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Gubernatorial hopeful Bentley visits

Wrapping up a tour of nearly 25 cities across Alabama, Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert Bentley stopped in Brewton Friday morning to seek votes for the state’s highest office.

Bentley told supporters his first order of business as governor would be to call for a special session on ethics reform. His opponent, Democrat Ron Sparks, has said his first special session would be about gambling.

“I want to put together the strongest ethics laws of any state,” he said. “We need to make sure we have total transparency in state government.”

Bentley, a state representative and dermatologist from Tuscaloosa, said the arrest of four of his legislative colleagues last month in a criminal investigation into gambling legislation should spur the state toward ethics reform.

“We should never let a crisis go by without taking advantage of it,” he said.

Bentley also said he would continue to work to bring jobs to the state. He called Gov. Bob Riley “the best economic development governor this state has ever had.”

“I tell people, anything the governor has promised (industries) in terms of incentive packages, I will continue,” he said.

Bentley, who was a surprise winner of the Republican nomination, said he believes his appeal can be traced to his first campaign promise not to accept a salary until the state reaches full employment.

“When people are hurting, they want to know you care about them,” he said.

Last week, Bentley’s campaign was caught in a controversy about campaign help from the Alabama Education Association. Bentley at first denied knowledge of intervention in the campaign by AEA, but later reports showed his campaign had knowledge about the help. At the time of his primary win, some Republicans in the state charged that Bentley beat Bradley Byrne, the one-time front-runner, because of intervention by AEA and its powerful leader Paul Hubbert.

“That was all just a distraction,” Bentley said Friday about the AEA contribution controversy. “This is all a last-minute smokescreen.”

Bentley also said he believes that his experience as a legislator will help him continue to work with lawmakers as governor.

“I believe we will see a change in the Legislature as far as the parties in control,” he said.

“But you still have to be able to work with the other side.”