Mitchell sides with Barron

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 9, 2007

Sen. Wendell Mitchell had a first person view at the punch heard around the state on Thursday.

Sen. Charles Bishop (R-Jasper) took a heated exchange between himself and Sen. Lowell Barron (D-Fyffe) to the extreme, striking Barron with a punch before both men were separated on the final day of the session.

Mitchell (D-Luverne), Deputy Pro Tem of the Senate, called the incident &#8220inexcusable” and &#8220regrettable,” and said he is siding with Barron.

&#8220Look at who is involved,” said Mitchell. &#8220Sen. Bishop has a long and volatile history. It doesn't take much to trigger him.”

Mitchell said he was sitting directly opposite from the two men and watched as Bishop made a &#8220beeline” towards Barron's desk once the session was in recess. Bishop has said Barron called him &#8220son of a bitch,” which led to him throwing the punch.

Mitchell said he believed Barron said nothing.

&#8220If he (Barron) did, it wasn't during that particular exchange,” said Mitchell. &#8220If Lowell had not turned his head, he could have ended up with a broken nose.”

It's not the first time Bishop has been involved in public confrontation, said Mitchell, although none of the previous ones have come to blows. In April, Bishop and Sen. Hank Sanders (D-Selma) got into a heated argument on the senate floor over a resolution apologizing for slavery.

Sanders and Bishop have had issues before. In 1984, when both were first-time legislators, Sanders took issue with Bishop greeting as &#8220big boy” and the two almost fought.

Two decades ago, Bishop asked Sen. Larry Dixon (R-Montgomery) to &#8220go into the little boy's room and settle this like men.”

Mitchell characterized Bishop's actions on Thursday as &#8220mean” and &#8220ugly,” and said he felt the fight wasn't a culmination of a legislative session where lawmakers sparred almost daily.

&#8220If it had been started by another senator you could have said that,” he said.

Mitchell said the session was, in fact, highly productive as the Legislature passed a $6.7 billion education budget and $1.8 billion general fund budget. Gov. Bob Riley signed both budgets into law on Thursday.

Additionally, the Senate passed 55 pieces of legislation during its final day, said Mitchell, and he was particularly proud of the incentive package that helped lure ThyssenKrupp AG to Alabama.