Exclusive: Jim Bonner, candidate for PSC, reacts to polling and trolling

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Few things can cause a stir as much as a political upset and Alabama has seen several of those in recent years. From Gary Palmer unexpectedly winning his congressional seat, to Doug Jones and Randall Woodfin — the surprises keep coming. Which is why following the release of polling data that shows yet another upset on the horizon, politicos and reporters across Alabama are buzzing this week about the Public Service Commission: Place 1 race. There, Jim Bonner, a controversial Republican candidate for the position, is unexpectedly polling ahead of his opponent, six-year incumber Jeremy Oden.
Many believe Bonner is making good on a case of mistaken identity and riding the coattails of former Alabama Congressman Jo Bonner of Mobile. News outlets across the state have begun to point out just that:

The Alabama Public Service Commission race, where little-known James “Jim” Bonner  is challenging incumbent Jeremy Oden. Bonner is actually leading Oden in recent polls because voters in the Mobile area are confusing him with former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, who served the area in Congress for more than a decade. He is also seeing wide support in the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa areas because of former University of Alabama Chancellor Judy Bonner.

Yellowhammer News

Jim Bonner, a controversial candidate for Alabama Public Service Commission, Place 1, is showing promise as he leads his 6-year incumbent competitor among some Alabama voters, particularly those who used to be represented in Congress by Jo Bonner of Mobile.

Even politicos are getting in on the debate.

Cygnal, a Montgomery-based polling firm, Founder and President Brent Buchanan had to say this:

What makes this particular race so interesting is that Jim Bonner is benefiting greatly from having the same last name as the former Congressman Jo Bonner and his well-known sister former Judy Bonner. This is borne out by the fact that in the Mobile media market Jim Bonner leads Jeremy Oden by 28% to 6%, a 4-to-1 ratio.

…It appears from the data that this PSC race is within the margin of error strictly because of name confusion. Jim Bonner is competitive across the state despite the fact that he has spent no money on advertising or building his name ID. Given what is expected to be a low turnout election, Jim Bonner would be favored to win this race if it were held today.

Facebook posts

Beyond the name confusion, many of the same critics are hitting Bonner for a series of “questionable” posts on social media calling him anti-Semitic and racist.
In post after post, Bonner seems to revel in racist, sexist and anti-semite comments, but this has dampened his support among those who think he is someone he’s not,” wrote APR.
February 12
But Bonner doesn’t think he’s racist or anti-Semitic at all. Just this morning, he responded to a post on his Facebook wall about political correctness and those attacking him.
“The base republicans ( the swamp) are shoveling money into liberal attach dogs to go through my facebook line by line and find something they can use to let the public know that Jim Bonner is unfit to be a member of the party that produced Guy Hunt, Mike Hubbard, Roy Moore, and Bentler the luv guv,” he wrote.

What the polling says

According to a poll released by Cygnal, the Republican primary electorate was 77% conservative, 16% moderate, and 4% liberal with the rest somehow undecided on their ideology. Of those with the highest propensity to show up and vote on June 5th, this PSC example has Oden ahead by one point.
“Primary election voters are some of the most hardcore, yet they still don’t know who many of the candidates on the ballot are. Voters either skip the race all together or pick a somewhat familiar name, even when it’s not who they think it is,” Buchanan concluded.
The Cygnal survey was conducted between May 14 – 16, 2018, with 623 voters who have a history of Republican primary participation and say they are likely on June 5th. The survey included 200 cell phone interviews and has a 4.4% margin of error. It was paid for by multiple private participants and included mostly private questions for those subscribers, which will not released.

Bonner weighs in

With all of the accusations and speculations, Alabama Today reached out to Bonner to get his side of the story. Here are his responses in full:

Why are you running for office?

The Public Service Commission was created to ensure that the ratepayers are protected and that all recipients receive services equally. As a Republican, I believe this begins with ensuring our Alabama Corporations earn enough money to provide adequate services to their consumers and pay reasonable wages to their employees. As PSC, I would work to equitably balance the needs of the ratepayers while supporting the profits of our Alabama Corporations.

 

What do you offer the PSC that your primary opponent Jeremy Oden does not?

My campaign has been primarily self-funded plus a few small contributions from members of the community; I have not received contributions from major corporations. As such, I remain unbiased and uninfluenced by special interest groups. As an added bonus, I’m the only candidate with a background in electrical engineering, I have unescorted nuclear plant clearance, and I know how to use a voltmeter.   

Should people take your Facebook posts seriously? From defending the N-word to calling yourself a Bentley-Republican, to anti-Semitic posts? Do you stand by those posts? What do you want voters to take away from them?

The post that have been brought to light the past few days have been intentionally cut, cropped, and picked apart to paint me as one of the “bad republicans.” For example, my “defense of the N-word” was taken from a thoughtful blog post from 2014 advocating preservation of literature, specifically Mark Twain’s works. The image of the pregnant girl in uniform was linked to a pro-life discussion following the controversy of allowing girls to join the boy scouts. The “anti-semitic post” was a meme of a fake valentine shared as follow up to an earlier comment thread about Von Braun’s affiliation with the Nazi Party. Each post, out of context, can be made to seem much more damning than it was in its original presentation.

The truth is, I’m not a racist, sexist, anti-semitic, bigot. I’m just a wry man with a dry sense of humor who shares articles, memes, and jokes that are meant to encourage debate and discussion. These posts are not driven by hate but by free speech. I do not censor the content on my page and I have not and will not “scrub” the page or remove any controversial content.

As a reminder, many of the posts being scrutinized are years old. Such is the case for the “Bentley -Republican” comment. I met Bentley in Cullman and worked with his Fayette campaign coordinator years ago. Yes, there was a time when I, just like many other Alabamians, was seduced by the idea of a doctor in the Governor’s office. The controversy that arose after Bentley allowed Rebecca Mason to infiltrate his office and put herself above the office of Governor ultimately led to his resignation. Everyone has flaws but like a bitter divorce… you never see it coming. It is particularly unfortunate because my opponent was appointed by Bentley, and in a way, I am tainted too.  

Finally, have you seen the recent poll that shows you lead your opponent Jeremy Oden by 4 pts. What do you think of those numbers? Many are saying it’s a case of mistaken identity, as Mobile-residents believe you are former Rep. Jo Bonner. Do you think that’s the case?

The short and accurate answer would be no; I do not believe I am leading because people have mistaken me for someone else. My supporters are not as stupid as the Democrats would have you believe. People are struggling with the idea that a candidate with no special interests money could be leading in the polls. The truth is I lead by the widest margin in fraternal circles where people know my opponent and myself intimately.  

In Mobile the Bonner name is common and nobody mistakes me for Jo or Judy or Paul or Bill; but, they know them and as one resident who stopped to shake my hand at Winzels Oyster House recently said, ” A Bonner is a Bonner, put them in a sack and shake em up, when you pour them out they all the same”. This is not a derogatory comment; Bonners share a common ancestry, dating much beyond the common John Bonner who served two terms as a Republican legislator to the Captain John Bonner who plied the waters of New England with Captain Kidd.

So, no, I’m not leading because of mistaken identity. I’m leading because I’m a Bonner, heart and soul.

Additional thoughts or comments?

In closing, I leave you with the positive assurance that these distorted half fact lies are directly from the democrats attack ads, similar to those of 2010 authorized by Milton McGregor (RIP) and Roger Bedford. They are laying the groundwork and preparing to campaign against me in the general election. It won’t work…but like a good soap opera it does make you wonder what will happen next…

To find out you will have to vote for me, JIM BONNER (yes, that Jim Bonner) on June 5th.

 

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