- Associated Press - Thursday, August 21, 2014

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial nominee Parker Griffith in a speech Thursday called Robert Bentley a failed governor of a failed state, who is “so afraid of the tea party that he sits idle while Alabama burns.”

While Griffith criticized Bentley, the incumbent did not mention his opponent as they sparred in back-to-back campaign speeches. Instead, he talked about what has happened since he took office in January 2011.

“I don’t have to put on any kind of show. It’s not a gimmick for me. All I do is work hard,” Bentley said.

Griffith said Bentley has failed to address the state’s struggles with schools, health care, prisons and unemployment.

“If Alabama were picked up and moved to Africa, the international community might be tempted to call it a failed state under the aimless, even pointless administration of Robert Bentley,” Griffith said.

Bentley and Griffith gave their speeches at the annual county commissioners’ convention in Orange Beach, but they did not debate. During his speech, Griffith also noted news that Alabama was the only state with a higher unemployment rate than a year ago.

The Democrat is running on a platform of expanding Alabama’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, something Bentley has refused to do.

Griffith said expansion is a no-brainer.

“Robert Bentley is so afraid of the tea party that he sits idle while Alabama burns,” Griffith said.

Griffith has also proposed a state lottery to fund education.

Bentley said Alabama is accomplishing good things despite the national economic storm. He said the state has announced 60,000 new jobs, including the coveted Airbus plant in Mobile, since he took office.

“My goal is not to have more people on public assistance. My goal is to have more people working in a real job,” Bentley said.

The Republican governor praised his administration’s road and bridge program and handling of natural disasters.

Bentley and Griffith are both doctors and former legislators. Bentley is a dermatologist and former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.

Griffith, a radiation oncologist, was elected to the Alabama Senate in 2004 and then to Congress in 2008 as a Democrat. He switched to the Republican Party in 2009, ahead of a national GOP wave, but lost his first re-election primary bid to tea party favorite Mo Brooks.

Bentley has a large fundraising lead and the state has not elected a Democrat as governor since Gov. Don Siegelman in 1998.

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