My new blog: Keating’s Desk

I have started a new blog called Keating’s Desk.  Please read, comment, and share.

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Thank you.

And when I rise, let me rise Like a bird, joyfully-
And when I fall, let me fall Like a leaf,
gracefully, without regrets.

-Wendell Berry, Let Me Rise

While deeply disappointed in the results of the election, Kelly and I have no regrets. An old Puritan preacher once wrote: “Duty is Ours, Results are God’s.” We campaigned with all our heart, all our might, and all our strength; we fought a good fight.

Kelly and I have great peace with the outcome. Despite the biggest partisan wave in Alabama history, we only lost by 309 votes out of 37,029 cast. So, we take great encouragement that our new vision and idea for Alabama resonated with our people. A clear, principled, and responsible platform, in deed, can create a political impact.

Thank you to the people of District 13. I count it a great honor and privilege to have been a candidate to represent you in the State Senate. I am humbled by the support and encouragement that you showed me and my family. We have met so many bossom-friends and I look forward to continuing our friendships in the years to come.

To all who knocked on doors, phone-banked, suggested us on Facebook, put out yard-signs, and otherwise dedicated yourselves to us: as I write this with tears of endearment, I thank my God every time I remember you. Through your partnership, you share in this victory of ours. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say: Rejoice!

To the People of Clay County: I want to give you a special word of thanks. While I was raised in Georgia, you have embraced me as one of your own. When I go about, I am proud to report that I am “from” Clay County. I would raise my eighth-generation Clay Countian children in no other place. On Tuesday, your support surprised all of us. We never imagined we could “win” Clay County, much less expect to earn as much as 56% of your votes.  So again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

I am still convinced that our State needs leadership which transcends worn-out labels and stale talking-points. I call on our people to be not conformed to the partisan principles of the past which have numbed our spiritual senses and blinded our foresight. Let us transform our thinking. Let us nurture anew a vision of the common good and a commitment that politics is everyone’s responsibility.

I still believe that politics is a noble calling. I am committed that politics is simply loving our neighbors as our self; serving the whole of  the community and our posterity.

Although the Lord has closed this door, Kelly and I remain committed that we are called into politics, just maybe not as an elected minister right now. We will continue the search and fight for public justice in other ways.

Greater things are yet to come and  greater things are yet to be done in this great State. We can become the people we have told our children that we are.

Fact or Fiction: (“Alabama paid over $376,000 for Dial as ARAC Director.”

My opponent’s entire stump speech and campaign have devolved to “Greg Varner is a liar.”  As was demonstrated last week in the Anniston Star, I have been truthful in my claims despite his cries (and cussing) to the contrary.

Not only has he claimed I lied about his record of support for gambling, he has claimed I lied about his salary as Alabama Rural Action Commission Director. In fact , he told the Anniston Star that “he was paid an average of $50,000 a year for fewer than four years he held the position.

Here are the numbers directly from ADECA for him:

February 5, 2007 until September 30, 2007: Total $70,648.74

  • Gross Wages: $55, 697.57
  • FICA Payments: $4,260.90
  • Retirement: $4,333.27
  • Health Insurance: $6357.oo
  • Total Fringe Benefits: $14,951.17

October 1, 2007 until September 30, 2008: Total $112,210.52

  • Gross Wages: $87,936.00
  • FICA Payments: $6,727.20
  • Retirement: $9,022.32
  • Health Insurance: $8,525.00
  • Total Fringe Benefits: $24,274.52

October 1, 2008 until September 30, 2009: Total $117,313.88

  • Gross Wages: $91,013.76
  • FICA Payments: $6,962.64
  • Retirement: $10,812.48
  • Health Insurance: $8,525
  • Total Fringe Benefits: $26,300.12

October 1, 2009 until April 2, 2010: Total $76,572.56

  • Gross Wages: $60,232.17
  • FICA Payments: $4,607.82
  • Retirement: $6,097.57
  • Health Insurance: $5,635.00
  • Total Fringe Benefits: $16,340.39

GRAND TOTAL: $376,745.70

As reported here, after losing his reelection in 2006, Gov. Bob Riley created a position for Gerald Dial called the Diector of the Rural Action Commission. And as reported here, “Dial was appointed to this newly created $84,500 per year job.” (Note from the numbers above: Dial actually received a raise of near $6000 dollars.)

