Siegelman: Job is about people, not politics

Published 1:05 am Friday, September 28, 2018

Joe Siegelman brought his campaign for attorney general to the Wiregress Thursday, starting his day in Andalusia where he had breakfast, met with local law enforcement officers and first responders, and appeared on WAAO and WKNI before stopping by The Star-News.

Siegelman, the Democratic nominee, believes serving as attorney general should be about people, not politics.

“I want to bring the mindset of independence to the attorney general’s office,” he said. “People are tired of having to ask, having to wonder whether their government is working for them. They need to know whether decisions coming out of the AG’s office are for the best interest of state or are for some political reason.”

An example is a Texas lawsuit which current Attorney General Steve Marshall has joined on behalf of Alabama.

“We have seen our tax dollars and resources devoted to lawsuits out of state, that literally have no impact on Alabama,” he said. “They have either no impact on the state or make us worse off. This is absolutely government waste.”

The Texas lawsuit is about the Affordable Care Act, and puts the health care of more than 900,000 Alabamians at risk.

“It would make nearly a million of American’s worse off,” he said. “They would see their health care stripped, or their rates skyrocket.

“It is unfathomable to me,” Siegelman said. “The only explanation as to why he would do that is that he’s not about people.

“That’s the No. 1 change we have to make,” he said. “The  letter by your name cannot matter, and should not matter when people’s lives are at risk.”

Siegelman has been endorsed by Lodge 1 of Alabama’s Fraternal Order of Police, whose membership makes up more than half of the statewide membership. The state’s professional firefighters also endorsed him.

“Having the support of first responders and law enforcement means so much to me,” Siegelman said. “The attorney general can’t do his job without them. I am so excited they realize I support them. I want them to be able to do their jobs the very best they can so that I can do mine the best that I can.”

A good example is Selma, where two officers have been ambushed this month. On Sunday, an officer was shot in an ambush.

“Chief (Spencer) Collier complained that his officers don’t have all of the tools that they need to do their job and be protected,” Siegelman said. “That is wrong. If they need body armor, we’ve got to get them body armor. There should never be a law enforcement officer who is putting their life on the line, who can’t get the tools they need to make their jobs easier, and protect them.”

Siegelman said Alabama needs to be tough on crime, but smart, too.

“There is no excuse for not keeping people who need to remain in prison behind bars,” he said. “But we have too much warehousing of people with mental issues and drug addictions. If we can keep them out through diversion programs in the state, we can make sure violent offenders  remain behind bars.”

Siegelman, who has a positive demeanor, is hesitant to talk about his opponent.

“I want every vote I get to be for me, not against someone,” he said. But he said he’s concerned about a pending ethics complaint against his opponent, incumbent Steve Marshall, who was appointed to the office by former Gov. Robert Bentley. The complaint relates to a “dark money” campaign contribution of more than $700,000 to Marshall. Because it was received in a PAC-to-PAC transfer, the source of the funding is unknown.

“Alabama has lost a governor, a chief justice and the speaker of the house,” he said. “Those are the highest offices in every branch of government. Now our chief law enforcement officer is himself subject to ethics review. Potentially, if he is elected, he could end up being removed from office. I don’t know how our state can recover.

“I hope people will factor that into their choice and say, ‘Enough is enough.’

“We need a new perspective, a new and clean generation of leadership,” Siegelman said. “The distinction and difference between my opponent and me keeps getting wider and great.”