By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, a Democrat from Red Bay, Alabama, is risking his longtime House seat for the possibility of moving upstairs to the Alabama Senate where he hopes to focus on public education in Alabama. He plans to run against incumbent State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) to represent Alabama’s Senate District 6. Morrow has been a member of the Alabama House for more than 27 years, having first been elected to the House in 1990.
But in the last Legislative Session he made waves by leading a charge against the $800 million plan to build new prisons and becoming one of the leading Democratic voices advocating for former Gov. Robert Bentley’s impeachment — even going so far as to push for a condemnation against Bentley’s former top political aide, Rebekah Mason, with whom he was accused of having an affair.
Morrow was a major component of the push for impeachment in the House, but he now says he’s ready to move to the Senate because Stutts does not represent his constituents.
“The current Senator, Larry Stutts, simply does not reflect the values in the people in Senate District 6. I’m a part of that district and I talk to people every day. His votes, particularly his votes on public education, are not in line with the people he represents.”
Morrow, in his interview with The Alabama Political Reporter, said education would be his top issue.
“When you start taking away money from public education as Sen. Stutts has advocated by his votes on the Alabama Accountability Act, then public education cannot function properly,” he said. “We need to be giving public education more money, not less.”
As part of the House, Morrow represents Franklin County, most of Colbert County and parts of Lauderdale county. He won his last election with nearly 60 percent of the vote, beating out his Republican opponent by almost 20 percent.
Morrow said he feels he can get more accomplished in the Senate.
“In the house right now it’s kind of a dysfunctional situations, there’s practically no leadership. We don’t get anything done in the House anymore it’s totally, totally dysfunctional. Also in the house, you’re one of 105 House members. Being one in 35 as opposed to 1 in 105 is quite a bit of difference.”
But in going up against Stutts, Morrow risks losing his seat even though District 6 has historically been a Democratic district going back to the early 1990s, having only gone to a Republican in 2014 when Stutts beat out then-incumbent and Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford. District 6 includes Franklin, Colbert and parts of Lauderdale and Lawrence counties.
He won by less than a percentage point and fewer than 100 votes when he unseated the Democratic leader. Stutts has said he would seek re-election next year.
Morrow thinks, given his history representing people in District 6, that he can now flip the District back blue — but he says he doesn’t just want to represent Democrats.
“I think the majority of the people right now would probably describe themselves as independents from both parties. I think they see disenchantment with both parties,” Morrow said. “I think the candidate who appeals to the independents will be the one who wins the election. I think the majority of these independents, the ones who I am talking to, see public education as the critical issue.”
Morrow has about $64,500 left in his campaign account, according to his most recent annual campaign finance filings with the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office, while Stutts has a war chest of more than $173,166 left over from 2016.
Morrow said the Legislature will face a number of big challenges over the next quadrennium, including looming deficits and infrastructure problems, but he’s ready to get to work.
“The challenge is right there but we’ve got to start working together to solve these problems instead of kicking the can down the road and letting someone else do it because that’s certainly not the way to deal with the problems that we have today.