As predicted by political strategist Jon Gray, the Senate District 32 race has gone negative. Candidate Chris Elliott’s campaign manager said this week a radio ad highlighting David Northcutt’s administrative record on the Alabama Board of Dental Examiners was the result of Northcutt’s alleged slander against his own candidate.
The ad accuses Northcutt, who operates a dental practice with locations around the state, of dispensing narcotics without a license. A narrator says “he pled guilty and was punished with probation,” also claiming Northcutt was accused of “10 counts of providing false, fraudulent, misleading and deceptive communications.”
The ad also claims Northcutt misused patients’ private information, and implores listeners to “get the facts at guiltydoctor.com.” That website redirects browsers to three consent orders Northcutt signed with the state Board of Dental Examiners, including one in 2004 acknowledging he prescribed and administered “controlled substances without a valid or current DEA registration.”
In an interview last week, Northcutt called it an administrative oversight, explaining his Drug Enforcement Administration license had simply expired without his knowledge.
“I was unaware of it and self-reported when I discovered it,” Northcutt explained. “The actions of the board were the result of my self-reporting.”
The documents also show Northcutt denied accusations of excluding certain legal disclaimers from advertising, but he was found guilty of three related counts: The language “results may vary in individual cases” was excluded from two pieces of advertising he was distributing. Another ad was cited for using the term “state of the art,” which was not permitted by board rules.
Northcutt characterized the order as “censoring,” noting it ended up costing him around $10,000 in “administrative fines,” but he also claimed the charges were the work of a hostile attorney on the dental board.
“I found out at the time the board had no executive director and the attorney was collecting these fines for personal profit, so I ran and got on the board after that and we were successful in getting rid of that attorney, who was on the board for over 35 years,” he said.
Northcutt served as one of six dentists on the dental board for a single five-year term, including two years as president. A call to the board attorney who signed those orders, James Ward, was not returned by press time.
Meanwhile, in his own campaign radio spot, Northcutt accuses Elliott of cozying up to pro-common core interests and tax hike enthusiasts, and again calls into question the Baldwin County commissioner’s actions after he was arrested for driving under the influence in 2016.
“Chris Elliott is in the pocket of Montgomery’s special interests,” the ad states. “He has received over $350,000 from liberal special interests who support common core, weakening gun rights and especially raising the gas tax because Elliott has agreed to raise your taxes.”
Indeed, Elliott has reported $257,775 in cash contributions since the primary June 5, bringing his total since first reporting a year earlier to $428,850. Supported early in his campaign by individuals and corporations, the recent infusion has largely been bankrolled by political action committees. Northcutt said he was on track to reach a $150,000 campaign contribution goal before the runoff July 17.
The Business Council of Alabama’s Progress PAC has injected $50,000 into the Elliott campaign. Other major donors come from organizations representing retail, real estate and construction interests, utility companies, a nursing home association and teachers’ unions. The emerging Coastal 150 PAC in South Alabama announced its own endorsement of Elliott Tuesday, garnering the candidate a $10,000 contribution.
Director Wiley Blankenship called the Coastal 150 “kind of like a mini version of the BCA for the coast,” explaining it comprises about 100 business members in Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia and Clarke counties representing a diverse group of family businesses and large industries. Members are listed online at coastal150.com.
Blankenship said both candidates were given a questionnaire and each participated in a forum for Coastal 150 members to evaluate and come to a consensus on who would earn the endorsement.
“It wasn’t hard to come to a decision,” Blankenship said of endorsing Elliott. “I will say there was no debate. Chris is a hard worker … I have witnessed his ability, he understands the process, has been successful at securing state and federal dollars, we admire his dedication to the I-10 bridge project and Foley Beach Express Extension. Chris is a realist. He knows it’s going to take hard work, but he is also going to build relationships in Montgomery to benefit coastal Alabama, whether it’s infrastructure or anything else.”
Blankenship also noted Coastal PAC is endorsing Willie Gray in the District 102 runoff, Twinkle Cavanaugh for lieutenant governor and Steve Marshall for attorney general. A relatively new organization, Blankenship said the group also intends to score elected officials’ performance going forward to account for their cooperation to work on local issues while in office.
Regarding Elliott’s DUI conviction, Northcutt’s ad states despite Elliott’s public statements that he was going to “own” his punishment, “he had his attorney in court say he was too important to lose his driver’s license because he was a politician.”
Gray said Elliott hired an attorney, as any DUI defendant has a right to, to adjudicate the charge as leniently as possible under Alabama law. Furthermore, Gray conducted a telephone poll last month and determined only 20 percent of voters were concerned about Elliott’s DUI conviction.
“It’s a non-issue,” Gray said.
Twenty-four percent of registered Baldwin County voters cast ballots in the primary last month. Secretary of State John Merrill said last week he expects about 17 percent statewide to show up for the runoff.