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Gray in AL-2 race: ‘I’ve been able to be a consensus builder’

Name: Jeremy Gray
Party: Democrat
City of residence: Opelika
Age: 38
Occupation: Small business and nonprofit owner and founder, author.
Previous elected offices or applicable experience: State House representative since 2018, co-chair of the Alabama Future Caucus, former member of the Innovate Alabama Commission.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from North Carolina State University, Master’s degree from Auburn University.
Why should district residents vote for you on March 5: “I’ll be an effective leader, being able to build consensus. For a Democrat in Alabama, we’re most of the time in a super minority, and so being able to work across the aisle, being able to really get my colleagues on board with bills that they don’t even agree with… I think that really takes leadership.”

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Now in his second term as a State House representative, Jeremy Gray has decided to throw his hat into the ring in the highly contested race to represent Alabama’s new Second Congressional District, running on his skills in building consensus across political differences.

Gray previously had a successful football career as a defensive back for North Carolina State University, and later as a cornerback in the Canadian Football League, before ultimately opening up a health and wellness business in 2014, as well as founding The Curtis House, a nonprofit community outreach center in Opelika that assists impoverished communities. In 2018, Gray was elected to represent Alabama’s 83rd State House district, a role in which he would help overturn a 27-year ban in the state on teaching yoga in public schools in 2021.

Other accomplishments touted by Gray include his appointment and service on the Innovate Alabama Commission, as well as several legislative initiatives that provide economic incentives for small and startup businesses. As to what makes him stand out among the crowded field of 11 Democrats on the March 5 ballot, Gray told Alabama Daily News that his experience, his youth, as well as his familiarity with the district made him uniquely equipped to handle the district’s unique set of challenges.

“I really came from wanting to be the change in my community, and so from that, that propelled my career and really allowed me to be an effective leader from a young age,” Gray said.

“I’ve been able to be a consensus builder, I think that sports really helped with that. I played college collision sports, and so that team-building concept, I think that’s what really separates me. And when you think about 11 counties (in District 2) being rural, I don’t know of anyone else in this race that has actually represented a rural area for the last five years and knows the ins and outs of rural Alabama.”

As to what he considered to be the largest challenges facing residents in the district, Gray said diminishing quality-of-life resources would be among his main focuses if elected to Congress.

“That’s the reason why the life expectancy is so low in rural areas when you don’t have access to clean air and water, (and) access to health care is really none existent,” he said.

“You think about OBGYN and just delivering babies is the rural areas, just having access to care, access to education, all of those things are quality of life things. So before we can get to being productive, (creating) knowledge-based jobs in the rural areas, you have to have those necessities, those things that most people take for granted in more affluent areas.”

Job creation and attracting investments were just as important, but would not be possible, he argued, without first having people’s basic needs be met, needs such as access to health care, affordable childcare and basic infrastructure.

“It’s one thing to have resiliency, but you also need resources and health, and so great-paying jobs, childcare are things that we really need in the district,” he said. “When you look at some of the more affluent areas, it’s about how do you recruit jobs, how do you retain and keep people here.”

Ultimately, Gray said his approach would be multifaceted as to be effective in the diverse communities throughout the Second District, from the region’s most rural towns to its hubs of economic activity like Montgomery and Mobile.

“Those are the things that you’ve got to look at; District 2 is so big and diverse, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all model, you have to cut it a little bit; cut it here, cut it there,” he said. “But from just a simple standpoint, (it’s about) quality of life, jobs and just a better future is what people are looking for in District 2.”

Some ways in which Gray said he would fight to improve quality of life include introducing incentives for businesses both large and small to offer childcare, something that has increased in costs wildly in the past few years. Another would be to further incentivize Alabama to expand Medicaid, of which Alabama remains among just ten states yet to do so.

“I think (Medicaid expansion) would be better for everyone; the hospitals can get paid, the physicians can get paid, and it can really bring money into Alabama,” he said. “All the rural hospitals that we’re losing, and how that puts so much pressure on our major hospitals, and so that would be something (I would focus on) from an immediate standpoint: how do we incentivize the state of Alabama (to expand Medicaid) in a way that they can opt in?”

While Gray currently lives in Opelika, just outside of the district, he told ADN that he intends on relocating to Phoenix City by March 5, a city that exists within State House District 83, as well as within the new Second Congressional District.

When asked whose leadership style of an existing member of Congress he might liken his leadership style too, Gray again leaned into his ability to work across the aisle and build consensus between different political ideologies.

“I don’t box myself in, there are going to be progressive issues that I’m going to care about, and I’m going to be more moderate when it comes to some issues,” he said.

“When you look at people like Hakeem Jeffries, those you would call middle-of-the-line people who understand the social issues but have a business sense… I’m really about how do I get things done, how do I bring the bacon back to Alabama? So any form that helps with that, that’s what I look at.”

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