By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Mark Lester will represent the Alabama Democratic Party on the November General Election ballot in Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District.
The Alabama Democratic Party approved the candidacy of Birmingham Southern College history Professor Mark Lester at their weekend Executive Committee meetings. Lester will face Republican nominee Gary Palmer. The Alabama Democratic Executive Committee had to select a candidate after their previous nominee Avery Vise unexpectedly dropped out of the race.
Mark Lester said on his website following the announcement, “I just received the Democratic nomination for Congress for the 6th District of Alabama. I am grateful for the confidence the Democratic Party has expressed in my candidacy. The response in the last few days from friends, colleagues, and former students has been terrific. Thanks to all of you. And now I look forward to talking sense to voters on the issues that are so important to our nation. On to victory in November!”
According to his website, Dr. Lester is a lifelong Democrat, who was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. He and his family have lived in Homewood for the past 23 years. He attended Rhodes College, received a masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. In 1991 Lester earned a Ph.D. in Modern British Economic History from the University of Oxford. He joined the faculty of Birmingham-Southern College in 1991 where he has received the “Outstanding Professor Award” given by students. He has also taught a course on First Amendment law as an adjunct professor at University of Alabama School of Law.
Mark Lester has been married for 36 years to Jeanne Jackson, who currently serves as President and CEO of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham. She is past President of the League of Women Voters of Arkansas. Jeanne and Mark have two married sons. They are members at the Cathedral Church of the Advent (Episcopal).
After finishing law school, Mark Lester was appointed Assistant United States Attorney where he prosecuted drug dealers and white collar criminals. He later formed a small law firm, specializing in commercial litigation. Lester co-founded an organization to provide legal assistance for the poor. For his efforts, he was named his county’s “Lawyer of the Year.”
On immigration Dr. Lester says on his website, “America needs common sense, comprehensive immigration policy reform. Such reform should include: 1. Upholding existing laws, protecting our borders, enforcing the laws against recruiting undocumented immigrants; 2.Providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but ensuring taxes are paid and that they go to the back of the line; 3. Keeping the foreign talent that comes to America by awarding citizenship to all those who earn a Ph.D in approved subjects at American universities.”
On the issues of the budget and income inequality, Lester wrote, “Americans must face up to our debt which is now trillions of dollars. We have not had a balanced budget since Bill Clinton was President. We must also face up to the growing income inequality which, if left unchecked, will eventually threaten our democratic system. Our budget needs to reflect our core values as a nation. We simply cannot let big corporations go on paying little or no taxes or provide special tax benefits for profitable oil and gas companies to a point where we have to ask our seniors to live on less or students to borrow more to go to school. We need to return to the Clinton-era tax rates for our wealthiest citizens.”
Dr. Lester opposes repealing Obamacare. “Why would we want to repeal the Affordable Care Act? It works, and it has helped our nation move closer to having quality health care for all our citizens. I have represented clients who were forced into bankruptcy simply because they had a loved one struck with a catastrophic illness that wiped out their insurance coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans now have health insurance that they had been denied because of cost or a preexisting condition. Children can be kept on their parent’s plan until they are 26, and insurance companies cannot discriminate against women,” Lester wrote.
Mark Lester and State Representative Joe Hubbard (who is running for attorney general against incumbent Luther Strange (R)) will be speaking on Tuesday, August 19 at the Over The Mountain Democrats Club. According to original reporting by the website, “Left in Alabama” the meeting begins at 6:30 pm in the Homewood Main Library auditorium on 1721 Oxmoor Road. Both candidates will deliver short speeches and then will do a short question and answer session.
On Thursday, August 7 Democratic Candidate Avery Vise announced that he was dropping out of the race to be Alabama’s next Sixth Congressional District Representative.
In his letter, Vise blamed the redistricting that created Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s (D) from Selma majority minority district for the Democratic Party’s inability to field credible candidacies in recent congressional races and hoped that a case currently before the Federal Court System would end the gerrymandering on racial lines that produces things like the Seventh District and the resulting Republican majorities in the other districts.
Recent changes in his employment means that Vise will have to spend more time out of state and won’t have time to effectively campaign for the position; that most political observers thought he had no chance of winning anyway.
Mark Lester appears to be a more credible candidate than Vise was, but the Sixth Congressional District is one of the most conservative, Republican leaning districts in the country. It will be a challenge for any Democrat to win in a district that preferred Mitt Romney and John McCain over Barack Obama four to one.
Aimee Love is still trying to get ballot access for the Alabama Libertarian Party. Love said on her web site, “Right now, the Libertarian Party of Alabama is engaged in a battle with the Alabama Secretary of State for ballot access. Although petitions were filed per the guidelines on his own website, James Bennett has chosen to ignore the rules written by his staff and deny seven Libertarian candidates the right to run.”
“We have engaged an attorney who specializes in election issues and will be filing a lawsuit, but even though we are confident that we will eventually win, this sort of behavior is unacceptable and needs to be challenged not just by the party and candidates, but by all the citizens of Alabama….Until the lawsuit is resolved, I will not be accepting campaign contributions.”
Love is the Vice Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Alabama, a home school mom, and a novelist. Some of her novels include, “The Widow,” “Cry Baby Hollow” and “Epic.”
The seat is currently held by Republican Representative Spencer Bachus from Vestavia who is retiring after 11 terms in the Congress. Congressman Bachus was an Alabama State Senator before defeating Congressman Ben Erdreich in 1992.
The Republican nominee, Gary Palmer grew up the son of a small logger in Hackleburgh where his mom still lives. Palmer attended the University of Alabama where he got a degree in Operations management. Palmer went on to found the Alabama Policy Network, where he was President for 24 years.
The General Election will be on Tuesday, November 4.