News 5 Investigates attack ads in the Republican congressional race

Baldwin County

Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower are running ads critical of each other. Are they legitimate?

The gloves have come off in the Republican race for Lower Alabama’s congressional seat. Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower ran “clean” campaigns in the five-man primary race, but quickly went into “attack” mode once they emerged, nearly neck and neck, into the runoff election.

Both Carl and Hightower are running attack ads against their opponent. Here is a breakdown of the television spots and their accuracy. Watch the video for comments from political consultant Jon Gray.

Pro Carl/Anti Hightower Ad

Who paid for it: Jerry Carl Campaign

Where to see it:

What it says:
“Bill Hightower supported raising taxes on hard working middle class families”

Source cited: 2015 opinion piece

Reality: Hightower supported a flat tax which would simplify the tax process, raising taxes for some, and reducing them for others. The idea was endorsed by the conservative “Americans for Tax Reform.”

What it says:
“Hightower thinks tolling the I-10 bridge is a good idea.”

Source cited: article, 8/28/17

Reality: In the article cited, which focused on a meeting of local leaders on financing the I-10 Bridge and Bayway Project, Hightower is quoted on the possibility of using state gasoline taxes. He is not quoted on using tolls. In a 2017 article from Yellowhammer News, however, Hightower is quoted as saying, “ALDOT had said we’re going to be able to get that money from Texans as well as Floridians as they pass through our region. So they’re going to help pay for that bridge.” That could be interpreted as support for a toll.

What it says:
“Hightower lied about supporting President Trump. Like ‘Never Trumpers’ he didn’t vote in the Republican Primary in 2016.”

Source cited: Alabama Secretary of State Voting File

Reality: Hightower insists that he voted in the March 1, 2016, Alabama Primary, even providing a Facebook picture of his wife and him outside a polling place declaring “We Voted.”

On his website, Hightower states, “when President Trump became our standard-bearer, I was proud to campaign in support of him and Mike Pence.” Hightower includes a picture of him on the Trump-Pence bus tour. That, however, would have been in the fall of 2016 and has no bearing on his support of Trump in the March Primary. Only 43-percent of Alabama Republicans, though, voted for Trump in the 2016 Primary. By that standard, there are lots of “Never Trumpers” in Alabama.

The ad features a clearly photoshopped picture of Hightower wearing a “Never Trump” button. “I never have and never would wear a “Never Trump” sticker,” Hightower said on his campaign website. “That’s just dishonest, deceptive.”

Pro Hightower/Anti Carl Ad

Who paid for it: Club for Growth Action – a political action committee with a stated mission of “defeating big-government politicians and replacing them with pro-growth, limited government conservatives.”

Where to see it:

What it says:
“Carl promised to oppose tax handouts to big businesses when he ran for County Commission. Then, Carl supported handing out more than $20 million in tax money to billion dollar corporations.”

Source cited: article 3/11/2012

Reality: Carl may have criticized his opponent, incumbent Mike Dean, for providing incentives to bring ThyssenKrupp Steel and Airbus to Mobile County, but as County Commissioner, he has supported using public funds to bring jobs to the area. He even mentioned his support for Walmart, Amazon, and the expansion of Airbus and Austal when announcing his run for Congress in February 2019. Mobile County’s economic development incentives are typically funded by a tobacco tax. The only time a referendum was held for economic incentives, Mobile County residents voted 3:1 in 2007 to provide tens of millions for the ThyssenKrupp project.

The Alabama Republican Run Off is March 31.


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