Voters in Alabama’s Democratic primary for attorney general will choose between a political newcomer with decades of legal experience and the son of a former governor who wants people to judge him on his own merits.
The two attorneys, Chris Christie and Joseph Siegelman, are at different stages of their legal careers but making their first runs for public office. They face off Tuesday for a chance to meet the winner of the Republican primary, where Attorney General Steve Marshall faces three challengers.
“People in Alabama need to have someone in Montgomery who is going to look out after their interests,” said Christie, 59.
Siegelman, 29, said the attorney general’s office needs to focus more on people than politics.
“I believe that we have lost focus on the people of Alabama, the issues that affect them and how we can use that office to assist the people of Alabama and make their lives better,” he said.
His priorities include consumer protection, fighting the opioid addiction epidemic and advocating for a criminal justice reform that doesn’t warehouse the mentally ill in state prisons.
Siegelman said that although people might be familiar with his last name, he wants them to get to know him.
“I’m proud to my father’s son. I’m proud to be my mother’s son, but I want to make sure people get to know Joe. My dad’s not in this race,” he said.
Siegelman’s father, former Gov. Don Siegelman was a dominating figure in state politics for years, but his career came to a close with a conviction on federal bribery charges.
The younger Siegelman is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law and joined the Cochran Firm practice, where his work included civil rights issues. He also joined his father’s appellate legal team, occasionally speaking to the press on his father’s behalf as the elder Siegelman fought to overturn the conviction.
Christie is emphasizing his more than 30 years of legal experience, and says his priorities are fighting corruption and promoting consumer protection and public safety.
He said the state needs to have an attorney general willing to fight corruption — on both sides of the political aisle.
“My objective is not to put as many government officials in jail as possible. My objective is to have compliance with the law. … For those that don’t, there are going to be consequences,” Christie said.
Christie wants to seek changes in the ethics law. He is critical of the ability of “dark money” — money from undisclosed donors — to flow into nonprofit foundations connected to politicians.
In his law practice, he has represented pension plans, including the Retirement System of Alabama and health care providers. His notable cases include a $16 million settlement for state employees in a lawsuit over a deferred compensation plan after discovering the investment firm that got the business had been paying millions to the employees’ lobbying group.
The Alabama Democratic Conference has endorsed Christie in the race. Siegelman has been endorsed by the New South Alliance and equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter.
The primary has become notable for its matchup of famous names. Christie is no relation to the former New Jersey governor by the same name, but humorously notes that the coincidence has garnered him much news coverage in the Garden State.
Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.