Democrats have fallen on hard times in recent elections across Cullman County, but Kelly Evans is ready to challenge the trend as a candidate for the District 11 House of Representatives seat.
Evans, a former Blount County resident who now lives in Hanceville, entered the race on the final day of qualifying when the state Democratic Party received her paperwork before the 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday.
“I’ve been a Democrat all my life. Through the years I’ve looked at the programs that the party supports and I’m comfortable with the fact that Democrats fight for those who are less fortunate,” Evans said. “I know that there should be more responsibility in spending, but it’s also a humanitarian issue that in this country we do everything possible to take care of those who are less fortunate.”
A former business owner, Evans closed her M&K Mercantile store in Blount County early this year. But she comes to the District 11 race with a passion for involvement in the political process, having run two races for the county commission in Blount County.
“The last time I lost by 43 votes in a countywide race against an incumbent. I felt good about the race and enjoyed meeting people and learning about their needs and views,” she said. “When this seat came open, the party asked me if I had an interest, and I did. I think having two active parties is important for the people and I will be getting to know more people in Cullman County.”
District 11, which was represented by Republican Jeremy Oden for more than 12 years, covers much of Cullman County and portions of Blount as well.
“I’m pretty well known in Blount County because of my business and the runs I made for political offices, but I’m really enjoying Cullman County. I will need to meet a lot of people, and that’s something I will start after the holidays.”
Evans will not have to race a primary as the lone Democrat, which will give her time to begin working the campaign trail while watching the four Republican candidates competing for the seat.
“I know that there’s no miracle cure for the problems we face in Alabama from either party. But I do believe that we need to be more selective in the cuts we make to spending, that we need to look for waste and fraud and get rid of those problems to save money and to move some of the savings into areas that are valuable services for the public,” Evans said.
One area of concern that Evans is passionate about is funding for mental health services in the state.
“The mental health issues are large across the nation and in Alabama. A lot of people don’t realize how much has been cut from mental health services that could be helping people at this time,” she said. “We need more centers to treat and house people, not less. If the state doesn’t want to participate in the president’s health plan, then we need to have a more competitive environment for insurance companies to come into the state and offer more for the people. But that’s not going to happen without tort reform.”
Evans is concerned that frivolous lawsuits will keep competitive health care away from Alabama.
“The lawyers may not want to hear it, but we need more limits on the lawsuits to help create a more competitive environment,” she added.
Acknowledging that many Alabamians are wary of new taxes, Evans believes tackling waste and fraud and showing more responsibility with existing dollars will build confidence in government among residents.
“I don’t think people generally hate taxes; I think it has more to do with how government uses the money and the waste that goes on,” Evans said. “I think when people see the efforts to clean up waste and use money more responsibly for the public’s need, then we’ll move forward.”
Evans is married to Michael Evans. They reside in Hanceville.
The special election has been set by the governor for Feb. 12. That date will only involve the Republican candidates since only Evans has qualified as a Democrat. If the GOP needs a runoff to decide the nominee, the voters will return to the polls on March 26. The GOP winner will face the Democrat on May 7. The special election means that the district will be without a representative when the 2013 session of the Legislature begins.
David Palmer may be contacted at email@example.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 213.