WAAY 31's Top 10 Stories of 2017

Whether it was a major upset in a Senate race or an Alabama man becoming seventh in line of succession for U.S. President, what happened in Montgomery and Washington became a major focus.

Posted: Dec 28, 2017 9:26 PM

It was a year where state politics often became the top news on WAAY 31. Whether it was a major upset in a Senate race or an Alabama man becoming seventh in line of succession for U.S. President, what happened in Montgomery and Washington became a major focus.

Huntsville was also home to major stories, and some even made national news. Below are 10 stories which dominated headlines on-air and online at WAAYTV.com.

10. Dr. Matt Akin named Huntsville Superintendent

The Huntsville Board of Education held many contentious meetings when trying to hire the system's next leader. The board eventually voted 3-2 to hire Piedmont City Schools Superintendent Dr. Matt Akin to the position. Board members Elisa Ferrell, Walker McGinnis and Beth Wilder voted for Akin while board members Michelle Watkins and Pam Hill voted against hiring him, opting instead for Dr. Katrise Perera, who would later get hired at a school district in Oregon. This hiring process along with other issues led to many heated meetings and public disputes among board members.

9. MidCity Huntsville Opens

Topgolf is just the first opening of what was a nearly-vacant Madison Square Mall just 12 months prior. Topgolf's opening came just in time for Christmas, and the developer, RCP Companies, says restaurants, recreational areas and a boutique hotel are all on the horizon for the $350 million development. The strategic piece of property located at the corner of Research Park Boulevard and University Drive is expected to provide a big economic boost to the Huntsville economy.

8. President Donald Trump visits Huntsville

President Donald Trump made his first appearance in Madison County since becoming commander-in-chief at a packed Von Braun Center in September. Trump discussed many issues during his stay, and he made headlines with comments about National Football League player protests. A key reason for his visit was to rally voters to support incumbent U.S. Senator Luther Strange as he was set to face off in a primary battle with former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. The results of that race are coming up later in this list.

7. Google Fiber launches in Huntsville

Some in Huntsville now have more Internet service provider options now that Google Fiber has launched in the Rocket City. Google Fiber teamed with Huntsville Utilities by leasing dark fiber from the public utility's buildout. Google Fiber's entrance into the market has led to an arms race between many of the ISPs, as AT&T, Comcast and WOW! have all looked to increase its speeds in the past couple years. Google Fiber will continue to expand its Huntsville coverage throughout 2018.


6. Roy Moore beats Luther Strange in GOP primary runoff

Despite the support of President Donald Trump and Republican U.S. Senate leadership, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was able to come out of a heavily-contested primary beating appointed incumbent Luther Strange. The well-financed Strange campaign was unable to defeat Moore even though it dominated in ad buys with both positive Strange ads and negative Moore ads. Moore secured his party's nomination by defeating Strange by nearly 10 percent. He would go on to face Doug Jones in the U.S. Senate special election.

5. Jeff Sessions sworn in as US Attorney General

President Donald Trump tapped then-Alabama U.S. Senator Jeff Session to become U.S. Attorney General after he was an early supporter during his presidential campaign. Sessions underwent a contentious confirmation process before the Senate confirmed him by a 52-47 vote. The vote happened mostly along party lines, with only one Democrat voting to confirm him in a Republican-majority Senate. Sessions voted "present." Alabama Governor Robert Bentley would appoint Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to Sessions' Senate seat.

4. Redstone Arsenal active shooter scare

It was a typical June morning at Redstone Arsenal, which is Madison County's largest employer. That was until the arsenal sent text alerts and social media posts alerting everyone of an active shooter situation. The arsenal had scheduled an active shooter training session for the next day, but this wasn't a drill. The arsenal reported it received two 911 calls from the Sparkman Center claiming there was an active shooter. The arsenal went into lockdown as local, state and federal law enforcement acted. The lockdown soon caught the eyes of America as cable news and national networks focused their attention on the arsenal. It was determined hours later that there was no active threat, and there was not an active shooter on post. Normal activity eventually resumed, and the only medical issues anyone had were heat-related.

