Riley fails to show

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 28, 2002

BNI Newswire

ORANGE BEACH – U.S. Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ala, stung earlier this week by press reports that his missed votes in Congress, was a no show Saturday at a candidates’ forum hosted by the Alabama Press Association.

Riley chose to stay in Washington for a late vote on homeland security. The House approved the bill in the early hours Saturday morning.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Riley’s Democratic opponent Gov. Don Siegelman took the opportunity to remind APA members that he would have been willing to debate at the event.

"Before we get started, I have one question: Where’s Waldo?" Siegelman said. "This would have been the perfect place for candidates for the highest office in the state to … stand before you and answer your questions together."

The fact Riley didn’t come and is not as willing to debate, Siegelman said, "ought to tell you a lot about me and even more about my opponent."

State Senator Bill Armistead meanwhile criticized his opponent for the lieutenant governor spot, Democrat Lucy Baxley, because she was unwilling to debate at the morning event.

Baxley in turn challenged Armistead to sign a pledge to run a "clean campaign" – unless first attacked by the opponent.

Despite the debate over debates, the candidates did discuss the issues.

Siegelman kept education at the forefront reiterating his threat to go after big businesses that do not pay their "fair share" in education taxes in Alabama. The governor was asked if such talk was "pandering to anti-business sentiment" in an election year.

"I call it tax fairness," Siegelman said. "We are not talking about targeting anybody … you can call it pandering if you want, but we are going after the big corporations who are ripping off Alabama and cheating our children."

Siegelman, who last year tried to get legislators to close what he called "tax loopholes" that keep businesses from paying education taxes, has said he will sue those corporations that "cheat" Alabama.

Armistead and Baxley both told APA members they had the ability to lead the Senate as lieutenant governor.

"I have the experience. I have the desire. And I have the temperament," Armistead said. "I have worked in the Alabama Senate for eight years with Republicans and Democrats … and work both sides of the aisle very well," he said, noting passage of his community notification act commonly known as Megan’s Law.

Baxley though said she is "confident about being able to preside over the Senate." She said there is some "animosity among senators."

"I know that I can be a positive influence in that regard," she said.

Baxley noted that Armistead is a vehement opponent of an education lottery.

"How are you going to fairly preside if you have already decided that issue," Baxley said.

Representatives for Riley were on hand at a Friday night reception. Although officials were aware Riley would not attend, they did not make an announcement until Saturday morning.