Ac­cu­sa­tions fly as con­test heats up

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - POLITICAL NOTEBOOK - BY KIM CHAN­DLER

MONT­GOMERY, Ala. — He calls her a “Swampy Star.” She calls him a tiger thief.

Alabama Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Twin­kle An­dress Ca­vanaugh and state Rep. Will Ainsworth of Gun­tersville are swap­ping ac­cu­sa­tions — and ac­cus­ing the other of dis­tort­ing the truth — ahead of Tues­day’s heated GOP runoff in the race for lieu­tenant gov­er­nor.

Ca­vanaugh, 52, has an ad tar­get­ing Ainsworth’s theft ar­rest when he was a col­lege stu­dent and was ac­cused of steal­ing fiber­glass tigers in down­town Auburn. Ainsworth, 37, is run­ning ads, play­ing on Ca­vanaugh’s un­usual first name and lampooning her lengthy re­sume in pol­i­tics.

The Ca­vanaugh ad tar­gets Ainsworth’s 2002 ar­rest on theft charges when he was 20. The charges were later dropped.

“It is the most disin­gen­u­ous and ly­ing ad. … It was a col­lege prank,” Ainsworth said, say­ing the ad, which dis­plays a pho­to­graph of the bald­ing Ainsworth, makes it look like the ar­rest was re­cent. Court records show that Ainsworth, along with sev­eral oth­ers, was charged in 2002 with steal­ing five fiber­glass tigers worth $3,000 each, in down­town Auburn.

Ca­vanaugh de­fended the ad, say­ing it was a “se­ri­ous mat­ter.”

“Twin­kle Twin­kle Swampy Star” is the slo­gan on an Ainsworth mailer crit­i­ciz­ing Ca­vanaugh’s lengthy re­sume in pol­i­tics. He is run­ning a sim­i­lar tele­vi­sion ad with a star-gaz­ing cou­ple.

Ca­vanaugh has spent

much of her life in and around pol­i­tics. She worked as the first fe­male chair­woman of the Alabama Repub­li­can Party and worked for the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee in Wash­ing­ton and on Gov. Bob Ri­ley’s staff. She was elected to the PSC in 2010 and com­mis­sion pres­i­dent in 2012.

Ca­vanaugh said she is proud of her record on con­ser­va­tive causes but notes that she also worked for a year as a teacher and started a res­tau­rant busi­ness.

The heated and ex­pen­sive race comes for a po­si­tion that has rel­a­tively lit­tle power with one big ex­cep­tion: the po­ten­tial to suc­ceed the gov­er­nor.

The lieu­tenant gov­er­nor pre­sides over the state Se­nate, votes in case of a tie and makes a num­ber of board ap­point­ments. The po­si­tion is most no­table be­cause the of­fi­cer holder takes over as gov­er­nor if the gov­er­nor dies, steps down or is in im­peached.

The lieu­tenant gov­er­nor

po­si­tion has been va­cant since April 2017, when Kay Ivey suc­ceeded Robert Bent­ley as gov­er­nor. Bent­ley stepped down in the midst of an im­peach­ment push.

Ca­vanaugh had con­sid­ered run­ning for gov­er­nor but switched to the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor when Ivey an­nounced she was run­ning this year.

“I be­lieve our state needs a strong sec­ond-string quar­ter­back,” Ca­vanaugh said of the po­si­tion of lieu­tenant gov­er­nor. She is tout­ing her record on the util­ity board that she said in­cludes cut­ting ex­penses and ap­prov­ing rate re­duc­tions.

“We need a proven con­ser­va­tive, some­one who has a proven record of turn­ing Chris­tian val­ues into strong con­ser­va­tive govern­ment,” Ca­vanaugh said.

Ainsworth is a rancher and the owner of a sports­man’s lodge and founder of a prom­i­nent hunt­ing and fish­ing expo. A rel­a­tive po­lit­i­cal new­comer,

Ainsworth was elected to the Alabama House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 2014. In his leg­isla­tive ten­ure, Ainsworth is per­haps best known for spon­sor­ing leg­is­la­tion in the wake of the Florida school shoot­ing that would al­low cer­tain teach­ers to carry or ac­cess firearms in the class­room.

Cam­paign­ing as a po­lit­i­cal out­sider, Ainsworth is em­pha­siz­ing the fact that he has not spent much time in pol­i­tics.

“I’m not a ca­reer politi­cian. I’ve ac­tu­ally been in­volved in the pri­vate sec­tor,” Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth said as lieu­tenant gov­er­nor — the only statewide elected of­fi­cial in­volved in the daily deal­ings at the State­house — that he wants to help “drive the con­ver­sa­tion” at the Alabama Leg­is­la­ture.

“The lieu­tenant gov­er­nor has the bully pul­pit,” Ainsworth said.

The Repub­li­can nom­i­nee will face Demo­crat Will Boyd in Novem­ber.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Lt. Gov. can­di­date Will Ainsworth, cen­ter, meets with vot­ers be­fore he speaks at a fo­rum in Mont­gomery, Ala. Ainsworth and Alabama Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Twin­kle An­dress Ca­vanaugh swapped ac­cu­sa­tions in duel­ing cam­paign ads and ac­cused each other of un­fair tac­tics, ahead of Tues­day’s GOP runoff.

Twin­kle An­dress Ca­vanaugh

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