District 27 Representative candidates Wes Kitchens and Bill Jones squared off in a debate last week sponsored by Marshall County’s 3 newspapers. Kerry Chatham of Team Wealth Solutions in Guntersville served as the moderator.
Kitchens, the Republican, and Jones, the Democrat, differed in their thoughts on whether the state should pass a lottery. Jones is for it. While Kitchens personally opposes it, he said he would not stand in the way of the people voting on the issue.
Kitchens served as the director of basketball operations at the University of Denver for 4 years. He came home to Arab to become the director of the Arab Chamber of Commerce.
“I am running on a platform of 3 E’s,” Kitchens said, “the economy, education and ethical leadership.”
Jones said he is tired of seeing the same old things come out of Washington D.C. and Montgomery.
“I can’t do anything about Washington,” he said. “But maybe I can be a voice in Montgomery. I believe a man’s word is his bond. I’m tired of the ‘tribalism’ and the divisiveness. If I am elected, I will not go to Montgomery to be a Republican or a Democrat. I will go to represent District 27.”
Chatham asked the candidates these questions and these were their responses:
Q: Where do you stand on a state lottery? If the state were to approve a lottery, should the funding be earmarked? If so, where should it be earmarked?
Jones: “Yes. I am for a state lottery. A lot of our money is going to Florida and Georgia and other states to play their lotteries. I believe 60 percent should be earmarked for education, 20 percent for county infrastructure, 10 percent for mental health and 10 percent for senior centers and programs. It’s time for Alabama to come into the 21st century and have a lottery like most of the other states.”
Kitchens: “Personally, I am opposed to the lottery. I don’t believe it will solve our budget issues. But I will not stop the people from voting on the lottery since it has to be approved by a vote of the people.”
Q: What is your position on the problems in the state prison system? Do you have ideas on fixing those problems?
Kitchens: “We have some serious problems in the prison system. But it’s an Alabama problem and it needs Alabama people solving it. We do not want the federal government stepping in with its own solution. We must address this problem ourselves.”
Jones: “The prison problem is a difficult issue. One problem is that we’re running at 159 percent capacity in the Alabama prisons. We need sentencing guidelines so people aren’t going to prison on minor offenses. We need GED and other self-improvement programs for those who are in prison.”
Q: Much has been made of the state’s Pre-K system. Some say it levels the playing field for academic achievement while others contend it is just glorified baby-sitting. Where do you stand on state funded Pre-K?
Jones: “Kudos to our Pre-K program. The biggest problem we have is that only 29 percent of the children who are eligible get to attend. With a state lottery and putting 60 percent of the proceeds towards education, we can expand the pre-k program.”
Kitchens: “Our Pre-K program is hands down one of the best in the nation. It’s important that every family who wants their child to attend a Pre-K program be afforded that opportunity. Education improves when our children are prepared to begin school. That in turn helps economic growth down the road.”
“It’s just 3 weeks until the election,” Jones said. “I ask you for your vote and I thank you in advance.”
“District 27 is who I am,” Kitchens said. “When you go to vote, remember that I stand for the economy, education and strong ethical leadership.”