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Lottery back on state agenda

By By Bob Ingram
MONTGOMERY–With the primary election now only a fortnight or so away, a little snap-crackle-and-pop has been injected into the gubernatorial campaigns.
In a surprising move, Gov. Don Siegelman resurrected a state lottery as a campaign issue, a ploy which caught his opponents as well as political analysts totally by surprise.
Four years ago the lottery was Siegelman's only major campaign issue, and after winning a near-landslide victory over incumbent Gov. Fob James, he couldn't get the lottery proposal to the voters quick enough. However, to his stunning surprise the lottery was soundly rejected. At that time he vowed he would never re-visit that issue again.
However, last week Siegelman made a whirlwind tour by jet to various cities in Alabama touting a lottery somewhat different from the 1999 version. That one would have provided college scholarships for Alabama students…this plan would earmark the lottery profits to the
Special Education Trust Fund.
The question being asked was but one word: "Why?" Why would Siegelman revive a controversial plan which had already been soundly rejected by the voters?
Some felt that the new proposal, which would put the money in the classrooms, might sit well with voters because it might rule out the
necessity of higher taxes.
Others said it was a political move by Siegelman to strengthen his base with Democrats, especially blacks who overwhelming voted for the lottery three years ago.
It was no secret that at least one Republican candidate for governor was pleased with the lottery move. Lt. Gov. Steve Windom was one of the leaders of the successful effort to defeat the lottery and he was quick to remind anyone who would listen that he was the only candidate in the race who had been in the front ranks of that fight in 1999.
Another suggestion: A week or so ago James Carville, the balding political whiz kid on the national scene, spoke at a Democratic rally in Montgomery. Carville played a key role as a political consultant in successful lottery campaigns in Kentucky and Georgia. He is also a Siegelman supporter.
Some folks wondered out loud if Carville might have suggested to Siegelman that he ought to use the issue again.
There was an unrelated development in Montgomery that could be called good-news-bad-news for Gov. Siegelman.
U. S. Attorney Leura Canary announced she was recusing herself from a federal investigation now being made of Gov. Siegelman's personal finances. She had been asked to step aside by the governor's lawyer, David Cromwell Johnson, because of what he called a conflict of interest. Her husband, Bill Canary, a political consultant, had done some work for both Windom and Congressman Bob Riley in the past.
That she decided to step aside…even though her superiors in the Justice Department found no conflict…must have pleased Siegelman but on the flip side, the fact that she felt it was necessary strongly suggests that with all the smoke coming from the federal probe there may be some fire.
Back when bumper stickers were the rage in gubernatorial campaigns, nobody had more eye-catching stickers than George C. Wallace. Even folks with bad eyesight could see and read his bumper stickers from a mile away. And during his heyday Wallace bumper stickers seemed to be standard equipment on most automobiles.
Now comes Lisa Wallace, the former (and third) wife of the late governor, as a candidate for State Treasurer. Guess what colors she uses on her campaign posters? When you see them on the roadways of Alabama you feel like you have returned to the past. They are identical to the old Wallace bumper stickers. A coincidence? No way, she told me in a recent telephone conversation.
Forgive me for being so cynical, but I must make a point I have
made before.
Last week there was yet another survey financed by some well meaning group which indicated that a majority of Alabamians say that providing quality education for our children is by far the most important issue facing the state today.
A couple of days later the voters of Elmore County (a bedroom community for Montgomery) overwhelmingly rejected three school tax proposals. And taxes have been rejected in other areas as well.
It seems just about everybody is for improving schools…but nobody wants to pay for these improvements.