Bingo dominates talk as Demo runoff for AG nears

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 6, 2010

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — One of the biggest issues the next Alabama attorney general will face is unfolding in the state’s courts and on dusty roads in rural Greene County as two lawyers campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination to the legal post in the July 13 runoff.

Birmingham attorney Giles Perkins was standing outside the gates to Greenetrack Thursday as state troopers inside prepared to seize hundreds of electronic bingo machines, which the governor’s task force on illegal gambling considers slot machines. He was joined by dozens of Greenetrack employees who lost their jobs when the task force shut the track down last week.

Meanwhile Perkins’ opponent in the runoff, Montgomery attorney James Anderson, while campaigning in Birmingham and other areas, said he thought it was ironic that Perkins showed up at the entrance to the casino when he has criticized Anderson for not signing a pledge to refuse to take campaign donations from gambling interests.

Perkins said he was at Greenetrack Thursday mostly to show his support for state Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, who was arrested at the track.

“I went down there because Bobby Singleton has been a friend of mine for 15 years and I feel people running for statewide office need to be on the ground and determine what’s going on,” said Perkins, former executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party.

While their approaches differ, Anderson and Perkins mostly agreed on what needs to be done, saying there should be a statewide vote to determine if Alabama voters want electronic bingo to be legal.

Anderson said the attorney general must determine from the courts whether electronic bingo is legal or not.

“Some people say they are slot machines. Other people say it’s bingo,” Anderson said.

Perkins said the only solution is “for the Legislature to act and allow the people to vote on whether they want gaming,” Anderson said.

Anderson received more than 49 percent of the vote in the June 1 Democratic Party Primary, just short of being enough to win his party’s nomination without a runoff. But Perkins said his hopes were buoyed because he did well in the Birmingham area and in parts of the Black Belt.

While a low turnout is mostly expected in the Democratic runoff, Perkins said he expects more voters in the 7th Congressional District, which includes both Birmingham and some Black Belt counties, because of the Democratic runoff for that congressional seat.

In the Nov. 2 general election, the runoff winner will face Birmingham attorney Luther Strange, who defeated incumbent Attorney General Troy King in the June 1 Republican Primary.

One area where the two runoff candidates have differed is on the death penalty.

Perkins has called for a moratorium on executions in Alabama until there can be a review of how the death penalty is being administered and authorities can determine the state is not at risk of executing innocent people.

Anderson said he would like to review how the death penalty is being administered, but he doesn’t see a need to stop executions. He said he’s convinced that some death row inmates are really guilty.

Anderson also has criticized Perkins for not releasing his tax returns, as Anderson has.

Perkins said a priority for him as attorney general would be to make sure that Gulf Coast residents and businesses harmed by the BP oil spill are adequately compensated.

“I would set up shop on the beach and say you people are not going to be taken advantage of on my watch,” Perkins said.

Anderson said a priority for him would be to encourage the Legislature to pass ethics reform legislation and pointed to his long career as an attorney, which included three terms on the Alabama Bar Commission and a stint as state bar vice president.