Many questioned whether this was political payback from Riley “casting the appointment as a quid pro quo to reward Dial for his role in one of the nastiest (and most untrue) attack ads of the political season.”

Of course, Gerald Dial had seven months earlier “single-handedly stood on the Senate floor this week and killed legislation that would have created a much-needed Center for Rural Development.” He said, “This bill would have been a boon for political cronies, not rural Alabama.”

“You can see the irony in Dial’s comment from a release (pdf) that he circulated later . . . to explain why he defeated an otherwise popular proposal that would have created a state Center for Rural Development, “I will not sit back and see your tax dollars wasted to create jobs to pay individual political debts.”

Considering under his tenure, we led the nation in rural job loss by losing 66,501 rural jobs, 11.65% of the work-force we may have wasted $376,745.70 paid for Gerald Dial from February 2007 until March 2010 as a poltical payback.

Here is the rest of the story: (“Greg sued his own city”)

Gerald Dial loves this one. He and his supporters proclaim it through anonymous posts cards and the PAC bought radio shows.

Here is the rest of the story:

I did represent the former Ashland Chief of Police in his claims against the city of Ashland for hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime. I believe, and still argue, that he is entitled to overtime compensation because of the type of duties he performed.  The City, of course, disputes these claims.  Both sides have persuasive legal arguments and the matter remains in litigation before the Circuit Court of Clay County.

My advocacy in this case was not popular but I thought my client’s claims had legal merit.

If you want just another politician that is afraid to offend the powerful, do not send me to Montgomery.

We need people in the State Senate who make decisions on principle and not what is politically expedient. We need statesmen and stateswomen that cannot be bought and will stand for the common good and justice. We need advocates that will fight for small businesses, family farms, world-class schools and local communities. As I stated in my announcement speech, I will model my role in the State Senate after the Roman tribune. The tribune was the member of the  ancient Roman Senate whose only job was the protect and defend the little people and their rights.

P.S.: The “We’ve been sued” postcard asks what could we have done with $20,000 involved in this suit for the City. I ask: how could the $376,745.70 paid to Gerald Dial from January 2007 until March 2010 to create rural jobs have been better spent since; under his watch, we led the nation in rural job loss by losing 66,501 rural jobs, 11.65% of the work-force?

Here is the rest of the story: (“Greg sued and shut down a hotel in Roanoke.”)

Perhaps you have heard Gerald Dial condemn me because I “sued a hotel in Roanoke and ran it out of business.” Therefore, I really cannot really be a supporter of small businesses. I would like to provide the details he left out.

Here is the rest of the story: First, I did represent a lady who was a desk clerk at a hotel in Roanoke.  Her employer maintained an out-going mail box for guests ; of course, employees at the hotel used this mail box, too. The owner/manager of the hotel would secretly remove the mail out of the box, open it and read it. My client wrote several intimate letters to her boyfriend in South Carolina and placed these in the mail box. Of course, the owner opened these letters, read them, showed them to co-employees, copied them, and showed them to friends and family of my client in the community.

When my client found out, she brought suit against the owners and business for invasion of privacy. A jury of Randolph citizens returned a verdict in her favor. I was proud to represent my client and I believe her award was just and equitable.

As I stated before:

You will regularly hear me argue that the principles of Christianity apply more broadly than a few  social issues.  I am convinced that one specific area that those principles apply is workplace. As part of their obligation to pursue stewardship, businesses and corporations must treat their workers with basic human dignity within the workplace. Workers cannot be treated as just simply another “cost of production,” rather they are persons made in the image of God worthy of decent and honest treatment.

If Mr. Dial wants to align himself with abusive employers, that is fine with me. The people of district 13 can be assured that I will fight for justice  and stewardship in Montgomery for employees and small businesses.

Thanks Melody.

To the Editor:
This letter is in support of a dear friend and former colleague whose kindness and generosity earned my appreciation and loyalty long before he ever thought of running for political office. I write this to let others know who and what Greg Varner truly is, and isn’t. Thank you for taking a moment to read
this.

