State Journal: Sex Education; Bedfellows

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With elections set for May 14, a sex-education bill has become a high-profile issue in West Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial-primary campaign.

State Sen. Joe Manchin caused a ruckus with television and radio advertisements accusing opponent Charlotte Pritt, who has served in both houses of the legislature and also worked as a public school teacher, of backing a bill calling for sex education for 1st-grade students.

He admitted that the ad had cited the wrong bill number. But Manchin spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg said it correctly described a bill that would have required schools to offer "human growth and development" education, including information on contraception, to K-12 students.

Not only was the number wrong, countered a spokesman for Ms. Pritt, but the ad also misconstrued the bill's meaning. "The goal of that bill was not to teach little kids thoroughly about sex--you can't do it, they won't grasp it anyway," Greg Collard said.

If politics makes strange bedfellows, so, apparently, does talk radio.

One of the commercial sponsors of Alabama Gov. Fob James' newly resurrected radio call-in show is the Alabama Education Association, the teachers' union headed by Paul Hubbert, a former political rival of Mr. James.

The two men competed for the 1990 Democratic nomination for governor. In 1994, Mr. Hubbert, the AEA's executive secretary, sought the nomination again but lost to Gov. James E. Folsom Jr. Mr. James, now a Republican, then beat Mr. Folsom.

Mr. James started the weekly program during the campaign, but the campaign money that paid for it ran out in March. The sale of advertising time to eight sponsors--from a bank to a soft drink--put the one-hour show back on the air last week. It is heard on 28 Alabama stations.

Kelly Ammons, a spokeswoman for the governor, characterized the James-Hubbert partnership as a "wonderful working relationship." Mr. James, she said, "is thankful to anyone who will help him continue to get his message out to the people."

State ethics rules prevent advertisers from using their spots for lobbying. The AEA's ads encourage parents to be involved in their children's schools.

"We felt like the program provides citizens with an opportunity to have one-on-one contact with their state government," said Mike Martin, a spokesman for the union. "It provides us with access to that audience to get our message out."

--Jeanne Ponessa & Millicent Lawton

Vol. 15, Issue 33

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