James defends controversial ad

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, April 29, 2010

Greenville resident and gubernatorial candidate Tim James is making national headlines with a controversial political advertisement calling for an English-only state driver’s exam.

“We’re only giving that test in English,” James said in the ad that began airing last week, sparking media attention from coast to coast. “Maybe it’s just the businessman inside of me, but we’ll save money and it makes sense.”

The Alabama Drivers test is currently offered in 12 languages: Arabic, Chinese,

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English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese. As of the 2000 census, 4 percent of Alabama citizens spoke languages other than English at home.

James defended his controversial television ad in a press release Wednesday, saying it was not intended to discourage non-English speakers from moving to Alabama.

“We welcome non-English speaking people, who are legally in the U.S., to Alabama,” James said. “However, if you want to drive in our state, public safety concerns dictate that you need to speak English.”

Dr. David Martin, political science professor emeritus from Auburn University, wasn’t surprised by James’s move.

“The big question seems to be who’s going to be in the Republican runoff after the primaries,” Martin said. “I think you’ll see not only Tim James, but possibly other Republican candidates trying to appeal to a very narrow band of people if they think it will mobilize people to vote for them in the primary.”