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SUNDAY, JULY 16, 2006

Candidates in GOP runoff for PSC 2 question loyalty

By Desiree Hunter
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Politicians are called all sorts of names, but Public Service Commission candidates John Amari and Perry Hooper Jr. say there's one name they wouldn't call their opponent: Republican.

The GOP campaign to replace George Wallace Jr. in Place 2 on the commission went from friendly to fiery with the approach of the June 6 primary and has featured accusations from failing to file campaign contributions to lying about alma maters.

In one of the latest developments heading to the July 18 runoff, Hooper, a former state representative from Montgomery, and Amari, a former state senator from Trussville, each say the other is a disgrace to the party.

"He's what people call a RINO, a Republican in name only — that's John Amari," Hooper said.

"He does a radio ad for a Democrat who's running against a Republican — that's a brick," Amari said, referring to what he calls a "wall of untruth" built by Hooper.

"He might have been born in a Republican family, but his conduct . . . he has 'left his raising' as they say," Amari added.

The ethical finger-pointing surfaced when Amari began distributing fliers highlighting Hooper's $12,000 fine from the Alabama Ethics Commission in 2001. Hooper's camp followed with a charge about Amari's failure to report contributions totaling $125,000 at the end of his losing Senate bid in June 2002.

Amari accused Hooper of lying about graduating from Auburn University when he actually graduated from Auburn University Montgomery. Hooper said the "Montgomery" must have been inadvertently dropped from his www.hooper biography, which until recently listed him as a graduate from the main Auburn campus, not AUM.

Barbs to issues

AUM political science professor D'Linell Finley said the barbs flying from both camps might cancel each other out and actually help to draw attention to the real issues in the race.

"I think that at this point you have both candidates who have launched charges and counter charges of ethics violations here and you get to the point where people start to tune out," he said. "I think that ultimately both candidates bring some baggage to the race with them, but each also brings substantial experience. With that said, the public will still look at which one of these persons will be the best person for the consumer."

Hooper has been endorsed by the Alabama Farmers Federation and says his main priority is to put the "public" back in the Alabama Public Service Commission and hold the commission's meetings throughout the state.

"That will ensure more public awareness, it will ensure that the PSC will be accountable to the people and I can't think of a better start than having the first public hearing in Birmingham, Ala., so that I can request that the Birmingham Water Works Board be placed under the commission," he said.

Amari, who served 20 years in the Legislature, fought several battles with the Birmingham Water Works Board and said he decided to run for the commission after legislation was introduced to bring the board under the PSC's control.

Former PSC staffer Jack Hornady of Montgomery, who finished a strong third in the three-way primary, has endorsed Amari, describing him as "less encumbered by special interests and therefore better able to serve consumer interests."

Hooper had 143,255 votes to finish first, and Amari took 107,091 votes to force the runoff. Hornady pulled 95,451 votes.

The runoff winner faces Democrat Susan Parker, a former state auditor from Rogersville, in the November general election.

Biographical information

Biographical information on John Amari and Perry Hooper Jr., Republican candidates for the Public Service Commission:

John Amari

Political party: Republican.

Date of birth: Aug. 7, 1948 (57).

Hometown: Grew up in Roebuck; now lives in Trussville.

Education: Bachelorís degree from University of Montevallo; law degree from Samford Universityís Cumberland School of Law.

Professional background: Lawyer in Jefferson County.

Political background: Elected to Alabama House in 1978; elected to Alabama Senate in 1982, 1983, 1986, 1990 and 1994; ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 1998; ran unsuccessfully for state Senate in 2002.

Perry Hooper Jr.

Political party: Republican.

Date of birth: September 5, 1954 (53).

Hometown: Montgomery.

Education: Bachelorís degree from Auburn University Montgomery; law degree from Jones Law School in Montgomery.

Professional background: Vice President of Palomar Insurance Corp. since 1991.

Political background: Served in the Alabama House of Representatives from 1983 to 1992. Son of former Chief Justice Perry Hooper Sr.

On the Net:

— The Associated Press

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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