Superintendent John Heard, III.  I shared dinner with my grandchildren and others and worked deep into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Wilcox County Commission Chairman John Moton; Rev. Jesse Jackson of Chicago; Shelley Fearson of Alabama New South Coalition; Faya Rose Toure, Malika Fortier, Ainka Jackson, Azali Fortier, Josiah Jackson and Ayyirra Fortier of Selma.

Monday – I walked, read Sketches on Faya’s Fire, met with a reporter from Denmark about the election, handled many matters and worked deep into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Senator Vivian Davis Figures; Representative John Knight; Sharon Calhoun of Montgomery; Hale County Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins whose mother died; Perry County Circuit Judge Don McMillian; Jasmine Walker, Carol Bonner, Lola Sewell and Brenda Miles of Selma; Dorothy Hulett, Shemeka Robinson and Rosie Whiting of Lowndes County; Lelia Gordon of Massachusetts; and Scott Douglas (on his birthday) and Catrena Carter of Birmingham.

Tuesday – I was up early and made it to Birmingham by 8:30 am.  I returned to Selma and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with Ken Simon, Phillips McCallum, Gerald Brooks, Dennis Goldasich and Greg Foster of Jefferson County; Marion City Councilman Willie Jackson;  Dr. Carol P. Zippert of The Greene County Democrat; LaTosha Brown of Atlanta; Former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford;  Greg Francis of Orlando, Florida; Carolyn Wheeler of Signal Mountain, TN;  Sharon Wheeler of Montgomery; and Andy Marks of Washington, D.C.

Wednesday- I walked, read Sketches on The Salaam Radio Show, participated in multiple conference calls, handled many matters, shared lunch with Selma Councilwoman Jamie Thomas, traveled to Greene County, returned to Selma and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  Former State Representative Yusuf Salaam; Dr. Ernest Okeke of Selma; Elouise Robinson of Baldwin County whose son is in the hospital; David Gaines of Birmingham; Greene County Commission Chair Tennyson Smith; and Paula Bird of Greene County.

Thursday – I attended an early morning working breakfast involving the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, handled many matters, chaired the SOS conference call, voted absentee and worked into the night.  Among many, I communicated with the following:  Wallace Community College Selma President Dr. James Mitchell, Ola Morrow of Maplesville; Carolyn Stokes of the United Steel Workers; Liz Rutledge and Gloria Pompey of Selma; Heather Gray of Atlanta; Gus Townes of Montgomery whose brother died; Gail Townes of Montgomery who is struggling with illness; and Varion Walton of MSNBC.

Friday – I could not walk because it was snowing in Selma but I exercised.  I handled many matters, traveled to Mobile, appeared on MSNBC’s MTP Daily, returned to Selma and worked into the night.  Among others, I communicated with the following:  David Dodson of North Carolina;  Meet the Press and MTP Daily moderator Chuck Todd; Bernard Simelton of the Alabama NAACP; Sharon Calhoun of Montgomery; Fred Prejean of Lafayatte, LA;  Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd; Stephen Martin, Cecil Gardner and Susan Gardner of Mobile; and Cherie Welch of Atlanta. 

EPILOGUE – The election is coming!  It takes a deep faith to work determinedly when the odds are great against us.  So many exhibited such a faith at this time and place.  I am so proud.