(WHNT) – The Alabama primary elections are coming up in a little more than a week, and the chair of the Madison County Young Republicans can’t wait.
Brent Beal says there are races in this primary that are particularly interesting.
This week in our Leadership Perspectives interview, Beal stresses the importance of voting in the June 3 primary. Those votes can decide offices.
Beal shared with us why this election is different than many that have come before.
“A lot of years, you’ll have a governor’s race at the top that kind of builds the races. It kind of shapes everything. The governor is at the top and everybody else is kind of feeding underneath,” said Beal. “This year, we don’t have that. I know Governor Bentley has a few challenges, but I think everyone expects him to win that pretty easily. So when the biggest statewide race is the Secretary of State’s race or the Lieutenant Governor’s race, it’s just not a good looking race to get interested in. So, for me, it’s interesting because it brings the focus back to the local level. We still have some statewide issues, but a lot of these are still local issues, statewide issues that play in a local election.”
This has caused some to view the Republican primary as essentially being the election to watch this year. That fact, according to Beal, has arranged some strange bedfellows.
“Yeah, I think that everybody views it that way, and I think that’s what’s different about this year,” said Beal. “For instance, you have a group, AEA, which has typically given money to Democrat folks only. This year, they’re playing in the Republican primary and giving money to a few candidates, so that’s a change. They’re giving big amounts of money in the Republican primary, where historically they haven’t.”
One concern for many in the political world is that there is not enough interest in this particular primary election.
“It’s hard when you’re in the bubble,” said Beal. “When you go to political events day in and day out, you think man, everybody is fired up, but when you go, and I’ll call my mom or I’ll call someone I know and they’re just not into politics on a day-to-day basis, and they’re like, ‘When is that election? It’s in June? I didn’t even know it was coming up.’ And the issues I know, the different big issues that are out there — folks, I’ll ask them, ’What do you think about Common Core?’ And they’ll say, ‘I don’t even know what that is.’ So folks, regular on the sidewalk folks, don’t have enough interest in it, I don’t think.”
This prompted WHNT News 19’s Steve Johnson to ask Beal, “Okay, as an activist, and as Chairman of the Young Republicans you are, does it bother you, does it disappoint you that people aren’t more politically active, or is this what would happen as you were coming up in politics?”
“I wish we had 100 percent voting,” Beal replied. “I wish we had everybody interested in and voting what they thought. I think that would be the best case scenario, I really do. It does bother me. The more you get interested in politics the more you want to make a change to make things better. Folks always say politics is a dirty game, and I think there is a dirty side to it. But I think there’s a lot of good in it, and if you don’t vote, let’s face it, you don’t matter in the grand scheme of things to complain or choose who your representative is. So, I think folks need to be aware of this and need to get informed about who they think is the best candidate.”
At this point, just a week away from the primary, it’s anyone’s guess if there will be a light turnout or not. And whether a light turnout will help or hurt incumbents is also anyone’s guess.
“It’s tough to tell. I’ve had this conversation with a few candidates. Some of them are saying, ‘I think the low turnout will help kind of the mainstream, the heavily involved Republicans.’ And some folks will say a light turnout will help the incumbents…because it’s just a name recognition thing. We’ve gotten to know a lot of the incumbents over the last four years, and sometimes it’s hard to break inside the bubble if you’re a first-time candidate,” Beal said.
And much of running a successful campaign comes down to money. A large organization that donates money to candidates, like the Alabama Education Association, can have a big impact on elections. That money can be used as a weapon against candidates.
“I don’t know what people on the street believe about AEA money, but I do think it will hurt some folks. I think for some folks, even the clout of this might possibly be coming from the AEA may hurt some folks,” Beal said.
The question is, why would the AEA give money to Republicans, when traditionally they give money to Democrats? Beal theorizes this could all come back to Common Core Standards.
“I think some of it goes back to the testing. And I think AEA is against some of the testing and accountability of it. I say accountability, and people think I’m talking about the Alabama Accountability Act. There is some accountability, they say there’s too much testing. Teachers are spending too much time testing. That’s one of the accusations made against Common Core. One of them. So, I think that’s one of the reasons. There is this perception that they’re against Common Core on that level,” Beal said.
So, will Common Core decide races in this election in the Republican primary?
“That’s a good question. I’m waiting until late June 3rd to find out. I think that’s on everybody’s mind. I think a lot of folks against Common Core believe there’s this vast amount of folks who are going to come out and vote June 3rd against the candidates. And I think there’s the other side of it who believe this is a small amount of folks that are riled up and they’re getting on message boards and online, and it’s not going to amount to a whole lot as far as the vote total. I’m curious to see what the vote total is and what the numbers are, because really these races are kind of a referendum on whether Common Core is good, or it’s bad on these races,” Beal said.
Some Republican candidates, in fact, are running on a single issue — the destruction of Common Core Standards. Beal shared with us his thoughts on candidates running under a single issue.
“I do, because I think a party ought to be well rounded, and candidates should be well rounded, because let’s say you’ve got an office, let’s say you do everything you set out to do. You tore down that Common Core wall. Well, then, what do you do? Say you do that the first year, then what do you do the rest of the three years,” Beal asked?
“I think folks have real issues, varied issues. We have road issues, economy issues–especially here in Huntsville we’re trying to get BRAC jobs, get set up for the next BRAC. These are other issues that go along with it. As a Republican activist, I like to see a well-rounded candidate that can adapt and kind of play different interests and different knowledge sets to attract different folks.”
Note: WHNT News 19 also interviewed Clete Wetli, Chairman of the Madison County Democratic Party, this month.