Anniston's Boyd gets $25K boost from AEA; Teachers' group pouring money into area's races
by Tim Lockette
Nov 19, 2013 | 2953 views |  0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Barbara Boyd
Barbara Boyd
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Education Association has given a big financial boost to state Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston, one of the last local lawmakers to launch a serious fundraising effort.

A-VOTE, the AEA’s political action committee, gave $25,000 to Boyd's re-election campaign, according to a report filed last week. Before the contribution, Boyd had only $873 in campaign money.

"This is just the beginning for me," Boyd said of her fundraising effort. "I'm starting to mail out letters now."

The 2014 election is nearly a year away, but lawmakers have only a couple of months to build a fundraising lead over potential challengers. Contributions in House and Senate races are banned while the Legislature is in session, which puts a damper on fundraising between January and April. The deadline for challengers to enter House and Senate races is also in April.

AEA, the state's largest professional organization for teachers, has already given more than $400,000 to candidates in the 2014 races, making it the biggest single donor among PACs so far. For some, accepting money from AEA — long a political powerhouse in Montgomery — is a touchy subject. But not for Boyd.

"I've been an educator for 45 years," she said. "I've been a member of AEA. I've served on their board of directors."

The only Democrat in Calhoun County's delegation, Boyd is so far unopposed in the race to represent her district, which covers much of Anniston, as well as part of Talladega County.

AEA spokeswoman Amy Marlowe said the $25,000 donation is not a sign that the group sees an opponent on the horizon for Boyd.

"At the end of the day, we support candidates who support public education," Marlowe said. She said Boyd had long shown that support.

AEA supporting both parties

Much of AEA's money in the race, so far, has gone to Democratic stalwarts, including Senate Minority Leader Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, and House Minority leader Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden.

The group has also put money into local challenges to sitting Republican lawmakers. AEA gave $25,000 to Etowah County coroner Michael Gladden, a Democrat who is challenging Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, in District 29, which now includes northern Calhoun County. And the group has poured $30,000 into the campaign of Tim Sprayberry, a Cleburne County Republican who is challenging Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, for the Republican nomination in Senate District 13. Union organizer Darrell Turner is running in the District 13 race as a Democrat, but has no AEA money so far.

Democratic organizers earlier this year said they'd targeted District 13 as one Democrats could win, and those organizers said they'd be willing to support Republicans who challenge sitting Republicans in targeted districts.

There's little love lost between AEA and the current Republican leadership, but it's not clear whether AEA is following the Democrats' game plan. Marlowe said the group's strategy is simply to support candidates who support schools.

GOP primary battles

Calhoun County Republican Party Chair Gene Howard has criticized "tea party" Republicans who take money from the AEA. Sprayberry has made appeals for support from tea party groups such as the Rainy Day Patriots.

"The AEA is looking for someone with a natural animosity toward Republicans," Howard said. He said the tea party movement has a natural animosity toward current Republican office-holders.

"There have been a couple of people who were upset," Sprayberry said of his AEA donations. "But by and large, people want to talk to me about other things, like Common Core."

Sprayberry opposes Common Core, a multi-state set of academic standards which Alabama adopted years ago. Repealing the standards has become a cause celebre for the GOP's right wing, who see the standards as federal intrusion in state matters.

Marlowe, the AEA representative, said the teachers’ group hasn't taken a position on Common Core.

Sprayberry said it's Dial, the incumbent, who should be responding to questions about interest groups. He said Dial has courted donations from the Alabama Farmers Federation, otherwise known as ALFA.

Campaign finance records show no donations from ALFA to Dial so far this year, but the senator said he'd like to change that soon.

"You have to be endorsed by a majority of the counties in your district," Dial said. "I haven't talked to all of them yet."

A former local board member for the Farmers Federation, Dial said he shares common goals with the group.

"The issue that's important to ALFA is the issue that's important to me," he said. "It's supporting agriculture."

Common cause

In statewide races there's an issue that's important to both Democrats and the AEA. Both groups have said the Alabama Accountability Act — a Republican-sponsored law that gives a tax credit to some parents who pull their children out of public schools — will be an issue on the campaign trail in 2014. Democrats believe there's widespread dissatisfaction with the bill, which set aside $40 million in education money for tax credits in the current fiscal year.

"I believe it will definitely be a factor," said Anniston's Boyd.

Though she has no opponent yet, Boyd said it's far too early to assume she won't have an challenger in either the primary or the general election.

"You can't relax if you know the lay of the land like I do," she said. "If I look like I'm not expecting anyone else to run, that will make them come out of the woodwork."

Capitol & statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.

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