Alabama-AG: Troy King's Strange Political Demise?

As he seeks another term, Alabama Attorney General Troy King probably will lose in today's Republican primary. The biggest reason why is that he's gotten on the wrong side of Alabama Republican heavyweights on the number one issue in the state: electronic bingo.
by | June 1, 2010

While the present political mood certainly isn't kind to incumbents, you'd be hard-pressed to find one in worse shape than Troy King (at least this side of Jim Gibbons). King, Alabama's attorney general, appears quite likely to be defeated in the Republican primary today.

The biggest reason why is that he's gotten on the wrong side of Alabama Republican heavyweights on the number one issue in the state: electronic bingo.

Don't laugh: Electronic bingo is a serious matter in Alabama. The feud between King and Gov. Bob Riley, a fellow Republican who appointed King attorney general in 2006, has centered on Alabama's Task Force on Illegal Gambling. Here's a good summary of the situation from Charles Dean of the Birmingham News (no link available):

Riley  and King,  once friends and political allies, have engaged in a bitter battle over the legality of electronic bingo for several years. Riley  contends electronic bingo machines are illegal slot machines. King has said Alabama law allows electronic bingo to be played in some locations, and the machines are not slot machines.

Riley formed the task force in late 2008 and did not include King as a member. The task force in March 2009 raided the White Hall electronic bingo complex in Lowndes County, where it seized 105 machines and more than $500,0000 in cash.

Earlier this year, the task force attempted a series of raids at other casinos, only to be stopped either by lower court orders or because the gambling operations shut down before raids could be carried out. Greene County officials vowed to oppose any effort by the task force to shut down Greenetrack, including using county deputies to repel the task force.

If this were nothing more than a disagreement over policy (King for electronic bingo, Riley against it), the attorney general might be in alright shape. Alabama's socially conservative Republicans historically have been skeptical of gambling, but polls do show that most Alabamians support electronic bingo.

But, Riley and Strange seem to have succeeded in casting into question King's motives by highlighting his close ties to gambling interests. The issue has become King's ethics, not just his views on bingo. One result is that Alabama's two Republican U.S. senators also are supporting Strange. And, a poll from early last month showed the challenger with a remarkable 25-point lead.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com  | 

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