HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Huntsville South Civic Association hosted a forum for candidates vying for congressional seats in the state of Alabama on Thursday. 

Candidates for Alabama’s 5th Congressional District and State House District 20 took the podium to discuss their top campaign priorities before the primaries on May 24th. 

The forum was a chance for the candidates to meet with registered voters and to meet each other. A notable no-show in the 5th congressional district race was Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

That seat was vacated by U.S. representative Mo Brooks. The current two top candidates, Paul Sanford and Casey Wardynski, did attend. Candidates were presented questions from the voters, who wanted to know if a pandemic were to take over the country and the state again, will mask mandates and vaccines be enforced on Alabamians.

Both Wardynski and Sanford took a strong stance, saying that will never happen while they are in Alabama’s 5th congressional district seat.

“Our government, put in place because our citizens demanded that their health and choices, not be infringed upon by state government. Our state legislators passed a law that prohibits vaccine mandates in this state,” said Wardynski. 

“I am not in favor of the local government being able to do anything unconstitutional, so we need to make sure that we codify the ability that this will never happen again to our citizens because the government literally destroyed businesses,” added Sanford 

Wardynski also boasted his position as a staffer for former president Donald Trump and lead military official, and that it makes him more qualified to handle national security issues than any other candidate at the forum. 

A spokesperson for the event said that Dale Strong chose not to commit to the forum. His absence was not a topic for discussion.