Byrne supporter to protest at AEA headquarters Tuesday

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - One of the Alabama Republican Party's executive committee members says he will begin picketing in front of the Alabama Education Association headquarters in Montgomery starting Tuesday.

He'll protest what he calls their "unethical and maybe illegal" involvement in the runoff race.

Rick Sellers is a Bradley Byrne supporter, and Byrne has made the AEA "public enemy number one" in many of his campaign ads airing statewide right now.

Sellers says he will try to get half of the AEA's members to drop out of the organization to protest what he calls their silent support for Byrne's opponent Robert Bentley. "AEA has messed up any positive message and serious debate we could've had," Sellers said at a press conference Monday. "So I'm urging average people to come out and join me in the picket line starting tomorrow morning at 8."     

Sellers says he thinks the AEA and it's leader, Dr. Paul Hubbert have spent millions quietly backing Bentley, and Sellers will be on the picket lines everyday this week in the morning and afternoon to try and convince AEA members to drop out of the organization in protest, especially the estimated 40% of the association who call themselves republicans.

"We think it's really silly for anybody, especially teachers and educators in Alabama, don't get to participate in this election," said AEA rep Lance Hyche. "Up to 40% of our membership call themselves Republicans and have participated in Republican elections, and we plan on doing that again. If teachers and educators wanna come out and vote on July 13th then they should, and we can't figure out why Bradley Byrne and Bob Riley wanna stop them."

The AEA says it isn't endorsing a candidate, and the Bentley campaign says it welcomes anyone who wants to vote in next Tuesday's runoff.

So will targeting Hubbert and the AEA pay off for Byrne and his supporters? Birmingham Southern College political analyst Natalie Davis isnt' so sure. "Average folks are not quite sure who Paul Hubbert is," Davis said. "If you're not following all of that, I'm not sure you really have a picture of what role he does play, even if you know that much about him. And when we ask voters about their ideas and attitudes about the AEA, by and large they're positive."

Sellers said today he's gotten 6 teachers to drop their AEA membership so far. That's a start, but the AEA has more than 100,000 members.

Sellers says he knows this won't happen this week or even this year, but he's committed to try, even after next week's runoff.

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