Three of the four Republican candidates for governor were in Huntsville at the Huntsville Tea Party gubernatorial forum.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said that as Mayor he has brought 24,000 jobs to the City of Huntsville and that he wants to do the same thing, just bigger for the whole state. Battle said that he wans to see everyone of the young people coming out of the schools in Alabama to stay here and get a job and be successful here. “This is the sixteenth forum that we have done; and this is the sixteenth forum that Gov. Ivey has not been here,” Battle said.
State Senator Bill Hightower said, “I am from Mobile. I am a businessman. I worked for large manufacturing companies for most of my career.” After 9-11 my wife and I moved back to Alabama and ran several small businesses. My pastor and others came to me and said, why don’t you run for office. I ran against Montgomery’s preferred candidate and I was outspent ten to one.
“Mike Hubbard’s people did not want me there,” Hightower said. “When I came to Montgomery, I did not owe anyone there anything. I voted for what I wanted to vote for. I was one of the most conservative state Senators.” I voted for term limits and for a flat tax. Kay Ivey has no voting record. I am the only one running with a record of voting.
“We have had a dermatologist for governor,” Hightower said. “We have had a lawyer for governor. We have never really had a businessman as governor. I want to be your CEO.” Go to my website and read my plan: 12 steps to Changing Alabama.
Scott Dawson said, “This is my first foray into politics. For thirty years I have been in ministry.” I tried to find someone to be part of a grassroots movement to run for governor eventually I ran myself.
Battle said of the prisons, that before we send someone to prison, “We need to make sure that these are the ones we need to be spending $39,000 a year on.” When they leave prison, they need to have earned a GED and received some job skills or they will be going back to prison. If they have a job they will pay taxes instead of costing us $39,000 a year.
Hightower said, “I was in the Senate when Governor Bentley brought his $900 million plan.” Prison should not be about locking someone up but instead be about bringing someone back to a purposeful life. We have to fix the prisons or the federal government will come and make us do it and it will cost a lot more.
Dawson said that he grew up in Ensley and there is not a mother in Ensley that is praying that her son gets to live in a bigger better prison. We need to do something about mental health. Right now, law enforcement has no option with the mentally ill other than to lock them up or turn them loose. We have to get a grip on drug abuse. “It is called a correctional facility it should not be a generational facility.”
Hightower said that the flat tax would makes it easier to do business in Alabama. Many times my wife has come home from her business and said that the state does not want her to make a profit.
Dawson said that he talked with one CEO in Birmingham who said that every week they joke about moving to Georgia so that Alabama will offer them the incentives that the state is offering out of state businesses to move here. Dawson said that we should cut the red tape and regulations and set Alabama businesses free.
Battle said, “85 percent of our people work for small businesses.” “We are bringing in Toyota and Mazda and they are bringing in thousands of suppliers,” Battle said. Many of these suppliers will be customers of small businesses.
Dawson said that he read a book by former Governor Fob James. When James came into office he had to deal with prison overcrowding, education, and roads. The next governor will have to deal with prison overcrowding, education, and roads.
Dawson said that $63 million of money that is supposed to be earmarked for roads is taken away from ALDOT right off the top for other agencies. That does not sound like a lot; but over twelve years that is almost a $billion. “A $billion will build a lot of roads.” If we get rid of all the legislative earmarks we can provide money for roads.
Battle said, “We have got to take our roads seriously. We have got too make a better system. We have got to improve that system.” I-65 is at over capacity. Not only are we not doing anything about it, we don’t have a plan to do anything about it.
Hightower said that he presented a plan to the legislature to use the BP oil spill settlement money for roads. It passed the Senate; but when it got to the House the special interests killed it. We need infrastructure improvements; but I want reform before we get more revenue.
Battle said forty percent of our prisoners have a mental health problem.
Hightower said that he is concerned about DHR. They are overworked. We have thrown the mentally ill in prisons. In Mobile County drugs for the prisoners is a bigger expense than anything else in the jails and the problem is growing. Autism is growing. We have to deal with mental health as a community.
Scott Dawson said, “Mental health is a crisis in our state.” A federal mandate could be coming if we don’t address it. “We have got to open up new beds and long term we have got to get a grasp on mental health.”
Hightower said that he is very Pro-Life and introduced the bill to ban the sale of baby body parts in Alabama.
Hightower said that he does not watch the violent video games and movies because it desensitizes me to violence. What we are doing to our kids through the culture is wrong.
Dawson said that in Alabama, “We dare defend our rights. I believe in the Second Amendment. The absolute right of our constitution for you to bear arms,” is guaranteed by the Constitution. “We should not waiver any of the rights that our founding fathers gave us.”
Battle said that when Remington came to Alabama they told them you are going to get some bad comments. Battle responded, “You do realize that you are coming to Alabama don’t you?” There was a poll and 97 percent were in favor of Remington coming and only 2.5 percent were opposed. “We support the right to bear arms here.” They are a great industry. We are proud to have them here.
Dawson said that he wants to, “Replace Common Core standards It is time to get rid of Common Core.” “I am not opposed to standards. I want Alabama standards from Alabama teachers that understand Alabama values.”
Battle said, “The state standards need to stay steady. We need to have a state set of standards that can move us forwards.”
Hightower said that he favors repealing Common Core and pledged to, “Work toward repealing that and creating our own Alabama standards.”
Governor Kay Ivey was unable to attend as she had an event in Etowah County that same night.
The major party primaries will be on June 5.
Hometown Mayor Tommy Battle overwhelmingly won the straw poll with 53 1st Choice votes. Scott Dawson was second with 30 votes Bill Hightower had 21 votes and Kay Ivey had 4.