by Matt Wyers
This morning, I had the opportunity to observe the State Executive Committee meeting put on by the Alabama Republican Party in Birmingham. The breakfast was nice, but the bi-annual election of Alabama GOP officers was much more interesting. I’m not a member of the State Executive Committee(SEC from here on out), but the event was open enough so that I could attend.
The highlight of the day was the vote for Party Chairman. It was the first order of business and a good thing too because the atmosphere was tense among the SEC members before the proceedings began. Bill Armistead, the incumbent, was re-elected and the reaction of the crowd signaled a large margin of victory as the majority of the room cheered enthusiastically. The Chairman was challenged by Matt Fridy, formerly of the 6th District Committee.
I wanted to write about this event not just because I observed it but because I believe the results were in the best interests of the ALGOP and ultimately of the people of Alabama. Armistead had been embattled recently due to his refusal to go along with several decisions made by Gov. Robert Bentley. Bentley, a Republican, has been criticized for not being conservative enough in his choices for numerous appointments. The willingness of Armistead to stand up to the popular Governor in this regard was admirable. Bentley should have reassessed his priorities and kept working with the successful Chairman.
That’s not what the Governor did though. He picked a fight and threw all-in on taking down Bill Armistead. Armistead has been a consistent and strong voice for conservative principles for decades in Alabama. He is a friend of grassroots Conservatives everywhere. Most recently, he helped elect Republicans at the local level, for the first time in decades, in Democrat dominated counties in an otherwise Republican dominated state. Armistead isn’t perfect, but he wasn’t doing a poor job either.
Bentley and other power players like Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard hand selected Matt Fridy to be the point man in this campaign. I’ve never met Fridy and I’ve only heard good things about him so I don’t assume he is anything but a good man. The fact remains, however, that he was given the full and very public support of Bentley, Hubbard, and others. In fact, members of the Governor’s staff were even assigned to help Fridy campaign for the job. He was said to be “not his own man” and that was probably a fair charge. If elected, he would have been the creation of several individuals whom could be counted far too often in the establishment wing of the party since their election in 2010. This was not a good trade for the ALGOP and Conservatives throughout the state hoping for leadership not beholden to politicians in Montgomery.
Fridy was gracious in defeat, however, and spoke eloquently of maintaining party unity after the results of the election were announced. Gov Bentley, who was not in attendance, transmitted a message to the re-elected Chairman Armistead congratulating him and also praising him for his campaign.
Armistead as well spoke of party unity, stating this election was merely like a primary. He didn’t gloat in victory and said he didn’t care who voted for him or against him, that it was time to get back to the work of electing Republicans.
I overheard a lady earlier in the day commenting that “there was not a better man in the state of Alabama than Bill Armistead.” I can believe it. After a contentious campaign and a win in a fight he didn’t start, Armistead had nothing but kind words to say for the opposition.
It was a good day for Alabama as well. In a time when far too many Republican organizations around the country are run by Moderates and individuals accustomed to power rather than true believers in the conservative cause, it was good to see a friend of the people win out in the end.
It’s not typical for me to write on state specific matters, but hopefully I’ll be doing more of that as time goes by in addition to the more philosophical pieces. Thanks for reading!