Riley, Windom at war

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 4, 2002

BNI Newswire

U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert on Wednesday endorsed Republican Bob Riley’s candidacy for governor – sparking an angry response from Riley opponent Steve Windom.

Riley and Windom have been engaged in a war of words since last month, despite requests from the state GOP to abide by the Republicans’ 11th Commandment: Thou shall not harm another Republican.

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At a Birmingham news conference, Hastert, R-Ill., praised Riley’s personal term-limit pledge.

"Bob Riley is a man of his word," Hastert said. "He said he would serve three terms in Congress and go home, and that is exactly what he is doing. He’s never been a Washington insider. During his term in office, he flew home to Clay County, Alabama, almost every time the final gavel pounded. … He’s never forgotten who elected him."

Alabama Lt. Gov. Windom, however, criticized the endorsement, calling his opponent "Beltway Bob."

"I guess the speaker wanted to see if the $360,000 that he and his Washington friends sent to Bob Riley was being put to good use," Windom said, referring to a major donation earlier this year from the Republican Congressional Caucus to Riley’s campaign.

At the time, Windom and fellow GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tim James cried foul over the Congressional donation.

Riley and Windom have also sparred over a Windom campaign commercial depicting Riley as having profited from stock in companies his Congressional committee oversees. Riley said the stock was part of a mutual fund over which he had no control.

In his endorsement, Hastert noted Riley’s record of voting with groups such as the Christian Coalition, National Rifle Association and National Right to Life Committee.

"Bob is a natural leader and consensus builder who will serve this state well," Hastert said. "If Bob Riley is half the governor that he is a Congressman, Alabama’s best days are ahead of it."

Hastert’s appearance in Alabama is not likely to be the only campaigning done by major GOP leaders in Alabama. In fact, he was in the state Wednesday to raise money for state Rep. Mike Rogers, who is seeking Riley’s seat in Congress.

Republican party members expect to see more support from the national GOP in Riley’s third district, which includes Tallapoosa County.

Riley is giving up that seat to run for governor, and Republicans hope to keep it in order to help maintain their majority in the U.S. House.

So far, two Democrats and two Republicans have officially qualified to run for Riley’s seat.