Gubernatorial candidates are hugely disappointing

Our View

For an election year that has generated enormous excitement and energy nationwide, the state of our own gubernatorial race is disappointing. Neither Republican candidate Robert Bentley nor Democratic candidate Ron Sparks has meaningfully engaged the electorate or presented a compelling vision for the future of Alabama. Both have questionable ties to special interest groups in Montgomery that have long records of fighting progress in our state.

As a result, important issues like growing our economy and fixing our schools have been reduced to whether or not the governor will take a salary or legalize gambling.

It is hard to get excited about voting for either; neither has earned our votes.

Yet, we have to elect a governor. After careful consideration, we have concluded that Bentley, who has few ideas, is preferable to Sparks, who has one.

We continue to support efforts to legalize and regulate gambling, as long as those policies are developed in a way that will most benefit the state’s tourism industry and education system. Gambling is not, however, the most important issue for voters, even though it is the driving force behind Spark’s campaign.

More money alone is not going to help an education system that is structurally broken. Bentley, who has at least expressed a willingness to experiment with charter schools, has provided somewhat more leadership on education reform than his opponent.

Regardless of who is elected governor, any attempt to legalize gambling will have to be approved by the voters. Bentley has said if the state legislature sends him a gambling bill, he will allow it to go to the public for a vote. The people will have their say either way, unless the legislature fails to act on the issue. But that will be the legislature’s prerogative, not the governor’s.

Even if voters did approve a lottery and/or casino gambling, the revenue generated for the state would not be enough to replace expiring economic stimulus funds, provide college scholarships to students meeting minimal academic standards, and supply additional resources to primary and secondary schools. Gambling could help, but it is not the cure-all Sparks promises.

Alabama desperately needs a dynamic leader with innovative ideas to move forward. Unfortunately, such a candidate is not on the ballot. Given the choice, Robert Bentley is the best we can do.

Our View is the consensus of the Crimson White editorial board.

In Short: Neither candidate has earned our votes, but Robert Bentley is at least marginally better than his one-issue opponent.