For Immediate Release: December 10, 2010
Representative Wes Long reflects on his election to the District 27 House seat and what he hopes to accomplish.
Perhaps any other year, political pundits would consider newly elected House District 27 Rep. Wes Long’s win over popular Democratic incumbent Jeff McLaughlin a stunning upset.
But 2010 is not any other year.
“The only time I ever ran for political office before was in ninth grade for class president,” said Long, adding he won that race. “So I’m 2-0. I knew it was going to be very hard to beat Jeff in Guntersville. He grew up here like I did. He has a lot of friends, a lot of relationships. But I wasn’t surprised I won. I was surprised I beat him by six points. I expected it to be closer.
“We based our whole campaign on knocking on somebody’s door and asking for their vote. You can’t beat a handshake and personal contact.”
Long, 33, benefited from the Republican landslide during the Nov. 2 election that flip-flopped power in the Alabama Legislature from Democrat to a dominant GOP majority. The political newcomer is anxious to tackle ethics reform and institute more transparency in state government. He was in Montgomery on Friday participating in Gov. Bob Riley’s special session on ethics reform, which started Wednesday.
“The people have called for a change, and we need to set a framework for the new people and the people coming after us charging them with being ethical and transparent to the people of Alabama,” Long said. “After that, we’ve got to get the economy turned around however we need to.”
Like District 9 Sen. Clay Scofield, Long said he is not accepting any pay for the special session.
“There are two things we’re going to keep in mind,” he said. “We’re not going to take any pay. We’re going to give our money back to the state. I don’t think it should cost the state anything to have the special session, at least from our standpoint.
“The second thing is to make sure it’s a good law. Giving subpoena power to the ethics commission, so they can actually investigate issues and claims like a court of law could. Look at banning PAC-to-PAC transfers and look at what lobbyists can spend on public officials per day without reporting it, so we can have some kind of transparency.”
Long attributed the Republican surge in the Marshall County and Alabama elections to the overall national trend.
“Our president and the Democratic Congress forced some issues through that the people of Alabama are overwhelmingly not for,” he said, “one of them being the heath care bill. And cap and trade, which didn’t pass but they pushed. It would devastate Alabama and the Tennessee Valley. I think that woke people up.
“I think the Tea Party had a lot to do with it, and that’s independent voters. I think the main reason is people just wanted new legislators who weren’t part of the system because of the economy and no jobs being out there. And we had great candidates in Marshall County in all the races.”
Long said he has spent most of his time in meetings since being sworn in the day after the Nov. 2 election.
“A lot of people think we wait till January to get moving on the job, but we went to Montgomery for a Republican caucus meeting just a couple of days after the election to discuss a possible speaker of the House and other leadership positions,” Long said. “We’ve been moving into our office and meeting with the office staff at the Legislative Office in Guntersville. We met with the superintendents of Marshall County, the county schools and the city schools. We met with the county commission.
“We’re going to meet with nonprofits at the end of the year and the beginning of next year. We’ve toured some manufacturing plants. We’ve toured TS Tech and BAE Systems. We’ve got a schedule of 11 to do before Christmas.
“We’re working on setting up meetings with the city councils and the mayors. This first two months is probably going to be sitting down with people and getting feedback on their situations, how their budgets are. We need to meet with the judges and the DA’s office.”
The whirlwind of initial activity is important, said Long, adding he is excited to be working alongside his Republican counterparts, Scofield and District 26 Rep. Kerry Rich.
“I look at things from a business standpoint, but you really have got to get your grasp on different sections of government and different people’s issues, so you can be thinking about them as you go along,” he said. “I’m most excited about the fact that me and Clay and Kerry, I think, are going to be a dynamic group.
“Not only because we come from different backgrounds, but we’ve got different experiences and we all see the big issues the same. We’re all for smaller government, we’re all for getting some immigration laws on the books and we’re for ethics reform. It just helps if we’re all on the same page moving forward.
