Former gubernatorial candidate Chris Countryman is exploring running for the Democratic nomination for the open Second Congressional District.
Countryman agreed to a lengthy interview by the Alabama Political Reporter.
APR: Huntsville, Baldwin County, Lee County and Shelby County have really experienced a lot of economic growth, but the Second Congressional District has been largely stagnant in population, is there something that can be done to boost the economic vitality of the Second district?
Countryman: “I remember when the Sony plant in Houston County shut down in 2010. There were over 300 full time employees that were let go from their jobs, many of them had worked there for over 15 years. I myself even worked there for a short time right when I got out of high school.”
“For many people most of their work experience was centered around Sony, and when Sony closed these individuals struggled to find work with comparative wages,” Countryman continued. “But Sony wasn’t the only company that closed its doors. Other factories all across District 2 shut their doors costing our economies millions of dollars in lost tax revenue; and leaving thousands of workers unemployed not knowing how they would feed themselves or their families.”
“If we are going to succeed then we need to keep up with the rest of the country, and right now, Alabama is failing miserably at providing quality jobs that pay a living wage,” Countryman added. “I would start by bringing jobs that specialize in the clean renewable energy industry to District 2 in order to rebuild the job markets in the areas that need it the most. This would rebuild the population in these areas due to the availability of new sustainable jobs, the industries would produce tangible goods that generates revenue within these areas and this would result in the citizens investing back into their local economy. What we need is a Congressman that is willing to introduce legislation that will successfully address these issues and we need someone who has committed themselves to stand with the people.”
APR: Rural healthcare has been in precipitous decline across the country and that has accelerated since the Affordable Care Act was passed, is there something the federal government can do to lure more young doctors to counties outside of major metropolitan areas?
Countryman: “During my 2018 Alabama gubernatorial campaign I had proposed implementing policies that allow the state to offer incentives to new doctors to take up practice in rural areas. But beyond that comes the importance of improving the infrastructure in these rural areas which is a factor in drawing new medical practices to the rural areas. New doctors and their families often choose the comfort and convenience of the big city because the infrastructure in rural areas doesn’t provide adequate security and safety, access to public transportation for potential patients or medical staff, access to high speed Internet services or a competitive economy that would allow a new medical practice to succeed in rural areas. Infrastructure redevelopment in rural areas would make setting up new medical practices much more desirable to medical professionals.”
APR: The Second Congressional District is not served at all by the federal government’s Amtrak system. Is there a need to expand rail to Montgomery? Dothan?
Countryman: “Absolutely there is. District 2 has so much opportunity that has yet to be tapped. Jobs can be created and industries can be brought into our district which would create an economic boom that would benefit everyone. However the lack of adequate public transportation options available makes transportation to and from jobs almost impossible for lower income families and individuals, and it becomes even more difficult for them if they need to travel outside of their communities for work or school. Utilizing high speed rail systems as a public transportation option would provide lower income families and individuals, along with professionals from a variety of industries, with employment and education opportunities that will help them succeed in their attempts to pursue the American dream.”
APR: Some Democratic presidential candidates, Marianne Williams for one, has objected to withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Is President Trump being too hasty in withdrawing combat troops from the country and is there anything that Congress can do?
Countryman: “The withdrawal of our troops should be done strategically and responsibly. We need to continue providing an adequate military presence within Afghanistan that will continue training the country’s security forces, monitoring any potential terrorist threats and strategically work towards the withdrawal of troops from the region. While ensuring our troops safety is of utmost importance we cannot forsake our responsibility to ensure that our country and allied forces are also kept safe from rogue regimes and terrorist attacks. Withdrawing too many troops too quickly will result in destabilizing the region opening the country up to potential terrorist attacks as well as allowing terrorist organizations to gain a foothold where they could mobilize forces. This foothold would ultimately lead to a very real and dangerous threat to our national security and to that of our allies.”
APR: The U.S. military is still flying B52s that were last built in 1960; is using Ohio class ballistic missile submarines that were launched in the 1980s; and is relying on Minuteman III missiles that were first deployed in 1970. How serious is the concern that our nuclear triad has not been modernized and should this be a national priority?
Countryman: “National security is a very important issue and we shouldn’t get too comfortable in times of peace. While I personally believe that it’s of utmost importance to pursue a diplomatic solution to any conflict, I also believe that we should also be prepared to defend our country should we come under attack. For this reason, we should invest in modernizing our military defenses so long as it is done in a fiscally responsible manner. I will not support any legislation that uses a false propaganda driven rhetoric to get funding for updating our military defenses.”
