Byrne faces opponent Robert Bentley in the Republican primary runoff next Tuesday. In a final campaign push, Byrne’s tour bus hit the pavement last Thursday, traveling throughout northeast Alabama before stopping for an hour-long do-si-do at Western Sizzlin’ in Oxford.
He was accompanied by his wife, Rebecca, and one of their daughters, Laura.
About 30 Calhoun County residents took time out of their post-holiday day off to hear Byrne speak about how his Christian faith led him to seek the Republican nomination for governor.
”This country was founded on Christian biblical values,” he said amidst a chorus of “Amens!” from people in the restaurant. “Not one single thing in the constitution says people of faith can’t work in government.”
As one of those self-professed persons of faith, Byrne focused his speech on the ethical changes he wants to bring to the state government — namely, cleaning up the public corruption Byrne said plagues Montgomery.
If he is elected as governor, his first action will be to call a special legislative session the day after his inauguration, Byrne said.
His idea is that during this envisioned special session, legislators will have a week to come up with “the toughest ethics law” that will hold public officials accountable and eradicate special interest groups’ manipulation of the legislature. Specifically, Byrne mentioned the Alabama Education Association as one of those groups that has its hands on the state legislature’s puppet strings.
Since the beginning of the primary campaign, the AEA has funded a number of television ads that attack Byrne and his campaign.
“We will clean up the state government in Alabama in a week,” he said.
Byrne’s speech — which also touched briefly on topics like the oil spill in the gulf and the budget deficit that Alabama will face when federal stimulus funds run out next year — was punctuated by frequent clapping and shouts of enthusiasm.
During a question and answer session after Byrne’s thirty-minute speech, listeners quizzed him on a variety of topics, including what he thought about offshore drilling in light of the gulf disaster.
Byrne replied that he supported coastal drilling but thought the state and federal governments needed to work harder to ensure that industry standards were understood and enforced by all companies permitted to drill near the Alabama shoreline.
“We have to make sure we have proper precautions and contingency plans in place,” said Byrne.
But he doesn’t think offshore drilling should stop completely.
“America needs to be able to produce its own energy.”
Byrne pointed back to holding industries and officials accountable as part of the solution to problems like the one caused by British Petroleum. And Byrne said he knows, with the help of his family and Christianity, he can do the job.
But he acknowledged he can’t do anything without the support of voters.
“I need your help,” he said. “I wake up every day and read my Bible and pray, but I need help.”
His audience erupted in cheers.
Contact Star staff writer Cameron Steele at 256-235-3562.