“The three of us are setting up a teachers-in-need fund. We’re giving — I think it’s 9.5 percent proration — so we’re going to be giving that percent of our pay to this fund. It goes straight to the classroom teachers for supplies in our districts.”
‘What’s Wes doing?’
Long said he intends to keep voters in his district informed.
“I’m working on a website for our district that will be updated closer to session in March,” he said. “It’ll have what I’m sponsoring, what I vote on, what issues have passed and general information on what’s going on down there. You know, what’s Wes doing?
“I’m going to be on the WTWX morning show, which is the local Guntersville radio station, at least every two weeks and report back to the district what we’ve been working on. As long as we’re in session, I’m going to try to keep them abreast of what issues are being looked at, what’s not going to make it this year and what’s going to make it.”
Long is an attorney, a businessman, a husband and a father of two young children. He is a proud alumnus of the University of Alabama, where he earned a finance degree and played football as an invited walk-on. He first started seriously thinking about entering the political arena in February 2009 after someone asked him if he ever thought of running.
“We started talking about Sen. Hinton Mitchem’s spot because the rumor was he might retire,” he said. “I thought, ‘Maybe. I don’t know.’ I saw what was happening with the national scene and my businesses personally. I watch Fox News, like a lot of people.”
In April 2009, Long visited Montgomery and met with some of the senators and representatives,
“I talked to them and discussed some things that would help you make your mind up, like how it would affect your family and the time constraints of the Senate and time constraints of the House,” he said. “I came back and was real certain I wanted to do one or the other, but I needed to let my wife think about it.”
After his friend, Don Spurlin, entered the District 9 Senate race, Long leaned more toward the District 27 House race.
“The other thing is the area,” Long said. “The senate seat covers 150,000 people in Blount, Madison and Marshall County. The House is 30,000 to 40,000 people, and it covers pretty much the north end of Marshall County. So there’s a lot different area as far as campaigning and doing a good job time constraint-wise.
“One day in Sunday school class, the teacher just kind of came out and started talking about politics. He said we need good people to run, and he didn’t have any idea that I was even thinking about running. I asked my wife, ‘Did you get the hint there?’ She said, ‘Yeah. Maybe you need to do it.’ I announced at the end of October.”
Long knew the incumbent McLaughlin would be a formidable opponent in the District 27 House race.
“Obviously, if I ran for House, I was going to have to run against Jeff, and I knew he was going to be a tough guy to beat,” he said. “But I didn’t see his voting record as conservative as I thought it was.”
‘Get things done’
Long said campaigning is time-consuming and expensive.
“You have to raise a little bit of money at least to buy your signage and do the things on radio, TV and newspapers you need to do,” he said. “I would say the thing that surprised me most about the campaign was the time it takes to organize.
“If you’ve got an effective organization, you’re more efficient. What I mean by that is your website’s running, Facebook’s updating, you’re not hitting on doors of people that are straight-ticket Democrats, you’re making phone calls. There’s a lot more detail to it than just announcing I’m going to run.
“My slogan was ‘Tough Times Call for Tough Decisions.’ They say the 2012 budget year is going to be one of the worst ever in Alabama because the stimulus money’s going to be gone after this year.
“As we got closer to the election, a lot of people would say, ‘We’re at the time there’s going to have to be tough decisions,’ and they weren’t referencing my slogan. I found that kind of funny.”
Long said the campaign exposed him to politicians and voters. He liked what he saw.
“The best thing is the people I met running for office are good people. You hear so much negative about politicians. The second thing is the friendships I got out of meeting people that I would’ve probably never met,” he said.
Long said his district is “the prettiest one in the state” and the schools are among the best in Alabama.
“I hope at the end of my four years the economy’s on the upswing and we’re creating jobs,” he said. “I’m not a politician. I’m a small business owner. That’s what made America great is small businesses and entrepreneurs, hard-working people. I want to help get that value back in our state and our government. I’m not going to Montgomery to be a politician. I’m going to get things done for our district.”
For More Information Contact: By Lionel Green - Sand Mountain Reporter
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