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EXCLUSIVE Interview: Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

On Monday we were given the opportunity to speak with the Alabama House Speaker, Mike Hubbard. 

The Speaker talked about some of the success achieved so far in this years session and a few very important bills that will be introduced this week. He was also very candid about a number of items that are on his mind.

APR: Thank you Mr. Speaker for giving us some of your time today, I know you are very busy. If we could just revisit for a minute the jobs package that recently passed. It is becoming clear as we hear from folks around the state, even out in the rural communities, they’re starting to get a sense what this jobs package means to them.  It will take a while for it to trickle down. But we know that this was something you really planned and shepherded through, any other thoughts on that?

mike-hubbardSpeaker Hubbard: Yes, last year, I worked on the jobs commission. The whole purpose of that was to go and listen to people throughout the state of Alabama, not politicians, but the people who actually create jobs, the ones who run small businesses and are entrepreneurs.  We wanted to find out what in state government we could do to help them.  We got great feedback; it ranged from cutting through red tape, getting rid of unnecessary regulations that keep them from expanding, to incentives that we can provide that will cause them to look at creating jobs, rather than just remaining in a bunker mentality that people have been in, all over the country. I’m very proud of the package we came out with during this session; it was number one on our agenda. We told people in Alabama there was nothing more important than job creation and economic development. We followed through with it that was the first package of bills we passed through the House of Representatives that we sent up to the Senate. We still have some we are working on; one is to try to increase the film industry. Alabama is perfectly suited to really be a leader in that area, we’re just not competitive financially. So films have just not been made very much in Alabama, we just cannot compete with Georgia, New Mexico, Louisiana and other states that do provide these incentives. So we’re trying to get us in a position to where we are competitive. The folks who say we’re taking money away by offering incentives, they just don’t understand. Just like the other issue on the agenda, you know if you don’t have anything right now, then if you create something, you’re not taking away, you’re adding to. We’re all about trying to make the pie bigger. With Octavia Spencer winning the Oscar, she’s a Montgomery native and an Auburn University graduate, that’s a perfect time to be showcasing what we can do in the state of Alabama. With all the resources we have in Alabama, everything from mountains to beaches. We have the most beautiful scenery, more water than virtually any other state in the entire country. The opportunities are endless. We have the hard part, we have the places necessary. We just need to have the financial capability to compete and bring these people in. That’s a huge economic boom for the state of Alabama.

APR: You know, a lot of times people don’t understand the film industry, they tell you right up front its show “business.” If there’s no business incentive, they’ll take the show somewhere else.

Speaker Hubbard: That’s right. We just have to be competitive. In a perfect world, you can have the debate about whether you should have incentives and all of that. But in a perfect world, you wouldn’t need incentives. Everybody would just win based on what you can offer in terms of workforce and other issues, but that’s not the world we live in. It’s very competitive. Not only are we competing with our sister states in the Southeast, but we’re competing with other states around the country, and other countries. We have to be competitive. We have led the country over the last several years under Governor Riley’s leadership in economic development; we simply have to be in a position to do that. That’s why Governor Bentley was so adamant about his economic development incentive package and hopefully we can get that through the House.

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APR: You’re to be commended on that. In the conservative mind, sometimes financial incentives just don’t look right. And in the liberal mind, they don’t want you to take any money away from any social programs. Yet we have to expand the base and compete in the real world. Sometimes I say conservatism is sort of a misshapen pearls, it can’t always be how we want it to be.

Speaker Hubbard: That’s right.

APR: One of the things I don’t think I’ve heard reported and it’s just something I’ve heard around and thought about. When you put together the various committees within the House, there’s a real fairness and balance there that I don’t think people are aware of. You could have done these committee assignments any way you wanted to, but there is real balance with representation.

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Speaker Hubbard: Well, I really set out to do that, When we put the committees together, I wanted to be fair and done proportionately within terms of race and political party.  I believe we’re fairer to the Democrats than they were to us, which was my goal to be honest with you. I wanted to be fairer. For instance, they had taken away Republican slots on the top three committees: the Ways & Means committees (two of them) and the Rules committee. I was the one that got kicked off Education Ways & Means. When we came into the leadership, I replaced the seats back on Education Ways & Means and General Fund Ways & Means, and Rules Committee. I placed the minority leader on Rules Committee and Education Ways & Means Committee. We have been fairer to them than they were to us.

