| The Over the Mountain Democrats deserve a word of thanks for hosting such a quality event. The format was very good with sufficient time for the candidates to give substantive responses and rebuttals and moderator Barry Ragsdale did an excellent job with the questions. We'll have some video up later.
In the meantime, I agree with Kathy's assessment below -- Davis was the clear victor.
As a progressive Democrat I am extremely tired of hearing Ron Sparks say "if there's a problem with the Constitution, let's change it amendment by amendment." Anyone who has studied Alabama government at all realizes there are several problems with the 1901 Constitution. We are so past the "IF there's a problem" stage on Constitution Reform.
I'm also tired of hearing Commissioner Sparks say a "Constitutional Convention means we'll raise your taxes." That's a standard Republican talking point and one I don't enjoy hearing at a Democratic candidate forum. In contrast, Congressman Davis said as governor he would call for the election of delegates to a Constitutional Convention on the primary ballot in 2012 and wants to see a new constitution on the ballot in the 2014 election. In reply to Sparks' "If there's a problem with the Constitution, let's change it amendment by amendment," Davis said "That's what we've done." Which is quite true, and as a result we've been stuck with the 1901 albatross for over 100 years. It's time to try a different way.
There was a fairly sharp interchange over gambling -- Sparks proposed building a casino on the banks of the Alabama River in Selma. Davis said he was not going to build an economic strategy for the next decade around gaming and the uncertain possibility of a lottery passing. I would like to do some digging on this, but it seems to me most jobs at and around casinos are relatively low paying service jobs, not good middle class jobs. Professional or manufacturing jobs would almost certainly provide more long term benefit to the local economy, if they can be attracted to Alabama.
The sharpest exchanges of the evening came on the subject of ethics reform and electability. Sparks essentially accused Davis of violating Alabama's Fair Campaign Practices Act by "raising money before June 6th" and implied his ethics reform proposal would "turn over our judicial system to prosecutors." To say the accusation fell flat would be charitable. I believe one person applauded. Sparks is making a huge mistake hanging his campaign on these technicalities -- average people don't give a rat's eyelash about the nuances of the AFCPA and he's wasting valuable time arguing about petty issues instead of defining himself.
Interestingly, Davis indicated his polling shows both Democrats are electable and both are currently beating Republicans "Moore, James, Byrne and Ivey." For his part, Sparks stressed his own electability -- he's twice been elected statewide -- then said he didn't "design the way Alabama is" but we need to look at who can win. Like Kathy, I heard the dogwhistle and it fell flat with this crowd.
Fortunately for Sparks, that was the last question of this forum so he could not dig himself any deeper into that hole.