This has been a disheartening week for the State of Alabama. The news of Gov. Robert Bentley’s relationship with Rebekah Caldwell Mason has embarrassed our state on a national level and become a distraction for the state legislature at a time when legislators need to be focused on solving the state’s problems.
Nobody rejoices in seeing another person’s downfall, and I certainly didn’t rejoice in calling on Gov. Bentley to step down from office. But this ugly mess proves a point that needs to be made.
People have been vilified these last six years because they had a “D” in front of their name. There have been several good pieces of legislation that have never been allowed to be brought up for a vote in the legislature just because a Democrat was the one who sponsored the bill. The lottery is a perfect example.
When the Republicans took over the state government, they promised that they were going to be the party of ethics; they were going to clean up Montgomery and lead us like Moses to the Promised Land.
They made promises that they simply have not kept.
Now, the former highest-ranking law enforcement officer in Alabama has been accused by the man who hired him of “possible misuse of funds.” Never mind that an independent audit conducted by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and released just last month found no discrepancies or mismanagement of any kind.
The governor’s accusations not only cost Secretary Spencer Collier his position as the head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, but also cost five career law enforcement officers their jobs. Those officers and Secretary Collier should be reinstated to their former positions immediately.
The governor also has been accused of misusing state resources to facilitate and then cover up his relationship with Rebekah Mason. There needs to be an investigation into those accusations, and to determine if he obstructed justice when he ordered Secretary Collier not to cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation.
Let us not forget that this is the same governor who once said that if you are not a Christian, “you are not my brother.”
As a Democrat, I want everyone to be my brother. But Democrats feel like the Republicans over the last six years have been the party of judgment, and the Bible says in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
When you point one finger, you have three more pointing back at you. When you judge others, you become hypocritical. And so a governor who serves as a deacon and Sunday school teacher in his church ends up coming forward and admitting he has had an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.
What we have seen is a mask; it is a charade. Just because that name on the ballot has an “R” next to it does not mean that person is a saint, and just because the other name on the ballot has a “D” next to it does not mean that person is a villain or on their way to Hell.
I have heard and read where some people have said you can’t be a Democrat and be a Christian, too. Trust me, I know that I am not perfect. But I also know that I believe in the One who was. I think I will let Him be the judge on that matter.
We should judge political candidates by who they are. We should judge them by what they do and what they stand for. You should always vote for your values and your principles. But if this mess in Montgomery has taught us anything, it’s that you can’t assume that just because a person is a Republican, they share your values. We have to look past the party labels and look at who is actually on the ballot.
Let’s move past this attitude of, “if you’re a Republican, then you’re a saint, and if you’re a Democrat, then you’re a sinner.”
Craig Ford is a Democrat from Gadsden and the Minority Leader in the Alabama House of Representatives.