Indivisible Alabama hosts Democratic candidate forum in Cullman


Shown, clockwise from top left: Bill Browning, Dr. Will Boyd, Van Caldwell, Mark Johnson, Brian McGee, MB Wain, Patricia Todd and Jason Fisher / Andrew Cryer

CULLMAN – Indivisible Alabama, a “a non-partisan progressive movement that uses grassroots activism and direct action to affect change” held a Democratic candidate forum at the Cullman County Museum over the weekend featuring numerous candidates eyeing their party’s nomination for their respective races. The U.S. Senate special election primary will be held on Aug. 15 for both parties. 

Candidates present included:

  • Candidates for U.S. Senate:  Jason Fisher, Dr. Will Boyd, Vann Caldwell and Brian McGee (This seat is currently held by Republican Luther Strange, who was appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley when Jeff Sessions was appointed by President Donald Trump to be the U.S. Attorney General.)
  • Independent gubernatorial candidate Mark Johnson
  • Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives, Alabama District 4: MB Wain and Bill Browning (This seat is currently held by Republican Robert Aderholt.)

Other speakers included:

  • Alabama Rep. Patricia Todd, surrogate for Senate candidate Doug Jones
  • Former Alabama Rep. James Fields Jr.

First to stump was Boyd of Lauderdale County on a message of “people over politics.” Boyd said, “Alabama needs a U.S. senator who will fight to protect the poor, grow the middle class, fight for women’s rights and seek justice for all.” In closing, Boyd said, “A vote for me is a vote for food on the table. I can promise you that I will put Alabama back to work. I will put public schools in a place where they need to be, and we will ensure that every Alabamian has access to the healthcare that they need.”

Next to speak was former representative Fields of Cullman. Fields has been considering running for office, but has neither confirmed nor denied that he will be running again soon. “The most important thing that we have going on right now is that we have to win this U.S. Senate race,” said Fields as he began to stress the importance and ripe opportunity for Democrats to pick up a senate seat that many don’t see as possible.  Said Fields, “I hope to inspire you to invest in this senate race. It will be the best Christmas gift that we can give to this state, to give them a Democratic senator. We need it in D.C. We need it In Alabama.”

In addressing calls for him to run, Fields stated, “I’d love to run for office again. I believe in serving people; it’s in my heart and it’s in my blood. I don’t have much, and it takes a lot to run.”

Two possible challengers to U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R- Alabama were in attendance, Browning and Wain. First to speak was Browning, of Guntersville

Browning referred to the current Congress as “spineless,” and said, “The Democratic process and the rights of voters like you and me have been hijacked. I marched in Selma against it. It hasn’t ended; we need to end it.” He went on the offensive against Aderholt, saying, “Robert Aderholt is a 20-year incumbent. He was pulled in to the White House by the president, given a prep talk, and he voted in for the Republican House (healthcare) bill. If you look at his record, he does not vote for his constituents or issues that his constituents are concerned about.” He continued, “He votes 100 percent for big business, 100 percent for the NRA and 96 percent for the military just as we sent 4,000 troops to Afghanistan yesterday.”

Wain spoke, but mostly about supporting and getting Democrats to the polls on Aug. 15 and later on Dec. 12. Wain linked many of the country’s woes to income inequality and the greed of the “one percent,” saying, “We have a nation that is lost. There is such a drastic difference between the one percent and the 99 percent that the 99 percent is stressed; we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow; we don’t know what’s going to happen to our kids. Because we’re stressed and worried so much, we’re afraid and live in fear. We’re looking to replace that emotion with an even stronger one. If everyone had a few extra bucks, it would be a whole lot easier to forgive the person that cut you off.”

Stepping in as a surrogate, Rep. Todd of Birmingham came to Cullman to stump for Jones, who is fighting for the Democratic nomination to be Alabama’s next U.S. Senator. A fight that doesn’t seem so hard to win, according to Todd, “Let’s be clear here, the governor has handed us a gift, and we have one shot.” Jones seems to have the name recognition and the money to win, said Todd, but will that be enough to win over Liberal activists? “Let’s be real about this, people can promise you what they’re going to do in Congress, but we are the minority. We need a fighter, someone who will stand up to the Republicans.”

Another candidate for U.S. Senate, Michael Hansen, was unable to attend, but a portion of his written statement reads, “I am running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate because I believe this moment calls for us to be bold and try something new. I am unapologetically progressive. For too long, Democrats in Alabama have played by the rules of someone else's game. We are told that in order to get elected, we must kowtow to the powerful and pander to conservatism. Not now. Not me…I'm told that a Democrat doesn't stand a chance of winning this race, and that a 35-year-old gay Democrat certainly has no shot. Well, I refuse to believe that. Rather, what I would say is that if we as Democrats keep doing the same thing over and over again we will never get different results. My campaign is decidedly different.”

The next senate candidate to speak was McGee, who vowed to run as a “fiscal moderate and social progressive.”  McGee says his focus as a senator would be Alabama’s capitalization on the clean energy market. McGee wishes to create a Solar Economic Zone in the state to boost the state’s economy.

“I vow to work tirelessly for you, the people, I will work so solve problems rather than just get soundbites and I will work to have Alabama to reach its full potential.” McGee rebuked Todd, saying, “Whoever you choose, I believe it’s you, the grassroots, who’s supposed to be choosing-not folks at a higher level choosing who we’re going to put in that position. Whoever is the nominee, we must all get behind them. We must work to get that person elected; we must take that seat from the Republicans; it’s so important.”

Last to speak was Independent gubernatorial candidate Mark Johnson, who is a first-time candidate. Johnson said he’s running as an Independent because he doesn’t want to be the candidate of one party or the other. “I have a way to win by a campaign of the people,” he said.  Johnson is the executive director of Camp McDowell, part of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama.

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