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.
- WAAY 31's Top 10 Stories of 2017
- WAAY 31's Top 10 Stories of 2019
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