Folsom visits Selma on campaign tour

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 16, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Jim Folsom Jr., former governor and candidate for lieutenant governor, made a campaign stop in Selma Monday and talked about his plans for the future of the state, and the Black Belt.

Folsom, who is running against Republican Luther Strange, said he plans to work closely with the senators from the Black Belt.

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“We want to make sure we pay attention to their area,” he said.

Folsom said one area that must be addressed is transportation – including the proposed limited access east-west corridor from Montgomery to the Mississippi state line, as well as a north-south corridor from the Shoals area to Mobile.

“I think that’s an idea whose time has come,” he said. “When we get the kind of transportation systems in the Black Belt that are needed, you’ll see economic development follow.”

Folsom said that while he plans to push for those transportation corridors, that would be a long range project.

A second area that could be developed more quickly would include the development of alternative fuels in Black Belt counties.

“That’s something that could have tremendous impact on this part of the state,” he said, adding that incentives should be given to help develop biofuel from crops such as corn, soybeans and switchgrass.

“We can sure grow plenty of that,” he said. “That could be a huge industry. It would not only provide a market for farmers, but would also provide jobs and achieve the national goal of making sure we’re not dependent on foreign governments for our fuel.”

Folsom, who served as lieutenant governor or governor from 1987 to 1995, was instrumental in bringing the Mercedes plant to Alabama, which served as a catalyst for growth in the automobile industry in the state.

“We need to continue to build on that,” Folsom said. “We need to push for new auto industries in the state.”

For every job an auto plant brings, there are 10 times that many opportunities in auto parts suppliers, he said.

“We have the best calling card in the South for bringing industry,” he said.

Folsom said he thought “long and hard” about making another run for a political office. “I had a lot of state senators who encouraged me to run,” he said. “I served with about half of the folks in the senate. I know the rules. I have the experience. I’ve done it before. I can do it again.”

He added that he enjoyed his two terms as lieutenant governor.

“If I didn’t really like it, I sure wouldn’t be out here campaigning.”

Folsom said he didn’t bring partisan politics into play during his previous terms and does not plan to this go-around.

“If you strictly use the job to bring Beltway politics to the state, that would be detrimental,” he said.

“I’m more of a pragmatic, let’s-get-the-job done kind of fellow … I like to work toward a common goal.”

Republican candidate Luther Strange is also campaigning around the state and recently announced his package for ethics reform he plans to initiate if elected in November.

“It’s all about transparency in Montgomery,” Strange said on his web site.

“I applaud Gov. Riley’s emphasis on accountability and open government throughout his administration.

He has shown incredible leadership in this area, and I plan to bring the same kind of leadership to the legislature as Lt. Governor.”

Strange’s three-pronged plan calls for transparency in campaigns, for lobbyists and in the legislature.