HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The race for the next governor of Alabama is just heating up.
With hot button issues like jobs, gun control and health care at center stage, the Democratic candidates were on the road in Huntsville Saturday.
At a breakfast for voters, candidates pitched their platforms to an energized crowd at Alabama A&M University.
Three of the candidates, Sue Bell Cobb, James Fields Jr. and Walt Maddox all spoke at the event.
It's a nationwide debate that has made its way to the campaign trail. Both Republican and Democrat leaders know something needs to be done, but their approaches while similar take a turn at how to deal with mental health.
"Gun safety is really what people want. Alabama does a really poor job on mental illness issues,"says Sue Bell Cobb.
James C. Fields, Jr. took a stronger approach, placing blame on past administrations.
"We must do something about people who have mental health issues, and that's a failure of past leadership," Fields said.
"We have closed four mental health institutions but have not added any beds. We have a moral crisis in our mental health communities, we have a medical crisis. We need to double the number of beds we have in our mental health communities so we can ensure treatment not only for those with acute distress but those who need long-term care," Maddox said.
"The election of 2018 is crucial that our voters stay engaged, they get informed about the candidates and that they get out and express themselves," said Cobb.
The election of Sen. Doug Jones showed a surge in voter support for Democratic candidates. These candidates plan to use that same energy going into the primaries.
Fields says he plans to visit every county across the state ahead of the primaries.
"This is not about power. This is about providing an access to a better life for everybody in Alabama. White, black, Hispanic, whoever you are, if you're in Alabama you're gonna know you are in a state where the governor believes in you," Fields pitched to voters.
Maddox took a jab at the establishment.
"If we're going to be successful in the general election, we cannot continue to elect those from the Montgomery insiders, those that are the Montgomery-elite. We're a new fresh voice that's going to create a new covenant with voters that I think will resonate not only in the primary but when we get to the general election," Maddox said.
Could the next big Mega Millions or Powerball jackpot winner come from Alabama? If some candidates for governor have their way, absolutely.
"It's something that's really going to help out classrooms, help our students, help out teachers," Fields said.
Alabama voters have been down this road before and call it one with a dead end. Candidates say they're going to change that.
"It's different this time," Cobb said.
"With the lottery, we will fully fund 4-year-old kindergarten, help with child care, fully fund career tech and pay the gap for Pell grants. $300 million without raising taxes, I think that's something I can sell to the people of Alabama," Maddox said.
Not every voter shares that excitement.
Linda McComb said she doesn't think it's a good idea, referring to her spiritual beliefs in her decision.
Ann Brooks, on the other hand, thinks it is a great idea, and one she's been waiting on.
"It's people here that play the lottery and take their money to Tennessee and we could be using that money here for schools and whatever it's needed for," Brooks said.
With voters split on the issue, it's certain to be a conversation that will continue.
Meanwhile, candidates say it's the sure power way to move Alabama ahead economically.
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