By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Election campaigns are a lot of hard work. Contested campaigns can be very demanding struggles. Most people decide not to run for elected office because it is just too much of a struggle. For Rob McHugh this election is far from the most difficult struggle that he has faced.
In 2003, the Steele Republican was the owner of his own electrical business but he was experiencing some muscle cramps and numbness in his hands which were interfering with his ability to do his job as an electrician. His doctors diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or simply ALS. The most common of the motor neuron diseases is still considered a death sentence and McHugh’s doctor told him to get his affairs in order because he would be dead by 2005.
Rob McHugh would not accept the scientific fact that he had less than 24 months to live. Slowly he lost use of both of his arms and eventually he lost the use of both his legs. Typically that is followed by the loss of the ability to speak, the ability to swallow, difficulty breathing, which typically leads to death. McHugh however is not typical. Where most ALS patients wait in vain for a new drug that will cure the condition, McHugh took the bold alternative strategy of assuming personal responsibility for his own condition and fought to regain use of his limbs. A herbalist and a chiropractor provided help. Slowly, through a vigorous exercise and training effort he regained use of his arms and legs. McHugh could no longer do his job as an electrician because he no longer had the fine motor skills necessary to perform at a high level so he went to work with his dad in the nursery business managing greenhouses on his family’s farm. Eventually he was forced out of the nursery business because of repeated attacks on his greenhouses by metal thieves. McHugh told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that they caught the last thief with $30,000 worth of greenhouse equipment at a metal yard where he had just received $900 for it. McHugh has supplemented his income over the years as a singer/songwriter.
The Board member of the St. Clair County Farmer’s Federation knew he needed a job that he could perform at a high level despite his physical challenges. To this day he has not restored all the strength in his hands but otherwise his health and full use of his limbs has been restored through hard work and either luck or divine assistance. McHugh decided that he would become an ALFA agent and began the studies necessary to get his Alabama insurance license. When he successfully finished all of his class work and passed the Alabama Insurance exam, ALFA (despite his long relationship with them) told him that he was not experienced enough to be an ALFA agent. Undeterred, McHugh is now an agent for Farmer’s Insurance.
Rob McHugh told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that he is a longtime friend of former District 30 Representative Blaine Galiher and would never have run against the former Republican incumbent. When Rep. Galiher resigned to become Governor Bentley’s Director of Legislative Affairs, many of McHugh’s friends urged the insurance agent to run for the vacant Alabama House District 30 seat.
McHugh said that he talked with his family and made the decision to run as a Republican for the House District 30 seat. Rob McHugh told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ that, “I am good at helping people figuring out things. I will do what I can to help.”
Mr. McHugh said that he is pro-life, pro-gun, and opposes raising the tax burden on Alabama families. McHugh said that the state should pay back the money that was raided from the Alabama trust fund. McHugh said that all the revenues from the internet sales tax that Gov. Bentley is lobbying for should be used to pay off the trust fund diversion when that money comes in. McHugh said that the internet sales tax should bring in $130 million.
McHugh told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ to save money, “We can streamline more programs” and that the state should, “quit spending what we don’t have.” McHugh said that ending the DROP program will help the finances some. McHugh said that he did favor Governor Bentley’s plan to offer incentives to coax veteran state employees to retire. McHugh said that he is concerned about an Alabama Policy Iniative plan that would replace the state workers’ pensions with 401 (k)s. McHugh was concerned that the state would have a difficult time recruiting and retaining teachers and state workers when the economy turns around if surrounding states had a better benefits package. Mr. McHugh said that he would need to get the opinions of the people in his district before making a big decision like that.
McHugh said, “I think we need to generate more revenues.” McHugh however opposed the $2 a pack cigarette tax hike proposed by Rep. Joe Hubbard as being too large. McHugh said that the state needed to be more careful with tax breaks and incentives packages. He cited as an example the Sax distribution center built in Steele. The company came for the incentives and then “just packed up and left” after just a few years costing tax payers millions.
McHugh said that he represents the people on two state boards and serves on ten committees and boards throughout the district. When state prison farms were selling produce at just $2 a box, McHugh said that the tomato farmers called him and he worked successfully to prevent the prison farms from competing with Alabama farmers.
Mr. McHugh said, “I will represent the people of the district” and said that he “wants to do what is right for people.” McHugh said even though he lives in St. Clair County he has family and friends in Etowah County as well and he is, “not biased towards one county or the other.”
McHugh said that he has not been asking for campaign contributions because he doesn’t want to be beholden to anyone when he gets to Montgomery. “I don’t want to owe any favors,”
McHugh’s wife is a PE teacher and they have two children a 9 year old and a 5 year old.
Rob McHugh faces former Etowah County School Board President Mack Butler in the special election Republican Primary on Tuesday, October 23. House District 30 is composed of parts of Etowah and St. Clair Counties.