The top three candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor found more to agree on than disagree on during a debate Wednesday night.
Sue Bell Cobb, James Fields and Walt Maddox all favor expanding Medicaid, bolstering workforce development and adopting a lottery, for instance. They each support legalizing medical marijuana, funding improvements to roads and bridges, and providing a quality education to all the state’s children.
They all said they believe this is the year a Democrat can win the highest office in this crimson red state.
In a debate sponsored and broadcast by WVTM, all three said they believe voters have tired of corruption charges being brought against Alabama’s elected officials and will turn this year to candidates who bring integrity to the table.
“Toxic partisanship is killing us. It’s hurting our democracy,” said Cobb, a former chief justice of Alabama. Throughout the debate, she touted her 30 years of experience as a judge and her experience advocating for, gaining approval of and implementing big legislation.
Maddox, mayor of Tuscaloosa for the past 12 years, cited his ability to work in a nonpartisan environment and to get things done.
“I’ve found when you forge common ground you can get a lot of things done,” Maddox said.
Fields – a pastor, longtime employee in the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations and former legislator – cited his connection with the people, particularly those in rural counties.
Several times during the debate he said actions needed to be taken to encourage job development in southern portions of the state and ensure those areas had access to health care and quality education.
The three were asked to describe what they thought progress would look like in Alabama.
Maddox said progress to him would be every child in the state getting a quality education, every Alabamian who wants a good job being able to find one, and everyone in the state having access to health care. He said progress would come when voters changed their expectations of officials in Montgomery and elected people who would work together.
Cobb said progress would be providing every child the chance to succeed in school and life, and she, too, said it would require changes in Montgomery. “Progress to me means that the people of Alabama actually believe again,” she said. “They believe that the people that they have elected to serve them are actually ethically working every single day to make good things happen for them and their families.”
Fields agreed that changing politics was fundamental to improving the state. “Without change, nothing changes,” he said. He said progress could be measured by providing access to affordable health care and quality education to all children in the state.
Three other Democrats also are running for governor, though WVTM limited the debate field to three candidates. They are Christopher Countryman, founding member of Equality Wiregrass; Doug “New Blue” Smith, who ran an unsuccessful race for commissioner of agriculture and industries in 2014; and Anthony B. White, a minister and small-business owner in Dothan.
WVTM is set to broadcast a debate of Republican candidates Thursday at 7 p.m. Scheduled to take part are Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, evangelist Scott Dawson and state Sen. Bill Hightower. Gov. Kay Ivey was invited to participate but declined.