The Alabama Voter 
Fall 2009 Edition
Published December 19, 2009

East Alabama League Co-sponsors Gubernatorial Candidates Forum

by Charlotte Ward, LWVAL Co-President and LWVEA Director

The Center for Governmental Services at Auburn University had hoped to be the first to sponsor a forum for 2010 gubernatorial candidates. They contacted the East Alabama League in September, hoping for an October date. That seemed awfully early. We finally settled on Nov. 3, a year from election day. A few other groups had small gatherings for candidates before that.

The November event was a huge success. About 600 people gathered on the AU campus to hear six of the eight announced candidates. (Judge Moore did not respond to the Center’s invitation, and the Treasurer had to cancel.) in addition, about 75 people(your correspondent included) tuned in to all or part of the session as it was streamed live via the Opelika/Auburn News website.

The questions, prepared by League members in consultation with representatives of the Center and the Auburn and Opelika Chambers of commerce, the co-sponsors, covered topics suggested by respondents to a small citizens’ survey conducted by the Center. The topic suggested most often by respondents was ethics in government. Others were education, the economy, especially with respect to helping small businesses, the environment, tax reform, and constitutional reform. The moderator, Jeremy Campbell of ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, kept up the tempo so that every subject got addressed.
I listened for comments relating to league positions. Here is my summary:

CR: Only Artur Davis supports a convention. Bradley Byrne and Tim James acknowledge that CR is needed, but want the legislature to do it article by article. Robert Bentley sees nothing wrong with the 1901 document. The other candidates did not address the issue directly.

TAX REFORM: Davis, Byrne, and Sparks favor dropping the tax on groceries. Bentley feels sales tax is fairest because everyone pays it. Johnson, Byrne, and James expressed fear the “reform” means “increase,” especially on property.

ETHICS: All spoke for improvement, but suggested various approaches. Only James spoke against giving the ethics commission subpoena power.

EDUCATION: Everybody is for it, but no one seemed to have a new improved solution to regular shortfalls.

ENVIRONMENT: Discussion here ranged from ways to fight the “water wars” (Bentley, Sparks) to development of biofuels and nuclear power (James). Sparks and Davis spoke for better standards. Byrne emphasized the need to balance economic and environmental concerns.
It will be interesting to listen for more of the candidates’ position over the next 10 months.