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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Penn not running for Senate seat


Democratic state Sen. Myron Penn said on Tuesday that he will not run for a third term after seeing quality candidates interested in running for his seat.

Those candidates include Democratic state Reps. Locy Baker of Abbeville
and Billy Beasley of Clayton, he said.

Penn, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had expressed concerns about the first candidate to announce he was running, former state legislator and Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford.

The senator, a lawyer in Union Springs, said he gets along with Ford, but said constituents have expressed concerns about Ford being elected to the Legislature as a Democrat and then switching to the Republican Party during the term. Ford then ran for Tuskegee mayor while serving in the House.

The executive committee of the Alabama Democratic Party recently voted to let Ford return. He plans to run in 2010 as a Democrat.

While some other former Republicans requested and received approval from the Democratic executive committee to switch parties, Penn said those men were not former Democratic officials who had previously left the party.

Penn said the race to replace him in the Senate will be interesting. He said he will make his choice for a replacement known at a future date.

The district includes Barbour, Bullock, Henry, Lee, Macon and Russell counties.

Baker could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Beasley and Ford have formally announced their candidacy.

"I am sure there will be good candidates running for what will be an open seat for the District 28 seat," Penn said.

He said Baker and Beasley have proven themselves and "stayed true to form" when dealing with issues important to District 28 in the House.

"I have a better idea of where they are on issues," Penn said.

Those two representatives give people "some certainty about who they are going to be voting for," he said.

Penn said he has decided to focus his attention on his growing law practice. He said he wants his clients to "feel like the only client in the world," which he said is difficult while serving in the Senate.

Penn said he feels he can directly help people as much as a lawyer as he can as a lawmaker.

"I talk to people face to face a lot more often," he said.

Also, Penn said he will be able, if he is not in the Senate, to spend more time with family and in church.

Penn, the former chairman of the Bullock County Commission, said he is 37 and has been a public official since he was 28.

"I want to make sure I make the most of the opportunity to represent people in the courtroom as much as I have in the Senate," he said.

He has law offices in Clayton and Union Springs.

But Penn was quick to say he was not leaving politics. He said he would be very involved in helping to elect quality candidates to local and state offices. And he has not ruled out running for office again.

"You don't have to be in the Senate to have influence," Penn said. "A title is not anything I have ever needed to get things done for people. It is not a huge change to my ego."

Penn said he believes he has been successful during his time in the Senate. He said he worked to have appropriations included for Tuskegee University in the education budget every year and to improve laws to protect people against sex offenders.

"I have one more year to do great things in the Senate," Penn said.

Penn has not always agreed with the other Senate Democrats. He worked with at least two other black Democrats to slow down the legislative session in 2008 because he was upset that a local gambling bill, which he said only affected Macon County, did not receive the same courtesy as other local bills. Others argued the bill would expand gambling in Alabama, which Penn adamantly denied.

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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Location: Montgomery, AL, United States

South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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