By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
House District 3 is an open seat race in a long-held democratic district and its current Representative, Democrat Marcel Black, is retiring this year. Now two newcomers to the political world are vying for the seat.
The two candidates are Democrat Chad Young, who has the support of many labor unions and business groups alike, and Republican Andrew Sorrell, a young entrepreneur who is running on his dedication to his conservative principles.
Sorrell had an impressive beginning effort with donations coming in around $100,000 but Young has come through this summer with a great show of support and told Alabama Daily News that just in the month of September he was able to raise over $20,000.
House District 3 sits at the northwest point of Alabama and is within eastern parts of Colbert County and Northern parts of Lawrence County. Some of the cities and towns within the district are Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, Sheffield, Leighton, Town Creek, Courtland, Hillsboro, and a small section of Florence.
According to the 2010 census, the district has around 42,348 citizens. The district elected a Democrat to represent them for many decades now, and Marcel Black won the vote with 59 percent of the vote against Republican Fred Jolyin 2014.
Both Colbert and Lawrence County as a whole went to Trump in the 2016 election with 67 percent and 73 percent, respectfully, but the precincts that are actually within District 3 tend to lean more left or at least center.
Many of the northern precincts in Lawrence County went to Clinton with the highest being 92 percent for Clinton. Some precincts in Colbert County were also pretty close in the presidential race, with one precinct around Muscle Shoals having 50 percent for Clinton and 46 percent for Trump and another precinct in northern Lawrence County being split straight down the middle.
Cash on hand: $168 Beginning Funds on Hand: $103,006
Amount raised in September: $4,686
Cash On Hand: $19,445 Beginning Funds on hand: $0
Amount raised in September: A bit over $20,000
Andrew Sorrell is a young entrepreneur who started his first business when he was 16 years old out of his parent’s porch that sold college textbooks and is now operating out of its own store and has employed 32 people.
He’s also opened his own pawnshop called Gold, Guns, and Guitars in April of 2015 and also owns multiple retail properties, both commercial and residential. Sorrell obviously has the entrepreneurial spirit but also says he’s a Christian first, Conservative second and a Republican third.
He told Alabama Daily News that one of the reasons he wanted to run for this seat was because he noticed a lot of the red tape bureaucracy that he had run into for his own business, but that it is something plaguing a lot of small business owners in Alabama.
Since Sorrell is a job creator in his own community he said he understands what needs to be done to help businesses grow and wants to bring his expertise to Montgomery in order to bring new industry and job growth to District 3.
“I believe the biggest issue facing this district is being able to help the working man. I say that I’m a Republican for the working man and I want to help bring job growth to the area especially with getting spin-offs from the Toyota and Mazda plants that are already in the state,” Sorrell said.
On the topic of health care in Alabama and his views on whether to expand Medicaid, he is siding with his fellow conservatives and says that there isn’t enough money in the budget right now for expanding Medicaid.
When it comes to education and school choice, Sorrell said he thinks parents should make the decision in their child’s education and that more entrepreneurial options need to be made available in schools.
“I think the parents should have the right to decide what’s best for their children and I believe in school choice. I don’t think children should have to be forced to stay in a failing school if they have a chance elsewhere for a better education,” Sorrell said. “I also think there need to be more options for kids to learn entrepreneurial skills in higher education. The school I went to offered only one, and it was a great class but we need more options for students to grow.”
When talking about a lottery for the state, Sorrell is hesitant to give his support since he is a fiscal conservative.
“Since I am a limited government candidate, I don’t like the idea of having to open up a whole other branch in the government that would deal with the lottery. I’m also hesitant because I don’t necessarily know what the government would do with that money,” Sorrell said.
Sorrell cited the problems that the state of Illinois had a few years ago with paying its lottery winners because the state government couldn’t get a budget passed so they started issuing IOUs to lottery winners which then led the winners to take the state to court. Sorrell doesn’t want to see Alabama get in a similar situation.
When it comes to infrastructure problems for the state, this is an issue that Sorrell has been campaigning on for his district, with regards to building more overpasses for traffic at railroad crossings.
He says it has become an increasing issue for people trying to get into or out of downtown Sheffield and has caused many logistical problems for their local communities.
