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New member profile: Rep. Marilyn Lands

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Newly elected Rep. Marilyn Lands, D-Huntsville, told Alabama Daily News that she is prioritizing building relationships across the aisle and sharing stories with her colleagues in order to come together on legislation.

“I think stories are what changes people’s hearts and minds,” she said.

The Democrat won House District 10 in March in a special election, flipping the formerly Republican-held seat. Lands initially ran for the seat in the 2022 regular election cycle and lost to Republican David Cole. He had to resign the seat last fall after entering a plea deal on a felony voter fraud charge.

Former Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, who held the seat from 2010 to 2022, endorsed Lands. She said that it was through a 2022 conversation with Ball, who would soon retire, that she decided to run. The pair share a passion for improving mental health and, as a trained counselor, she had previously helped him with some related legislation.

“I think that is what planted seeds in my head that if Mike decides to retire, and step away, that, you know, that might be my next thing,” she said. “I do think we need more Democrats to step up in this state.”


Q&A with Rep. Lands *questions are paraphrased

What are your top priorities looking ahead to the 2025 session?

“I will continue to work on building relationships across the aisle,” she said. “That’s been really important to me, to be seen as a bipartisan leader.”

Lands also said she will try again with legislation that she introduced late in 2024 session.

“I wanted to at least get it out there and it is HB 494, which would provide presumptive eligibility for pregnant women to Medicaid and it’s modeled after legislation that was recently passed in Mississippi,” she said. “I see that as an area where we need to make a lot of strides. And so I’m happy to be a champion for health care but especially for mental health.”

“… Mental health is just exploding exponentially the problems that suicide, with opiate addiction and with our children, particularly,” Lands, a licensed professional counselor, said. “It breaks my heart.”


What are the biggest challenges for your constituents?

Lands’ district is a diverse one. She said her constituents need and want different things, depending on where they live.

“It’s not a homogenous district, like a lot of them are,” she said. “I think the biggest thing I speak to a lot because we’re so known up here in North Alabama for economic development, and we excel at that and we want to continue to do that. But we don’t have economic well being for everyone in this district or for everyone in the state. And that’s what I want to continue to to really work toward.”


How will you convince your colleagues that access to contraceptives is important to the point of passing legislation?

Lands said she believes sharing real stories, including her own, is what will change the minds and hearts of people. Twenty years ago, Lands was pregnant with her second child and her doctors discovered a genetic abnormality in her baby: Trisomy 13. According to the Cleveland Clinic, Trisomy 13 is a chromosome disorder that affects the development of the heart, brain, kidneys, hands and feet. Lands was told that her baby would not survive outside of the womb. She had a late pregnancy termination in a Huntsville hospital with her doctor.

“They came back after the further testing and said no … There’s no hope here,” she said. “Twenty years ago I was able to get the care I needed with my own doctor who I knew, who was the doctor for my first birth in Huntsville hospital with my community around me.”

She said 24-year-old Alyssa Gonzales was not so lucky. Her baby had a similar condition: Trisomy 18, or Edoward’s Syndrome. According to the Cleveland Clinic, life expectancy for Edward’s Syndrome is short and 10 percent of children born with it survive longer than a year. Gonzales had to travel to Washington, D.C., for her procedure because there was nowhere in Alabama to go.

Gonzales and her family were in a campaign ad for Lands in February in which they both shared their stories.

“Alyssa had to travel to a place she didn’t know was a doctor she didn’t know, to a clinic that was frankly overwhelmed,” Lands said.

Lands hopes that these stories and similar ones will help convince her colleagues to pass protective legislation.

“I think so often when we look at women’s health care and reproductive freedoms, we don’t understand the nuances and how varied these situations are and how they’re always so difficult,” she said.


Beyond reproductive rights, what are your top priorities as a lawmaker?

Lands said another big priority for her is education. She expressed disappointment in the gaming legislation that did not pass.

“I was so disappointed that the lottery didn’t pass,” she said. “We need to be finding ways to fully fund our schools so that every child in this state has access to a quality education and the tools they need to be successful.”


Are there any district-specific issues you want to address as a representative?

Lands said that since her district is so diverse, she plans on hosting town hall meetings across her district to find out what her constituents need.

“I really want to be very responsive. I feel like that’s part of this and you are representing your constituents,” she said. “I really want to take some time and be thoughtful about gathering information about what it is that the people want.”


What committees do you hope to serve on?

Lands currently serves on the State Government and Boards, Agencies and Commissions committees, but hopes to serve on the Health Committee.

“That’s where I feel like I have the most to contribute,” she said.


The Republican Party has said it wants to take the HD10 seat back in 2026. How does the threat of a well-funded Republican in two years affect how you legislate between now and then? 

Lands said she had not thought much about the 2026 election, but that her district is purple, if not blue, and connecting with voters will help her stay in the House in 2026. She thought Republicans wanted a small and limited control government, but was surprised when she got to the chamber this session.

“I also thought that Republicans were about less government interference, but (they) seem to be in everything,” she said.

Watch Rep. Lands’ interview on Capitol Journal below.

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