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

Confirmed Cases: 152272

Reported Deaths: 2621
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22300372
Mobile14273314
Tuscaloosa9886132
Montgomery9615196
Madison895192
Shelby700260
Lee643066
Baldwin636967
Marshall425348
Calhoun408459
Etowah399149
Morgan393232
Houston362332
DeKalb313326
Elmore308152
St. Clair276742
Limestone268327
Walker264192
Talladega253634
Cullman223923
Lauderdale204340
Autauga198928
Franklin198131
Jackson197914
Russell18993
Colbert188927
Dallas184527
Blount182723
Chilton178731
Escambia170328
Covington164429
Coffee16299
Dale161551
Pike130112
Tallapoosa126986
Chambers126643
Clarke126116
Marion103929
Butler99640
Barbour9819
Marengo96421
Winston88613
Geneva8297
Pickens79317
Randolph79314
Lawrence78830
Bibb78513
Hale73729
Cherokee71414
Clay70312
Lowndes69827
Bullock63417
Henry6286
Monroe6259
Washington62012
Crenshaw58830
Perry5796
Conecuh55413
Wilcox55412
Fayette54012
Macon52819
Cleburne5207
Sumter46421
Lamar4555
Choctaw38612
Greene33316
Coosa1963
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 228744

Reported Deaths: 2909
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby33996551
Davidson29425325
Knox1167986
Hamilton10983102
Rutherford10866106
Williamson648448
Sumner5551107
Wilson431853
Putnam407952
Montgomery378451
Out of TN361834
Madison359978
Unassigned35753
Bradley336821
Sevier312420
Sullivan310344
Blount306731
Washington299143
Maury297635
Robertson246239
Hamblen231643
Tipton217122
Gibson203537
Dyer199526
Hardeman177332
Trousdale17277
Coffee172020
Obion163017
Bedford157320
Wayne15537
Anderson154413
Dickson153518
Loudon152510
Fayette150521
Greene149249
Cumberland147724
McMinn147132
Jefferson144518
Lawrence142917
Weakley142925
Carter139832
Henderson134625
Warren13269
Monroe131923
Hardin130219
Lauderdale129218
Macon125524
Franklin119015
Haywood118325
Roane11696
Overton110611
Carroll108624
McNairy108325
Hawkins108023
Johnson10786
White107014
Marshall10238
Rhea102016
Lake9623
Cheatham95511
Smith93013
Bledsoe9174
Cocke91312
Giles88031
Campbell8497
Fentress8467
Lincoln7942
Crockett75120
Henry73610
Hickman72713
Chester71014
Marion6849
DeKalb66916
Decatur62011
Grainger5264
Grundy5048
Claiborne4926
Union4902
Polk46013
Jackson4155
Morgan4046
Humphreys4024
Benton3829
Cannon3812
Houston37914
Clay3629
Unicoi3461
Lewis3292
Sequatchie3214
Scott3144
Stewart3057
Meigs2904
Moore2412
Pickett2405
Perry1961
Van Buren1911
Hancock1123

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