Republican candidates face off in last chance debate

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With only occasional finger pointing and no raised voices the issues plaguing Alabamians took center stage at the Alabama Public Television gubernatorial debate between Bradley Byrne and Robert Bentley.

First up, Byrne and the Alabama Education Association.

"We have to stand up against some very powerful entrenched interests in Montgomery," said Byrne.

Panelists asked how he would work with the organization as governor after accusations that AEA's director--Paul Hubbert--is trying to keep Byrne out of the governor's office.

"That particular interest has exerted far too much control over our state government for years. And many people have been afraid to stand up to them. I'm not," says Byrne.

Bentley says when it comes to the AEA, he's standing his ground, too.

"I vote with them when they're right. I vote against AEA when they're wrong."

But the rhetoric quickly turned to gambling and the gulf oil spill.

Both candidates say they're against electronic bingo, but have different ways of getting rid of it.

"If you want to rid this state of gaming, including Indian gaming, you must rid this state of all constitutional amendments," says Bentley.

"I will fight a bill like that with everything I've got because I think it's in the best interest of the people of the state of Alabama," says Byrne referring to a bill to legalize electronic bingo.

When it comes to oil, BP is in both candidate's cross hairs.

"The fault is BP. It's also the federal government," says Bentley.

"We need to make sure that they write the check it's going to take to make people whole in what they've lost," adds Byrne.

Still the issue of true Republican status found its way into the debate.

Byrne accused Bentley of being the Democrats choice in the run-off.

"He's trying to get Democrats to vote in the Republican run-off. This is a huge effort to high jack the Republican run-off," says Byrne.

"I am the only one in this race who has always been a Republican," says Bentley.

But in the end, both candidates concluded with a humble plea for votes.

"We have the obligation as Republicans to stand up as conservatives and pick a conservative leader going forward," says Byrne.

"I care about you...and I appreciate your vote," Bentley said.

Both candidates also focused on ethics reform in the state legislature.

They're for getting rid of PAC to PAC transfers. Even Bentley said he's for getting rid of political action committees--period.

Both men say fighting corruption is one big way to move Alabama forward.

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