APR: Well that’s something I think is under reported. Because you just don’t see that every day.

Speaker Hubbard: When Rep. Alan Harper switched parties a few weeks ago, he was in a white Democrat spot on Education Ways & Means, so I replaced him with a white Democrat. I’m trying to keep everything balanced and fair. I think you’ll see the bills we consider, they’re going to be fairly balanced. Now that doesn’t mean all other bills pass, but everybody is going to have the opportunity to have their bills heard. Having served in the minority for so long, I understand what it’s like to be in the minority and that probably helps me to understand the importance of the minority party.

APR:  Speaking of Rep. Alan Harper, one of the things you are noted for, is your ability to bring money into the party. I don’t think that’s a secret that you have that ability and have had great success. In fundraising, you have a lot of conservative support around the state. You’ve supported a number of conservative legislators. Do you see any other Democrats that may be leaning towards the Republican party and thinking about switching sides?

Speaker Hubbard: You never say never. But I will tell you, I think any Democrat who would be a true conservative we would like in the party, have probably already switched. We don’t want to take people just because they want to get re-elected. We want people who really believe what we believe from a philosophical stand point. We want people who are philosophically aligned with us, and Alan definitely was and is. We are happy to have him. We’re not in a position where we have to take everybody. The others that are remaining, I don’t question whether their motives were did they believe in what Republicans believe. And that’s something we’re concerned about in 2014. More than likely, in a lot races, it will be over after the Republican primary. We have to be very conscious of the fact that the people, who have been in charge for so long, the special interest, the labor unions, the trial lawyers and whatnot. These people who represent special interests are not just going to roll over and pack their bags and go home, they’re going to try to run people in our primaries against our good conservative, pro-business members. We have to be in a position to defend that, and we will. It’s one of the things I’ve been working on, and raising money along with Governor Riley and President Pro Tem Marsh. We have to understand what the landscape is and understand where the battles will be and prepare accordingly.

APR: On that front, I know there are more battles ahead for you guys. The AEA certainly has put forth their best face to derail the jobs bill. They came up very weakened in the end.

Speaker Hubbard: Well it’s amazing to me; I just find it incredulous the battle they would pick would be over jobs. It’s just common sense we need to make the pie bigger, to have job growth. If we have growth, then the Education Trust Fund is going to get bigger, not smaller. That’s how it grew and grew in to what it is now, by the base getting bigger. It’s just amazing to me that all things to pick a fight on, it was a jobs bill. To me, that just doesn’t make a whole lot of political sense.

APR: Do you expect them (AEA) to come back on any other issues other than charter schools?

Speaker Hubbard: I don’t think so, but you never know. I’m sure they’ll fight charter schools because they’re for keeping the status quo. They don’t want any competition; they don’t want anybody to have a choice. At the end of the day, I believe it just proves the fact that they’re ultimate goal is to not educate kids. And that’s what our goal is: to provide quality education for every student in the state of Alabama who wants to attend a public school. We don’t think you should be forced to send your child to a failing school based on where you live or how much you make. You shouldn’t be forced, as a taxpayer, to send your child to a failing school. That’s just all about providing choices. I’m sure they will fight for the status quo, but my question will be ‘Well, you know insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ The status quo in my opinion is just not an option.

APR:  We have generational failures in some of our schools, which leads to higher crime in those communities and higher incarceration in those communities.

Speaker Hubbard: Right, it also costs taxpayer’s money.

APR: Right, we have to change it at the head and work down. One of the things that is on my mind, we have been looking into state retirement pension plan quite a bit. The shortfall there and how it is affecting the budget. It’s a massive strain on the budget. We have looked at the numbers and they certainly don’t reflect what we would expect out of a state pension fund, or any type of investment fund. Take a golf course in Ohatchee that lost $400,000 last year, it just doesn’t seem like we’ve been prudent with that fund. It’s putting a drain now on the entire system. Any comments on that?

