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Political newcomer Fred Kelley running for longtime Democrat seat in District 68

Kelley said he has no political savvy but is ready to learn and do his part to represent the people of District 68.

Republican political newcomer Fred Kelley is looking to represent District 68 in the upcoming session.

Fred Kelley is no stranger to the Alabama Legislature; as a chaplain with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth invited him to open the Senate session in prayer.

But as he said “amen,” coming back to the Legislature as a representative was the last thing on his mind.

“When the prayer was over, I talked to Will Ainsworth and told him I wanted to retire from my job as a marketing director for South Alabama Gas,” Kelley said. “I asked him to think about a board he could appoint me to. Whatever I can do to help out, I just wanted to volunteer and do something. I thought he’d never think about that again.”

But the very next day, Kelley got a call from ALGOP chair John Wahl.

“You’ve been vetted to be the next state representative,” Wahl said, according to Kelley. 

Kelley said he was shocked. “That’s not what I asked (Ainsworth) at all,” Kelley said with a laugh.

But after a little convincing, Kelley decided to give it a run and is now the Republican nominee in House District 68 representing Clarke, Conecuh, Monroe and Marengo counties.

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The political newcomer is challenging Democratic incumbent Thomas Jackson, who has been in the seat now for 28 years and ran unopposed in 2018.

Kelley said his campaign isn’t about unseating Jackson though.

“I never thought about him. I’ve never mentioned my opponent’s name,” Kelley said. “ It doesn’t matter who is doing this job, Democrat or Republican. I’m a Republican because I believe in the Republican platform.”

One of the top concerns for Kelley is seeing homes he put gas in 30 years ago now vacant.

“People are moving out of Monroe county, we have a declining population and if we  don’t do something, we’re going to dry up,” Kelley said .”Things are going to be bad. We need people to buy things, shop, bring back the thriving little town I’ve loved all these years.”

Kelley said he has no idea yet how to be a legislator, but he is ready to learn and has built his campaign on listening to constituents.

“I’ve built my campaign around listening to people instead of talking,” Kelley said. “I’ve been taking notes, what they want, what they need, going to city council meetings. I tell them ‘If I’m elected, I’m going to be your representative.’ That’s what I’m trying to do.”

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Kelley described himself as a pro-life Christian conservative, and emphasized his support for the Alabama Forestry Association. “Our whole area runs on the timber industry,” he said. 

Kelley is a strong believer in the Republican platform, but said he will be listening to his 40,000 constituents first and foremost to decide how he will vote on statewide issues.

As a continuing education student at the University of South Alabama, Kelley recently took interdisciplinary studies, and has already put the course to use as he is building a team of experts in the district to help him on matters he knows less about.

“I don’t know all those answers but I will reach out to my team that’s  already established. I’ve got the manager of Regions Bank to help me with finance questions. I have a local doctor I can reach out to help me. It’s a team effort right here, now.”

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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