Huntsville mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tommy Battle has visited all 67 of Alabama’s counties during his campaign, but Battle has visited Baldwin County more than any other candidate in the race thus far.
“Twice a month, we’re down in Baldwin County because it’s a dichotomy of what Alabama is,” Battle said. “It’s a rural area, it’s an urban area, it’s a tourist area and it’s got its retail corridor, too, but you look at the makeup of Baldwin County and it reflects the whole state - so we’re down here time and time again. It’s a big county, a long way from north to south, and it’s got a lot of assets we would want to use as governor to make the state grow and prosper.”
Battle cited the Baldwin County Megasite as a perfect example for how to help Baldwin County and the state prosper by helping to bring in large-scale industry similar to what Battle and Huntsville recently brought in with the Toyota/Mazda deal.
“I would love to do the same thing down here for that 3,000 acre site, to bring in jobs that are generational jobs, jobs that provide prosperity for the community for decades and decades,” Battle said. “The key is going to be developing our workforce so that when we talk to industry, they understand we’re going to use our two-year college system to develop workforce, our K-12 technical schools to develop workforce, and make sure we have the roads and infrastructure to bring that workforce from over 50 miles away to get them into that site. That’s the key to making sure that area is the next one to land one of the big investor projects.”
Battle said as he’s traveled the state that jobs and economy are the major issues that Alabama residents care about.
“If you can provide somebody a job, you let them have opportunity,” Battle said. “There are people who have jobs right now that want better jobs, so you have to be able to provide for better jobs. There are over 50,000 young people in Mobile County schools that are going to want jobs when they come out and you have to have opportunities available for them. We have to make sure that opportunity is there - that’s our job.”
When asked about the potential creation of an Alabama lottery, Battle said the people of Alabama absolutely deserve a vote on the issue.
“The lottery is no more than a financial tool,” Battle said. “I’ve seen some estimates from other candidates that a lottery would bring in $300 million a year; I really think the number is around $100 million a year. If we go the route of lottery, we need to allow the people to vote on it.”
Battle said he had ideas for the potential revenue if a lottery was passed.
“We have to make sure the commission that would run it is the most honest commission we can find, and we have to make sure the people trust it,” Battle said. “We also have to decide where the money goes. My push would be to put half of it to the two-year college system so that young people coming from K-12 can get the certifications they need to go into the advanced manufacturing world. The other half needs to go into the four-year college system so that we can make sure college is affordable for everybody.”
Battle said education and infrastructure will be priorities to his potential administration because of the impact both can have on job growth, development and expansion.
“We’ve got to have highly-skilled, highly-trained workers to be able to attract the industries and jobs that will keep Alabama growing,” Battle said. “We also have to make sure we have great roads, bridges and other infrastructure in place to transport products and our workers to and from these sites.”
On March 2, Battle’s campaign announced he had reported more than 1,000 contributions in his race for the governor’s seat.
”This shows the kind of support we have across Alabama,” Battle said. “What makes this special is these are real Alabamians donating to our campaign. These are not Montgomery special interest groups. Not everyone running for governor can say that.”
According to the Battle campaign, Battle’s contributions are nearly double the amount Governor Kay Ivey has. Ivey has slightly more than 500 donations to her campaign.
However, the number of political action committees that have donated to Ivey’s campaign is more than quadruple Tommy Battle, 86 for Ivey to Battle’s 17.
“The numbers show that Alabama voters are on my side,” said Battle. “Montgomery leadership and special interest groups want to keep the Alabama State Capitol the same as it’s always been. I’m ready to lead this ship in a new direction.”
Battle said he knows it isn’t easy taking on an incumbent like Ivey, but questioned her stances and ideas on issues affecting the state.
“Seems like over the 30 years she’s been in government, including eight as lieutenant governor, she ought to have been ready to walk into the governor’s office,” Battle said. “If just now you’re coming up with your education proposals, where have you been all this time? Where you have you been in the past if you’re just now coming up with economic proposals? Campaign rhetoric is great, but you have to show you’re actually able to do things. I’ve got a record of 10 years - 10 years of accomplishments, 10 years of actually doing things and I’m glad to put that record up against anyone’s.”