SUMMARY: Bentley did change his name twice this year, but not for the reasons Sparks implies. It’s a story of election-year bureaucracy, not shame or evasiveness.
ANALYSIS: Before the governor’s race began, Bentley was well known in the Tuscaloosa area as both a state legislator and a dermatologist.
“Everybody in Tuscaloosa knows him as Dr. Bentley,” said Angi Smith, Bentley’s campaign manager. “That’s who he is.”
Bentley’s campaign planned to build the “Dr.” title into his marketing, Smith said, with signs that read “Dr. Robert Bentley” and an ad campaign stating “Alabama needs a doctor.”
Smith said GOP leaders were initially fine with Bentley appearing on the primary ballot with his medical title listed as part of his name. She said the party leadership later changed their minds and told Bentley he could use only his legal name.
“Someone suggested that he could solve that pretty simply by going down to the probate office and changing his name to Dr. Robert Bentley,” Smith said. “It cost 17 or 18 dollars.”
So, on March 30, Robert Julian Bentley became Dr. Robert Bentley.
But party leaders refused to yield, Smith said, telling Bentley he couldn’t use “Dr.” as his name on the ballot.
On April 5, Bentley spent another $17 or $18 at the probate office, and again became Robert Julian Bentley.
Come November, he'll be on the ballot as just "Robert Bentley."
Sparks’ campaign seems to be having fun with Bentley’s indecision about his moniker.
“I suppose at that point he was Dr. Doctor,” said Taylor Bright, spokesman for the Sparks campaign. “I almost want to break out into song.”
Smith isn’t having it.
“It’s the most ridiculous thing ever,” she said. “It’s ridiculous that he had to do this, and it’s ridiculous that someone would try to make it a campaign issue.”