Kelley, a GOP state Senate runoff candidate, answers questions

·8 min read

Jun. 11—Republicans Keith Kelley and Wendy Draper will be on the June 21 ballot in a party runoff for nomination to the state Senate.

The candidates were the top vote getters in the May 24 GOP primary to replace the retiring Del Marsh in Montgomery.

Consolidated Publishing's newspapers, including The Anniston Star and The Daily Home in Talladega, have invited the candidates for in-person interviews.

Kelley was interviewed Friday morning in The Star's newsroom and said he thinks runoff will go to the wire.

"I will be campaigning until the last minute," Kelley said.

In the primary, Draper came in first with 7,078 (39.3) percent) of the vote. Kelley was second at 6,378 (35.4). They advanced to the runoff. Weaver Mayor Wayne Willis was eliminated.

The interview was limited to one-minute, 30-second answers and focused on key issues the candidates have been facing on the campaign trail.

The interview follows with the newspapers' questions and Kelley's answers:

Q: Gun violence/mass shootings are on the increase to the point of it being a pandemic. If elected, what would you propose to slow down the incidence of violence and mass shootings?

A: You have seen uptick in that. The first thing that you've got to do is to find out why, why it's happening. I think it would be a matter of looking at whatever the data is out there, whether it's the FBI that has it or what enforcement agencies that's looked into the root cause of it. You've got to have the cause of the issue, what is the trigger, what is it that's making these happen, and look at what that cause is and try to remedy that cause.

I think another thing that would be important to that is maybe bring education officials and law enforcement together and have them look at things that might be practical that work. The teachers have got to feel safe in their classrooms, they've got to feel like that the kids are protected to be able to teach, the kids have got to be safe to be able to learn, so you've got the different perspective, you've got the law enforcement perspective and then the teachers view inside and I think you've got to bring those together and see what needs to be done and then put a course of action in place.

Q: Would you vote to suspend the Rebuild Alabama Act gas tax while fuel prices are at record highs?

A: I would support suspending the gas tax. You take a look at the jump in gas that we've had. That additional tax was originally intended to help rebuild roads, bridges and I think there were some other things in there, it was a tax on gas at a certain price point when that was passed so we've also seen a tremendous rise in gas prices on top of that so it has produced more taxable income then what was originally projected I would assume, I think projects that are out there that had already been let out and the contract had to be honored.

Q:What are your thoughts about legalizing marijuana for recreational use and medical marijuana?

A: Medical marijuana, if it's regulated and looked at properly and there is a legitimate medical reason that it helps with, I believe that issue has already been addressed and passed in our state.

I'm not in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Q: Would you support a state lottery and why?

A: It's not just a matter whether you have a lottery or not, that's one thing that I think a lot of people have out there that you know it's just whether we want it or not. So what's going to happen with the revenue that comes out of it, how's it going to be regulated, what's the oversight look like, and I think that those are important questions. I personally don't have a problem with it going to the people for a vote. But I think you've got to have that back end answered first, if you've got a situation to where you don't have the regulatory part of it right, all that needs to be right before it goes to the people for a vote.

Q: What would you do to attract economic development? Attract more jobs in the area? This question has many different facets including an educated workforce.

A: That's something that is part of my career. My entire adult life has been spent working with industry trying to do site selection, finding places for business to go that meet their criteria, different aspects of that, so that would kinda be an extension of what I already do.

Right now we've got jobs out there that we're having trouble finding employees for. A good example as far as the state, not necessarily my district, but as far as the state, Mercedes was going to build a battery plant here and one of the issues they had was having the workforce that was qualified to do that to bring that here so there were some delays in that. So if you put the economic incentives and you've got the workforce the other element to that is education, when industry comes in and a lot of times the first thing they ask about is the local education system in the area, is it good and adequate and those types of things, you've got to continue to work on those but economic development you can do tax incentives as one part, depends on the industry, and how many jobs it's going to produce and how much money is going to be put in the local economy from it.

Q:If elected, you will be filling Del Marsh's shoes. Is that a daunting task? [Marsh was the Alabama Senate President pro tem for a number of years before announcing he would not run for re-election in 2022.]

A: There's no question about the impact that's been had. You've got to remember that he was president pro tempore of the senate which comes with an enormous amount of power and influence. That will not be there for the new senator, the new senator will be coming in so a lot of those advantages we had may not be there when we get there, the good thing that I think that there is, at least in my case is, is because I have worked on legislation before just as a volunteer, so I've already got some of those relationships in the House and the Senate and I've already worked across party lines to get things done and so I think that will be an advantage in my particular case because there is at least to some degree already a relationship there and a trust there.

Q: We know you are busy on the campaign trail encountering voters. What is your elevator speech or passion speech about why you should win the runoff? What are you saying to voters about why you should be elected?

A: I think one of the things you've got to really look at is the difference in the candidates and look at what I bring to the table. I've been a lifelong public servant as a volunteer, I was doing the things that I've done long before I ever was running for public office so it's a lifestyle for me. Small business is extremely important to me, that is a make up of communities that comes out whenever you have a natural disaster or you have something in the schools. Big business, they do their part but the small business, those are the people that get out and they get on the roofs with businesses and things like that.

One of the other elements, too, is the agriculture component, agriculture is a big component for this area, I have a background in agriculture as well, when I was young I had cattle, I understand the agriculture industry which is vital to our district, it is huge, not just in crop fields but in livestock, poultry and all the different aspects of it. I think if you take and you look at my background there is a good roundness there of experience that would bring that to the table. The other thing is, having worked with previous governors, the congressmen, worked on oil spills serving on small business commissions, child abuse prevention board, over the years there's been a unique mix there that has just happened in my life that's given me a lot of real world experience to deal with a lot of issues that we're facing in our counties.