Last week, the Alabama Political Reporter sat down with Rick Neighbors, the Democratic nominee in Alabama’s 4th Congressional District, where he is challenging twelve-term incumbent Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, in the Nov. 3 general election.
Neighbors said that he wants to bring a better quality of life for the people of Alabama’s 4th Congressional District.
Neighbors said that accomplishing that goal takes a three-pronged approach: the education of Alabama’s children so that they are qualified for the high-income jobs of tomorrow, job training for Alabama’s existing workforce, and recruiting jobs that pay a good wage to come to Alabama. Neighbors was critical of past economic development projects that lured employers that did not pay a living wage. Those workers have a job, but you are still having to support them with government benefits.
Neighbors is originally from North Carolina. He served three tours in the Vietnam War. After the war, he married a woman from Hackleburg and found employment in the state’s textile industry.
“A young man with no skills could find a good-paying job in those days making $10 an hour,” Neighbors said.
That wage then translated into today’s wages would be making over $60 thousand a year. You can not find those kinds of jobs today.
Neighbors blamed Robert Aderholt’s vote in favor of CAFTA for the loss of the state’s textile industries. “Where are the jobs” they promised, Neighbors said of NAFTA.
Neighbors decried the poverty rate of the 4th Congressional District and said that many citizens in the district “suffer death from despair,” referring to the high rates of alcoholism and drug abuse. “We have the highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the world,” he said.
Neighbors was also critical of Aderholt’s past support for a plan by a Gadsden defense contractor to use helicopters to stop rocket-propelled grenades from hitting American tanks and ground troops. Neighbors says that from the time the weapon is fired to the time it strikes its target is less than ten seconds. The helicopter would have to identify the RPG that’s been fired and then fly into position to deploy its weapon in the path of the rocket, essentially be dropping a “chain link fence” in the path of the grenade. Neighbors said that the plan would not work and that money should not have been wasted on it.
Neighbors also criticized Aderholt for not being accessible enough and meeting with constituents.
Neighbors said that the people of the 4th Congressional District need rural broadband and that the coronavirus global pandemic has only made that more clear.
APR said that Aderholt has made rural broadband a central mission. What is wrong with what they are doing?
Neighbors said that it was “piecemeal” and would take decades to spread at this rate. Neighbors said that he preferred making broadband a national priority like the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration did with rural electrification. “There are too many people with their hands out” trying to make a profit off of it, Neighbors said.
Neighbors said that he can’t even do Zoom meetings at his house the connection speed is so slow. He has to go to a friend’s house to participate in a Zoom meeting. How are our kids learning like that?
Neighbors said that the state has never invested enough into education to raise Alabamians out of poverty,
APR asked Neighbors if he believed that he could defeat Aderholt.
“Yes, I do,” Neighbors said. I just have to get my message out in front of the people so they understand that they have a choice.
APR asked Neighbors if he supports term limits.
“I am term-limited,” Neighbors said. “It takes a constitutional amendment. I will support it, but will it pass?”
APR asked: Aderholt is the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee. If the Republicans win control this time or in two years from now, he could be the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Wouldn’t that put him in better position to help the 4th District than you as a freshman member?
“Why hasn’t it helped before,” Neighbors said. “It didn’t help the last time they (Republicans) were in the majority.”
The 4th Congressional District voters will see Neighbors, the Democrat, and Aderholt, the Republican, on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.