First Gubernatorial Debate: The Black Vote

Patricia Dedrick, Montgomery Bureau Chief for the Birmingham News:

Governor, some black lawmakers say they're having a hard time relaying your message to the black voters. They say you've been unresponsive to some of their concerns. What are you doing to shore up support among that traditionally Democratic voting block?

Governor Siegelman:

Well you know, Miss Dedrick, what I think I should do as governor is represent all of the people of the state and I do that the very best of my ability every single day. I get up early, I work hard, I fight for the people of the state. I fight so that children can have better health care and get off to an early start at early learning.

I fight for our seniors who can't fight against the big drug companies in Washington. You know, I fight for our workers to bring in quality jobs. I'm working hard every day to move those jobs into rural communities.

The work that I do as governor has an impact on all the people. When we remove portable classrooms from all of our schools and build new schools and new classrooms from one end of the state to the other, it impacts children of all races and all diversity. When we improve the quality of education and raise standards, when we create the High Hopes program to give after school programs and summer school programs and tutoring and mentoring programs so that kids can pass our exams, it shows up in our high test scores and low dropout rate which impacts black children as well as white children.

And I believe that every child in this state, regardless of the color of their skin, ought to have a chance to reach their God-given potential through education.

Patricia Dedrick:

So, Governor are you saying there will be no special effort toward winning the black vote? Are you concerned at all that it may go with Republicans in the fall?

Governor Siegelman:

Well, You know Patricia, I can't. All I can do is lay out my case and tell people how hard I worked. Lay out the record of our accomplishments and tell people what I believe in and I believe that we have to invest in education. That's why I'm fighting so hard to bring back an education lottery.

That's why I want to close those corporate tax loopholes. That's why I want local control over local schools. Three things that my opponent and his supporters are diametrically opposed to. I know that our schools need more money.

When our teachers have to dig into their own pocket to buy school supplies, when we send kids out, black and white kids, to sell candy and magazine subscriptions, I know that our schools don't have enough money. When kids have to raise money for a book in the library or for a new computer for their computer lab, Our schools don't have enough money. I think my message cuts across racial lines and hopefully is appealing to all of the people in the state.

Congressman Riley:

Governor, that was a great answer on education. But I don't think you answered the question that was asked. I'll tell you why more and more of the black community are coming to our side. It's because when you have Afro-American leaders that are saying that they have served in Montgomery 25 or 30 years and this is the most corrupt administration they have ever served under.


Governor Siegelman: Hold on Congressman, Congressman if you've got something to say. I want you to look, you call a man corrupt, I want you to look in that camera and say what it is.

Moderator Lennox: Governor.

Governor Siegelman: You know I'm not saying here say. I want to know the facts. Now I want you to look into that camera or either shut, either put up or shut up congressman!

Congressman Riley: I'm going to tell you right now. When Alvin Holmes calls this the most corrupt administration that there has ever been...

Moderator Lennox: Governor, Congressman, Governor Siegelman!

Congressman Riley: If you want to know why the black legislators today are not supporting him and that translates out to that community, it's because they have no confidence or credibility in your leadership.

Moderator Lennox: Congressman, time is up. Congressman, time is up.