Bob Riley

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Bob Riley
Governor of Alabama
Former officeholder
In office
PredecessorDon Siegelman
Date of birthOctober 3, 1944
Robert Renfroe "Bob" Riley (b. October 3, 1944) is a Republican politician and the former Governor of Alabama. He was first elected in 2002 and was re-elected during the 2006 mid-term election.[1]

Riley was born in Ashland, Alabama, a small town in Clay County where his family ranched and farmed for six generations. Riley attended the University of Alabama, graduating with a degree in business administration. Riley is married to Patsy Adams Riley, also from Ashland. The couple has four children (one of whom is deceased) and seven grandchildren.

Riley was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, defeating his Democratic opponent, State Senator T.D. "Ted" Little Auburn and Libertarian John Sophocleus. Riley served as a representative of Alabama's 3rd congressional district from 1997 to 2003.

2002 Gubernatorial election

Riley did not run for re-election to the House in November 2002 (as a supporter of term limits, he imposed a three-term limit on himself), instead running for Governor of Alabama and defeating the Democratic incumbent, Don Siegelman by the narrowest margin in Alabama history. A voting machine malfunction showed Siegelman winning the election, but the changed totals of the votes cast in Baldwin County gave Riley the victory.

Amendment One

In the first year of his administration, Riley proposed "Amendment One", which would have made sweeping changes to the state's tax system. The plan essentially consisted of income tax breaks for lower brackets, offset by various tax hikes on consumption, property and income from higher brackets. The plan was estimated to yield an overall state revenue increase of $1.2 billion per year.[2] Riley presented his plan in Christian terms, arguing that the existing system was unfair to the poor. Many conservatives attacked Amendment One on the basis of the tax increases. Riley's plan generally enjoyed liberal support. Amendment One was rejected by voters on September 9, 2003, with 68 percent opposed. This was partly due to massive advertising financed by opponents of the proposal, such as the Alabama branch of the Christian Coalition and the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA). While proponents had pointed to studies of the plan showing the majority of Alabamians seeing a lower overall tax burden, polls indicated that most citizens - likely influenced by the proposed property tax increase - believed their personal taxes would be higher under the plan.

While Riley's Amendment One was soundly rejected by Alabama voters, it did gain him national recognition. For his leadership in addressing the state’s fiscal crisis, Governor Riley was named the “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine[3] in 2003, and Time magazine hailed him for being one of the nation’s “most courageous politicians.”[4]

Industrial development

Riley has claimed credit for helping to spur economic development in Alabama, although the previous governor, Siegelman, had initiated the industrial growth. Riley points to the opening of an aeronautics engineering facility in Mobile by EADS, the parent company of Airbus, which may ripen into an aircraft assembly plant if EADS secures future contracts.[5] Riley's critics have pointed out that Riley has failed to emulate the success of predecessors, such as Siegelman — during whose administration the Hyundai plant was successfully recruited[6][7] — and Jim Folsom, Jr., in securing automotive manufacturing plants. Specifically, when Kia announced in March 2006 it would build a manufacturing plant in Georgia,[8] Riley was criticized by Siegelman,[9] for Alabama's failure to mount a serious bid for the plant.

Under Riley's administration, unemployment in Alabama fell from 5.3% in January, 2003 when Riley took office to 3.3% in March, 2006.[10] This rate was the lowest ever recorded since statistics began being tracked in 1976 and was among the nations lowest.[11] In April 2007 the unemployment rate once again reached 3.3 percent.[12]

Critics have claimed that recent developments are a consequence of national economic recovery and pointed to the loss of thousands of Alabama's historic textile jobs under Riley. Nevertheless, the state under Riley's administration was recognized as "State of the Year" by Southern Business and Development magazine four years in a row and received other awards for competitiveness, job creation and economic development.[13]

Among other honors, Worldwide Interactive Network named the Alabama Office of Workforce Development the No. 1 U.S. employee development agency and Expansion Management magazine has ranked Alabama Industrial Development Training No. 1 among workforce training programs.[14] Riley's Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel received the National Council of State Tourism Directors' annual Mercury Award recognizing its "Year of Alabama Food" as the nation's top tourism campaign.[15]

In May 2007, Riley announced that ThyssenKrupp would build a $4.2 billion state-of-the-art steel mill north of Mobile, Alabama, the largest economic announcement in Alabama's history, and largest corporate project in U.S. history. The mill, to be operational in 2010, will employ 29,000 during construction and 2,700 once it is opened.[16]

Other issues

In 2005, Governor Riley was criticized by some Mobile County residents after issuing that area of the state a "mandatory" evacuation order in advance of Hurricane Dennis's landfall. Residents felt the issue was better addressed during Hurricane Katrina using a layered approach with sections of the county evacuated instead of the entire county.

On August 28, 2005, Governor Riley declared a state of emergency for the approaching Hurricane Katrina. On the same day, he requested president George W. Bush to declare "expedited major disaster declaration" for six counties of south Alabama, which was approved by the evening of August 29. 350 national guardsmen were called on duty as of August 30.[17]

On November 9, 2005 Riley called for a citizens' boycott of Aruba, alleging that the local government was engaged in a cover-up of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.[18][19]

In November 2005, Riley was linked to the Jack Abramoff scandal when his former Congressional press secretary, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the matter. It further emerged that, as a Congressman, Riley signed a letter on behalf of the U.S. Family Network, opposing expansion of casino gambling in Alabama.[20] The U.S. Family Network was revealed to be an Abramoff front, funded by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, which operated competing casinos.[21] Riley has denied knowing the source of this funding.

