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Alabama's Recent Scandals


(Laughter). We're joined onstage now by our very own Debbie Elliott, NPR's Southern correspondent...


SIMON: ...And John Archibald is a columnist here at al.com.



SIMON: You know, an Illinoisan feels really at home here because the governor has to resign in the middle of a scandal, sentenced by a court. I'm absolutely comfortable. But Debbie Elliott, a sex scandal?


SIMON: Is it, however, just a sex scandal?

ELLIOTT: No, it was about whether or not he used his office and his campaign funds to cover up an alleged affair with a top political aide. And he ended up resigning this spring, pleading guilty to misusing some campaign funds, avoiding embarrassing impeachment hearings in the process, some possible criminal prosecution. But I think what's interesting about it is that he was the third top Alabama elected official to lose his office in the past year.

The House speaker, Mike Hubbard, had been convicted of misusing his office for personal financial gain last summer. And then we had Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court removed from the bench because he was defying federal court orders on same-sex marriage. So overall, it was a rough year for Alabama politics.

SIMON: Yeah. We have a - but a good year for the Alabama legal profession.


SIMON: We have the state auditor here this morning, who will be on later. And I just hope there's no hanky panky between now and then, sir, because we'd like to get you on, all right? John Archibald, you wanted to say something?

ARCHIBALD: Well, I was just going to say, as Debbie was saying, Illinois ain't got nothing on us is what she's trying to say.


SIMON: John, let me ask you about the open Senate seat. I mean this seriously, there's all this speculation that Attorney General Sessions isn't going to last in that job, either leave by mutual consent, his own decision or President Trump's decision. Any chance he would return and run for his own seat again?

ARCHIBALD: Well, realistically, that would be difficult. You would have to get 35,000 signatures by August 15 to run as an independent. It's too late to run as a Republican. But that said, he could get that at the drop of a hat were it needed.

It would be interesting because it would throw that race into a little bit of, well, it's already in chaos. It would throw it into more chaos and perhaps might allow the unthinkable, which would be for a Democrat to have a chance.


SIMON: Let me just say to our wonderful audience that we welcome audience reaction, but let's try and avoid making it partisan reaction if we can. Mention some other names that we should know in the Senate race please, John.

ARCHIBALD: Well, if America loves Jeff Sessions, it will love whoever is likely to win this race because you have Congressman Mo Brooks, who is, I guess, most known recently for talking about the war on white people. And you have Roy Moore who, as you've mentioned, has twice been booted out of the Alabama Supreme Court for failure to follow federal court orders.

And you have Luther Strange, who was the attorney general of Alabama who was supposed to be investigating the former governor before he was run out of office. And so many people here believe he made a deal with the devil to become - be appointed U.S. senator by that governor. So it's quite the race.

SIMON: Debbie, you're going to be very busy, aren't you?

ELLIOTT: I am. I'll have my summer cut out.

SIMON: But what's the - you've essentially had one party rule in Alabama for a number of years now, right?

ELLIOTT: Right, since 2010. And I think we're seeing some of the policies that have played out here under that one-party Republican rule now making their way to Washington. For instance, there was a really tough immigration bill that passed here. Make - and now we're seeing that issue bubble up to the federal level. And this is something that I know John has written about a lot.

SIMON: Yeah.

ARCHIBALD: Yeah. My colleague Kyle Whitmire calls it the Alabamafication (ph) of America. I prefer to think of it as Neobama (ph). But, I mean, we've tried a lot of these - a lot of the things that are being discussed now, whether it's immigration, whether it's welfare, whether it's incarceration, whether it's corruption. And it hasn't always worked quite the way we hoped it would.

SIMON: Yeah. One last question, if we can. Do - you mentioned the possibility that Democrats could win the Senate seat. You're being realistic now?




SIMON: John Archibald of al.com and our own Debbie Elliott, thanks so much for being with us.

ARCHIBALD: Thank you.

ELLIOTT: Thank you, Scott.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.