CHARLES IN CHARGE OF 'BAMA?

BARKLEY WANTS TO BE GOVERNOR OF ALABAMA. IT COULD HAPPEN.

And consider his massive popularity among young people. (Keep in mind that today's Nike-wearing, trading-card-collecting 14-year-old is 1998's registered voter.)

Charles Barkley may be the one black man on Earth who could do it.
"Race is always an issue in Alabama," says Barkley. "I hope I can make a difference and people won't always look at people by their color. "It's wrong any way you slice it. I don't want to have 30 percent of the white vote and 90 percent of the black vote to get elected. I want to help everybody. I'm not trying to be rich and I'm not trying to be black or white."
Barkley has yet to assemble a staff of handlers and spin doctors, and claims he has not yet been approached by any. (Neither James Carville, the wicked genius who managed Bill Clinton into the White House, nor Ed Rollins, the Reagan administration insider who briefly worked for Ross Perot in 1992, returned calls for comment on possible Barkley strategies.)

"That stuff, it's two years away," says Barkley, who says he will return to Leeds in 1996 to get tanned, rested and ready. "My ambition is to win a world championship this year and take next year off and do nothing. That's my game plan. And then worry about that stuff in my spare time. But I don't want it to become the focal point of my life.

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