Candidates spent $500K+ on campaigns

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2014

Candidates in the race for Alabama Senate District 31, which includes Covington County, have spent more than a half million dollars campaigning, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state of Alabama.

Friday, both the incumbent and challenger talked about issues before them.

First on incumbent Sen. Jimmy Holley’s list is dual enrollment, a program which allows high school students to simultaneously earn high school and college credits.

“I look forward to going back to Montgomery and looking at the opportunities we have to utilize existing resources and assets to expand this program,” Holley said.

The technical aspects are important, he said. Alabama can’t have economic development without trained workers. If the state gets 10th, 11th and 12th graders enrolled in skilled programs early, it is a win, win, the senator said.

“It’s good for Mama and Daddy, good for students, and good for our economy,” he said.

Another priority in Montgomery will be dealing with the Retirement System of Alabama, he said.

“We’ve got to continue to improve it,” Holley said, adding that Alabama must look at models from other states. Critics say the system cannot currently sustain payments it makes to retirees if the rolls continue to swell.

Holley, who is a Republican from Elba, has been endorsed by the Business Council of Alabama and by the Alabama Retail Association. He has received political contributions from numerous interests in the state.

The challenger, Garreth Moore, is an Enterprise Republican who previously served in the Alabama House. His campaign received $350,000 of its $350,550 in contributions from the Alabama Education Association.

Moore said his top priorities include education and job creation.

“Jobs is probably my No.1 issue,” Moore said. “We’ve been underserved when it comes to job creation in the southeastern part of the state. I think we’ve had a void in leadership in the statehouse.”

Moore said that area of the state is prime for aviation-related industry.

“We’re definitely an aviation-minded community,” he said. “With Fort Rucker, we have a wealth of experience and a great workforce for aviation industries.”

Moore said that potential for job growth includes Covington County.

“Covington County has a great airport that is prime for expansion and has lots of room for job growth,” he said.

Concerning education, Moore said there is a simple way to improve the situation statewide.

“We need to repeal Common Core and get back to us having local control,” Moore said. “We don’t need to let Obama control our schools.”

Moore said he is also concerned about the federal government stepping into Alabama’s prison system.

“We’ve got some issues facing our prisons,” he said. “They’re overcrowded. They are at about 190 percent capacity, and the federal government is going to step in and take control if we don’t get a handle on it very soon.”

But Moore said building more prisons in the state is not the answer.

“We need to look closely at our sentencing structure,” he said. “Building more prisons shouldn’t be our first option. We need to look more closely at non-violent offenders. People are spending decades in jail in for non-violent offenses. In the past, we’ve had a lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key mentality. We can’t afford to have that anymore.”

Holley said the state’s priority in prisons has to be addressing the issues in Tutwiler, the state’s prison for women. The prison system has come under fire in recent months for conditions there.

“Already, we are taking a nearby mental health facility and renovating it so that we can move some inmates there,” Holley said. “So priority No. 1 is improvements at Tutwiler. We’ve got to lessen the population there if that is going to happen.”

As for Alabama’s crowded prisons in general, Holley said, “We will have to build more, or expand into other facilities.”

Moore, who is not related to current Alabama Rep. Barry Moore, also of Enterprise, said he believes AEA backed him so strongly because the organization was looking for conservative candidates.

“I think the AEA was looking to back a truly conservative candidate, and I applaud them for that,” he said. “I think if the AEA was expecting anything, they came to the wrong person.”