Bold Questions Boost Barnes In ‘Bama Senate Bid

The Bill Barnes for U.S. Senate campaign in Alabama was bolstered pre-election weekend by unprecedented help by Democratic officials following recent news reports about his hard-hitting questions of officials in both parties on sensitive issues.

Democrats unveiled robo-calls over the weekend in the state announcing Saturday’s endorsement by President Obama of the Barnes candidacy. The precise reasons remain unclear for the late show of party support for Barnes, the Democratic primary winner. But the support came after Barnes vigorously questioned the health of four-term Republican incumbent Sen. Dick Shelby in recent weeks, as well as the oversight efforts of White House, Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials in specific areas of popular concern in Alabama.

Our non-partisan Justice Integrity Project (JIP) played a role in this by hosting Barnes Oct. 22 at a National Press Club news briefing in Washington, DC in cooperation with the Club’s McClendon Group, which present speakers with strong views often overlooked by the traditional news media. In videos here from the conference, Barnes describes his concerns about such issues as jobs outsourcing, long-term health hazards from the BP Gulf oil disaster, and suspected irregularities in Justice Department operations in Alabama. Also, he described his “disappointment” that he needed to return to Alabama and tell voters that Washington officials would not respond with answers “regarding things that directly impact them.” Barnes later released the text of his letters. Alabama's Legal Schnauzer reported, “U.S. Senate Candidate Challenges Eric Holder on Justice Issues.”  Left in Alabama blogged about his environmental concerns.

The longest letter had detailed questions for Holder, the nation's attorney general, about the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and why the Obama administration retains in Alabama the notorious Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney Leura Canary. Also, the letter questioned the role of Canary’s office in a major pre-election corruption indictment of gambling proponents, including four state senators.

Separately, Barnes responded on my Oct. 14 radio show to a listener question about his rival’s health. Barnes said those questions prompted him to ask Shelby, portrayed at left in one of his longtime official photos, if he plans to resign soon if he wins to let term-limited Republican Gov. Bob Riley take the seat. Shelby’s office replied with a statement to the show that the four-term senator, now 76, looks and feels fine.

Barnes, 61, a Vietnam vet with a long career working for the military before he became an attorney, ran for the senate seat after learning that his state’s Democratic Party had no plans to contest the powerful Shelby, who amassed a $17 million campaign war chest. Senate rules enable Shelby to use any leftover money for personal purposes if he wins and resigns. Shelby received strong support from donors and the media, including an endorsement by the Birmingham News, the state’s largest newspaper.

On Nov. 2, the Washington Post published a chart showing that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent $39,412,938 so far on its nominees. This was nearly $14 million more spending than its Republican counterpart. Little or none of that Democratic party money has gone to Barnes. He refuses PAC money for a campaign that won his party’s primary.

Barnes responded to the Obama endorsement by thanking him while also underscoring their different perspectives. “Normally, a politician would welcome any support, especially from a President,” Barnes said. “I look forward to working with the administration after Nov. 2nd, but I am ending this campaign as I began it: independent, unbought by any substantial funding — and unabashedly pro-Alabama in fighting without compromise or diversions for the public interest of all the citizens of Alabama.”

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