“I mean I’ve seen ambulances sitting in front of trains with their lights on for around 30 to 45 minutes before and that’s just not right. Ambulances need to be able to get through the city to help patients and police have also said they have been stopped for long periods of time as well,” Sorrell said.
Many have said that the around $20 million price tag to build these overpasses is not realistic for the district to handle, but Sorrell argues that the taxpayers money that goes to the state to fix infrastructure problems is there but just isn’t being directed to them and instead is helping to build overpasses in places like Birmingham.
Sorrell said that he’s also been very outspoken on term limits for legislators and wants to pursue pushing a bill through that would limit the number of terms a lawmaker can have in the state.
“You’ve got some people who have served in the same position for 30 years and that just isn’t right. It doesn’t allow for innovation or fresh ideas to enter the state government and we need to put an end to these career politicians,” Sorrell said.
Since House District 3 has been held by Democrats for several decades now, Sorrell said he is “cautiously optimistic” about his chances of winning, but says he is encouraged by a great deal of support he has seen for his campaign and says the district has been leaning more towards conservative candidates in recent elections.
Chad Young has lived in District 3 his whole life and became a journeyman electrician working in the construction and maintenance industry. In 2015 he received his real estate license and began working with Coldwell Banker Tennessee Valley Realty.
As time went on he was recognized by members in his community as a hard worker for the community and was appointed to the Muscle Shoals Planning Commission, as well as being active in the Shoals Area Realtors Association, and serves on its community involvement and budget committees.
Young told Alabama Daily News that he had always wished to do more for his community and wanted to help more people, and has now found the chance to represent the people of District 3 and is feeling confident from the support he’s seen so far that he will win in November.
“The response has actually been very good and we’ve gotten a great response from people on either side of the aisle,” Young said. “I guess I listen to people a lot and it’s pretty well received. People tell me that I’m easy to talk to and that its easy to find common ground with me. That’s what I tend to look for, instead of being divisive I try to find common ground with people.”
Young believes that he is the candidate best suited to work on a bipartisan basis in Montgomery, and touts the endorsements from Alabama Realtor’s Association, the Alabama Professional Fire Fighters Association, The Home Builders Association of Alabama, and the Business Council of Alabama, just to name a few.
Young said that when it comes to issues for the district, education always comes up as a main concern for his voters.
“Education seems to be a top priority for a majority of people and keeping the Education Trust Fund intact. I’m in favor of an Alabama education lottery and to keep that money within the state. But I would support legislation that would give money towards pre-k all the way to higher education,” Young said.
On school choice, Young said that he doesn’t really think charter schools would be a benefit to their area and would prefer that the government focus on fixing what they already have instead of adding more to it and not let other schools dilapidate.
Young supports expanding Medicaid and said the benefits to Alabama’s health care system would far outweigh the costs.
“From everything that I’ve seen and read and tried to research, the expansion of Medicaid would be beneficial and we probably should have tried to do it when we first had the opportunity. So I’m in favor for it. And I’ve tried talking with professionals, not only in our area but across the state and it seems to be a common theme, especially with hospital administrations,” Young said.
When it comes to infrastructure problems, like the overpasses that his opponent is pushing for, Young does not share the same outlook and thinks the project is just too big of a financial burden on the district right now.
“The money to fix that would be enormous. He’s saying that he’s going to get two overpasses in our area, and one of them that he’s proposed would take out the whole downtown area of Sheffield that is being revitalized right now. The other would cost, or so I’ve heard from other city officials, around $20 million just to move the power lines. So to be saying that he will do that is not really to me is not really looking into the facts of the situation,” Young said.
He did say that his campaign has been looking at alternative solutions to the overpass problem and says that he has developed an app that will tell locals when a train is about to come through and other possible routes to take to avoid the train. Young did not give a definitive date when this app would be released.
When asked if he would support a rise in the gas tax to help fund infrastructure problems, Young said that he would and that while nobody likes taxes, its a tax that makes sense if we want to get serious about fixing this problem.
“It’s been 26 years since that’s happened. Everyone hates taxes, but how are we going to pay for all of the infrastructure needs that we already have? And it’s a use tax, so it just kind of makes sense. If I want to drive on nice roads, I need to be willing to pay,” Young said.
Here is a mailer that Andrew Sorrell is currently sending out.