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ALABAMA (WHNT) – The Republican primary for the Alabama Senate District 2 seat features incumbent Senator Tom Butler and former Senator Bill Holtzclaw, who held the seat for two terms.

News 19 asked the candidates for Alabama Senate District 2 about themselves and their views on issues important to Alabamians.

Question #1: Tell us a bit about your background. How has it shaped you to serve in the office you’re seeking?

SENATOR TOM BUTLER: I am a graduate of the  University of Alabama and Auburn University.  As a young person I cut yards in the summers, held a paper route, started work in a drug store at 16. I am a pharmacist by profession. I have served in the Alabama House of Representatives and the State Senate.

My legislative service has allowed me to work on health issues, job issues, education issues and economic development.  My profession has allowed me to be involved with people from all walks of life. My service in the Legislature has allowed me to take leadership roles in building new schools and improving existing schools which I have done consistently since my first term in the House. I am married to my wife Karen and we have two daughters, Robin and Jill (now deceased). We have four grandchildren who live here locally.

BILL HOLTZCLAW: First and foremost, voters in Senate District 2 should know that the 2022 Republican Primary is a rematch of the 2010 General Election between then Democrat Tom Butler and me, Republican Bill Holtzclaw. I won that election taking 60 % of the vote and served a second term from 2014 – 2018. Butler later switched parties to run as a Republican in 2018 when I did not seek a third term as a State Senator; self imposing term limits, a campaign promise I made in 2010.

My service during that 8 year span as State Senator for District 2 included helping pass numerous pieces of legislation supporting public education and the right for parents to decide between public school, private school or to home school.  I also championed pro-business legislation for small and large businesses, stopping tax increases, protecting our second amendment, protecting the unborn, and our Veterans, military members and their families.

I have sat on the political sidelines over the last four years, growing ever frustrated with the lack of leadership, legislative initiatives and communication with for the voters of Senate District 2. I believe voters should hear from their elected officials more than once every four years during an election cycle. I decided to return to office in response to the many request from voters across the district.

Question #2: What do you see as key challenges facing your district and the state and what do you propose to do about them?

BUTLER: Key issues facing all parts of Madison and Limestone counties (which I serve) are schools, roads, and growth. The main thing that I (and the delegation as a whole) can do is to work harmoniously to address these issues and I have worked within the legislative delegation and have had a harmonious relationship with every governor during my service in the legislature. Team work pays off for our community and the region as a whole.

I have termed the three counties that I have had the opportunity to serve (Limestone, Madison, and Morgan counties) a Golden Triangle of economic opportunity. To address I will maintain good working relationships with all other elected officials even when I may disagree on an issue. Working closely with Governor Ivey and our delegation has allowed her to recently announce three major road projects for us: Highway 72 West, Highway 53, and widening of I-565 to Wall-Triana Highway.

I enjoy my work and strive to maintain good working relationships that allows for effective team work within the delegation, and with municipal, county, and state officials.

HOLTZCLAW: There is no doubt that the pro-business legislative initiatives I helped pass while serving as the State Senator for District 2 from 2010 – 2018 have paid off. The economic growth we’ve seen – from Polaris, Mazda-Toyota Plants to the growth on Redstone Arsenal with the Army, NASA and FBI, are staggering and the envy of surrounding areas and states.

The jobs are here, and now we must address the employee shortfall that these organizations are experiencing. When I left office in 2018 our state was ranked anywhere from 38 to 45 in education, depending upon the poll/rankings for math, reading. We are now ranked dead last in all categories. I’m left wondering what has changed in those four years, leading to this free-fall in education rankings. We need to make changes in our education system now and key to that is removing common core from all of our state education programs. We need to return to the basics, supporting and enabling our teachers to do what they do best and stop teaching to a test. The future of our workforce and state depends on this.

Question #3: What are voters telling you they are concerned about? Can you help?

BUTLER: Who is looking out for us in Montgomery, ensuring our fair share of taxes collected are returned and put to work in our district? The concerns I hear from residents in this district is that they want to have good schools (K-12 and colleges),  adequate and safe roads, public safety (fire, police, EMS), and good parks for recreation. People love our new baseball team – Trash Pandas!  I can help on all these issues and I do because I love this job!

