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Local candidates field questions from constituents at NAACP political forum

Eight candidates vying for local offices in the upcoming 2018 election cycle took questions from citizens Monday night at the NAACP Candidate’s Forum.

Each candidate first took about five minutes to share their background and platform with the audience of about 30 people at the Pike County Courthouse before moderator Steve Flowers, former House representative, directed questions from the audience to the candidates.

One question that came up for Probate Judge Wes Allen, who is leaving the office to run for the District 89 seat on the Alabama House of Representatives, was why he made the decision to stop issuing marriage licenses in Pike County.

“I believe in marriage between one man and one woman,” Allen said. “Alabama section 30-1-9 states a probate judge ‘may’ issue marriage licenses – not ‘shall’ or ‘will.’ In my good conscience, I couldn’t sign my name on a same-sex marriage license. I stand by my decision.”

Michael Bunn, a local attorney currently unopposed to fill Allen’s role as probate judge, said he would continue the policy and seek to work with state legislators to move the issue from the counties to the state.

“I think the decision was a sound legal decision and I will not be changing course,” Bunn said. “I think it should be handled at the state level and not the county level – it’s a state issue.”

Both Allen and Marcus Paramore, currently Troy City Council president and a candidate for the District 89 seat, were asked what their top priority would be if elected.

“My priority is economic development,” Paramore said. “We need to bring in high-paying quality jobs instead of minimum wage jobs. And it goes in hand with that that we need higher funding for education.”

“There are unintended consequences to some legislation that aren’t really considered,” Allen said in answer to the question. “We need to remove the red tape and bureaucracy. That creates environments for small business owners that want to provide jobs.”

District Judge candidates Steven Curtis, January “Jana” Blair Ellis and Virginia Green Nowling answered one of their few questions of the night on the possibility of a “driving school” program that could substitute in some instances for speeding tickets.

Curtis and Ellis explained that Judge William Hightower, who currently serves in the role, has “good reasons” for not instituting a driving school here.

“I asked Judge Hightower about that once and he pointed to his black books (of law) and said ‘Tell me where in there it tells me I can do that?’” Curtis said.

Nowling said she respects Hightower’s position on the issue, but said she would want to look into having a program if possible.

Incumbent circuit clerk Jamie Scarbrough and circuit judge candidate Sonny Reagan were also at the forum Monday, but Scarbrough is currently unopposed and No other circuit court judge candidates were in attendance. Each gave their backgrounds and platforms to begin the forum.¬¬

NAACP president Diana Bascomb said the forum was held early to “plan” for the election and that another forum will be held sometime in March or April to “prepare” for it.

“And then we’re going to turn out to the polls and vote like never before,” Bascomb told the crowd.

The qualifying deadline for the races isn’t until February 2018 and the primaries will be held in June ahead of the November election.