Republican voters in parts of Shelby, Bibb and Chilton Counties go to the polls on Tuesday to select their nominee for the vacant state Senate District 14 seat. Three candidates are vying for the SD14 seat as Republicans. They are April Weaver, Donna Strong and Joseph Barlow.
Two of the candidates — Weaver and Strong — spoke to the Republican Women of Shelby County at their Feb. 20 meeting. Donna Strong is a career teacher.
“I am from Shelby County, I grew up in Alabama, and I am a conservative Christian,” Strong said. “I have spent 32 years as a public education teacher.”
“I think we all know that Alabama can do a better job of educating our kids,” Strong said. “We are misappropriating a lot of funds.”
Strong said that the state needs to do a better job of training and preparing new teachers.
“Over half of them are out of the classroom in five years,” Strong said. “We need to make sure that Basic fundamental skills are taught.”
“We don’t have people with the knowledge and experience making those decisions,” Strong said.
April Weaver is a nurse, a former state representative and a former political appointee of the Trump administration.
I spent 22 years as a hospital administrator, I was Chair of the House Health Committee,” Weaver said.
Weaver said that when she was in the House of Representatives she was punished by the leadership for voting No on raising gas taxes. Her Health Committee Chairmanship was taken away from her.
“The voters of my district are hardworking conservatives,” Weaver said. “I voted no because the voters I heard from urged me to vote No. I did and I suffered the consequences.”
“I have a conservative message,” Weaver said. “I am going to do what the people want me to do.”
“The leadership told me that if I voted no you are not going to be elected again,” Weaver said. “I voted my conscience. It was the right thing to do.”
Weaver said that after she took her stand in the 2019 session she received a phone call from Washington D.C.
“A number with a 202 area code was calling over and over again, I thought it was a telemarketer,” Weaver said.
When Weaver finally accepted the call, she found out it was from the Trump administration.
“We have been watching you,” the administration official explained. “You are exactly the kind of person that we want to work for us.”
“Getting a call like that was the greatest honor I could ever have had,” Weaver said. “This was not a job I had looked for or worked for.”
“As Chair of the Health Committee, I made a presentation on opioids in Alabama,” Weaver said. “The federal government were there. There was also an interaction with someone in an elevator in the Statehouse. The person said, I work for the surgeon general, can I come to your office and have a discussion with you. We need people who are rock solid conservatives, who are not afraid to take a stand. We need conservative warriors.”
“I have worked Republican grassroots since high school for thirty years,” Weaver said.
“You have to resign before we can appoint you,” Weaver said. “We need an answer by 10:00 o’clock.”
Weaver drove to Montgomery the next morning to resign her House seat. She then had to pass a detailed background check before she could actually be appointed as a regional administrator for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Weaver said that when she was first elected to the Alabama House of Representatives, Mike Hill’s wife told her to keep a journal. When she had to fill out all the questions on the 101 page federal background check the journal proved extremely helpful;
“Without that, I do not know what I would have done,” Weaver said. “The Secret Service interviewed my friends, my neighbors.”
Weaver said that when she was appointed a regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “I had no idea how it actually worked.”
HHS Secretary Alex Azar was my, “One up boss.”
“My role was as to make sure that what we did as a department was in line with the White House,” Weaver said.
“There was a lot of unrest in Atlanta while I was there,” Weaver said referring to the 2020 riots. “It was a difficult time to be in Atlanta. Once someone held up a bottle and threatened to break the windows out of my car.”
“The Whitehouse had a lot of really great things going on with the coronavirus task force and operation warp speed,” Weaver said.
“I worked hard for Trump, as many of you did,” Weaver said. “Election night was a very sad night. It is heartbreaking.”
SD14 became vacant when Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) appointed state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, to head the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.
“That was the very week that I got transitioned,” (from HHS as Biden was being inaugurated) Weaver said. “I could not get involved in anything political as a federal employee.”
“I am pro-Life, pro-gun and have been a conservative voice,” Weaver said. “I am not a fan of common core.”
“I am committed to you to help you win the fight (against Common Core),” Weaver promised.
“It is really embarrassing for us to be on the bottom for things we can do better,” Weaver added.
Strong said, “The answer lies in getting rid of Common Core. It doesn’t benefit us in any way. It is something that our state has bought into.”
Strong said that a teacher “Has 25 or 30 kids in a room and then there are ten different reports and surveys that you have to turn into your principal at the end of the week.”
“We have done some very smart things like the Canfield Rolling Reserve Act,” Strong said. “We are in a strong financial shape.”
Weaver said, “I would not be for anything that would be detrimental to the state of Alabama.”
“There were nights where I was up to two or three o’clock at night reading bills,” Weaver said. “As chairman (of the House Health Committee) I did not let anything get through my committee that I had not read.”
“I would support a lottery,” Strong said. “If there are real strict rules about where it goes. We need better mental health services.”
Weaver said, “I support letting the people vote.”
“I hate to comment on a specific bill; because I know how legislation can change in the process but as a concept, I am not opposed to letting the people vote.”
“I am absolutely in favor of combining budgets,” Weaver said. “I have one budget in my household.”
Strong said, “At this point, I would be opposed to that because our education problems are so deep.”
“Education has suffered a lot in those states (that have combined their education and general fund budgets),” Strong said. “I am working with the future of our state and it scares me. I feel I have to protect the Education Trust fund Until we make some progress.”
Joseph Barlow is also running as a Republicans in SD14.
Also on Tuesday, in Shelby County, five candidates are running as Republicans in the vacant HD73 seat.
Polls will open at 7:00 a.m. and close at 7:00 p.m. Voters may only vote at the polling place in which they are assigned. There is no electronic voting in Alabama. Any outstanding absentee ballots need to be turned in today. Voters must have a valid photo ID in order to participate in any election in Alabama.
If a special Republican primary runoff election is needed, it will be held on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The special general election will be held on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Cam Ward’s term and will have to seek re-election in next year’s 2022 election.