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Strange pays visit to Cambrian Ridge

The campaign trail winds to a close for candidates vying to represent Alabama on the United States Senate in Tuesday’s special election.  But not before the incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange, paid the Camellia City a visit Monday and spoke to a crowd Monday afternoon.

Strange began by mentioning that he was honored to take the place of Jeff Sessions, the current U.S. attorney general.  He called him a political mentor and friend of three decades, adding that Sessions and his wife, Mary, welcomed Strange to Washington and have been supportive. 

And though Strange’s stay in Washington has been comparatively brief, he has already identified what he considers a major area of concern.

“One issue that I think is probably the most important is whether we’re going to support President Trump’s agenda or not,” Strange said.

“He was sent up there to change things in Washington.  I’ve only been up there for a few months, and I’m shocked to see that there is very little unity in the Republican Party.”

Strange used the Republicans’ now-sunken repeal and replace plan, a product of seven years of work, as an example, pointing to senators John McCain, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins’ no votes as examples of infighting within the Republican Senate.

“I say we have a 50-vote problem in the Senate,” Strange added. “We have to redouble our efforts to get reliable conservatives in Washington so that we can support Trump’s agenda.”

Strange pointed at several examples of progress within the Trump administration, citing the appointment of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and what he called lifting the burdens of “regulatory wet blankets” on the U.S. economy.

Speaking of economy, Strange detailed efforts to represent Alabama on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“We haven’t had a senator from Alabama on the agriculture committee since Howell Heflin; that’s been over 20 years,” Strange said.

“You look at cotton, peanuts, timber and all of the livestock; it’s the biggest part of our economy overall, and it ripples throughout the economy.”

When turning the floor over to attendees for feedback, health care proved to be at hot-button issue.

“One of the problems that I’ve discovered is that we’re a conservative state, and we try to do things the right way here in Alabama,” Strange said. “We didn’t expand our Medicaid.  We kept it for what it was intended to be, which is for the disabled and the poor.

“But a lot of states with republicans in them expanded their Medicaid plan.  I’ve got news for you—the law of government says that if you give somebody something, it is very hard to take it back.”

Butler County Schools superintendent John Strycker asked for Strange’s position on funding education in Alabama schools.

“I’ve been around the country and I’ve seen a lot of schools,” Strycker said. “The students in Alabama—especially South Alabama—are not receiving what other students around the country are receiving as far as resources and funding.

“I’ve been in education almost 30 years, and I’m amazed at the differences in what students in the Midwest are receiving compared to Alabama.”

“My thinking is that I’d rather have the decisions made by local people like you, parents and teachers,” Strange replied.

“Put me down as skeptical about the ability of Washington to educate children.  Money’s an important part of it; there’s no doubt about that.”

Lastly, Strange touched on the third core tenet alongside education and health care—employment.

Strange touted Butler County’s Career Academy as a point of pride, remarking on the value of giving students a lucrative alternative to college.

“College is great for whoever wants to go, but I really think it’s great that we’re giving an option to our kids,” he said.

“I’m glad to here that.  I’m a big proponent of that.  And I’d love to tour the facility and see what the kids are learning.”