By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Monday, July 7, the two Republican Primary Runoff candidates for Senate District 30 met at a forum at the Bass Pro Shoppe in Prattville, Alabama. Former Autauga County Commissioner Clyde Chambliss spoke at the forum along with his opponent, small business owner and electrician, Harrison Garner. The forum was hosted by the Central Alabama Republican Club.
Harrison Garner said, “I believe we should have term limits at all levels of government.” Garner committed to limit himself to just two terms in the Alabama Senate. Garner said, “I wish the Federal government would do the same.”
Chambliss said that he limited himself to three terms on the Autauga County Commission and committed to limiting himself to three terms in the Senate.
Chambliss and Garner both said that marriage is between one man and one woman.
Garner said that municipal governments and county commissioners in general would like to have more home rule, but you have got to be careful with that. It is a slippery slope because you don’t know who is going to have those positions in the future. The current Alabama Constitution contains checks and balances. “I would oppose home rule.”
Chambliss said, “I would favor limited home rule.” Limited not to include taxes or zoning authority. Giving counties zoning powers could drastically hurt our farmers.
Garner warned that there would be a chance of duplicated government services. Home rule could be a burden on landowners and property owners who go out in the country because they want more freedom.
Chambliss said that he support re-writing the Alabama Constitution in a piece meal fashion. A State Constitutional Convention would be taken over by special interests. Chambliss supports going back and revising the old language in the State Constitution and called the current work by the legislator a good start.
Garner said that our State Constitution has roughly 800 amendments to it. The writers of the 1901 Constitution made it difficult to change for a reason and he would never favor anything that would hurt the freedom of the people of Alabama. Changing the Constitution could be a slippery slope. Garner was in favor updating the Constitution by amendment or by changing articles of the Constitution.
Garner said he believes we should have stricter ethics reform. He said that he favors making legislators sit out for four years before they can return to Montgomery as lobbyists.
Chambliss also said there should be a four-year waiting period for former legislators becoming lobbyists.
Chambliss said he personally opposes a state lottery and believes that gambling revenues aren’t stable and is a tax on those who are least able to afford it. However Chambliss said, “I would support a vote on a lottery.” It would have to go to education and would have to in a regularly scheduled election.
Garner agreed, “I believe it is time if the people want to vote they should be entitled to it.” Garner said that a lottery vote should not be in a special election and all the money should be earmarked for higher education. “We have a lot of people trying to figure out how to send a child to college.” Garner said that support for a lottery is a lot more favorable that it was years ago. We are a people represented by representatives and if the people want to vote on it I will let them.
Garner vowed, “I will never raise taxes on the citizens of Alabama.” Garner included in that no vote of any kind for fee increases. “We are overtaxed already.” “New taxes are not going to solve our problems.” Garner also said he was opposed to a unified budget combining the education and general funds.
Garner said that we won’t solve our revenue problem without putting people back to work and that we need to spend the people’s money wisely.
Chambliss said that he will never say never. In Chilton County they don’t have a hospital anymore and people die on the highway going to seek treatment. They have the right to vote on that themselves. There are times when it is appropriate to allow people a vote on whether or not they want to raise revenues.
Garner accused Chambliss of having raised taxes or fees seven times as a member of the Autauga County Commission.
Chambliss said that Garner lied about his record. The first time he lied about me raising taxes was at Verbena. Chambliss said that Garner is including annual renewals of already existing taxes in his campaign ads as well as creating a new slot for a new type of business license and calling those tax increases. Chambliss reiterated his position that, “Mr Garner lied.”
Garner said, “My opponent just called me a liar.” We have records. I am not lying. I am just stating the facts that is not mudslinging.
Garner said, “I support the governor’s decision to reject Medicaid expansion.”
Chambliss also stated his opposition to expanding the expensive Medicaid system to include even more persons in Alabama.
Garner said that we have to make sure that our kids are properly educated, but what we have to look at is our current public education system. Garner said we have got to fix some things; but called the Alabama Accountability Act a band aid.
Garner said he was opposed to the controversial Common Core standards. “It is not a solution to our problems here in Alabama.”
Chambliss said, “I am opposed to common core as well. I have been from the beginning of this campaign.” Chambliss accused Garner of putting out information there that is not correct.
Garner said that if he had been in the legislature he would have supported Sen. Scott Beason’s bill. He opposes the federal government trying infiltrate our school systems. He supported Beason’s bill forbidding school systems from accepting “Race to the Top” money from the federal government or reporting information about students to them.
Chambliss said that he will not throw his support behind any certain bill to overturn Common Core, but did say that he liked Senator Dick Brewbaker’s the best. Chambliss opposes taking us back to the old standards, before Common Core however. Chambliss would take the Brewbaker bill and create a committee of parents and teachers to write the next set of standards that allows Alabama to compete on a worldwide stage.
Garner said that he is committed to co-sponsor the Brewbaker bill and charged that Chambliss has twice said he would not sponsor or co-sponsor a bill, but would instead leave it to the state board of education who is being manipulated by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). “Common Core has got to go.”
Chambliss said the school board apparently is not going to do something so we will have to do it.
Garner denied having taken any money from AEA. Garner accused the Realtors association and the BCA of putting out false information. “I have never taken money from them (AEA).” Garner said that he started this campaign 9 months ago running against incumbent Senator Taylor (Sen. Taylor did not run for re-election.) “I want to be a statesman.” “I made a huge investment into this campaign.” My opponent has made little personal investment in his campaign. I have taken money from PCI (the Poarch Creek Indians), because I could not keep up with the special interests that have invested huge amounts into my opponent’s campaign. We got to do what we got to do and I only did that after he heard that my opponent was down at Atmore (PCI headquarters).
Chambliss said, “I have never been to Atmore to talk to the Indians.” Chambliss did say that he had taken contributions from BCA and praised BCA for their role in passing tort reform. Chambliss said that only 14% of his contributions came from BCA, while 63% of Garner’s contributions came from the Indians (PCI). Chambliss said that Garner is so desperate to get his $163,000 personal loan back that he made a deal with them (PCI). “He will get that money back IF HE WINS!”
Chambliss said the biggest issue we have is fiscal responsibility. Chambliss said that the state needs to budget so that when recessions come we are no devastated by them and said that the Rolling reserve act is a step in the right direction. He favors basing next year’s spending on prior year revenues rather than factoring in projected growth in revenues. The net affect over time would be increased reserves. “It all ties back to the finances. We know the economy is going to go down because it always does.”
Garner said that the long term fix is making more Alabamians into productive citizens and Alabama’s fiscal problems would be solved by the resulting revenue from sales and income taxes. Garner predicted that the state’s fiscal problems will continue until we put people back to work: getting the people out of the dens or wherever they are at and putting them back to work or in small businesses.
Garner said that he owns Garner Electric with his wife, and is running because somebody has got to step up. Career politicians are ruining this country. They are ruining this state. Garner promised if elected that he would not take a salary and instead would put the money into a third party trust and would give it to volunteer fire departments in the district.
Chambliss said that Garner, “Has done everything and said everything to destroy my reputation.” “If a man will distort my faith I think he will distort the truth.” The contrast is clear. He spent the last six weeks talking about me. I spent the last six weeks talking about me and the stories are different.
Chambliss said I don’t think you would hire an accountant with no experience I don’t think you would hire a doctor who had no experience. I don’t think you would even hire an electrician to wire your home who had no experience. Experience is not a bad thing.
The Republican Primary runoff is July 15.
No Democrat qualified for the open seat. The winner of the Republican Primary will have to face Independent Bryan Morgan in the November 4 General Election ballot.