Speaker Hubbard: We’re going to have to make some changes in the retirement benefits. There’s no doubt about it. Not for people who are already in the system and not the retired folks, but we simply have to make changes because we can’t sustain it. There’s more coming out than there’s going in. The investments obviously have not been what they need to be. We’re not the lone ranger here, this is happening in virtually all states. You have some liberal states like Massachusetts and New Jersey that are making changes to their public pension plans because they can’t afford them. They have bigger problems than we have. But you’re exactly right; we can’t continue to take almost a billion dollars out of the budget of taxpayers’ money to prop up their retirement system, of which the vast majority of Alabamians don’t participate in. It’s just not fair to ask taxpayers to pay that tab for a system they don’t benefit from. Most folks in Alabama don’t have retirement, if they do, it’s certainly not as lucrative and as liberal as the one the state of Alabama provides. We’re going to have to make some changes and we’re working with the RSA and with the Governor’s Office. I think everyone understands we can’t continue to do the same thing. To be honest, the politically convenient thing to do is to kick the can down the road that would be the easy thing to let someone else deal with it. But that would not be the responsible thing, if we’re looking to do what’s right, then we have to start making changes now to ensure the retirement system remains an ongoing entity.

APR: One of the things that, of course, conservatives expect out of this session, is you to do just those things. Do the hard things, rather than the easy things. Is it business, is it life experiences?  How have you become so prepared to do these things, rather than as you say ‘kick the can down the road’? Are there things you can point to in your life that brought you to do the tough stuff first?

Speaker Hubbard: I guess it would be the business background, and the fact of the matter is, we now have a majority of folks in the House and the Senate who are business people. They think like business people, rather than educators or public employees and I think that’s important. The private sector is what drives the economy and what makes everything work. We have to start operating state government like a business, and I understand that it is a different animal. But you can certainly apply business principles and invest practices to make sure taxpayers money is spent wisely. At the end of the day, it’s just doing the right thing. It’s not that hard to know what’s right and what’s wrong. It’s not very difficult to look at something like the retirement system and say ‘Hey this thing is broken, unless we do something it’s going to be bankrupt, and a whole lot of people are going to get hurt at some point in time.’  So we have to make some changes and now is the time to do it. I tell people all the time, if you ever start making votes based on what’s best for you for re-election, then you need to quit. That’s not what we’re sent down there to do. Whenever you’re so dependent on that when you base your votes on re-election, then it’s time to get out. You need to do what’s right. I believe nine times out of 10, or even 10 times out of 10, if you do the right thing, everything is going to work out fine.  The electorate is a lot more perceptive than you give them credit for.

APR:  One of the things that we of course have witnessed with our Republic, capitalism has sustained it and made it work. Whenever we turn away from capitalist principles, we lose the notion of our freedoms and our liberties and the right to actually earn a living and own things. Capitalism works with our form of democracy, however strange that may seem to some, it works.

Speaker Hubbard: Absolutely. When we stray away from it, that’s when we start getting in trouble.

APR: Yes, absolutely. And these pension plans have moved far beyond what is wise from that view point.

Speaker Hubbard: Entitlement programs are living proof of that. When we start getting into the situation when the government needs to take care of everybody, that’s when it starts falling apart.

APR: There are a million other questions I’d like to ask you, but you’re a busy man. Is there anything else you would like to talk about?

Speaker Hubbard: I think that’s probably it. So far it’s been a good session; it’s been very productive for the jobs package. I look forward to the education reform and the efficiencies in state government that will be coming. Finally, legislative redistricting we plan to tackle in this regular session. It’s never been handled in a regular session before, but we intend to at least attempt to try to get it done. That’s our goal, to save the taxpayers from paying for us to go into special session. Like congressional redistricting, we anticipate in doing it in this regular session.

APR: The congressional redistricting went amazingly smooth. No challenges in court. Would you like to comment on that?

Speaker Hubbard: Well I’m very, very proud; it’s pretty historic that we were able to accomplish it. It went through the Justice Department without challenges and went into law. I’m hopeful we can do the same thing with legislative. I fully expect there to be some challenges, but as long as we follow the rules and don’t do things based on politics and do what’s fair and right, I believe then we will be successful again. It’s certainly our intent.

APR: I have to commend you on the efficiency in which things are running. We’re very happy to get bills and committee meetings calendar on Friday’s.  It certainly helps those in our world to be prepared.

Speaker Hubbard: We’re all about transparency and openness so people know what’s going on and that there’s no surprises.

APR: Thank you so much for your time.

