Griffith, whose previous offices include congressman and state senator, began campaigning this week for a run as governor, having qualified for the Democratic ticket on the deadline day of Feb. 6. The Huntsville politician made a brief stop in Anniston on Thursday to talk about his campaign, calling Gov. Robert Bentley’s decision to not expand Medicaid “unconscionable” and “heartbreaking.”
Griffith, a medical doctor, said as a cancer specialist he’s seen patients unable to afford treatment, or wait until it’s too late to get a diagnosis that could save their lives.
“I’ve seen people come in, and I tell them they have cancer, and fill them a prescription, and know they can’t afford it because they don’t have insurance,” Griffith said. “They say, ‘Hey doc, thanks, but I can’t afford this. I’m not going to put this on my family.’”
Despite his professional kinship with Bentley, who’s a dermatologist — both are also 71 years old — Griffith said Bentley’s failure as governor has come from bending to the will of what he calls the extremists in the Republican party.
“Dr. Bentley isn’t like that, but he’s just timid,” Griffith said. “He knows that’s wrong, but we need strong leaders in Alabama who are going to stand up for what’s right.”
Griffith said he hopes the parallels between himself and Alabama’s current governor will help voters focus on the issues during the upcoming election season.
Griffith was elected to the Alabama Senate in 2004. He was elected to Congress in 2008 as a Democrat, but switched to the Republican party because he disagreed with the party’s stand on the Affordable Care Act. He said he found himself an outcast in his new party as well, which he said came under the control of the Tea Party during his tenure on the national political scene. He returned to Alabama politics as a Democrat.
Despite not favoring Obamacare, Griffith said he always believed in the expansion of Medicaid and hopes to make that issue the center of his campaign. Griffith said he believes expanding health care in Alabama will not only save lives, it will create jobs and promote business, and cited Boeing’s recent decision not to open a plant in Alabama as evidence that big business would rather stay in a state with better access to health care and that’s friendlier to unions than come to Alabama, which ranks near the bottom in health and education.
Griffith said his other campaign promise will be to enact a lottery to benefit Alabama schools, and said money spent by residents in places like Georgia is going to educate other state’s children.
“They’re going over there to buy lottery, and they’ll also get groceries,” Griffith said. “That’s not helping Alabama children. That’s not improving our education.”
Griffith said his last-minute decision to join the race came after Alabama Sen. Bill Beasley, D-Clayton, announced the day before the qualifying deadline he would not enter the race. Griffith said he would not want to run against Beasley as they had similar positions on Medicaid and an education lottery.
Griffith will face Fayette businessman Kevin Bass in the Democratic primary election on June 3.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.