By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
Burton Leflore is a Democratic candidate running for the US House of Representatives in Alabama’s 1st District, a seat left vacant after Republican Jo Bonner resigned to work as a lobbyist for the University of Alabama. On Wednesday, Leflore spoke with the Alabama Political Reporter about his candidacy and about issues that will certainly be raised in the upcoming primary and general elections.
APR: When you ran earlier this year in the State House District 97 special election, you cited your grandfather’s aversion to straight ticket voting as a reason for running as an independent. What has changed since then in your view?
LeFlore: Well, first of all, I’m a Democrat. I’ve always been a Democrat. In the last election, I missed the filing deadline to run as a Democrat. And let’s be clear. I didn’t run as a Republican. Now, as far as my grandfather, John Leflore, and his ideology about nonpartisan politics, you know, my grandfather was a Democrat. But his belief was that voters should vote for candidates, whether they be Democrat or Republican, if they support their interests. Now, we are talking about in the 60’s and 70’s. A lot has changed since then, and I think that our parties have become a lot more polarized, but my comments about running independent were about his ideology of voting for the candidate who supports your interests. But let’s be totally clear. I’m a Democrat. I was raised with Democratic values and ideals. And certainly, had I been elected to that seat, I would have gravitated toward the Democratic Party, and possibly would’ve sought the Democratic nomination when I ran for reelection.
APR: The voter registration deadline for the special election you’re running in is September 13th. Do you think this allows potential voters a fair amount of time to register?
LeFlore: Well, I think we’re working on a compressed timeline based on Governor Bentley’s proclamation that he wants someone in that seat by January.
APR: Do you think it is a biased timeline?
LeFlore: No. I don’t.
APR: If you win the primary, will your campaign planning any specific efforts to increase voter turnout on general election day?
LeFlore: In any special election, voter turnout is going to be key. If we can’t get the voters to come out, then you know… I mean we just saw in the mayoral race here in Mobile that—clearly—Sam Jones could’ve won that election, if the voters in heavily African American precincts would’ve come out and voted. I can’t say what’s going to turn that around, but I’m going to focus on my base, increasing my base, keeping them informed, and hopefully getting them out to vote.
APR: Do you know Lula-Albert Kaigler?
LeFlore: Yes. I’ve met her on a couple of occasions.
APR: What do you think of her?
LeFlore: She is a very nice lady.
APR: Do you think you will have any trouble winning the Democratic primary?
LeFlore: I hope not. [laughter]
APR: What do you think is the most important issue right now to the 1st district?
LeFlore: Jobs and education. Our educational system is failing. We need to do the best to give our children the best education we can, access to quality athletic programs within their schools and their communities and we need to do everything we can to try to get industries that want to locate here to hire here in this district, and not just everyone from everywhere else. We don’t want to see a situation where Airbus comes in and, for example, only hires 10% residents from this district. I just want to see a proportionate number of people from our district getting good jobs.
APR: “The US should not intervene in Syria at this time. Congress should send a clear and unequivocal message to Syria, no more chemical warfare.” That is your statement on Syria. Sounds pretty cut and dry. Why do you oppose action in Syria?
LeFlore: Because I think at this point there have been statements made that an attack in Syria could benefit Al-Qaida. Also, I firmly feel that while the president states that this will be a swift type of attack, just in and out, ultimately there might be some other repercussions. I don’t know if our country is ready for that. We also need to further evaluate the situation. I mean there is a civil war in Syria. In order for the US to get involved in a civil war, I just don’t see where that is going to benefit the US at this time. There may be other means we can pursue, besides military action, possible sanctions against Syria, maybe other diplomatic means to achieve the same objective.
APR: Let’s say Congress sends that unequivocal message, and then Syria again uses chemical warfare, what then?
LeFlore: Well, like I have said, I think congress needs to send a clear and unequivocal message to Syria that we are opposed to the use of chemical warfare against innocent citizens…. even if they are Syrian citizens. And if we have continued use or continued evidence that there is chemical warfare going on then at some point the I think perhaps the us would be in the position to go into Syria on a very limited, limited basis.
APR: Do you think holding a position contrary to many in your party undermines your running as a Democrat?
LeFlore: Well, I’m a Democrat, not an Obamacrat. I don’t support everything that the Obama Administration is about, I mean there are some things that I agree with the Obama Administration about, but there are lots of things I’m in opposition to, and I don’t support. As far as Obama’s position on Syria, we’re in a situation where Obama has made clear that he would not condone any chemical warfare. And I think that clearly we have evidence that the Syrian government does have some instruments of chemical warfare and I guess that at this point his statement, in light of evidence of their use of chemical warfare, Obama’s response is that look I’ve already warned you guys that we’re not going to condone this, and now he’s asking congress, come on, you warned them, and I think it’s just a little premature. I do think that we need to present a clear front as far as our position on chemical warfare.
APR: Do you think Obama’s use of a red line was a mistake?
LeFlore: No, I don’t.
The special primary election will be held on Tuesday, September 24, 2013.
The special primary runoff, if needed, will be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2013.
If a special primary runoff is not required, the special general election will be held on Tuesday, November 5, 2013.
If a special primary runoff is required, the special general election will be held on Tuesday, December 17, 2013.