Speaker Hubbard: Thank you Bill.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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CDC confirmed expanded “close contact” definition to Alabama officials in August

It is unclear why the CDC waited until late October to update or clarify its public-facing guidance on its website.

Eddie Burkhalter

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New federal guidance on how a person is determined to have been in close contact with someone infected by COVID-19 won’t impact how Alabama works to mitigate the disease, said the state’s top health official. That’s because the state was already aware of the expanded definition in August before the change was made public last week.

It is unclear why the CDC waited until late October to update or clarify its public-facing guidance on its website when it was giving more precise definitions to at least one state health department and receiving questions from public health officials about the definition.

The delay in announcing the change is raising questions about how state health officials nationwide have been determining the public’s possible exposure to the deadly disease and if contact tracing and mitigation efforts will be made more time- and resource-intensive with the more inclusive definition in place.

The CDC on Wednesday expanded the definition of “close contact” to mean a person can be at risk of contracting COVID-19 if that person is within six feet of an infected person for a period of at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

The previous definition stated a person should quarantine if they were within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. Alternately, in other areas of the CDC’s website, the language stated “a total of 15 minutes” in the definition of close contact.

“What they changed their definition to is something they had verbally confirmed to us months ago, and we have always been using that definition,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking to APR on Friday.

Harris said a support team from the CDC was in Alabama in July as the Alabama Department of Public Health was preparing plans to reopen schools. Harris said the question was asked of CDC staff because his department was getting questions on the definition of close contact from school officials.

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APDH staff took the definition then of “a total of 15 minutes” to mean that there could be several exposures over a period of time equaling that 15 minute threshold, so they asked CDC to clarify that assertion.

“When those folks were here we asked the CDC people directly. Can you confirm for us what that means, and they said, it adds up to a total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period,” Harris said. “And we even got somebody to commit to that in an email somewhere.”

Melissa Morrison, CDC’s career epidemiology field officer working at the ADPH in Montgomery, in an Aug. 13 email to ADPH’s director of the office of governmental affairs, quotes a statement Morrison attributes to her CDC colleague, CDC public health advisor Kelly Bishop. Harris shared the email with APR.

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“Yes, I did get a response from the contact tracing team. The 15 minutes for a close contact is cumulative, and they said ‘The time period for the cumulative exposure should start from 2 days before the cases’ illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to positive specimen collection date) until the time the patient is isolated,” Morrison quotes Bishop in the email.

In the August email, Bishop goes on to say, as attributed by Morrison, that “as of now there is no established upper limit on the time period (i.e. 48, 72 hours etc).”

The CDC’s expanded definition was reflected in an Aug. 20 statement from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“The 15-minute time is a cumulative period of time. For example, a close contact might be within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive person for 5 minutes each at 8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. This is a standard based on guidance from the CDC,” the statement reads.

In an email to APR on Friday, Harris said he’d discussed the matter with Morrison on Friday who “emphasized that the guidance this week from CDC was NOT a change but rather a clarification. They simply used the MMWR corrections story as a convenient time to make the point.”

Harris was referring to a CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Wednesday that detailed findings by Vermont health officials showing that a prison worker contracted COVID-19 during an eight-hour shift in which the worker had 22 close contacts with an infected inmate totaling 17 minutes.

The CDC in statements to numerous news outlets, and to APR, cite that Vermont study in connection to Wednesday’s definition change.

“That’s kind of why they said it out loud,” Harris said of the study and the Wednesday announcement. “But I have to say, when I saw that updated guidance I thought, ‘I can’t believe anybody ever thought otherwise.’”

Different pages on the CDC’s website on Saturday defined close contact as both being “a total of 15 minutes or more” and “a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period,” confusing the matter further, and numerous other state health departments had not yet updated their websites Saturday to reflect the CDC’s expanded definition.

A CDC spokesman in an email to APR on Wednesday noted the Vermont study on the prison worker and said “CDC clarified the amount of time it would take for someone to be considered a close contact exposed to a person with COVID-19.”

“The CDC website now defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Previous language defined a close contact as someone who spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed case,” CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told APR by email Wednesday.

Pauley didn’t respond to APR’s question on Friday asking why the CDC waited until Wednesday to update its guidance online, given that ADPH had confirmed the definition of close contact in August. He also didn’t respond to a request to verify the statement Morrison attributed to her CDC colleague in the August email.

