PRO-CASINO CANDIDATE LOST LAST NIGHT…BIG TIME.

Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Gambling Push Gets Major Election Setback

1st candidate to advocate vote on gambling fails to get 40% of vote

Many candidates have been told in recent weeks that taking a, “I’m personally opposed to gambling but let the people vote to allow it,” was a winning campaign position. Polls have been floated to candidates to assure them that this is now the winning position, and opposition to gambling is no longer important in a time of budget crunch.

Many observers thought that Democrat Ricky Whaley would be the first to ride this approach to victory tonight in the special election in Calhoun County, but he failed to get even 40% of the vote, losing to gambling opponent K.L. Brown tonight by a 3,422 votes (55.6 percent) to 2,070 votes (38.5 percent) margin with a few votes for an independent.

Whaley seemed to have many advantages in the race.  He was running for a seat that had been held by Democrats, and enjoyed a huge network due to years of being an ag teacher, and a seemingly endless supply of money from the Alabama Education Association. In addition, TV news viewers have been saturated with commercials attacking Governor Riley for opposing gambling and echoing Whaley’s position to “let the people vote” on gambling.
Whaley took the position that he was personally opposed to gambling, but that the people should be allowed to vote, while Republican K.L. Brown took the position that he opposed gambling.

Why Whaley’s pro-gambling ‘let the people vote’ position failed so badly

While the “let the people vote” always sounds like a winner, Alabama voters are very sophisticated. Many are aware that the side that writes the legislation allowing a vote also decides what the wording will be on the ballot. It would be possible to win an election by wording a question in a very slanted way that would focus on taxing gambling to make it appear to many anti-gambling voters that a YES vote to allow gambling would actually be an anti-gambling vote.  With gamblers having already spent 10s of millions of dollars to build casinos, they know they would be able to overwhelm TV viewers with millions more on commercials to drown out gambling opponents attempt to tell voters how much new gambling would result.

Clearly voters in HD40 didn’t take the bait, resoundingly choosing to elect a candidate who simply voted for what he believed in – that gambling would do great damage to Alabama and should be stopped.

In fact, the Alabama Policy Institute estimated that legalizing casinos in Alabama would create an additional 15,606 pathological gamblers, with more than 3,000 of them committing crimes that would land them in prison after doing great harm to law-abiding citizens.  In fact, the overall cost to the private and public sector was estimated to be $204 million, more than the tax revenue that would be created by the casinos. (see http://www.alabamapolicy.org/pdf/casinos_new.pdf)

While candidates all over the state are being given polling data purportedly showing that passing legislation to allow a public vote to allow casinos is now popular, the first real ballot box test of this appeal points to a still strong opposition to gambling among Alabama voters and a seat switching from Democrat to Republican when the two candidates disagreed on the issue should give pause to anyone considering a pro-gambling vote or position.

Certainly this was not the only issue in the race.  While Whaley had a huge money advantage, the fact that the Republican Party has raised $4 million for legislative races and put together a game plan does allow them to at least offset some of AEAs advantage (AEA spent $8 million in 2006).  However, the lopsidedness of tonight’s loss should at least give pause to other candidates who were planning to follow his roadmap.

For the record the Alabama Farmers Federation did not endorse either candidate in this race, but does oppose all legalized gambling.

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