MONTGOMERY -- Three candidates for governor are running on state lottery platforms and gambling that Alabama voters have changed their views since rejecting Gov. Don Siegelman's lottery plan 15 years ago.
Both Democratic candidates for governor, former U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith of Huntsville and Fayette businessman Kevin Bass, are proposing a lottery to pay for college scholarships, and one of the three Republican candidates, former Morgan County Commissioner Stacy Lee George, is proposing a lottery to pay for scholarships and several other programs.
They hope the lottery issue will make them stand out against a Republican incumbent with a $3 million fundraising lead and a hands-off approach to a lottery.
"It's going to be very difficult," Griffith acknowledged in an interview.
Creating a lottery in Alabama requires an amendment to the Alabama Constitution. The Alabama House and Senate must approve it first, and the voters statewide must pass it.
Democrat Siegelman got elected governor in 1998 by promising to create a state lottery. He got his plan through the Legislature, but voters rejected it in a statewide referendum in 1999 after a campaign funded in part by out-of-state gambling interests trying to avoid competition.
Siegelman sought re-election in 2002 using the lottery as his issue and lost to Republican Bob Riley.
The Democratic nominee for governor in 2010, Ron Sparks, ran on a lottery platform and lost to Republican Robert Bentley.
In 2010 and again in 2014, Bentley says a lottery is not his issue.
"That is up to the Legislature. That's a constitutional amendment. I don't even sign a constitutional amendment," Bentley said.
Bentley said he wouldn't fight a lottery constitutional amendment in the Legislature. "I always believe in the people's right to vote," he said.
But he said he would vote against it in a statewide referendum. "I don't think gambling is the way to fund education," he said.