BIRMINGHAM , AL (WAFF) - Candidates for Alabama Governor took the stage on Thursday at a forum in Birmingham to discuss issues facing the state and what they plan to do if elected.
Participants in a forum included Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle (R), Former Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb (D), Evangelist Scott Dawson (R), former Alabama House Representative James Fields (D), businessman Bill Hightower (R), and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox (D).
Moderators at the forum included WBHM News Director Gigi Douban, WBRC FOX6 News Anchor Jonathan Hardison and Birmingham Business Journal Editor-in-Chief Ty West.
Current Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was invited to the forum, citing scheduling conflicts in her decision not to participate.
The candidates tackled questions on topics ranging from Alabama's infrastructure to the opioid epidemic.
When asked about giving money back to education and creating more jobs, Battle said he believes it is highly important to fund education. Cobb discussed her plan to implement a state lottery, from which funds would be used to benefit education and preparing students for the future. Hightower stated his belief that it is important for children to feel empowered, no matter what their skill is.
Panelists asked the candidates about their opinions on Alabama's infrastructure and if they support a fuel tax. Dawson said that people don't trust Montgomery politics and insisted that citizens know where their money is going. Cobb supports a "modest, but adequate" fuel tax.
Raising the state's minimum wage was also addressed. Maddox supports raising the minimum wage, but wants it to be statewide, as he believes differing minimum wages between counties can be problematic.
Battle, on the other hand, believes raising the minimum wage could lead to people losing their jobs.
Another major issue at the forum was the opioid epidemic. Cobb said the focus should be on getting the resources necessary to handle the health and overdose problems in Alabama. Fields does not believe cities across the state have addressed the problem properly.
Candidates used their closing statements as an opportunity to summarize their campaign and why they are running.
Maddox said Alabama is in crisis and believes he can help lead the state into the future. Hightower said he is "running to make a difference" and feels like Montgomery is broken.
Fields said he believes in the state and that Alabama needs to change. Dawson said that he loves the state and believes that it can move forward.
Cobb highlighted the problems that she has seen facing Alabama and believes she is qualified for the position.
Battle chose to focus on the accomplishments of the state and closed by saying that Alabama is "a smart place".
The primary is scheduled for June 5.
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