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Figures in AL-2 race: ‘I know how government works’

Name: Shomari Figures
Party: Democrat
City of residence: Mobile
Age: 38
Occupation: Deputy chief of staff for Attorney General Merrick Garland
Previous elected offices or applicable experience: Worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign; as Department of Justice advisor to Attorney General Loretta Lynch; legislative counsel for Sen. Sherrod Brown; worked on President Joe Biden’s transition team.
Education: Bachelor’s and law degree from University of Alabama
Why should district residents vote for you on March 5: “It’s a multi-faceted question, but at the end of the day, I think we want to have someone in Congress who can actually accomplish things and get things done on behalf of the people in this district. I am the only candidate in this field that I’m aware of who actually has any experience working in federal government, (and) working in Congress. I’ve worked across all three branches of federal government, so I know how the government works, and I have networks, skills and experiences in Washington already that will be able to be deployed immediately for the benefit of the people of this district.”

 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. —  The son of Alabama Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, and the late Sen. Michael Figures, Shomari Figures has worked in Washington, D.C. for more than 10 years, getting his start on President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, after which he served in the Obama White House as the advisor to then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Figures went on to work for three years as the legislative counsel for Sen. Sherrod Brown, and afterward on the Joe Biden White House transition team.

He later would work as the deputy chief of staff and counselor to Attorney General Merrick Garland, a position he stepped down from after deciding to run for Alabama’s newly drawn Second Congressional District, a place Figures says he considers to be his home.

Figures is one of 11 Democrats on the March 5 Democrat primary ballot, several of whom live outside of district, as is allowed. Figures is among those living within the district proper, taking up residence in hometown of Mobile in 2023 after a more than 10-year stint in Washington, D.C.

“This district is home, this is the district that raised me and prepared me to go on and have the career that I’ve had in federal government to this point, and it’s time for me to bring that experience back home for the benefit of the people in the communities that raised me,” he said.

As to what he considered to be the biggest challenges facing residents of the district, Figures broke it down to four thing: health care, education, economic development and a focus on rural Alabama.

“People born in Alabama are expected to, statistically, live the shortest lives of people in this entire country; a Black man in Alabama is barely expected to live past his 60s, and we all know too many people who, by the time they’ve gone to a doctor, it was too late to treat an otherwise treatable condition,” he said.

“For many of those people, they didn’t go to the doctor because they didn’t have insurance, or they could not afford the bill that would come. At a minimum, I believe that every person who calls Alabama home should be able to see a doctor once a year; this will save lives, and this will save money in the long run for this state and for this nation.”

Figures said that if elected, he would push to increase health care access in Alabama by increasing the reimbursement rate for states that expand Medicaid, an increase, he argued, that would further incentivize state leaders to expand the low-income health care program. He also said that as a member of Congress, he would push for more federal dollars for health care organizations that expand access to lower-income Alabamians, but came short of endorsing programs like universal health care.

“On education, Alabama has to have a strong workforce, and we have to build and sustain that workforce, and in order to do that, we must invest in the teachers who are preparing our students for the jobs of the future,” he continued. “I want to prioritize directing more resources here in Alabama to be able to pay our teachers much more than they currently make because this will allow us to recruit the best, retain the best and incentivize teachers to remain in the classroom longer.”

This year, Alabama teachers received a 2% pay raise, something Gov. Kay Ivey championed in March as part of her State of the State address. As of April 2023, the average teacher salary in Alabama was nearly $56,000, the 33rd-highest average salary for teachers. Nationally, however, pay for educators has failed to keep up with inflation, with the average pay being around $3,600 less than it was ten years ago when adjusted for inflation, according to the the National Education Association.

“And finally, focusing on rural Alabama; too often, our rural communities are simply not the priority, and I want to change that,” Figures continued.

“I want to make sure that whether we’re discussing health care access, education, broadband deployment, economic development, that we’re not forgetting about rural Alabama,” he said.

He has family roots in Clarke County.

“And so as a congressman, it would be my responsibility to promote every part of this district and make sure that regardless of what the issue is we’re discussing, that the rural parts of this district have a seat at the table with us,” Figures said.

With such a crowded field of candidates, Shomari argued that his experience in Washington, D.C., along with his commitment to the district would make him stand out from the field, and vowed that if elected, he would bring that commitment with him to Congress.

“I am committed in a way that is absolutely necessary to be for this district; I have moved into this district, I have moved back home for this, and the commitment and dedication that is necessary to represent the people of this district is something that I think people should know that I have,” he said. “That same commitment and dedication is what I will take to Washington, D.C. with me.”

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