I was working as a prosecutor in Randolph County when Greg came to Roanoke to practice law. It was my experience with him then that he was a zealous
advocate for his clients, yet with the kind of integrity all officers of the court
should exhibit. He never made arguments that shaded the truth, but was at
all times respectful to the court and his opponents, while representing his
client’s interest within the bounds of law and with honor.

It was for all those reasons that when I decided to go into private practice for a
period of time, I chose to practice with Greg. His was a small family practice, not
one bringing in thousands of dollars in large civil verdicts. It was, and is, a practice like most small town lawyers. We handled a few divorces, represented
DHR in child custody matters, juveniles in juvenile courts and local government
bodies and did our share of property and probate matters. That was the bulk of
the practice. Anyone who knows Greg knows he isn’t some ambulance chasing
vulture as his opponent would have everyone believe. That is why I write this
letter. To let you know the truth.

Greg Varner is what his ads describe, and I, and my family, are thankful that he
is. As some reading this may know, I was in practice with Greg when my family
suffered a financial setback due to my health. Greg and Kelly Varner were the
hands and feet of Christ for us in those terribly difficult and frightening days.
They gave until it hurt, and asked others to help them do the same, which gave
me and Eddy time to think and prepare for what lay ahead. I’m not sure they’d
want you to know, but you should, because Greg would do that for you,
too, whoever you are. That is just the kind of person he is.
He has a heart of compassion for the personal struggles of others. He is just
the kind of person we all should want in public office — an intelligent, hardworking young man who seeks good for others and does so within the bounds of law and with honor.

It is for all those reasons that I support

Greg Varner for Senator of Alabama Senate District 13.

Melody Ridings Baldwin, Wadley

Bama Fact Check confirms truth of our TV ad

Bama Fact Check confirmed my statements this morning in an article from the Anniston Star that Gerald Dial proposed a mandatory raffle which required every taxpayer to pay $52 “contribution. ” The website gave our advertisements a Truth Rating of 4 of 5. (I still think it should have been 5 of 5)

His proposal was reported in Huntville, Birmingham News (“Sen. Dial Proposes Mandatory Raffle”), and Mobile papers. You can read the articles here which reported his proposal.

For context, this effort by Dial was consistent with the rest of his record. Gerald Dial in 2010 represented to Eagle Forum that “he oppose[s] all effort to expand gambling. However, Dial has been one of the most pro-gambling legislators in 25 years and was the leader of the “gambling industry’s other puppet legislators”within the State Senate.  In fact, he was so committed to the casino bosses that, in May 2001 , a Birmingham News editorial described Dial as “the toadie of the dog track owners who barks out whatever he’s told to do.”

His record solidly supports these descriptions.

  • In 1999-2000, he failed to oppose a single pro-gambling bill (out of twelve);
  • In 2000, Dial helped gambling interests by supporting HB 867 to cut the tax on wagers at Alabama’s dog tracks from 1.0% to 0.5%. During late-night Senate-floor debate, Dial said he was concerned that the dog tracks were being “taxed to death.”
  • In 2001, Dial actually sponsored SB 461 which allowed Alabama dog tracks to have an actual monopoly of video poker machines.
  • In 2004, he sponsored even legislation called “Bingo Bucks for the Bosses Bill” which was described by conservative State Senators as “dishonest, discriminatory and diabolical.“  Bob Riley’s State Finance Director Drayton Nabors stated that the bill would have been a “windfall” for dog track owners.
  • Even as far back as 1996, Dial was advocating for gambling’s special interests by sponsoring other of their legislation. At the time, Dial bragged that the “only opposition he has had so far is from ‘some Baptist preachers and anti-gambling people.’”
  • And he approved more 1999 as well.

Now, I will likely never be considered pro-gambling nor be described, as my opponent has, as one of the casino boss’s “puppet legislators;” however, I will always support the people’s right to vote on important issues.  We have a problem when a Republican Governor and Republican Attorney General cannot agree on what the law states. Accordingly, in order to clarify the legal issue uniformly across the state, I could support a clean bill which allowed the people to vote, up or down, on whether to have electronic bingo and gambling in general in Alabama.