In 1982 George Wallace was again elected governor, this time by appealing to black voters. In 1986 a controversy within the Democratic nomination process allowed Republican Guy Hunt to become the third Republican governor in Alabama history and the first since Reconstruction. Hunt was reelected in 1990 but was removed from office in 1993 after conviction for misusing state funds for personal expenditures. Hunt fulfilled the terms of his sentence, but was pardoned in March 1998 by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. His successor as governor was Democratic Lieutenant Governor Jim Folsom, son of “Big Jim” Folsom. Forrest “Fob” James, who had been elected as a Democratic governor in 1978, ran again and won as a Republican in 1994. Thus, at the end of the 20th century, Alabama had truly become a two-party state.
In the 1990s Alabama’s economy was sluggish despite investments by manufacturing firms to modernize facilities and equipment. A few industries, such as chemicals and fabricated metals, experienced steady growth because their products were in demand for export. However, textile and clothing companies were struggling, and many factories closed because of foreign competition and slack domestic demand. Alexander City’s Russell Mills was the exception.
The state government aggressively recruited new industry, citing the state’s mild climate, abundant water, numerous deepwater lakes, untapped mineral resources, scenic beauty from mountains to white sand beaches, a willing labor force, and miles of navigable rivers. Alabama was successful in attracting a new Mercedes-Benz automobile assembly plant near Birmingham. Several additional plants associated with the auto industry encouraged an industrial boom in the Birmingham area.
At the end of the century Alabama faced many of the problems that plagued other areas, including widespread poverty, rising crime rates, and unemployment. The state also had an old (1901) and obsolete constitution, an inadequate tax structure, and problems in education and health care. In 1998 Don Siegelman, a Democrat, was elected governor on the single-issue platform of a state lottery to fund educational reforms. In the following year, however, voters rejected the state referendum that would have established the lottery after religious leaders across the state campaigned against it.
In the early 21st century Alabama, like many states, faced a budget crisis as the economy slowed. In 2002 Republican Bob Riley defeated Siegelman in a close race for governor. Riley pledged to appoint a commission to study reforming Alabama’s constitution, and to improve the state economy. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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