Riley makes last bid

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 2, 2002

BNI Newswire

With polls showing him increasing his lead over GOP opponents Lt. Gov. Steve Windom and Tim James, U.S. Rep. Bob Riley kicked off a bus tour as he approaches Tuesday’s primary in the gubernatorial campaign.

"The last thing we want to do is start taking all of this for granted," Riley told supporters on Saturday. "I am going to depend on you – the people of this congressional district – to carry us through on Tuesday."

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Riley, who is nearing the end of this third term in the U.S. House, representing the Third Congressional District, including Chilton County, referenced poll numbers that show him leading across the state just three days prior to the Republican Primary. The polls are to be released today by the Birmingham News and the Huntsville Times.

Officials with the party, who knew the numbers, declined to release them, deferring to the newspapers’ release today.

"If we turn out the vote, we are going to win," Riley said. "Every vote counts. If you don’t believe that just ask Al Gore."

Riley made his remarks at the Dixie Shopping Center in Clanton, the first stop on the daylong tour that ended in Haleyville. It Is the same shopping center where Riley held a similar rally in July of last year, when he kicked off his gubernatorial campaign.

"It has been a long 11 months, but it has been an exciting time," Riley said.

Riley was the first candidate to throw his name in the hat on July 4, and some people criticized him for the move.

"We did it because we needed to build name recognition in parts of the state that were not familiar with us," Riley said. "We have worked extremely hard and the polls have shown it is working."

Riley apologized to the Clanton crowd for not spending enough time in the county since the campaigned kicked off, but said he needed to do so to build his campaign in other areas of the state.

According to campaign officials, during early planning sessions, the campaign had hoped to be neck-and-neck with Windom a month from away from the primary. But, in mid-February the first poll showing Riley ahead of Windom was released. It was the first of many to show Riley not only ahead of his two competitors but pulling away.

"Ever since we started campaigning we have seen a trend of our numbers increasing from month to month," Riley said. "But those are polls. We have a lot of work left to do before Tuesday."

Riley also said the 11-month campaign allowed him time to point out the differences he plans to make in state politics.

"Every problem in this state can be directly attributed to Montgomery," Riley said. "We have got to clean up the politics there and make a change for Alabama."

In the last few weeks, political opponents have turned up the negative advertising on Riley, who seemed unfazed on Saturday. In fact, it was the negative ads aired by Windom’s campaign that ignited Riley’s increase in the polls.

When accusations by Windom’s campaign that Riley had used his position in Washington to help companies he had invested in were found to be untrue, Riley’s support went up while some polls showed Windom’s declined.

But this past week, James accused Riley of misleading voters in campaign materials referencing his record on gambling. Specifically, Riley’s campaign retracted a statement that he helped pass a bill aimed to curb Internet gambling. Riley supported the bill but it never passed.

Riley will watch the poll returns Tuesday from his hometown of Ashland, in St. Clair County. Campaign officials have planned a carnival-type celebration in the town square for the large number of supporters expected to take part Tuesday.