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Democrats in AL-2 race discuss issue of living within district

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Five of the Democratic candidates vying to represent Alabama’s newly drawn 2nd Congressional District participated Tuesday evening in a candidate forum in Montgomery, and by and large, were wholly in agreement with each other on the issues.

The candidates’ responses diverged slightly, however, when asked to comment on the topic of candidates actually residing within the district they’re running to represent, the majority of whom live outside its lines to varying degrees.

Organized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the forum was held at the Civil Rights Memorial Center, and saw candidates share their positions on issues such as Medicaid expansion, voting rights, funding public schools and combating poverty, issues named by Democratic voters as their top priorities in a recent SPLC poll.

It wouldn’t be until co-moderator Tiffany Johnson Cole, an attorney from Tuskegee, asked candidates about the importance of living within the district that the first signs of significant divergence among candidates’ responses materialized.

“Residency has been an issue in this race,” Cole said. “To what extent does a candidate’s prior residency impact their ability to be an effective representative? Has this issue gotten too much attention in this race, or not enough?”

Shomari Figures (moved back from DC to live in district)

“I think the voters will ultimately determine whether or not this issue has gotten enough attention or not, but at the end of the day it’s this.”

“What we’ve heard as we’ve gone around the district is people want someone that they can connect with, someone they can see, someone they can touch, someone they can relate with, someone they feel is invested in their community to a degree that that unquestioned.”

“That is something that people should expect; we should expect that leaders in your community be of you, be among you as your campaigning, certainly as your representing people in government.”

“As it relates to me, I’m born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, I’m a proud son of Mobile, it’s who raised me, who made me. We’re now joined in this what I call congressional garment of destiny with 12 other counties that we never necessarily foresaw being a district as it is.”

“I think being from the district, being raised in the district, educated in the district and growing up in church in the district, I think it matters.”

State Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika (lives just outside of district)

“We think about the 13 counties; 11 of those are rural. Rural Alabama has the same problems; jobs, health care, all of those essential things. When we look at the things from a luxury standpoint, the rural areas don’t have those.”

“I’ve had the honor of representing Russell County for the last six years now, being able to bring resources to that community, getting married in that area, football camps and all those things, so when we think about someone that has invested in a community, that’s the person that should be an advocate in that community as a congressperson.”

State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Saraland (lives just outside of district)

“I started on the city council in a very poor city, (Prichard), a very poor area where people were struggling, and we’ve never had a federal representative that we can go to to help us.”

“We had federal representatives that did everything for Mobile, they never did anything for us, and I feel like this district is made up of a lot of communities that were struggling that needed somebody when we never had anybody.

“It was just like taxation without representation, we never had an opportunity to have federal representation; now we finally do. So is it important? Yes, I think it’s important.”

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham (lives in Birmingham)

“As a Democrat, I’m going to follow and adhere to the law, and the law says you do not have to live within those boundary lines, and I’ve said, if I am elected to this seat, I will certainly move within the district boundary lines.”

“We deal in the United States Congress on issues that are universal, that is why there is no residency requirement for a man to represent the United States as its president, because he will represent all 50 states; no one expects him to live at all 50 states, but he will live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to represent the people throughout the 50 states.”

“I believe that I can represent the people of this congressional district because I’ve already been fighting for the people in all of these 13 counties, and I will continue to do so.”

State Sen. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove (lives near Birmingham)

“I’m one of the ones that doesn’t currently live in the district; I have a rental home in Montgomery, I have ties in Mobile and Prichard with family.” 

“If the litmus test simply is I was born in a place and I haven’t done anything to move that area forward, that is a very small litmus test in order for you to be a member of Congress. As I have traveled the district, not one citizen has actually asked me that question.”

“What folks have said to me is that they want somebody with experience and that has a track record of production for Congressional District 2. As a 22-year member of the Legislature, my footprint is all over Congressional District 2, and I will continue to fight for Congressional District 2 whether I’m elected or not, just like I have for the past 22 years.”

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