Local races heat up again: Runoff set for District 14 seat

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2002

The remaining Republican candidates for the District 14 State Senate seat hope voters will focus on their issues now that the center of much controversy, former state Sen. Steve Flowers is out of the race.

Montevallo resident Hank Erwin Jr. and Pelham resident Don Murphy face-off in the runoff next Tuesday, June 25, both attempting to win the seat formerly held by Lt. Gov.- candidate Bill Armistead.

Erwin, a former Christian talk radio host and Alabaster businessman, garnered 39 percent of the more than 17,000 votes cast in the primary on June 4.

Murphy, a Pelham businessman and real estate agent, was second with 29 percent of the vote. Flowers totaled 27 percent, and candidate Mike Morton finished with only 4 percent.

District 14 covers parts of Jefferson, Bibb, Chilton and the heavily populated western portion of Shelby County including Montevallo, Helena, Pelham and parts of Alabaster and Calera.

Erwin attempted last week to be seen as the candidate who would best solve road and gridlock problems facing residents of Shelby and Chilton counties.

In his mailed advertisements, he lists four solutions that would address what he called the &uot;most significant gridlock problems.&uot;

&uot;In Montgomery, I am going to fight for moral issues and for families. I believe that fighting for my district’s families includes fixing transportation problems, improving education, and improving upon our thriving economy,&uot; Erwin said.

Specifics of Erwin’s road plan include widening Alabama Highway 119 from North Shelby County to Montevallo, widening and re-engineering the Interstate 65 Shelby County Airport exit at Highway 87 which he referred to as a &uot;death-trap waiting to happen,&uot; building a bridge over the railroad tracks on Highway 52 in Pelham and adding additional lanes and exits ramps through all of Shelby County on Interstate 65 as far down as Jemison and Clanton in Chilton County.

&uot;We can’t cover them all but these four (traffic problems) are a must,&uot; Erwin said.

&uot;Shelby County just hasn’t gotten the dollars. With a Republican Governor, I believe they’ll get the attention they deserve,&uot; he said predicting U.S. Rep. Bob Riley would win the governor’s race.

Erwin said he would work to establish a local committee of municipal mayors and county commissioners. The committee, he said, could work to address road funding by pursuing money at the local, state and national levels.

Erwin said his opponent, Murphy, has not yet specifically addressed the gridlock problems.

&uot;He may be talking about roads, but I have not seen his specific solutions to the problems,&uot; he said.

Murphy disagreed with Erwin’s comments, pointing to the fact that he has stated in numerous campaign materials since April that if elected, his first priority would be to work to find a solution to traffic problems.

These &uot;bottlenecks,&uot; he said, include areas of Alabama Highway 261, Shelby County Highway 52, Highway 31, Alabama Highway 119 at Alabaster, the Airport Interchange, the first Calera Interchange and Interstate 65 throughout the area.

&uot;I think Hank has finally seen the light and now he wants to start talking about the roads,&uot; Murphy said. &uot;He is confirming everything I have said.&uot;

Murphy said the issue of funding must be the first obstacle addressed in attempting to solve &uot;bottleneck&uot; road problems.

&uot;This late recognition indicates he never fully understood the citizens’ concerns with bottlenecks in District 14.,&uot; Murphy said. &uot;When elected, I will continue to be in the forefront on the most important issues that confront our area, as I have been on (the forefront on) traffic.&uot;


also predicted Riley would win and said he expects to be asked to serve on the state highway oversight committee.

His first objective, he said, would be to put all of the District 14 area’s &uot;bottleneck&uot; problems on the state’s five-year transportation program.

Murphy said he would lead local leaders in achieving a closer relationship with U.S. Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby as well as U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus. Doing so, he said, would help to increase federal transportation funding for District. 14.

&uot;It’s going to take a coordinated effort among all our leaders. We need to get organized and get things done,&uot; he said.

This is Erwin’s first try at politics. The Birmingham native has been a Christian radio talk show with for two different Birmingham radio stations. Erwin attended Troy State, Southeastern Bible College and Dallas Seminary and has been an ordained minister for 17 years. His affiliation is &uot;interdenominational.&uot;

Erwin also has a nonprofit group called SAV-America, with SAV meaning &uot;Standard American Values.&uot; The group, based in Alabaster, offers counseling to families in the hopes of preventing divorces and separations.

Erwin has stated, if elected, he would seek to replace Sen. Armistead as a protector of family values in the Alabama Legislature. He said he will work to protect residents from gambling, abortion, pornography and homosexuality.

&uot;Bill Armistead has been a source of encouragement for me, and I hope to emulate all he has done. I hope to be recognized as a clone of Armistead,&uot; he said.

Murphy is a former state representative, a former Shelby County Commissioner and a 30-year Pelham businessman.

He has had extensive community involvement as a past president of the Alabaster/Pelham Rotary Club, a member of the Cahaba Valley Jaycees and the Pelham Civitan Club, past director of the Shelby County Cancer Society and Shelby County YMCA. He is a also Master Mason and an Army veteran.

Besides transportation, Murphy said his main concerns are attracting jobs to the area, working to attain more funding for local schools and educating communities on &uot;local planning.&uot;

&uot;That is one of the biggest problems in this area &045; local planning. We don’t address problems until it is already too late,&uot; he said