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There is already movement for campaign 2002

MONTGOMERY-Because political campaigning in Alabama never stops…most especially for the office of governor…already there is movement for the 2002 gubernatorial campaign.

It is a given that Gov. Don Siegelman will seek a second term, and with the high approval ratings he has will likely have no more than token opposition…if that…in winning the Democratic Party nomination.

The Republican Party, thanks to Guy Hunt and Fob James, got a taste of what it is like to have one of their own in the top office, will certainly make a major effort to regain that seat.

Some GOP bigwigs would love to see either U. S. Sens. Richard Shelby or Jeff Sessions run for governor, but don't hold your breath on that. They are quite content where they are.

Lt. Gov. Steve Windom is of course a possibility and the polls show a strong surge in his voter approval after his numbers plunged in the wake of "Operation Jug" some 18 months ago.

Another name cropping up a lot is Congressman Bob Riley of Ashland. The word is that like at least one other GOP congreessman, Riley has enjoyed about all he can stand of the Washington life and may be inclined to come back home.

Anything can happen between now and 2002, but at the moment Siegelman-who is enjoying being governor more than any chief executive in years-probably isn't lying awake at night worrying about the 2002 election. He's in the cat bird's seat and he knows it.

The old rule that a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush may come into play in the billion dollar settlement the state of Alabama has reached with the tobacco industry.

Under the terms of a national agreement with the tobacco companies Alabama is scheduled to be paid $3.16 billion over a 25 year period.

However, fearful that the industry might not be able to pay that amount in full, the state is looking at a plan where it would accept less money with more certainty.

Rep. Howard Hawk, D-Arab, is one legislator who has declared his opposition to the proposed agreement.. He said the plan would mean the state would get only about 55 cents on the dollar under this proposal.

"I personally think that's an extremely high insurance premium," Hawk said.

There is absolutely no logic to the salaries paid to public officials and employees in Alabama. And it only gets worse.

What always surprises many people is that there are literally thousands on the state payroll who make more than the governor, but that is but one of many examples. And no mention needs to be made of what football coaches are paid in comparison to governmental leaders.

Another example of this came to the surface a few days ago. The State Board of Education approved a new contract for State School Supt. Ed Richardson. His salary was boosted by eight per cent to $166,000. The headlines noted this made him the third highest paid state school superintendent in the nation…trailing only the Illinois superintendent ($190,000-a-year) and New York ($170,000.)

But in a strange twist, even at his new salary, Dr. Richardson will be paid less than Birminghan City School Supt. Johnny Brown ($187,000) and the two-year college Chancellor Fred Gainous ($183,000).

Go figure.