“To us, we thought if it says a total, that means you must be adding up smaller amounts to get to 15 minutes, or you wouldn’t use the word total,” Harris said. “When they changed it this week, I don’t know the details of why that happened, but I think, obviously, everybody didn’t have the same message everywhere.”

Dr. Bertha Hidalgo, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at UAB’s Department of Epidemiology, told APR on Friday that her understanding prior to Wednesday’s expanded definition was that a contact was defined as someone who was exposed to the COVID-19 positive individual for at least 15 min or more at a time and explained that the updated guidance complicates how public health officials will engage in contact tracing.

“This means significant efforts for contact tracing moving forward, in effect needing to identify every person that person came into contact with during the possible exposure timeframe,” she said.

It was unclear Monday how the definition change impacts Alabama’s Guidesafe COVID-19 exposure notification app, which notifies a user if they come into close contact with an infected person. The app was developed by ADPH and University of Alabama at Birmingham, thanks to a partnership between Apple and Google’s combined development of the technology, and alerts users to possible exposure while keeping all users’ identities anonymous.

Sue Feldman, professor of health informatics, UAB School of Health Professions, in a message to APR on Friday said that due to the anonymity of the app, it would be difficult, but not impossible, to update the app to take into consideration the CDC’s expanded guidance.

“We are taking this into consideration for our next update,” Feldman said in the message.

Also unclear is how many other states that have similar exposure notification apps, also using Google and Apple’s technology, aren’t yet using the expanded definition of a “close contact.” Colorado is to roll out that state’s app on Sunday, and according to Colorado Public Radio News the app will notify a user that they’ve been exposed if they come “within six feet of the phone of someone who tested positive for at least ten minutes.”

New York’s exposure notification app also appears to use the old CDC guidance, and will alert users if they come “within 6 feet of your phone for longer than 10 minutes,” according to the state’s website.

The updated definition, which health departments refer to when conducting contact tracing, is likely to have a serious impact on schools, workplaces and other group settings where personal contact may stretch over longer periods of time including multiple interactions.

It greatly expands the pool of people considered at risk of transmission. “It’s easy to accumulate 15 minutes in small increments when you spend all day together — a few minutes at the water cooler, a few minutes in the elevator, and so on,” Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers told The Washington Post. “I expect this will result in many more people being identified as close contacts.”

The clarification comes as cases and hospitalizations are rising both in Alabama and nationwide. Alabama’s 14-day average of cases has increased 41.2 percent over the past two weeks. The percentage of tests that are positive has increased from roughly 13 percent to more than 20 percent over the past 14 days. The U.S. average of new daily infections is now at its highest point of the pandemic, with 481,372 cases reported in a week, according to CNN and Johns Hopkins University.

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Alabama women to Ivey: Support fair processes

Last week, Ivey co-authored a letter of support for Barrett and released it to media outlets.

Josh Moon

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Gov. Kay Ivey held a Coronavirus update Press Conference. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

A letter signed by a bipartisan group of about a thousand Alabama women takes issue with Gov. Kay Ivey’s recent support of Republican Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, and it encourages Ivey and other state officials to instead support fair processes.

Last week, Ivey co-authored a letter of support for Barrett and released it to media outlets. In response, the letter from Alabama women calls the process to nominate Barrett, which is occurring after more than 50 million votes have been cast and in a Senate that is predicted to change from Republican to Democratic control, unfair and “anti-democratic.”

The letter, which doesn’t criticize Ivey or request that she rescind her endorsement of Barrett, asks instead that Ivey and other state leaders honor women by implementing and following fair processes that provide women with equal opportunities.

The full letter is below:

Dear Governor Ivey,

We are a group of women. We are current and future mothers, grandmothers, caregivers, leaders and champions of all citizens of our great state. We are moderates, progressives and conservatives. When we agree with our leaders, we say so, as we have in your support for education, workforce development, and sensible mask policies.  

We also speak up when we do not agree. Thus, we want to respond to your letter in support of Amy Coney Barrett because it does not represent our views. 

Like you and Judge Barrett’s father, we want to tell all young girls that they can do anything their male counterparts can do and they can be anything and everything they want to be. We want it to be a truth, not just a signal “that the most qualified individual will get the job”.  In addition to those things, we want them to know and believe that the process will be fair, because no matter the job, the process should be fair. And our children and young people (boys or girls) should be able to trust that democracy works and can be counted on. How can we assure them when this process has been so rushed and undemocratic?

