Rep. DuWayne Bridges, R-Valley, who represents parts of southern Chambers and northern Lee counties, announced Thursday morning he will not seek re-election in 2014.
Messages left for Bridges, first elected to the House in a special election in 2000, were not immediately returned Thursday morning. In a statement, the representative said he felt it was time to focus on “my family, my faith and my various business concerns.”
“Representing the citizens of Chambers and Lee counties in the Alabama House has been among the greatest honors of my life, but I feel the time to pass that honor to someone else is fast approaching,” the statement said. “I will always remember and appreciate the support that my friends and neighbors throughout House District 38 have given me during these many years.”
Bridges owns the Bridges Travel Plaza and Western Wear, on Exit 70 off Interstate 85 in Chambers County.
The four-term representative chaired the House Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and in 2012 passed legislation that requires protests to be at least 1,000 feet away from the site of a funeral. The law is aimed at the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, which has disrupted military funerals with anti-gay and lesbian protests and which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.”
“We have all seen the hate group known at the Westboro Baptist Church on the national news staging protests at military funerals, screaming vile chants, and holding offensive signs while parents, spouses, and children attempt to mourn the soldiers and others who have left us,” Bridges said in the statement. “Their tactics run counter to the teachings in my Bible and to our Lord’s admonition to comfort the hurting in a compassionate and loving manner.”
Bridges was also an outspoken supporter of the state’s more restrictive alcohol laws, and fought hard against legislation in the 2012 and 2013 Regular Session that would legalize homebrewing. The bill passed the House in 2012 but ultimately died in the Senate; the legislation was approved by both chambers this spring and signed into law.
Bridges was also sharply criticized for legislation passed last year that diverted portions of tobacco tax money collected in Chambers, Randolph and Clay counties to a “District Services Grant Authority” whose members were Bridges, Rep. Richard Laird, I-Roanoke and Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville. Critics, including a bipartisan group of officials from the counties, accused the lawmakers of creating a “slush fund” with the money. Gov. Robert Bentley initially vetoed the legislation, but the Legislature overrode him; however, Attorney General Luther Strange later ruled that the bill was improperly passed and unenforceable.
Bridges’ last campaign finance report, filed in January, showed he had $87.46 in his campaign account, and raised just six cents in 2012.
– posted by Brian Lyman