By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News
This fall, District 32 will elect a new state senator for the first time in 12 years.
Republican Chris Elliott and Democrat Jason Fisher are going head-to-head to replace Sen. Trip Pittman, who is leaving the position after serving three terms.
Elliot tallied the most votes in a crowded field in the Republican primary then defeated David Northcutt in a runoff. Fisher ran unopposed for the Democratic nod.
State Senate District 32 contains the western portions of Baldwin County in southwest Alabama. It includes the county’s most populous cities, such as Fairhope, Daphne, Spanish Fort, Robertsdale, Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
According to the 2010 Census, the district has a population of 155,619, of which 77.5% are 18 or older.
The seat is being vacated by Sen. Trip Pittman, who was first elected in a 2007 special election to replace Bradley Byrne after Byrne was named chancellor of the Alabama Community College System by Gov. Bob Riley. Pittman ran an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2017, losing in the Republican primary.
In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump carried Baldwin County 77.4 percent to Hillary Clinton’s 19.4 percent. In the Special Election for U.S. Senate in 2017, Roy Moore won Baldwin County with 61.7 percent to Doug Jones’ 35.5 percent.
Amount raised in September: $39,600
Cash on hand: $51,813
Amount raised in September: $3,627
Cash on hand: $8,147
Chris Elliott has served as Baldwin County Commissioner for the last three years. A longtime businessman in south Alabama, Elliott is no stranger to Republican politics. During the past decade, he has advocated for Republican candidates and conservative issues. He has worked with dozens of statewide and local political campaigns in both Virginia and Alabama. He has served on the Executive Committee of the Baldwin County Republican Party as Vice Chairman for Commission District 2, the Steering Committee of the Baldwin County Republican Party, the Executive Committee of the Alabama Republican Party, past Chairman of the Baldwin County Young Republicans, and an associate member of both the Eastern Shore and South Baldwin Republican Women.
Fisher, a Democrat who lives in Orange Beach, has a career that’s spanned 25 years and included such roles as business manager, consultant and nonprofit executive. The 46-year-old is Founder and CEO of the recently-formed Jason Fisher Consulting Group, a consulting firm specializing in nonprofit development and philanthropic management. In the recent past, he worked as Vice President & Senior Consultant at Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a direct marketing firm specializing in nonprofit development. He also worked as a Development Officer for Spring Hill College in Mobile. Additionally, Fisher spent time as the Executive Director of the Chromosome 18 Registry and Research Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families that have been affected by rare genetic disorders involving chromosome 18.
On the topic of funding infrastructure, both candidates believe it is imperative that the district get a good portion of those dollars.
“To me, it’s the main issue,” said Elliott. “We make the pie bigger for the rest of the state and Baldwin County generates tons of revenue. You don’t kill the golden goose.”
Fisher agrees with Elliott that money should return to the area to fund better roads and bridges, but believes money alone isn’t enough to get the job done.
“I want to build the proper relationships that can fight for Baldwin County,” said Fisher, who added that communication is a major issue between Montgomery and the district.
“I’ll work with state and local officials to bridge that gap,” Fisher said. “But we need an adequate plan of what to do with the money in terms of development.”
A statewide lottery is another area of general agreement between the two candidates; however, both have caveats to their support of letting the people vote to start one.
“I support a lottery if the revenue it generates goes solely towards education,” said Fisher. “This should be for our children and the state’s future and not something to prop up the General Fund.”
Meanwhile, Elliott sees many areas that could benefit from lottery-generated revenues.
“There are a multitude of different things that need funding and other logistics that need to be figured out, such as whether the lottery should be operated publicly or privatized. But, it’s time to vote one way or another,” Elliott said.
One topic of disagreement was whether the state should expand Medicaid. Fisher supports Medicaid expansion, but Elliott does not.
“It’s more about funding,” says Elliott. “The state has borrowed too much in the past and we are just now getting our noses clean.”
Elliott notes it is a reasonable conversation to have as rural hospitals and others in the state face funding shortages. However, he added he is not interested in adding costs to a state budget.
Fisher fully supports Medicaid expansion in the state.
“Expanding Medicaid is good for four reasons,” Fisher said. “First, there are a lot of people who need health coverage. Second it’s good for rural healthcare. Third, it would add 30,000 jobs and help the economy. And fourth, it will stabilize markets.”