These are strange political times in America today. So much so that an ex-evangelical preacher and current truck driver is running on a progressive Democratic platform for the governorship of one of the reddest states in the nation.
Gadsden native Jason Childs says that both political parties have failed blue- and middle-class collar families nationwide. And he wants to help return the Democratic party to its labor-oriented and populist roots by running for the Alabama’s governorship on a host of progressive issues: Childs says he is for civil rights for all citizens, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender rights, favors legalizing marijuana, supports the Second Amendment and wants to repeal Alabama’s current tax on groceries – a tax he says unfairly targets poor and working class families in the state.
It’s a strange platform considering the 46-year-old Childs’ background: He attended conservative Christian schools Liberty University and eventually graduated from the Florida Bible College and began a career as an evangelical, Southern Baptist preacher at the age of 17. But, the domination doesn’t allow divorcees to preach, and after a too-early/too-young marriage failed, Childs found himself casting around for another profession.
In 2006, Childs decided he wanted to see America. He obtained his CDL and hit the road as a long-haul trucker. And it was during his trips across the country that his world view was challenged and eventually changed. “I talked to other drivers at truckstops, and ate with workers on warehouse docks, and I realized the reality of life for working- and middle-class Americans was much different then I’d been taught,” he said. “Their struggles are not being addressed by either party, nationally. And the Republican take-over of Alabama several years ago has been a disaster for the state – both in terms of the endless scandals that have occurred as well as their economic and social policies.”
Childs said he recently spent a long weekend at the Talladega Motor Speedway talking with Alabama voters and came away convinced his message will resonate with them. “These are people – particularly the younger voters – who have LBGT friends and family they support. They want a lottery, they want legal marijuana, they want their state government to help and support them and they want statewide alcohol sales every day of the week,” Childs said. “And I tell them that most Alabama politicians – Judge Roy Moore, in particular – don’t want to have a beer with them and hear their concerns. In fact, they’d be far more likely to knock that beer out of their hands. And I think they understand that: They have a state government today that is eager to tell them what they can or can’t do and how they should live their lives, but is uninterested in undertaking measures that will actively help them succeed in life.”
On the first question Alabama politicians are asked when they run for office, Childs was unequivocal, giving a hearty “Roll Tide!” when asked if he is an Alabama or Auburn fan. (Full disclosure: The author is a graduate of The Unversity of Alabama.)
The key points of Childs platform include:
- Establishing state budget that actively meets the needs of citizens, increases social services for citizens a while repealing the state’s grocery tax, which Childs called a “tax on the poor.”
- Raise the minimum wage in Alabama to $10 an hour and end practices that allow corporations to cut hours and drive workers to social programs – essentially forcing taxpayers to subsidize their emphasis on profit margins. He is also in favor of overturning a recent Republican bill that prohibits individual cities from raising the minimum wage even more.
- Legalization of marijuana by the second year of his term as a means of both driving down opioid use in the state and raising tax revenues. Under his plan, Childs says legalized marijuana would bring in a conservative estimate of $880 million a year, which would be taxed at a 10% rate, pumping $88 million new dollars into the state budget annually.
- Approve a state-wide lottery and establish a resort destination zone in South Alabama to build a Las Vegas-style resort casino with table games, boxing event, and seaside attractions. Childs says the resort alone would create 6,000 jobs and a minimum of $10 million a year in revenue, which would be used to fully fund state education requirements and provide 2 years’ college or technical school education free of charge to Alabama students.
- Childs sees healthcare as a right for Alabama citizens and has pledged to take no action that would ever deny Alabamians coverage “as Governor Robert Bentley did” last year. He says he would fully expand Medicaid offerings in the state as well as support and properly fund any national healthcare plan in effect.
- Noting that Alabama farmers and ranchers rely heavily on immigrant labor, Childs says he would push for reform that makes sense and allow migrant workers to rejoin the Alabama labor pool to take up jobs that Alabamans have no desire to do.
- Childs has appeared on Fox News’ Sean Hannity Show defending the right of Alabama workers with weapons permits to carry firearms in personal vehicles at work and said fully he supports the Second Amendment.
- Increase funding and law enforcement officers in Alabama to combat human trafficking and increase outreach and services for the homeless and mentally ill in the state.
Primary elections for the Alabama governorship will take place in June of next year.