3. Huntsville bus crash in Atlanta kills 17-year-old

It was supposed to be a trip to Botswana, Africa, but a Huntsville church's mission trip ended tragically in Fulton County when the bus members were taking to the airport crashed, killing 17-year-old Sarah Harmening and injuring dozens. Crash investigators determined the bus driver tried to merge, but there was a vehicle in the other lane. The driver then lost control and the bus crossed over a median before rolling over. Harmening's family later that night would release her final journal entry, which stated that God is "going to do incredible things."

2. Robert Bentley resigns after arrest, plea deal

Robert Bentley's final moments as Alabama governor included being booked in the Montgomery County Jail on misdemeanor campaign finance charges and accepting a guilty plea which removed him from office. This was the culmination of a long scandal involving Bentley and his former aide Rebekah Mason. Mason, who played a key role in getting Bentley elected and re-elected governor, was the subject of a sexually charged phone conversation by the governor. While Bentley never admitted to the affair, an ethics investigation revealed the campaign finance crimes, and it eventually led to his resignation. Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey would be sworn in as Alabama governor shortly after the resignation.

1. Doug Jones beats Roy Moore to win US Senate special election

Democrat Doug Jones pulled off a major upset, defeating Republican Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate special election for what was formerly Jeff Sessions' seat. Jones was the first Democrat to be elected to the Senate in Alabama in more than two decades. It was a perfect storm for Jones, as he was able to get higher-than-expected Democratic turnout, while Republican enthusiasm for Moore was limited. Moore was the subject of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors, which may have been the deciding factor in his loss.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 490220

Reported Deaths: 9744
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson704661342
Mobile35810721
Madison32203443
Tuscaloosa23961409
Montgomery22417489
Shelby21773211
Baldwin19635272
Lee14883147
Morgan13571248
Etowah13118312
Calhoun13090283
Marshall11212203
Houston10036257
Limestone9321133
Elmore9313179
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St. Clair8771220
Lauderdale8570210
DeKalb8419173
Talladega7450162
Walker6492249
Jackson6466102
Autauga617285
Blount6072125
Colbert5978118
Coffee5229100
Dale4614106
Russell401431
Franklin397675
Covington3948105
Chilton383196
Escambia376670
Tallapoosa3559139
Clarke342749
Dallas3396140
Chambers3393103
Pike292771
Lawrence281284
Marion280793
Winston245665
Bibb243759
Marengo238554
Geneva238468
Pickens223554
Barbour209550
Hale208464
Fayette199356
Butler195165
Henry182341
Cherokee176338
Monroe165638
Randolph162740
Washington156233
Crenshaw143353
Clay143254
Macon140543
Cleburne136539
Lamar131632
Lowndes130148
Wilcox120825
Bullock116534
Conecuh106523
Perry105327
Sumter98231
Coosa86823
Greene86732
Choctaw54723
Out of AL00
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Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 768946

Reported Deaths: 11266
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby866001472
Davidson80790841
Knox45241571
Hamilton39979454
Rutherford37906375
Williamson25011202
Sumner21166312
Montgomery17207207
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Sullivan14169273
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Bradley12734138
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Madison10049226
Robertson8886118
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Anderson7893155
Greene7258144
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Cumberland6072117
Carter5926152
McMinn586289
Roane581795
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Loudon563164
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Cocke396192
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Cheatham385743
Campbell378158
Weakley377559
Giles371095
Henderson361173
Carroll346881
Hardeman337663
Macon335073
White333965
Hardin329762
Lauderdale309342
Henry298975
Marion290244
Wayne286430
Scott285042
Overton283757
Claiborne273666
McNairy265051
Haywood264359
Hickman262840
DeKalb261548
Smith253336
Grainger240746
Trousdale237922
Morgan228537
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Johnson215038
Chester200647
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Crockett196946
Unicoi179347
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Humphreys151321
Benton149939
Lewis145724
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