Monday, September 19, 2005

Siegelman: Will be candidate for governor; seeks debates

Siegelman: Will be candidate for governor; seeks debates
9/17/2005, 12:38 p.m. CT
The Birmingham News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former Gov. Don Siegelman is no longer using the word "if" when he talks about running for governor next year.

"I intend to be a candidate for governor in 2006," Siegelman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Washington, where he was raising money for his campaign. "I have listened to the people of Alabama. I have learned that a good many of them want me in this race."

He wants to get the campaign for governor started early, long before next June's party primaries. Siegelman suggested a series of debates, starting in November, featuring the major players he expects to join him in the run for the governor's mansion — Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley, incumbent Gov. Bob Riley and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. He said one set of debates could feature the Democratic candidates, while the Republicans square off in a separate event.

Baxley, who has been actively campaigning for several months, is expected to face off against Siegelman in the Democratic primary on June 6. Riley has yet to announce if he will seek re-election and be a candidate in the Republican primary, where he could face a challenge from Moore. The former chief justice, who has been speaking to groups across the country, has said he is "praying about" whether he should run, but has not made a decision.

"I think it's important for those people who intend to be candidates to begin to have conversations about the issues that are important to this state," Siegelman said.

Siegelman has sent a letter to the Alabama Press Association, the Alabama Broadcasters Association and The Associated Press asking for assistance in setting up the debates, which he said he hoped would be held across the state — possibly on college campuses.

Baxley said she would be willing to debate Siegelman, Riley, Moore and anyone else after candidates have officially declared and the race is underway, probably early next year.

"I think it's putting the cart before the horse to want to debate before you're an official candidate," Baxley said. She said she believes political campaigns are already so long that "people get sick of them before they are over" without extending them with early debates.

"There will be plenty of time to debate after the first of the year," Baxley said.

But Baxley said it's no secret that she will be in the governor's race. "I think the people know I am a candidate. I have said since first of June that I am a candidate for governor.

I applaud Lt. Governor Lucy Baxley for acknowledging that there will be other candidates in next years gubernatorial race and for stating her willingness to include them in the debates.

In the 2002 gubernatorial election the Libertarian candidate, John Sophocleus, was barred from the debates even though he had ballot access. The reason given was that a poll had been conducted and no one cared what he had to say.
However, no Libertarians were contacted or asked to take part in that poll.

I hope that Lt. Governor Baxley will remember her words in this article and will not allow her party (Democrats) and the Republicans to limit access to the debates and infringe on the rights of all Alabamians to hear from all persons seeking elected office.

Additionally, I would be happy to engage in a debate with former Gov. Siegelman, Governor Riley, Lt. Governor Baxley and former Chief Justice Roy Moore anytime they feel up to the challenge.

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