APR: Is climate change real? And if so, is it practical or even constitutional, for the U.S. government to demand that businesses, farmers and citizens reduce their carbon emissions?
Countryman: “Yes, climate change is a very real and serious issue. Our government has often passed laws to protect others. Take our laws regarding drinking and driving for instance. Our government made driving while under the influence against the law to protect people. Same way with the recent laws that make it illegal to text while driving. How we use our natural resources is no different. If we know that increased carbon emissions are bad on the environment, can cause adverse health effects in people over time, and dramatically effects the overall quality of life of others then by us not taking an active role to reduce carbon emissions we are committing an act of assault against our fellow countryman. So when it comes to what is in the best interest of public health and safety I feel the responsible thing to do is for us to work with business, farmers and citizens to reduce carbon emissions, reduce our carbon footprint and protect our natural resources so that everyone can live healthier lives and so generations to come can do the same.”
APR: The Ivey administration is proposing making a portion of I-10 into a toll road to pay for upgrading existing infrastructure. Do you support using tolling to improve infrastructure in the state such as between I-10 and Dothan. Dothan and Montgomery. widening I-65 between Montgomery and Mobile, or Troy to Columbus?
Countryman: “No I do not support having toll roads for a number of reasons, first it would place the lower class at a disadvantage due to their inability to adequately travel within these areas for work and other reasons.”
“While on the surface it may seem like a good idea to some, toll bridges would end up having a negative impact on our economy and thus keeping many people impoverished,” Countryman added. “Another reason why I am opposed to this idea is because of the amount of congestion causing an increased concern for public health and safety.”
APR: The Trump administration has proposed raising the federal gas tax to pay for a $trillion in infrastructure improvements. Do you support this plan?
Countryman: “I have to be honest with you Brandon. I support parts of the plan, and there are other parts that I don’t. I believe that gas taxes are one of the most effective ways to fund infrastructure redevelopment projects, and it has been widely used as a funding source for such. But given the recklessness in government spending, specifically in regards to how funds designated to be used for infrastructure redevelopment projects have been used in the past, I would want to see some changes take place before I would consider supporting the funding of infrastructure redevelopment projects by raising the gas tax again. First I want to see more transparency when it comes to where and how our infrastructure improvement funds are spent, I would want to see more transparency when it comes to how those funds were spent in the past and I would want to work with my colleagues on formulating cost effective and environmentally friendly ways to improve and redevelop our infrastructure. I have looked into this issue extensively, we are spending way to much money using our current methods of repairing our crumbling infrastructure, especially when there are many more cost effective and environmentally friendly alternatives out there now that last longer and cost less than conventional methods.”
APR: Should the U.S. continue to support Israel or has their treatment of the Palestinians meant that we should sever our close ties with the country?
Countryman: “It’s no secret that Israel is one of our closest allies, which is a relationship that all three of our governments are capable of sharing with one another. It is important that we continue to support Israel’s right to function as a sovereign government while applying the same policy in regards to Palestine. Along with our continued support of Israel we must work at strengthening our relationship with Palestine, and provide diplomatic negotiations between their two governments in order to bridge the divide between them so there can be an environment that promotes tolerance leading to peace. The Palestinians deserves to be treated with the same respect and dignity we have shown Israel. While with the understanding that both the Israeli and the Palestinian governments have made some bad decisions that resulted in both sides suffering harm and damages the road to peace isn’t paved with continued bloodshed it is paved through the carefully mediated negotiations of one’s trusted allies. We must be that ally to both Israel and Palestine if there is to ever be peace in the Middle East.”
APR: Should we overthrow the Maduro regime in Venezuela?
Countryman: “There is a huge difference between a government that implements a variety of social programs to assist its citizens and a government that uses those social programs as a way to mislead it’s citizens in order to rise to power in order to set up an authoritarian dictatorship. Every form of government has the potential to be corrupted and infuriated by con artists looking for ways to syphon money off the backs of the working class. If you don’t believe me then just look at our current government. It is filled with these types of crooks that need to pack their bags.”
