By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (AP) — Republican candidates for attorney general shared a stage for the first time Saturday in an occasionally contentious forum that previewed a contest shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested races of 2018.
Attorney General Steve Marshall is seeking to fend off a field of well-known challengers: former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin, former Attorney General Troy King and GOP lawyer and former judge Chess Bedsole.
The state’s string of corruption scandals were frequent topics as the four candidates made back-to-back stump speeches — making their cases and occasionally taking aim at each other — at a gathering of the Mid-Alabama Republican Club.
Marshall was named as attorney general last year by then-Gov. Robert Bentley after Bentley appointed Luther Strange, then the state’s attorney general, to the U.S. Senate. Marshall recused himself from an ethics investigation involving Bentley who later resigned and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor campaign finance violations.
Marshall, a district attorney for 16 years in Marshall County, said his passion is being a prosecutor.
“I’ve heard many say AG stands for aspiring governor. That’s not me,” Marshall, said saying that working as a prosecutor is his first and last goal.
In seeking to win the office in his own right, Marshall said the state attorney general should be one that calls “balls and strikes” in enforcing the state law without concern if it’s politically popular. He noted his office brought action against gambling facilities even though people warned him it could be politically costly.
Martin, a former U.S. attorney who also served as chief deputy in the attorney general’s office under Strange, is best known for overseeing a string of corruption investigations including of the two-year college system and the financial fraud case involving HealthSouth.
“I’m the only one running for attorney general that’s done any corruption work of significance,” Martin said.
Martin used sections of her speech to criticize Marshall. Martin told the GOP club meeting that Marshall, who switched to the GOP in 2011, wouldn’t have attended one of their meetings before then.
She referred to Marshall as a “Bentley appointed attorney general” and suggested he had campaign support from allies of convicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard.
While Martin referred to Marshall as a Bentley appointee, she had also interviewed with Bentley for the attorney general appointment, according to a list provided last year by Bentley’s administration.
Martin told The Associated Press earlier that she had the meeting but didn’t expect to get the appointment.
King is seeking a return the post he held for six years. King was appointed as attorney general in 2004 by then-Gov. Bob Riley. He won the office in 2006, but lost the 2010 GOP primary to Strange.
King said Alabama has been continually embarrassed by scandal and being “the lead joke every single night on the comedy shows” over the last eight years.
“How long do you think it’s been since a parent in Alabama pointed to the TV and encouraged (their child) to grow up and be like the governor of Alabama?”
Chess Bedsole, who served as President Donald Trump’s Alabama field director, described Trump as the best boss he has ever had.
“I just killed myself to get Washington on the straight and narrow path again and I want to do that this for job,” Bedsole said.
Bedsole said someone from Bentley’s office had asked him to apply for the attorney general position, but said he turned down the interview because it would require recusal from any investigation involving Bentley.
“I am not going to take anything from anybody,” Bedsole said.
photo credit: Kim Chandler via Twitter (@StateHouseKim).