By Sebastian Kitchen
Montgomery Advertiser/McClatchy Tribune News
Gov. Robert Bentley is not supporting Bill Armistead’s bid for another term as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party and is instead backing a Birmingham attorney to run the party for the next two years.
Bentley announced his support for Matt Fridy during a Thursday conference call with members of the party’s executive committee. Fridy announced his candidacy and talked about himself and his history.
“I am endorsing Matt, and I am asking you to support Matt, and I believe we can continue to move our party forward and continue on the path of unity that I believe we desperately need as we move forward,” Bentley said.
Two years ago, Armistead enjoyed the support of Bentley while former Gov. Bob Riley supported his opponent, state Rep. Jay Love of Montgomery. But now some Love and Armistead supporters appear to be working together to elect Fridy.
In the conference call, Bentley thanked Armistead for his service and hard work for the past two years and said his endorsement of Fridy was not him being negative toward Armistead. The governor said he felt the party needs to be unified leading up to the 2014 election and said Fridy is the best person to lead the party.
“We need to have unity in the party and work together,” Bentley said.
Armistead said Thursday evening that he did not believe members of the executive committee would base their decision on the endorsement of an elected official.
He said he knows a majority of the committee still supports him.
“From what I have been told by Republicans who serve on the executive committee, they don’t like to be told who to vote for,” he said. “That was very obvious two years ago.”
Armistead said he knew ahead of time that Bentley was going to endorse Fridy and said he has talked to Bentley since learning about the endorsement, but declined to divulge any details of the conversation or why Bentley told him he was endorsing Fridy.
“I certainly did not expect it when I first learned he was going to do that because of our past close relationship,” Armistead said of the endorsement. “It is his decision. He has to stand by that.”
Armistead said he has been very supportive of Bentley during his time as chairman.
Fridy said that after he became a member of the party’s steering committee, he became aware that there was too much infighting.
While the infighting is nothing new, Fridy said, “it’s gotten bad over these last couple years.”
“It is time for it to stop,” he said. “ — If elected, I will work tirelessly to bridge the rifts that have developed.”
Fridy, who was elected chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party in 2004, said he is a conservative, but the party has become more about personality than principle for some members. He said there needs to be more of an emphasis on teamwork than self-promotion.
“It is time for a new model of leadership,” he said.
Fridy said his vision moving toward the 2014 election is to ensure financial responsibility and accountability, to be transparent, to redouble fundraising efforts, to unify the party, to strengthen the local parties and to produce results.
Fridy vowed not to allow the Alabama Education Association and other special interests that are not a part of the Republican Party to take a “foothold.”
“Folks, make no mistake, the AEA and other liberal special interests are coming after us,” he said.
Fridy said that in his legal practice, he has spent a “good bit of time representing Republican candidates and Republican interests in legal challenges.”
Fridy, who has managed political campaigns in the state, worked for Republican judges Glenn Murdock, when Murdock served on the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals and the Alabama Supreme Court, and William Thompson, presiding judge of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. A Montevallo resident, he returned to the Birmingham firm of Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt LLC in May.
In his law practice, Fridy focuses on “appellate litigation as well as constitutional law, governmental law and general litigation,” according to his firm’s website.