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Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, a candidate for governor, mixes with the crowd at the annual Terry Club Reunion on Labor Day
DAILY Photo by Clyde Stancil
Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, a candidate for governor, mixes with the crowd at the annual Terry Club Reunion on Labor Day

Governor candidates visit Labor Day event

By Clyde L. Stancil
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2443

COURTLAND — Former Gov. Don Siegelman's appointment book was lighter than in recent pre-election years, which gave him plenty of time to make himself at home and talk issues at the United Terry Club Reunion.

He was one of three candidates for governor who attended the annual Labor Day gathering sponsored by one of Lawrence County's oldest families.

Former Gov. Don Siegelman chats with Ollie B. Terry and Louise Kicker during their visit from Birmingham to the reunion.
DAILY Photo by Clyde Stancil
Former Gov. Don Siegelman chats with Ollie B. Terry and Louise Kicker during their visit from Birmingham to the reunion.
Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley and former state Rep. Nathan A. Mathis, a possible independent candidate from Wicksburg in Southeast Alabama, were also there.

So were Secretary of State Nancy Worley, Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, and state legislators Roger Bedford, Jody Letson and Zeb Little, who represent Lawrence County.

Siegelman chatted and shook hands, posed for pictures and eventually sat down under the pavilion to listen to bands that sang and sometimes engaged in pickin' and grinnin' sessions for an estimated 300 people.

But as relaxed as he appeared, Siegelman is preparing for an attack on Gov. Bob Riley, who turned him out of office in 2002. The ex-governor responded to a reporter's question about his awarding of no-bid contracts.

"Bob Riley has issued more no-bid contracts in three years than I did in four years," Siegelman said. "We built bridges like the Patton Island bridge and Shoal Creek bridge with no-bid contracts.

"You don't want the lowest bidder building the Patton Island bridge; you want a qualified builder. That was all just a bunch of political malarkey to try to distract people from the fact that his secret plan was to raise everybody's taxes.

"My plan was clear. It was an education lottery with every penny of it going to scholarships to make sure that our children got a good education."

Education lottery

If elected, Siegelman said, he will give citizens another chance to vote for an education lottery.

"I think the people deserve another vote," Siegelman said. "We have an opportunity to capture as much as $800 million to a billion a year for education.

"I think the people of Alabama now realize that they would rather have Don's lottery than Bob and Lucy's taxes."

Baxley is among the candidates Siegelman would have to defeat in the Democratic primary in order to get to the general election against Riley, or whoever becomes the Republican nominee.

Baxley will not have her husband's name to boost her gubernatorial campaign, as Lurleen B. Wallace had with George Wallace when she won in 1966. But Baxley said people's attitudes have changed during her long political career, even as recently as 11 years ago when she first ran for state office.

"I think people are looking more at qualifications than gender," she said. "I've paid my dues and have all these years experience."

With experience at the city, county and state levels of government, including stints in the office of the attorney general and the Transportation Department and two terms as elected state treasurer, Baxley said she is well-qualified to be governor.

"For the last two or three years, I have been presiding over the Senate, where I know the legislative process," she said during a break from shaking hands. "I can pull all of that together for us to do the best we can with what we have."

'Totally honest' candidate

Baxley, who did not talk about issues, told the audience that she would be "a candidate that is totally honest and committed to serving you."

"I have taken the job of state treasurer and lieutenant governor and done for you everything you can do in those jobs." she said.

"In the governor's job, you get to bring grants home, you get to help counties, you get to announce industries. I'm asking you to help me to be there where I can work with the people you trust to bring the things to you that you need.

"Government belongs to you. It is always supposed to be serving you."

Mathis brought former Alabama State University and 10-year New York Jets fullback Brad Baxter with him to sign autographs and provide security. He asked the audience to sign petitions to help him get on the ballot.

"Just because you sign a petition doesn't mean you have to vote for me," he said.

Gambling issues

His goal is to force the other gubernatorial candidates to address gambling issues.

Mathis said if the state is going to allow gambling, then it needs to benefit from it.

"When I was in the Legislature, I voted to allow the people of Macon County to vote on a bill that created VictoryLand," he said.

A yes meant they would have a dog track.

"Now, they have passed a bill that allows live bingo in Macon, and they have almost 3,000 slot machines at VictoryLand and pay no state taxes," he said.

"My proposal is to reach a deal with the Indians to let them have full casino rights in their three places (in Alabama). In return, they pay (taxes of) 12 percent of their gross revenues, like Mississippi does.

"In Alabama, we're not receiving any revenue from the operation of slot machines. If (the people) voted they wanted it, we would allow 15 casinos to be put in; if they voted no, I would help them shut them down.

"These places are open 24/7, and they're bringing in a lot of money and the state is not getting any of it."

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