Candidates Come Out Swinging

Gov. Siegelman/Rep. Riley
Gov. Siegelman/Rep. Riley

TV viewers who skipped the World Series to watch a political debate on state wide television Sunday night got to see plenty of action. There were heated debates in the races for Governor, Lt. Governor, and U.S. Senator.

In the race for governor, incumbent Don Siegelman (D) portrayed his challenger, Bob Riley (R), as a tax slacker. And Riley called Siegelman a failed governor. Riley said there are 30,000 more Alabamians unemployed today than when Siegelman took office in 1999 and the average annual income of families has dropped $3000.

Siegelman held up a stack of liens placed against Riley for unpaid property taxes on a Tuscaloosa County home and recounted how Riley didn't pay his all of his income taxes. He said that all together, Riley hadn't paid $40,000.

Riley turned testy when it came time for his reply. He told Siegelman, "Look at me when I'm talking to you, governor." The congressman said his 1994 taxes were paid in full as of 2001. He said it took so long because he wasn't audited until 1997 and didn't get a final judgment until 2001.

The debate between Siegelman and Riley capped a triple header of political debates on Alabama Public Television. Earlier, state Senator Bill Armistead (R) accused State Treasurer Lucy Baxley (D) of wasteful spending in her office. And Baxley criticized Armistead for pork-barrel spending in his Senate district. The two are running for Lt. Governor.

Armistead promoted himself as an outside reformer who will use his business experience to eliminate bureaucracy and wipe out corruption in Montgomery. Baxley called Armistead's promises to eliminate pet projects and no-bid contracts hypocritical. She said he has funneled about $100,000 annually in state funds to pet projects in his Senate district.

U.S. Senate candidates, incumbent Jeff Sessions (R) and Susan Parker (D) painted each other as party loyalists who are out of touch with the people of Alabama. Sessions called Parker a liberal national Democrat, which he said could mean adverse consequences for Alabama. He said Parker would vote to place "liberal Democrats" in leadership positions in the Senate.

Parker, the state auditor, accused Sessions of voting with Republicans more than 90% of the time, including voting against education funding and other issues that would help Alabama citizens. Parker said she would only vote for what's best for the people of Alabama.

None of the libertarian candidates were invited to be a part of the debates. Lynn Curtis Adams is running for Lt. Governor. Jeff Allen is the libertarian in the U.S. Senate race. And John Sophocleus is running for governor. Perhaps as a consolation, Sophocleus was interviewed live on Alabama Public Radio immediately following the televised debates.

The general election is November 5th. Tune to WSFA 12 News for returns, analysis, and live team coverage throughout the night.