May 24 Primary Election Guide – A look at the candidates for the District 5 U.S. House seat
Here is a look at the candidates for the District 5 U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Mo Brooks.
Six GOP candidates will be on the May 24 primary ballot: Andy Blalock, John Roberts, Paul Sanford, Dale Strong, Casey Wardynski and Harrison Wright. Two candidates will be on the Democratic primary ballot: Charlie Thompson and Kathy Warner-Stanton. The 5th District includes Morgan, Limestone, Lauderdale, Madison and most of Jackson counties. The two-year term comes with an annual salary of $174,000.
Casey Wardynski, 64, a former Huntsville City Schools superintendent and former assistant secretary of the Army in the Trump administration, is a West Point graduate, retired colonel and former chief economist for the Army. He has stated he’s in the best position among the candidates to maintain and increase federal funding of Redstone Arsenal.
“I know the players. I know their priorities. I know the Army strategy and much of the defense strategy. It’s not going to change; it’s focused on China and the things the Chinese are going to do to us if we don’t build the capability to do it to them or prevent them from doing it to us,” he said. “Many of those things should unfold on the Arsenal. We want long-term projects here in space, defense and high technology to continue the growth we’ve seen over these many years.”
Wardynski favors the role NATO and the United States are playing in providing military, humanitarian and economic support to Ukraine. That support, he said, should come with assurances “those weapons aren’t going to leak out all over the world, because they’re deadly to us too, and that (Ukraine’s) interest is defense and this war doesn’t widen.”
He said the 2020 presidential election needs to be investigated.
“There was a conspiracy that needs to be looked into through congressional oversight into big tech, social media and the government, and what happened with Hunter Biden’s laptop,” he said.
The former Huntsville City Schools superintendent stated, “The U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Justice exercise undue control over local schools by threatening school systems with the loss of federal funding. These agencies are using this control to introduce Critical Race Theory into K-12 classrooms and instill belief systems among children that divide Americans along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual preferences. These agencies plan to offer school systems grants to teach theories that denigrate principles upon which America was founded and that undermine parental influence in developing their children’s values. I will fight to prevent the introduction of this malignant influence into our local schools.”
Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong became a Madison County commissioner in 1996 and had been the chairman since 2012.
The Athens State graduate said national security would be his main priority as a congressman, and he includes protecting the southern border in that category.
“We’ve got an invasion of our country coming across with illegal aliens,” Strong said, and he wants to see a reform of asylum laws.
“Illegal immigration is taxing our school system, taxing health care,” he said, and a porous border is contributing to the import of dangerous drugs.
“Fentanyl, cocaine, heroin are coming across the border. It affects Black, white, rich, poor. One of the biggest threats I see to the people are fentanyl and heroin. If we don’t address it, we’re going to lose the generation,” he said.
He said he wants the U.S. to have more energy independence, with more drilling allowed in the Gulf of Mexico.
“There’s all kinds of opportunities, but we shouldn’t be buying energy from other countries when we’re able to do it ourself,” Strong said.
Contrasting himself with Brooks, whom he would replace, Strong called himself “a heavy lifter but maybe a little softer spoken.”
Strong’s primary focus is on his accomplishments during his decade as chairman of the Madison County Commission.
“Madison County was in financial ruin. A lot of people want to talk about what you need to do; I executed. I had to reduce the (county) workforce by about 16% and had to make a lot of hard decisions, but we recruited together with a regional approach. It wasn’t just about Huntsville or Madison County. We brought multiple counties together,” he said, and that regional approach was key to recruiting numerous industries.
Strong stopped short of saying the 2020 presidential election was stolen but said “I can’t believe that Joe Biden got 80 million votes. I’m not sure exactly how that happened, but it’s concerning.” Strong opposes early voting, as do the other GOP candidates.
Running behind Strong and Wardynski in campaign funding is economic developer John Roberts, a Hartselle native who now lives in Huntsville and graduated from the University of Alabama. The Republican said what he lacks in campaign contributions he’s making up for in campaigning. He and his campaign manager “have knocked on 21,000 doors” since he announced his candidacy, he said.
“I think people are going to be shocked on May 24,” Roberts said. “No one’s outworking us and we think it’s going to give us an opportunity to be successful.”
