By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, July 25, the Alabama Political Reporter had a long conversation with Independent candidate for Alabama State Senate District 32 Kimberely McCuister, about her views on many of the issues affecting both the State of Alabama and Senate District 32 in Baldwin County.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked Mrs. McCuister about her views on Medicaid Expansion. McCuister said that she believes we are going to have to act on that. There are 350,000 people in Alabama who can’t get insurance. Kentucky accepted the expansion and people benefited. “We definitely have to do something. Republicans had the same reservations in 1965 about the Medicare Program. Now try to take away someone’s Medicare.” The opponents of the Affordable Care Act basically have the same argument with it then that they have now. “Frankly I think the public option should never have been taken off the table.”
On the Alabama Accountability Act McCuister said, “I totally oppose that. There has been $25 million collected and only $24,000 given out. Where is that money now?” There are ways to fix the schools. The Chicago Public Schools were a mess until Arne Duncan and a team of people came in there and turned it around, but we need to have the right people in place.
APR asked McCuister if she supported teacher tenure. The former teacher said no she does not. “I have always felt that teachers should be like every other professional and should be judged on their present performance.” McCuiston also opposes school vouchers.
McCuister said that Alabama should fix their public schools so that when you move here the local schools here are at the same level as in other states having taught the same material.
On Common Core, McCuister said, “I think we need something a little different.” She said that she favors uniform standards across school district and state lines because we are a part of the United States, but is not for a lot of standardized testing. She said, “We are going to have to do something,” and suggested taking the best elements from Common Core and the best from other sources, including the old standards.
APR asked McCuister if she favored raising taxes on Alabama families? McCuiston said, “No we can not raise the taxes on individuals.” The state already collects $3 billion from the personal income tax, but collects only about $800 million from corporations that do business here. “That is a big discrepancy.”
McCuister said that the first thing we need to do is to clean up all the corruption in Montgomery. There are too many people in Montgomery who are trying to make money off of the state. All that needs to stop.
McCuister said that the state needs leadership that that builds a consensus among the people. The people also need to engage state government more.
McCuister said the state’s prison crisis is, “Really a mess.” We need to look at our laws and change things like mandatory minimums that are responsible for prison overcrowding. “As far as building more prisons that is not the answer.” McCuiston also said that we do not want to privatize prisons because that makes a commodity of people.
McCuister also said, “We definitely don’t want to abolish the Auditor’s office.” On giving industries incentives to come to Alabama from the education fund, McCuister said, “No you leave the education fund alone.”
McCuister favors the State allowing medical marijuana. She said that she knows of several elderly folks who would prefer marijuana over the pain medications that they are getting currently from their doctors.
Kimberly said that her district is a 3.5 billion service and tourism industry. She is concerned about how that could be threatened by the proliferation of oil and gas pipelines. “Oil and tourism don’t mix.”
APR asked McCuister if she favored Gary Palmer’s plan to radically increase domestic oil and gas exploration. She said, “Absolutely not. Nobody wants to come to Orange Beach or Gulf Shores to stare at oil wells. Nobody wants that.”
She said that corporations had too much influence on campaigns in the state and that many of Alabama’s elected officials, “Are doing the bidding of those corporations.” Her campaign has not taken any PAC (Political Action Campaign) money. The Alabama Political Reporter asked if she has taken any AEA money. McCuister said, “No.” and that she probably would not take any AEA money if it were offered. She complained that the Alabama Ethics Commission does not do enough to fight corruption and is too weak.
McCuister said that she has asked her opponent Sen. Trip Pittman if he is still under a gag order to discuss the oil boom scandal and the FBI investigation and he won’t answer. If he is McCuister speculated that he can’t talk about the allegations, because it is an ongoing investigation. “Pittman says he had no ethics training, it does not take training to know the difference between right and wrong.”
On using toll roads to fund new highways, McCuister said she has experience with that due to the Foley Express. “They extended the beach express, but nobody uses it to avoid paying the $3.50 toll. If you toll that bridge (the I-10 bridge that is to be built) people are going to find a way not to pay the tolls.”
On the home owner’s insurance problem for Baldwin and Mobile Counties, she said that if you look at where the claims are coming from, there are more claims from Central Alabama. “Insurance companies will gouge you wherever they can.” McCuister said that homeowners south of I-10 would benefit from more competition in the insurance market.
Mrs. McCuister said that she was born in Sharon, Pennsylvania and moved to Alabama at age 14. She lived for years in Pelham and then moved to Chicago, Illinois where she worked as a nurse and then as a teacher in Hanover Park, IL. She has lived in the District since 2008.
On the Red Snapper controversy, McCuister said, “I am worried for our charter boat captains.” She said that Gov. Bentley’s answer to the shortened federal season of allowing private boats to fish for snapper on the July weekends in state waters hurt the over 400 charter boat captains because they weren’t able to go out during those days, making a bad situation for the boat captains even worse. Kimberely supports efforts to extend Alabama’s state waters further out.
When asked why she chose to run as an Independent rather than as a Republican or a Democrat, McCuister said, “I don’t think inside a box. Being an Independent is a mindset.” “I want the people to tell me what they want. I listen. I want to represent them not some corporation.”
On why she is running for our Alabama Senate seat District 32, she said in a prepared statement, “The reasons are many, but the most important reasons are these. Democracy is not one person existing on a Ballot. That’s a ‘no brainer’ and unfortunately for Alabamians across this State November elections will be a lot of no choice. I feel our Constitutional rights as human beings are currently sacrificed for profit and power by the status quo in Montgomery. I also see too much of that profit going into the hands of elected officials, and lobbyists, and not to benefit the good citizens of Baldwin County. We have gotten to a place where the average person has no real voice in local or state Government, and they only pay attention to the highest bidder, while the rest of us are sold out for a few pieces of silver.”
McCuister said, “I want common sense and ethical values to be the standard and returned to our State Capital, and the Constitution of Alabama and the United States upheld for everyone. Our rights are at stake no matter who you are, and what party you vote for. The loss of those rights will be disastrous for future generations. I began a journey 4 years that has ultimately lead to my candidacy, The BP Oil Disaster. I learned as a resident of lower Baldwin County very quickly what I felt, or produced as fact held no weight with local or state officials from the top down. I had no choices and no value. I was speaking out at more Public forums, meetings, and workshops than anyone could fathom. I got no results, no answers, and felt totally placated by the people elected into office some I voted for. I decided to get bolder and louder and organized protests and rally’s thinking well maybe if we yell loud enough, they will pay attention. I define ‘They’ as The Good Ole Boys. It’s a club and the rest of us are not in it. They pander only to those from who they can personally benefit from. The moral and ethical values of these guy’s is only apparent at campaign and election time eloquently telling people what they want to hear. They have no intention of paying attention to you.”
McCuister continued, “I realized if I want to help my fellow citizens, do something to end the reign of those ethically and morally challenged I would have to go to Montgomery inside the belly of the beast. I am a strong citizen advocate for all. I hold no allegiance to either political party. We need to do what is practical and logical for the people and their business in District 32, and stop worrying about labels they are not important. There is way too much money and greed currently deciding the fate of thousand here to be fair. This is what happens when you have only 1 political party dominating everything. It breeds corruption.”
The General Election is on November 4.