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Davis, Sparks square off in forum

BY LEESHA FAULKNER

THE SELMA TIMES-JOURNAL

A political forum hosted by the Dallas County Democratic Executive Committee provided some insight into the hotly contested battle for the nomination for governor.

Congressman Artur Davis of the 7th Congressional District and state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks squared off just as soon as they took the stage about 30 minutes into the forum, which was broadcast live on local radio.

Davis fielded a question about his opposition to the health care vote, saying he voted against the measure because “It was the wrong bill.”

Davis, who has represented the Black Belt in Congress for eight years, has taken a great deal of political heat for this vote, especially among the poor and minority groups.

Sparks came right back and said he would have voted differently on the bill, saying the people of Alabama deserve affordable health care.

Then, Sparks chastised Davis. “Congressman, you turned your back on the people you represent,” the commissioner said.

Davis pointed out that Sparks had said “different things to different people,” depending on the bend of the crowd.

For instance, at a Business Council of Alabama forum last August, Sparks said, “You know we have 48 million Americans without health care in this country today. Do we need reform in health care? Absolutely. But do I support the current legislation that we have on the table? No I don’t. And I commend Congress by slowing this down and not moving swiftly, but we have definitely got to get our hands around health care reform in this country.”

Sparks continued to try to attack Davis’ voting record on several issues and paint the congressman as a step-and-fetch-it for special interests. At one point, Sparks attempted to link Davis with big oil interests, saying he had accepted money from big oil and voted its way.

However, a check of Davis’ voting record shortly after the forum showed the congressman voted to roll back $14 billion in subsidies and tax breaks for big oil companies and to invest those funds into clean energy programs in what was known as the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

The congressman on three occasions has voted for bill to eliminate or reduce the manufacturing or tax deduction for oil and gas companies, including in Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008, which extended through 2011 the tax credit for production of electricity from renewable sources and denied the tax deduction for income derived from domestic production of oil, gas or related products for major oil companies.

The other legislation voted for by Davis that took on big oil companies included an amendment that would require standards of 35 mpg for cars and light trucks and require 36 billion gallons of biofuels blended into gasoline by 2022. The revenue stream in this particular bill included a $21.5 billion package of tax incentives paid for by the elimination or reduction of $13 billion subsidies for big oil.

The gubernatorial race was only one of several presented in the forum Monday night at the Larry Striplin Performing Arts Center. Others included the 7th District Congressional race to fill the seat vacated by Davis’ run for governor, a candidate for Dallas County Sheriff and a candidate for Alabama Senate District 23. Neither incumbent holding those seats accepted the invitation to the forum.

The forum continues this evening at 6 p.m. at the center with presentations from candidates running for district attorney, district judge, attorney general and the state House of Representatives District 67 and District 69.