Candidates offer nothing new in debate

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 21, 2002

There were few surprises in the Sunday night political debates. Except for a few questions and comments about the escalating negative political ad campaigns, neither gubernatorial candidate had anything new to offer voters.

It was the final meeting of U.S. Rep. Bob Riley and incumbent Gov. Don Siegelman, with questions given by four reporters.

Siegelman reiterated his plan for the education lottery, emphasizing the millions of dollars sent to Georgia and Florida through the purchase of lottery tickets.

"We need to capture that money," he said, adding that Alabama's money should be used to educate Alabama's Children.

Riley responded to Siegelman's education ideas by questioning why the governor only seemed to address education needs during an election. Siegelman responded by saying hat he pushed for the lottery in 1997, 1998 and1999.

Riley attacked Siegelman's plan for closing the "loopholes" that, according to Siegelman, allow businesses to avoid paying their share of taxes. Riley stated that, especially in a difficult economy, the last thing the state needed to do was cut business initiative.

Riley confronted Siegelman about the current ad campaign accusing him of being a tax cheat, stating that he had paid his taxes, and that he didn't "pay for services not rendered."

Siegelman again addressed the issue of Riley's lack of an educational funding plan.

Referring to the 90-page treatise Riley brought forth at the first debate, Siegelman said "Twenty-two thousand words, 90 pages, and we know he's got a horse."

In the debate for the lieutenant governor's race, candidates Lucy Baxley and Bill Armistead addressed spending issues, with Armistead criticizing the current "slush" fund for legislators to spend at their discretion and Baxley responding with accusations of the State Senator's "pork" fund.

In a later interview, Armistead explained that the $100,000 "pork" was received by all senators and that while there may be some abuse elsewhere, he turned his over to the educational systems of his county. He stated that he could turn the money back over tot he Senate, but it would only be portioned out to other senators and his district's money would end up benefiting other people than his own constituents.

In the race for U.S. Senate, Sen. Jeff Sessions and challenger Susan Parker agreed on more issues than not, and the debate only grew heated when the question of party loyalty arose. Sessions accused Parker of voting a straight party ticket and questioned her previous support of Presidential candidates Mondale and Gore.


"I am a Democrat but I don't agree with everything they do," Parker answered.

She accused Sessions of also voting a strict party line and catering to the wealthy. She claimed that his $5 million campaign treasure chest was filled by drug companies and insurance firm.

"I resent any implication that I will sell my vote for a two-bit contribution," Sessions responded.

Both candidates agreed on the need to fix Social Security, but not how, and both agreed on federal judgeships and supporting President Bush in a decision to invade Iraq.

The general election will be held Nov. 5. The Star-News will print a sample ballot in the Thursday, Oct. 24 edition.