HOLTZCLAW: The number one thing I hear from voters is that inflation is hurting their family as they choose between food, medicine and now gas. The second most common concern is frustration over road congestion.

To address inflation, I have advocated for a plan to remove the grocery tax at the state level. Alabama is one of just three states that still impose a full tax on groceries. As our state budgets have grown every year since 2018 I believe when the state taxes in more than it needs, the state should return a portion of that funding to the people. Our state revenues have grown by $3B in the last four years but the legislature has not provided real tax relief for all in Alabama. I believe we need to address this similar to how the gas tax increase was passed in 2019 – make removing the grocery tax a priority in the next legislative session. I will work with the Governor and legislative leadership to develop a plan with stake holders to remove the grocery tax while protecting the education budget.

As for road congestion, voters have not forgotten the ten-cent per gallon gas tax imposed by the current legislature, yet road congestion is worse than ever. Interestingly, some voters disagree with the gas tax while some support the new gas tax but everyone is frustrated that they have not seen any road construction progress in our area. We are still sitting in the same traffic jams, four years after seeing the gas tax increase. Where is our funding going?

Question #4: What is an accomplishment you’re especially proud of?

BUTLER: There are actually two: (1) is the initial work I did in my first term of office in the House pushed for new schools and improvements in all our local schools. (2) After a cardiac arrest while exercising and my life was saved by the Madison Fire Department with a heart defibrillator then Chief Charles Wallace asked me to get for him…I was the first person they used it on!

I worked for legislation to put defibrillators in all our fire departments (municipal and volunteer), schools, and public buildings statewide. Many, many lives have been saved by our first responders with these defibrillators and their training. I am proud of all of our first responders.

HOLTZCLAW: From a personal standpoint, having married my high school sweetheart 37 years ago and helping raise two daughters that are now adults and successful in their lives. I’m also proud to have been able to serve as a US Marine for 20 years, and participating in two combat tours (Gulf War and Mogadishu Somalia). 

From a legislative standpoint, I am especially proud of having passed the Brewery Modernization Act in 2011, which enabled our state to benefit from the entrepreneurship, economic development and tourism opportunities as we grew from 5 breweries in 2010 to over 57 breweries today.

I am also proud to have been recognized as legislator of the year by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) for passage of the DUI Ignition Interlock device law in Alabama in 2013.

Question #5: Leaving out elected officials – past and present – tell us about someone you admire and why.

BUTLER: Not only do I admire this person, but I love her. It is my wife Karen. She is a great wife, mother and grandmother. She supports me when it is not easy as when the phone rings off the hook on a hot issue … she answers in her genuine kind voice. Karen is a Christian, caring, kind, and helpful person to me, the family, and many others.

HOLTZCLAW: I most admire my parents: my birth mother and my foster parents.

Not everyone knows my story so briefly, I’ll share that my birth mother was encouraged to have an abortion rather than give birth to me. She was unwed when she became pregnant with me in 1963. I admire the fact that she stood up to those in her family pushing her to have an abortion. She chose to have me and then, the day after I was born, arrange to have me taken to the United Methodist Children’s Home where I lived until I entered foster care at age 5.

More than admire, I am indebted to my foster parents who sacrificed so much for me, ensuring my basic needs were met from age 5 until I graduated high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps. They raised me to work hard and grounded me in Christian principles that I follow to this day and have passed along to my children and grandchildren.

Question #6: What distinguishes you from your opponents?

BUTLER: My dad told me that God gave you two ears and one tongue, use them proportionately. I am a good listener and I love working on projects brought to me or are needed in the community and state. The combination of listening and acting on needs has made me effective in the Legislature. Making a tough vote when needed has been good for our district…it has produced good schools, growth, and good roads are on their way. 

HOLTZCLAW: I have been a conservative my entire adult life. I turned 18 in 1982 and voted to reelect Ronald Regan in 1984 in my first election. I have supported conservative values such as being prolife, pro second amendment and protecting individual liberties my entire life. I didn’t do these things out of political expediency or because they would help me win elections. I did these things because that is what I believe in.

I worked diligently to maintain those values within our state while serving as a state senator. Voters in Senate District 2 should understand that the 2022 Republican Primary is a rematch of the 2010 General Election where then Democrat Tom Butler and I faced off. After losing that election he switched parties to later run as a Republican.   I feel that is a significant distinction between us.