Governor#039;s race full of big name personalities

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

Leada Gore

Alabama's 2006 gubernatorial race is full of big personalities.

On the Republican side, there's a former Congressman and current governor who's basing his campaign on some of the strongest economic times in state history. There's also a former state chief justice who garnered national attention when he defied federal orders to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the state Capitol building, leading to his ouster from the state Supreme Court.

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On the Democratic side, the current lieutenant governor wants to move up to the state's highest post. She brings with her a larger-than-life persona and an instantly recognizable name that conjures up years of service and political controversy. There's also a former governor who, cleared in an earlier trial, is back in a courtroom defending himself against corruption charges.

Gov. Bob Riley, former Justice Roy Moore, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley and former governor Don Siegelman are the front runners in this year's gubernatorial race. They will face off in the June 6 primary and the winners in the Nov. 7 general election.

Each candidate is promising to build Alabama's economic growth, improve education and enhance the state's quality of life. While many of their goals are similar, the plans for achieving those goals are as varied as the candidates themselves.

Republican Riley became Alabama's 52nd Governor in 2003, defeating then-governor Siegelman in a hotly contested race.

Since that time, the state has enjoyed a booming economy and Riley said electing him can ensure the good times will keep rolling.

Riley said he plans to continue to recruit business and improve the quality of available jobs. On the education front, he'd like to continue programs such as the Alabama Reading Initiative and the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, as well as increasing the use of distance learning centers.

Riley also addresses immigration issues, saying the state led the nation in a partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and Alabama State Troopers to allow the local law officers to enforce some immigration laws.

Riley is a native of Clay County.

Riley's opponent, Moore of Etowah County, served as the state's Chief Justice from 2000 to 2003. He was removed from office after refusing to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments that he had placed in the Capitol Rotunda. His defiance led to his removal from the high court but also propelled him into the national spotlight and made him a favorite of many religious and conservative groups.

Moore's platform includes legislative reform, term limits and revocation of annual property tax appraisals. Moore also favors the establishment of charter schools and tax credits for families sending their children to private schools.

Moore isn't abandoning his push for religious freedoms, either. His platform includes a provision calling for protection for teachers, judges and state, county and municipal officers who publicly acknowledge God.

On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Baxley is vowing to create a cabinet-level post that's charged with developing small business in the state. She'd like to create another cabinet post to oversee her &#8220Faith in Government” initiative. That initiative includes items such as barring transfers from one political action committee to another and a call for accountability among elected officials.

Baxley said she'd also like to see standards of discipline improved in state classrooms and returning many of the local school decisions to teachers.

Baxley, who was elected state treasurer in 1994 and 1998 and lieutenant governor in 2002, also will push for the establishment of a Military Bill of Rights. Her proposal would protect rights and create opportunities for those serving in the military and their families.

Baxley is a native of Houston County.

Siegelman, a native of Mobile County, is also on the ballot, though he admits campaigning has been hard as he's been busy in a Montgomery courtroom where he faces corruption charges along for former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scushy.

Siegelman was cleared of separate corruption charges in 2004.

Siegelman has a long history in Alabama politics. He served as lieutenant goverenor from 1995 to 1999, state Attorney General from 1987 to 1991 and Secretary of State from 1979 to 1987 before being elected governor in 1999.

In his latest campaign, Siegelman is pushing for teacher testing and dismissal for teachers who don't meet standards, as well as bonuses for schools and teachers who do succeed.

Siegelman said he would also like to reestablish the Port of Mobile as the preeminent port in the Gulf of Mexico.

On the economic front, Siegelman said he'd reestablish the Alabama Commerce Commission to work with large and small businesses and he'd also launch a wide-scale infrastructure improvement effort.

Other candidates to qualify for the governor's race include: Joe Copeland, Harry Lyon, Katherine Mack, Nathan Mathis and James Potts.