Republican: No endorsement
The office of attorney general of Alabama often has been riddled with controversy, particularly when the attorney general and the governor have been from different parties. But rarely, if ever, has the state seen such direct and ongoing conflict as that between Gov. Bob Riley and his hand-picked attorney general, Troy King, over electronic bingo.
The Riley half of that dueling duo will retire from office in November, having reached his term limit. The attorney general is seeking to return to his office, but frankly, the state has had a bellyful of Troy King’s grandstanding.
Unfortunately there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between King and his opponent for the Republican nomination, Luther Strange. Their positions on issues are virtually identical, so each has attempted to distinguish himself by leveling attacks at the other. King says Strange wrote the book on taking money from special interests; Strange says King has moved money from one political action committee to another to disguise its source as gambling interests.
The best vote for attorney general in the Republican primary is to leave the line blank.
Democrat: James Anderson
James Anderson is one of three candidates for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, and he appears to be the most moderate of the group.
He is a Montgomery native now living and practicing law in Birmingham. He says without reservation, “I am a trial lawyer.” Under some circumstances, that admission would eliminate him from contention in a political race in Alabama, but courtroom experience is important for the attorney general, often characterized as “the state’s attorney.”
To emphasize his time spent in the courtroom, Anderson delivered a 51-page sheaf listing all his court cases dating back to 1997.
However, rather than the state’s attorney, Anderson describes the attorney general as the manager of the state’s law firm, with 127 attorneys on staff. As the boss, he would have to maintain productive working relationships with the district attorneys (in contrast to King) and would render opinions, but would enter select cases only when the interests of the state warranted.
Applied to specific issues, his attitude makes good sense:
Asked how he would resolve the dispute over bingo between the current governor and attorney general, Anderson dismissed the fight and said the state would resolve it through a referendum, either legalizing it and possibly other forms of gambling or shutting it down once and for all. Until that question is answered, he said, he would not waste the state’s resources. It is not up to the attorney general to take a moral stance on gambling, he said, but rather to enforce the law.
He took a similar tack on Alabama’s participation in a class action lawsuit against the federal government over health care reform. The lawsuit will not stand, he said, and he would not squander Alabama’s scarce revenue pursuing it for personal political gain.
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, however, is an issue that demands the attorney general’s full attention, Anderson said. “What’s happening on the coast with the oil spill is a real example of what the attorney general does for the state. Someone needs to represent the state’s interests,” he said.
Anderson has served as chairman of the State Ethics Commission, a position opponent Giles Perkins has used to attack him. Perkins, a former executive director of the state Democratic Party, has chosen to make political ethics the center point of his campaign. He would seek to ban PAC-to-PAC transfers of campaign contributions, ban all gifts to elected officials from lobbyists and anyone doing business with government, limit entertainment of elected officials to $50 a day and require such entertainment to be reported, and require immediate online reporting of campaign contributions.
These are admirable goals, but they seem more suited to a campaign for secretary of state. With so many issues swirling around the attorney general’s job, why would Perkins limit his campaign to those of concern mainly to politicians?