MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Madison County’s Republican Party appears to be in a state of turmoil after a controversial vote to condemn their own members, with some local GOP leaders blasting the move as silly and shameful.
On Monday the Madison County Republican Executive Committee voted to condemn the actions of State Board of Education Member Mary Scott Hunter and the Alabama Legislature. The Executive Committee said the decision to censure Hunter is a result of the legislature and Hunter failing to remove the Common Core standards initiative in Alabama.
The committee’s resolution, which accuses Hunter and local legislators of a “dereliction of duty”, passed by a vote of 25 to 12. State Rep. Mike Ball (R-Madison) said the vote should never have happened, and believes some Executive Committee members are more focused on power than policy.
“I think it’s more about power and personality than it is actually about an issue,” said Ball. “Yeah, there might be an executive committee, but that doesn’t mean they tell me what to do. The chain of command runs in the opposite direction… it’s the people that prevail and the people that have the power.”
Rep. Ball also said the Common Core debate was being used as a distraction for more serious internal party issues.
“We’ve obviously got some people that have been on the committees a long time that would be a lot happier being a big fish in a little pond than a little fish in a bigger pond… I think there are some folks who are afraid of new people coming in. I believe my responsibility is to listen to the people, do the will of the people in my district.”
Long-time Republican activist Tom Scovill abruptly quit his position as managing editor of the Tennessee Valley Republican Club after the vote, which he said served as the last straw.
“Politics is a team, we ought to have a good team, and last night the team was getting torn apart,” said Scovill. “I’m not sure the Madison County Republican Executive Committee has the authority to pass resolutions on policy like that. That’s why we elect state legislators.”
Hunter claims Monday night’s vote indicates a symptom of what she calls a larger problem.
“We have in the Republican party a group who wants to broaden the message, broaden the appeal, attract more people to the party,” explains Hunter, “and then we have a faction who wants to narrow the party considerably.”
With Common Core as the crux of the derision WHNT News 19 asked Hunter her thoughts on what the argument is really all about.
“There’s a group who believes that there is a conspiracy in the Common Core to control minds,” Hunter shrugged. “There is another group like me who believe the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards – our standards include the Common Core but also include additional specific Alabama content – are just good standards to prepare students for jobs in the twenty-first century with skills and abilities they need.”
WHNT News 19 asked Hunter what implications this proverbial slap on the wrist from Republican peers may have on her potential future political endeavors.
“Well, disagreements happen all the time – I’m a lawyer, I’m in the business of disagreement,” Hunter said. “I’m not too worried about disagreement, that’s very healthy but I think if I take this to the next level this is more about the future of the Republican party.”
Committee member David Smith was among the 12 who voted ‘no’ on the resolution which undeniably pits Republican against Republican.
“They obviously elected Mary Scott Hunter and if they decide she did something wrong or they don’t agree with what’s going on they can decide not to reelect her,” Smith points out. “It’s a simple as that.”
Smith says his vote was based on his feeling the committee was overstepping its bounds.
“It ultimately comes down to the voters and the ballot box,” he says. “The voters are the ones who should be deciding if an elected official has done wrong and I just don’t see why a smaller committee should be the ones deciding that.”
The Republican Executive Committee Chairman says he has a more multi-faceted consideration behind his vote.
“Why did we do it? We did it for our children,” said Madison County GOP Pary Chairman John Como. “We believe that our children deserve the best education they can get and frankly I don’t think Common Core is going to do it for them.”
Como affirms the 25 individuals who voted ‘yes’ in Monday night’s committee meeting are certainly not alone in their Common Core distrust.
“The national Republican party, the state Republican party, the Alabama Federation of Republican Women and Governor Bentley himself are against the Common Core standards.”
WHNT News 19 asked Como if the action would have any tangible effect other than causing division within the party locally.
“I tend to make it more akin to having a child that’s kind of strong-willed and as a parent sometimes you have to do something to get their attention,” Como said of Hunter.
Como voted ‘no’ on the resolution against Hunter but says he did so reluctantly.
“I’ve said this from the very beginning,” started Como, “I’m sorry there’s not as many democrats out there for us to fight that we end up fighting among ourselves. It hurts me personally for us to go after one of our own.”
Mary Scott Hunter is serving her first term on the Alabama State Board of Education representing District 8, which includes DeKalb, Etowah, Jackson, Limestone and Madison Counties. Scott recently entertained the idea of challenging Governor Robert Bentley in 2014 but said Tuesday she has decided to run for re-election for another term on the state school board.