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Race for governor has begun

My comment in last week’s column that Governor Don Siegelman’s remarks about a lottery were casual and not a planned part of his campaign agenda apparently was a bit premature. This past weekend he seemed to make it clear that he is for trying the lottery again and will be promoting that during his re-election effort.

I still feel that it will be a &uot;hard go&uot; to achieve passage of a lottery in Alabama. The same groups which organized in a very effective manner last time will no doubt be working hard again, against it, and based on contacts with my office during the past three years, there are a number of additional groups who have formed with the objective of opposing any and all gambling measures in our state.

Each gubernatorial candidate opposing Siegelman’s re-election has come out four square against the lottery during the past several days, and I am confident a number of legislative candidates will follow suit between now and the primary.

Mention of the lottery could very well present a challenge to those who are seeking meaningful constitutional reform. Opponents of constitutional reform have insisted all along that reform will open the door for legalized gambling. If the lottery stays in the forefront of &uot;political discussion&uot;, then the chances are that the concerns about gambling and our Constitution will be magnified.

It is my opinion that gambling does not have to be a difficult issue to handle in reforming our Constitution. The current Alabama Constitution prohibits gambling and there is no reason why a revised version could not prohibit it as well.

On the other hand, taxation is a more difficult issue to deal with in constitutional reform. You cannot just prohibit taxation. You must revise our tax laws if they are to be more equitable and in so doing no doubt some citizens will pay more and some will pay less. Otherwise, there would be no &uot; reform&uot;.

Based on what I have read and on the meetings I have had with constituents, I do not think it is constitutional reform that is drawing opposition. It is the nature of approaching the reform. Many citizens are anxious about a constitutional convention because they feel it would be dominated by special interest groups. I share this concern, but I am willing to listen to proposals that hopefully would eliminate such a prospect.

The lottery, education and economic development dominated the issues in the gubernatorial race four years ago and apparently these will be the same issues on the front burner this time around. Crime and safety are also high on any agenda for those seeking to serve in public office, and it will be interesting over the next several weeks to see how the candidates approach these important matters in their respective campaigns.

A Mobile Register-University of South Alabama statewide poll conducted over the past several days has Congressman Bob Riley leading Lt. Governor Steve Windom in the June 4 Republican primary and the poll further states that in a head to head race in November that Riley would edge out Siegelman by some five points. The poll did disclose that there are a considerable number of undecided voters and they will probably decide who is victorious and who is not.

My week has involved meetings with veterans, city councils, county commissions and young people part of 4-H Club programs and activities. It was my pleasure on Sunday afternoon in Luverne to be a part of the awards program for 4-H’ers throughout Crenshaw County. Helen Saffold, County Extension agent and coordinator for the 4-H program, hosted an outstanding awards program which recognized the achievements of several young people who will be our future leaders.

It was my privilege on Friday evening to be on the Alabama Tree Farm Convention program at the Governor’s House Hotel in Montgomery, which recognized Barnett and Edna King of Luverne for their outstanding achievements as tree farmers. They earned the distinction of being named National Tree Farmers of the Year, well deserved recognition for two outstanding Alabamians.

Until next week, remember &uot;I’ll go with you or I’ll go for you&uot; to help you solve any problem related to state government. You can reach me by telephone at 334-335-3449 or 334-244-1877.