Birmingham--Alabama voters have less than a week to decide the Republican and Democratic nominees for governor. Alabamians have already endured months of campaigning, political ads, attacks and counter attacks. So as we look to the June first primary, WBHM's Andrew Yeager has this final exam of sorts for the candidates.
The test is pretty simple, at least format-wise. Consider it an essay test with just one question. What is your top priority? In other words, if you win the governor's office, what will you start working on from day one? We'll start with the Democrats and Congressman Artur Davis.
Davis was first elected to Congress in 2002 and previously served as an assistant U.S. Attorney. He casts a wide net in describing his top priority - turning Alabama around.
"We're going to have to begin the process of writing a new constitution if I'm governor. We're going to pass the strongest ethics legislation that's ever been passed. And we're going to have an aggressive strategy for going after jobs that we haven't had in Alabama before."
Davis says he'll focus on creating new jobs in alternative energy, information technology and bio-medicine. He also wants to create a cabinet level post for economic recruitment for rural communities.
The other Democrat seeking the governor's office is current Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks. He says the first thing he would do is let Alabamians vote on a plan to legalize, tax and regulate gambling. Sparks says gambling revenue will help support Medicaid and education initiatives. Sparks also wants to establish a state lottery to fund college scholarships.
"I just believe that every child in Alabama when they walk across that graduating stage they deserve to get a high school diploma in one hand and a scholarship in the other."
So those are the quick responses from the Democrats. Jumping over to the Republican side, seven candidates are running for that nomination. But for this exam we're focusing on the top three according to recent polling - that's Roy Moore, Tim James and Bradley Byrne.
Byrne is a former state senator and chancellor of the two year college system. He has a very specific plan for kicking off his administration. Byrne says the day after the inauguration he would call a special legislative session to tackle ethics. He wants to ban transfers among political action committees, require lobbyist to disclose what they spend on legislators and give subpoena power to the state ethics commission.
"Bobby Jindal did that in Louisiana right after he was elected and it turned out to be a big success for Louisiana. And I'd like to do that for Alabama."
Byrne says economic development is another top priority and he would establish an office to provide assistance to small businesses.
Roy Moore comes into the race with perhaps the most name recognition among Republican candidates. He's the former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He was removed from the bench after refusing to take down a Ten Commandments display from the state courthouse. But that's not his focus in the primary. Moore says Alabama needs to improve the state's economy by removing regulation and taxes.
"I will stop yearly reappraisals of property which costs the people of Alabama and Alabama businesses millions of dollars each year."
Moore would also look to cut wasteful spending from the state budget, though a campaign spokeswoman could not say what specific programs he might cut.
Finally, Tim James. He's the son of former Governor Fob James and has been involved in the construction business. Tim James has gained attention in recent weeks for an ad criticizing the fact Alabama offers drivers license exams in 12 languages.
"This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it."
That ad may be the first thing voters associate with James now, but he told WBHM last year he's concerned with the economy.
"The message at the state level is we're going to balance our budget. We're going to do what families have to do and we're going to get our fiscal house in order."
James says he would veto any bill calling for new taxes. He says he would also offer the same economic incentives to Alabama companies as those offered to out-of-state businesses.
So that's it! We're done reading our single question, gubernatorial exam. Next step, grading them. And grades are due next Tuesday.
~ Andrew Yeager, May 27, 2010