Legislators split on support for presidential candidates

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Several of Shelby County’s state legislators shared differing views on who they plan to support during the upcoming 2012 presidential election, and some said they have not yet been able to choose a candidate.

With Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul all vying for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, some members of Shelby County’s all-Republican state delegation said they have already started campaigning for the candidates.

State Reps. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, Kurt Wallace, R-Maplesville, Jim Carns, R-Birmingham, and state Sen. Slade Blackwell, R-Birmingham, said they plan to support Gingrich.

McClendon said experience played a major role in his decision to support Gingrich’s campaign.

“I feel like he has the backbone and the determination to lead this country,” McClendon said.

Wallace said he admired Gingrich’s “directness,” and also touted the candidate’s political experience. Gingrich served in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 20 years, and was the speaker of the house from 1995-1999.

“I like his directness as much as anything. He’s got more experience than anyone down there, as far as running government goes,” Wallace said. “I think he’s got enough experience to surround himself with folks who can get the job done.”

Carns said he is supporting Gingrich, but said he will support whoever is nominated by the Republican party.

“I think he’s the most articulate on the subject matter at hand, whatever it is at the time,” Carns said. “But I don’t think we can lose with any of the (Republican candidates).”

Blackwell said he has thrown his support behind Gingrich, but said he also will “fully support” whoever is chosen as the Republican nominee.

“I am the Senate finance chair for Newt Gingrich, and I am supporting him as a very conservative candidate,” Blackwell said. “But I will support and be behind any of the Republican nominees.”

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, is involved with Romney’s campaign. Ward said he believes Romney is “best-equipped” to handle the nation’s current challenges.

“I think the economy, hands down, is the biggest issue facing our country right now,” Ward said. “I think he’s best-equipped to handle that.”

Ward said support for presidential candidates is “still pretty split” among Alabama’s legislators, and said many Republican legislators from the Birmingham metropolitan area have pledged their support to Gingrich.

State Reps. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, and Mike Hill, R-Columbiana, said they have not yet decided which candidate they will support in the presidential race.

“I wish I had someone I felt real good about,” McClurkin said. “I’m really struggling, because all of them have good attributes and weak ones.”

“I haven’t made up my mind,” Hill said. “Every time I watch a debate, I start swinging one way or another.”