Roberts was director of development for The Huntsville-Madison County Builders Association, co-founded the North Alabama Building Academy and was director of business retention and recruitment at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce.
“I haven’t directly tied myself to any candidate or any other politician because I want to stand on my own two feet. I think I’m in line with a lot of what President Trump has supported in the past, but moving forward — with or without him — we need to make sure we’re focused on growing the Republican Party and making a difference for Americans in their daily lives.”
Roberts is an advocate for tighter control of the southern border, but also wants to see U.S. assistance to Central American countries to ease the “crime and desperation” that motivates many undocumented immigrants to cross the border. He wants to expedite the process by which immigrants can attain U.S. citizenship.
The candidate from Decatur is Kathy Warner-Stanton, 58, one of two Democratic candidates in the race. She went to East Limestone High School and has a bachelor’s in computer science from Alabama A&M and a master’s in management from Troy State. She is retired and was formerly a database administrator at Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Democrats have not fared well in north Alabama elections in recent years, but Warner-Stanton hopes that will change.
“I feel like right now is a good time for the Democrats in this area because we have so many people moving into the area. It’s more diverse, and we have a lot of new perspectives on what people are looking for in a representative,” she said.
She said north Alabama has not been well represented in the past.
“So many times you have a rich person going to D.C. to make laws for the working class, and they don’t understand what they need,” she said.
Warner-Stanton said her main focus is on education, including caps on student loan debt and increased education funding; expanded Medicaid and affordable mental health treatment; and infrastructure improvements to promote economic development. She said that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, she wants to see congressional action protecting women.
“As far as women’s reproductive rights, a female should be making the ultimate decision about what’s going to happen. There are so many scenarios that can come into play,” she said. “We have (male lawmakers) deciding what should happen to a female in private. Nobody should be legislating my reproductive organs.”
Former state senator and great-grandson of the Big Bob of Big Bob Gibson BBQ fame, Paul Sanford said his congressional focus locally would include education, workforce development and improved cooperation between Morgan, Madison and Limestone counties.
Nationally, Sanford said, “It is clear that the current leadership of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi are not focused on putting Americans first, and they do not have the best interest of our nation at heart. The actions of our Government speak loud and clear at our ports, our borders, and at every retail store, cash register and gas pump. It is time that we send hard working individuals like you and me to Washington DC in order to make the right decisions and get our
country back on track.”
Athens resident Andy Blalock is owner of Grasslands Ranch and a science teacher at Huntsville’s Academy for Science & Foreign Language. The Republican says the 2020 election was stolen, and he is critical of RINOs (Republicans in name only), a label he says applies to Strong, former Sen. John McCain and former House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“I was the only candidate to call for the impeachment of President Biden over the reckless Afghanistan withdrawal,” he said. “So first day, I’m going to issue articles of impeachment for President Biden.”
The University of North Alabama graduate’s plan to limit undocumented immigrants includes building a wall, withholding federal funds from “sanctuary cities” and increasing funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Illegal immigrants come across the border and go to places like New York. They’re issued a driver’s license and automatically registered to vote,” he said, although citizenship is a prerequisite to voter registration in all federal elections. “We can’t allow early voting. We can’t allow mail-in ballots. That makes it easier for the incumbent and easier to cheat.”
Huntsville resident Charlie Thompson, the other Democrat, formerly worked at the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority and as a manager of a car-rental agency. He supports universal health care, reproductive rights for women, term limits for members of Congress and a ban on elected officials trading stocks.
Harrison Wright, age 24, is self-employed and is taking classes at Athens State.
Wright said the influx of workers at Redstone Arsenal could have a negative political impact on the region.
“They’re taking over the entire 5th District and bringing their politics with them, so we have to conserve our conservative values and our conservative ways,” he said.
He would eliminate the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve, and would “return either to the gold standard or a combination of rare earth metals.”
He says the greatest threat to the nation is “The Great Reset,” a reference to a program of the nonprofit Switzerland-based World Economic Forum. Wright said it is a “cabal that wants to completely destroy the United States in order to have their way with the world,” and hints that it is responsible for fires that have destroyed some U.S. food processing plants.