As part of his plan to provide open government, Riley has posted on the Governor's website the monthly expenditures from the Governor's Contingency Fund and the quarterly flight logs from all state airplanes. [22]

2006 Re-election campaign

In 2003, Alabama state politics gained national attention when the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, refused to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the court building. Riley reportedly supported Moore, but ultimately did not play a large role in the dispute. Riley stated there was nothing he could do to prevent Moore from being removed from office by a judicial ethics panel. Moore challenged Riley in the June 6, 2006 GOP primary.

In May 10, 2005, Riley's approval ratings were 36% approving and 52% disapproving of his job as governor.[23]. By September 20, 2005, Riley’s approval ratings had increased substantially to 58 percent approving and 38% disapproving.[24] Analysis of this increase seems to indicate that it may be attributed to the public’s perception of Riley’s response to Hurricane Katrina. By February 14, 2006, Riley's approval ratings had slightly decreased, with 52% approving and 43% disapproving of his job as governor.[25] As of August, 2006, his approval rating is at 62% with a disapproval rating of 35%.[26]

Property tax appraisals became a major campaign issue with Riley's opponents claiming that Riley, acting through his revenue commissioner, ordered that property tax appraisals be made annually, rather than the quadrennial reappraisals that were established practice. Because property values tend to increase over time, making appraisals more frequent has the indirect effect of increasing the taxes paid by property owners. Riley's opponents claimed that by doing so, he raised taxes without a vote of either the Legislature or the people.[27] Riley claims he is merely following the language of the law, and the advice of his[28] attorneys.

Riley has also been mentioned as a prospect for vice-president on the GOP ticket in the 2008 election.

Electoral history

  • 2006 Race for Governor — General Election
    • Bob Riley (R) (inc.) — 717,287 — 58.03%
    • Lucy Baxley (D) — 518,750 — 41.97%
  • 2006 Race for Governor — Primary Election
    • Bob Riley (R) (inc.) — 306,665 — 66.66%
    • Roy Moore (R) — 153,354 — 33.34%
  • 2002 Race for Governor — General Election
    • Bob Riley (R) — 672,225 — 49.2%
    • Don Siegelman (D) (inc.) — 669,105 — 48.9%
    • John Sophocleus (Libertarian) — 23,272 — 1.7%
    • write in — 2,451 — .2%
  • 2002 Race for Governor — Primary Election
    • Bob Riley (R) — 262,851 — 73.53%
    • Steve Windom (R) — 63,775 — 17.45%
    • Tim James (R) — 30,871 — 8.64%


In 2003, Governing magazine named Riley as one of eleven "Public Officials of the Year" for his bold but unsuccessful efforts to reform Alabama's tax code.[29] Other honorees included California Representative Fran Pavley. Each year since 1994, Governing has selected a handful of state and local officials to honor for standout job performance. The Public Officials of the Year program "recognizes leaders from state, city and county government who exemplify the ideals of public service."[30]


  1. Election Results from the South The Associated Press, Nov. 08, 2006
  3. Public Officials of the Year Governing Magazine, Oct. 08, 2005
  4. Alabama's Most Courageous Politician Time Magazine, Aug. 15, 2003
  5. Mobile, state win economic accolades, May 20, 2006
  6. Governor speaks in South Korea Montgomery Advertiser, June 06, 2002
  7. Hyundai Moto Company Announces it Will Build Hyundai Motor America, April 2, 2002
  8. Kia Motors to Open Plant in Georgia CBS News, March 12, 2006
  9. With trial set to start Monday, Siegelman campaigns in a hurry Opelika-Auburn News. April 28, 2006
  10. Alabama Econstats, June 01, 2006
  11. Alabama unemployment rate last month was among nation's lowest Birmingham Business Journal, April 12, 2006
  13. Alabama Achievements (PDF) Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Aug. 11, 2006
  14. Trade journal: AIDT No. 1 among workforce training programs Birmingham Business Journal, Aug. 10, 2006
  15. Tourism office wins award for campaign, Oct. 08, 2006
  17. Riley declares state of emergency due to Katrina threat KATC, WorldNow, 2005
  18. Ala. Governor Calls for Aruba Boycott Over Holloway Case FoxNews, AP, Nov. 08, 2005
  19. The Situation Room transcript, Nov. 08, 2005
  20. The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail Washington Post, Dec. 31, 2005
  21. Abramoff's web of corruption, Jan. 04, 2006
  23. Approval Ratings of All 50 Governors as of 5/10/05 Survey USA, May 10, 2005
  24. Approval Ratings of All 50 Governors as of 9/20/05 Survey USA, Sep. 20, 2006
  25. Approval Ratings of All 50 Governors as of 9/20/05 Survey USA, Feb. 14, 2006
  26. Poll Tracker Survey USA, Sep. 18, 2006
  27. Appraisals a weapon in race for governor The Birmingham News, May 14, 2006
  28. Siegelman shows political stamina (.TXT) Madison Record, Nov. 17, 2005
  29. Rob Gurwitt, Governing, "A Profile in Courage: Leading the fight for fiscal fairness and flexibility," 2003
  30. Governing, "GOVERNING Announces 2012 Public Officials of the Year," October 19, 2012

External links