Turner, Howard to square off for House seat

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 21, 2005

Albert Turner, Jr. and Ralph A. Howard will go mano-a-mano for the right to represent House District 72 in next year’s legislature.

The deadline for candidates to qualify for the May 3 special election came and went Friday afternoon without any last-minute applications, officials from the state offices of both major parties confirmed after the 5 p.m. cut-off had passed.

That gives Howard and Turner 45 days to convince voters that they are the better choice for District 72, which encompasses all or part of Hale, Perry, Marengo, and Bibb counties.

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In an interview Friday, Turner stressed that experience in government is vital for a Representative to succeed in strengthening District 72.

“We want to make sure we get the message out that experience is the key to putting together a new day for the Black Belt. One piece is in place in the Senate,” he said, referring to Bobby Singleton, “and now it’s time to put the other in the House…with both a House and Senate member who are working for the people, we will be able to regionalize our efforts and move this entire region forward.”

“I am not going to have to spend any time learning how to be a legislator,” he added, referring to his role as a Perry County Commissioner. “I have already been a legislator on the county level. When someone comes to me with a problem I can say I’ve dealt with it. If it’s water, I’ve dealt with it. If it’s jails and overcrowding, I’ve dealt with it. If it’s economic development, I’ve dealt with it.”

Howard, a Greensboro native and public servant in Bibb County, said for his part that change, and immediate change, was essential for the Black Belt to progress.

“This is an opportunity for this District to move in a new direction,” he said. “We are at the point where we have to have strong, effective leadership. We cannot remain in the current situation longer. The time is now to make changes and bridge the gaps that have held us back.”

“If we don’t have leadership that understands the needs of all the people,” he added, “the situation will not change. We need leaders. Leaders have to be knowledgeable, hard-working, and above all leaders have to be people who bring communities together…there’s a lot of people who are letting what’s in the past hold them back. We have a dark past, and unless we let that go we will never move forward.”

When asked to define an issue for the campaign, Howard expressed concern over the possibility of voter fraud that many have alleged in Hale and Perry counties in previous elections.

“I think this issue with Hale and Perry counties is part of this campaign,” he said. “The absentee ballots are going to be something I’ve going to be watching. I’m going to run a clean race, and I won’t stand by and be cheated.”

Few observers would dispute that Howard enters the race as the lesser-known of the two candidates. After graduating from Greensboro High he entered the Marines and served his country overseas before returning to his hometown. He currently works with the Bibb County Board of Education, serving as Adult Education Instructor at the Bibb County

correctional facility.

Marion’s Turner has been involved in government for a number of years, serving with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs before becoming a Commissioner in Perry County.

The experience and influence he has attained during this time will make a difference for the region, he says.

“We will be able to ball our hands into a fist,” he says, “and deliver a mighty blow against poverty, unemployment, housing problems, water problems…the time for talk is over. We don’t have any more excuses. Time to go to work.”

On that point, Howard would agree.

“I am concerned about this divide we have,” he said.

“It is time to bring together the community, county, and federal leaders who have a genuine concern about this District. We have to work together for the benefit of the entire community.”