“I say all that because much of what we hear in regards to what happens in other countries is made up of some facts, some propaganda and carefully implemented lies in order to push a certain belief that the powers that be want the people to subscribe to,” Countryman continued. “That’s one significant reason why, when the choice to intervene on another country’s behalf is decided, that the decision be made intelligently and responsibly. This type of decision isn’t one that should be left up to one person’s opinion or judgment. It should be a carefully evaluated decision that is discussed among our elected officials before a final decision is made.”
APR: Can we balance the federal budget? And should we raise the retirement age to receive entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (the chief drivers of the budget deficit) to balance the budget?
Countryman: “Yes, it is possible to balance the federal budget if and when we put restrictions into play on the amount of government spending on unnecessary programs and departments. We have way too much revenue being used to fund the pork filled bills that come out of Washington. I understand that each senator and each congressman have needs within their districts but there’s a difference between what is necessary and needed verses that which they merely want.”
“As far as Social Security, along with other entitlements, raising the retirement age is the worst thing we could do,” Countryman said. “Many citizens have worked all their life paying into the system so that they will be able to live comfortably when they become unable to work. What we need to do is crack down on the abusive misuse of our government resources. Although the entitlements you mention do contribute to the deficit, they are not the only factors that dictate the amount of debt our country has. What has to be done is for the congress and Senate to sit down and systematically pour through the budgets of our entitlement programs, carefully examine other departments spending budgets and then start the process to reallocate funds from areas of government where tax dollars are being wasted and apply those tax dollars to our entitlement programs.”
APR: Should immigrants be eligible for federal benefits like Social Security, Medicare, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance, SSI, unemployment, student loans and Medicaid?
Countryman: “I believe that any immigrant who works in their community, here in our country, who receives income on which they pay taxes have a right to certain benefits. If they are here working, on a work visa or otherwise, and they have income tax withheld then they are contributing to the system and are entitled to the same benefits as anyone else who contributes to the system through the taxes they pay.”
“As far as humanitarian efforts I believe that we have a moral obligation to assist those who seek refuge and safety within our borders, and that some level of assistance is needed and justified when it comes to ensuring that those immigrants to our country are treated with respect, dignity and that we make every effort to contribute to their health and safety while offering them a pathway to citizenship,” Countryman explained. “However if an immigrant is here illegally, with no intentions on becoming a citizen of our country or contributing to the system through the payment of taxes, they should not be eligible to receive benefits from the government. This of course does not excuse us from having to treat them with respect and dignity and allow them due process when deciding the best possible option to eliminating the problem of illegal immigration into our country.”
APR: Would you support a ban on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns (sometimes called an assault weapons ban) or is such a ban unconstitutional under the Second Amendment?
Countryman: “First let me be clear. I believe in common sense laws. Laws are meant to protect our fellow countryman. Just because the 2nd Amendment is interpreted by many to grant citizens the right to own a firearm doesn’t mean that it should be interpreted to allow citizens the unbridled right to own or possess just any type of firearm. For example, we allow citizens to buy and possess fireworks, which are classified as explosive devices, but we don’t allow the citizens to just walk around with hand grenades or dynamite. There is something called common sense when it comes to writing laws, interpreting laws and enforcing laws. That’s why I believe in common sense gun laws.”
“I am generally not opposed to allowing law abiding citizens who are of sound mind to own standard shotguns, rifles or handguns that they use for sport or personal protection,” Countryman added. “I am however, strongly opposed to citizens being allowed to possess or own assault styled weapons, similar to those used by our military and law enforcement; and I would support a ban on those types of assault weapons. But I do need to point out the importance of working with law enforcement agencies to develop more effective training programs that focus on de-escalation techniques, more oversight into the law enforcement agencies to prevent corruption. Also implement the use of more non-lethal weapons that can be used to stop or subdue aggressively violent and dangerous individuals. Deadly force should only be someone’s very last defensive option, and only after all other options have been evaluated and exhausted.”
“I have a new website up where anyone can go to learn a little more about me and my platform,” Countryman concluded. “Plus on the welcome page there’s a short survey that allows visitors to share what issues are important to them and how well of a job they feel our elected officials are doing. This survey will help me know what issues are the most important to them and will allow me the opportunity to better serve them in any upcoming political endeavors. Everyone can check my page out by visiting, www.rethink-alabama.com. I can also be reached by email at [email protected].”
Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, is not seeking a sixth term in Congress.
The major party primaries will be held on March 3.