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We are women who oppose Judge Barrett’s confirmation, because confirming her at this time, when 50 million Americans have already cast their votes, is anti-democratic. Regardless of what ways she does or does not think or talk like us, what matters is that a confirmation should not take place after the election is underway. 

We do not expect you to rescind your support of Judge Barrett. However, we urge you and the other women leaders who have advanced to top positions in our government to stand with us in asking for a fair process that takes place after the election. A process that helps us to believe that our voices and our votes matter because the American people should have the right to choose who nominates the next Supreme Court Justice.

Respectfully, 

Emily Hess Levine
Lindsey Chitwood
Megan Cheek
Kira Fonteneau
Ronne M. Hess
Cindi Cassis Branham
Anna Brantley Fry
Joellyn M. Beckham
Kristen Berthiaume
Alexandra Ruthann Bullock McElroy
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The letter is signed by more than 800 women. The full list of signatures was sent to APR with the letter. We have chosen to list only the first 10 for the sake of brevity.

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Study: COVID-19 infection rates more than double without lockdowns

Infection and fatality rates would have been higher without stay-at-home orders, a new UAB study found.

Micah Danney

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New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that if there had been no stay-at-home orders issued in the U.S. in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the country would have experienced a 220 percent higher rate of infection and a 22 percent higher fatality rate than if such orders were implemented nationwide.

Seven states never imposed stay-at-home orders, or SAHOs. The study analyzed daily positive case rates by state against the presence or absence of statewide SAHOs between March 1 and May 4, the period when such orders began to be implemented. Twelve states lifted their SAHOs before May 4.

The researchers defined SAHOs as being in effect when a state’s governor issued an order for residents of the entire state to leave home only for essential activities and when schools and nonessential businesses were closed.

“During March and April, most states in the United States imposed shutdowns and enacted SAHOs in an effort to control the disease,” said Bisakha Sen, the study’s senior author. “However, mixed messages from political authorities on the usefulness of SAHOs, popular pressure and concerns about the economic fallout led some states to lift the restrictions before public health experts considered it advisable.”

The research also sought to determine if the proportion of a state’s Black residents was associated with its number of positive cases. It found that there was.

“This finding adds to evidence from existing studies using county-level data on racial disparities in COVID-19 infection rates and underlines the urgency of better understanding and addressing these disparities,” said study co-author Vidya Sagar Hanumanthu. 

The research can help advance a greater understanding of racial disparities in the health care system as a whole, and help leaders make future decisions about shutdowns as the virus continues to spread, Sen said.

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“While the high economic cost makes SAHOs unsustainable as a long-term policy, our findings could help inform federal, state and local policymakers in weighing the costs and benefits of different short-term options to combat the pandemic,” she said.

The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open.

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Elections

Jones to attend Auburn student forum, Tuberville hasn’t yet responded to invitation

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

The College Democrats at Auburn University and the College Republicans at Auburn University have asked U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville, to attend a student forum on Wednesday.

“We are excited to invite the candidates running for our U.S. Senate seat and provide this opportunity for any Auburn student to hear directly from them, and we hope it will inform our student bodies’ decisions with the November 3rd election only days away,” said Carsten Grove, president of the College Democrats at Auburn University, in a statement.

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, Auburn University College Democrats confirmed for APR on Sunday, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend. The student organization  was still awaiting a response from Tuberville’s campaign.

Jones has for months requested Tuberville join him in a debate, but Tuberville has declined.

“AUCR takes great pleasure in coming together with AUCD to co-host the Alabama Senate candidates in this forum. We are looking forward to a very informative and constructive event,” said Lydia Maxwell, president of the College Republicans at Auburn University.

Dr. Ryan Williamson, assistant professor of political science, is to emcee the forum, which will be open to all Auburn University students in the Mell Classroom Building at 6 p.m., according to a press release from the College Democrats at Auburn University.

Students will be permitted 30 seconds to ask a question of either candidate, and each candidate will have two minutes to answer, according to the release.

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Capacity at the forum will be limited and precautions taken due to COVID-19. Any student with an Auburn ID is welcome and attendance will be first come, first served.

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