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Senate District 17 Candidates Campaign for Farmer’s Votes in St. Clair County

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The St. Clair County Farmer’s Federation hosted a candidate’s forum in preparation for the coming Republican Primary.

Perhaps the most interesting race is the heavily contested Alabama Senate District 17 race where seven candidates are competing for the open seat currently held by incumbent Sen. Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale.

The popular Senator Beason is leaving his conservative senate district to run for Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District where Rep. Spencer Bachus (R) from Vestavia is retiring after 11 terms in the U.S. Congress.

The District 17 Republican field includes: Joe Cochran, a member of the Pinson City Council; Jim Roberts, a Gardendale attorney; Jim Murphree, an Oneonta businessman who ran against Beason in the 2010 GOP primary; Shay Shelnutt, a Trussville businessman;  Brett King, an attorney from Locust Fork;  Gayle H. Gear, an attorney from Gardendale;  and Adam Ritch.

Joe Cochran told the St. Clair County Farmer’s Federation that he was running in District 17.  Cochrain has served on the Pinson City Council for 10 years and he said that he is ready to take the next step.  If elected he promised that he would be easily accessible.   “I like to meet people.”  Cochrain pledged, “I will vote the right way for ALFA.”

I would appreciate anyone’s consideration.

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Gayle Gear said, “I know so many people here.  I am Gayle Gear.  I am not a politician.  Now I must be a politician.”  Gear said that everyone needs to be concerned about the direction of our country and the direction of our state.  “I don’t intend to stay longer than four years.”

Gear said I have been a teacher, a university professor, and went back to school to become an attorney.

Gear said that I was one of the lawyers that talked Jefferson County into not putting prison on the site of what eventually became the Turkey Creek Wildlife refuge.

Gear said that she is married with two children and one grand child.  Both her father and grandfather were farmers.  They raised beef cows, dairy cows, and chickens for their own consumption and fopr sale and hunted for squirrel, rabbit and deer.

“This country was built by farmers.”

Brett King said, “I am from Locust fork.”  “It is good to be among you.  I am a farmer.  I grew up a farmer.”  King said that he also practiced law in Locust Fork where he lives on a 67 acre farm.  King said that he also owns 40 acres of timberland in St. Clair County, where until recently he did not get current use.  “You can’t make a living off of timberland without current use.  I will remember that when I go to Montgomery.”

King said that he knows how to get 75 square bales in the back of an 87 toyota long bed.  He went to Jeff State, worked hard, attended Auburn, and eventually got his law degree.  “It takes guts to hang a shingle in Locust Fork.”

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King said that he has looked for an opportunity to serve.

Adam Ritch said I travel a lot on my job and sees much of the state.  “I am running because we are at a tipping point.”  The country is faced with an ever expanding bureaucracy in Washington and Montgomery.

Ritch said that he is experienced on the battlefield.  There service is the most important thing.  “I don’t have a lot of experience in farming.”  “I was a Special Forces intelligence specialist in Afghanistan.  My brothers in arms would not have returned if I made mistakes.”

Ritch said that ee and my wife Charlene had a baby, he took a job in the steel mills, and then got married.

Ritch said that Barack Obama is a problem for the whole nation, but “We have some big state government spenders as well.”

Ritch said that he is a volunteer fire fighter in Dora.

Jim Roberts said that in the 1970s he served in the Air Force.  He studied engineering in West Point then served in the Army where he was deployed multiple times in different parts of the world.  Then Roberts went to law school and began practicing law in Gardendale.

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Roberts became mayor of Gardendale in a troubling time where the city faced a number of law suits.  As Mayor he managed to resolve all the law suits and served for 8 years.  As Mayor he improved the ball parks and had a good relationship with the farmers and the Cattlemen’s Association.

Roberts said that the F4 bill (which allows farmers who have trucks they use just a few times a year not to have to get a commercial license plate like heavy trucks that haul commercially 8-10 hours a day) should have come out of committee and passed by now.

He said that as the State Senator for District 17 he would focus on bringing more jobs not only in the city but also in rural areas.

The state needs to work towards the elimination of Obamacare.  If ever small business in America added just one employee the jobless situation would disappear but we are stuck in this morass caused by Obamacare and overregulation.

Roberts vowed that if elected he will get something done in Montgomery.

Shay Shelnutt said that he is new to the political arena.  I am not a farmer but I grew up in Palmerdale Alabama with cows, pigs, and a garden.  Like King, I have 36 acres in St Clair County.

“I have been married for 16 years to Paige Hartwell.”  They have a 13 year old and a 9 year old.

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Shelnutt studied at the University of Montevallo where he got a degree in business finance.

He worked in the Financial services industry for a couple of years.

Shelnutt spent 10 years working as a teacher and coach in Jefferson and Blount county.

He has spent the last 8 years in real estate.

Shelnutt said that he has conservative Christian values.  He is for low taxes and limited government.

Jim Murphree was not present.  He is an Oneonta businessman and insurance agent who has served a term in the Alabama House of Representatives previously.

The Primary is June 3rd.

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The St. Clair County Farmer’s Federation meets monthly in Ashville at the ALFA building.


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.


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