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Keahey, Joyner eye jobs

With a tight Republican primary over, state Senate District 22 candidate Danny Joyner and incumbent Marc Keahey are looking ahead to the November general election.

Jobs and the economy will be the focus for both candidates, they said last week.

Joyner had to wait until Wednesday for the official word that he won the race with 51.2 percent of the vote over Jeff Peacock of Atmore.

Keahey was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. The district includes Escambia County and parts of five other counties.

Joyner said he was surprised the race was so close. “My strategy now is to galvanize my supporters,” he said. “We need to create jobs and better futures for our children.”

Joyner said he believes the area’s natural resources would be a natural fit for new industries and green jobs. He said he would push to establish a 2,600-acre lake in Conecuh County, a project that has been on the backburner but is still a dream for some leaders in the area.

“Our geographical location itself is so valuable,” Joyner said.

Keahey said voters he has talked to believe the economy is the most important issue right now.

“Anytime we’re not focusing on jobs I think we’re missing the boat,” he said.

Keahey said calls from industrial prospects seem to be picking up lately, giving him hope that the economy is on track for a rebound, particularly in southwest Alabama.

Keahey said he supported a highway bill in the last regular session that will create 30,000 jobs while improving the state’s infrastructure. The bill will use funds from the oil and gas trust fund to pay for the work. He said he would also continue to push for a bill that would give incentives to timber-related industries that hire unemployed workers.

“We want to stabilize the plants that we have, where they’ll be on better footing,” he said.

On one of the most hotly contested issues of the last regular legislative session, Keahey and Joyner differ. Joyner said he does not support a referendum that would give Alabama residents the chance to vote “yes” or “no” on bingo. Keahey supported bills in the last session that would put the issue to a statewide vote.

“I’m not for wide-open gambling,” Joyner said. “That’s when you get corruption.”

Keahey, though, said he believes voters deserve to make the choice.

“I think (bingo) will continue to be an issue until we can get a bill before the people and let them vote it up or down,” he said.

One of the toughest issues the Legislature has dealt with over the past two years is budgeting in a tight economy. Alabama budgets based on revenue projections; those projections over the past two years have been too optimistic, forcing proration in the education budget.

“I think budgeting needs to be (based on) reasonable projections,” Joyner said.

Keahey said the issue is not about how much Alabama taxes its residents, but the structure of the tax system. But he said the issue isn’t likely to be solved anytime soon.