Meet the Candidates: State Representative-District 18
By Matt Wilson
For the FCT
Editor’s Note: “Meet the Candidates” will be a regular feature informing you about our local candidates leading up to the November general election.
This week’s featured candidates are seeking the state office of Alabama House of Representatives, District 18, an office that is currently held by incumbent Democratic candidate Johnny Mack Morrow who faces Republican candidate Gerry Wallace in the November general election.
>Why are you running for this office? What made you decide to run?
Johnny Mack Morrow: There have been many, many projects over the years that I am very proud to have initiated. The 4-laning of Highway 24 was one of the first projects that I saw as imperative to move our District ahead in bringing new industry and keeping existing businesses progressing. Now that project has brought over $322,000,000 of road improvements into our area with the entire project under contract. For over a year I have been looking towards the future with the “Information Highway”, affordable high-speed Internet availability for all. Internet is absolutely necessary for our children, businesses, and new industry. I saw this need and proactively started working with the community on this Broadband Initiative for over a year. A major step was getting the infrastructure in place so that a Local Constitutional Amendment that will be on the ballot this November. Public Education is absolutely essential for our families. Public education available to all people is one huge asset that made our nation great. We must continue to fight for our schools, teachers, and all support people involved with our schools. There must be a safe atmosphere where children can learn. I will always fight to help and protect our public education programs. Public education has been under attack by the current Supermajority. This atmosphere must be changed! As your State Representative, I have accomplished much, but there is more work to be done! I want more new industry, more jobs, and a chance for everyone to obtain the American Dream. I will always work hard for District 18.
Gerry Wallace: I believe the Lord called me to run for the 18th District Legislative seat. To say that, I think it’s important to state that I have been called by the Lord three times previously. Folks in this area will be familiar with the second call, because it was to start and then be the Executive Director of Shoals Sav-A-Life for 17 years. Most of them will not be aware of the first call in which I left the best situation I had had up to that time, in search of a full time ministry, which turned out to be Shoals Sav-A-Life, 14 years later. To claim such a call for this venture, I think evidence is needed of previous calls to provide credibility. Having heard the call, the motivation to pursue it comes from having five great-grandchildren here in this area of Alabama, and watching in horror as their prospects for the kind of life we have had seem to slip away so rapidly it takes your breath. The decline during the time I have been pursuing this position has been faster than I could possibly have predicted.
>Why do you think you are the most qualified for this position?
Johnny Mack Morrow: I was first elected to serve District 18 in the Alabama House of Representatives in 1990. I have been able to build relationships within the political structure that has been very beneficial for our district. One example that we see every day is how the TVA money was re-directed back to helping in our community. In 2006 I was instrumental in setting up the Tennessee Valley Caucus. One of the first major projects was to get the TVA money from going to all over the state and redirect it to the place where this TVA-in-lieu of tax money was generated. With relationships I was able to negotiate with both Republican and Democratic members of the legislature to pass legislation to get the TVA money returned to the counties where it should have been distributed in the first place – North Alabama. We now have a mechanism for funding local projects that otherwise might not be funded. In March 2010, I was honored with a Resolution, HR 750, by my peers recognizing my work on this and many projects. For Franklin County alone, since 2009, $954,598.73 has been granted to Franklin County projects. Since 2009, over $500,000 has been granted to West Colbert County projects. School programs, senior citizen centers, volunteer fire departments, police departments, food for the needy, and numerous other projects have directly benefitted from this experienced leadership.
Gerry Wallace: The political structure has been totally flipped during the last couple of elections. The incumbent, being a Democrat, was part of a total power block for 20 years, but is totally stymied by the Republican super-majority today. Any bills he votes for which pass will be controlled by Republicans. He chose not to attend eight out of 11 committee meetings during the 2013 legislative session, because he was ignored when he went to those meetings. This district has not had an effective place at the table for these last four years. We will not help ourselves by sending him to be ignored for another term.
If elected, I will attend those committee meetings. I have met with a good number of the Republicans currently serving, most of whom will be in the next term, and I am assured that I will not be ignored in those meetings.
>What do you hope to accomplish if you’re elected? How will you improve Franklin County?
Johnny Mack Morrow: Our part of the state has so much potential for new industry, money from visitors to our area, and hard-working people who really care about the children and senior citizens. I have been working on creating an environment where a family can live with gratitude for our veterans, a great public school system and an appreciation of God’s nature among other ideals. The Veterans’ Appreciation Events in conjunction with the American Legion have proved to be inspirational! This all takes place at my Cypress Cove Farm, which is also Site #51 on the North Alabama Bird Trail with six miles of walking nature trails that I and my wife, Martha, opened free to the public. Part of my vision for the future was the Rock Bridge Canyon Equestrian Trail in Hodges bringing in much needed tourism money and new businesses. I worked for several years petitioning for the Smithsonian Exhibit to come to Franklin County. The incredible success brought much-needed increased business and tax basis to the county. All of these projects provide the potential for families to enjoy and appreciate the wonderful resources we have right here at home. We are also very fortunate to have Overton Farms, which is listed on the National Historic Registry; however, the deterioration of Overton Farms is indescribable. I will continue to fight for the preservation and re-opening of this treasure.
Gerry Wallace: I would hope to reestablish the ties between our Christian roots and those principles by which we are governed. I reject the notion that we are not a Christian nation and state, and would use all the influence I could establish in order to reconnect with those things that made us great. I grew up in a free country and my (our) grandchildren are being deprived of that. Unable to pray in school or public events, political correctness having the power of the law brought to bear on what people think or say, abortion, same sex marriage, pornography, and drug culture confronts them on all fronts. Some adults need to say no! Our education goals should not be based on staying ahead of Mississippi, but on real achievement in preparation for life and what it offers. I am not certain that our staff and teachers have the control they need in order to get the most out of our students. Some homes and parents have their children disciplined enough on their own to get what they need from their studies. Others do not, and their progress suffers, as does that of many of their classmates because of it. I don’t believe we need a large increase of funds to ensure better education results, nor do I think it is available under the current economy. Providing more control and discipline is something I believe can be done, and would provide much of the desired effect. I am adamantly opposed to Common Core; much has been said which I will not repeat. It is enough to me that states were bribed with our own tax dollars in order to get it into our schools without even a minimal test program, and opting out has turned out to be very expensive, which seems underhanded. Like all other candidates, I would like to improve the area job market. The legitimate vehicles for the legislature for doing so are tax policy and the regulatory climate. Foreign investment in Alabama has been a real success story in recent times, and more should be coming in the future. However, there are two areas today in Alabama that are under control of the Democrat party, and those two areas struggle to bring in new industry. I leave it to the voters to see if there is a correlation they wish to address. If you are not at the table or are ignored when you are there, does Japan even know you are here? One item I struggle with at one level concerns the incentive packages offered to bring in new companies. I understand that those are done with the understanding that the revenue will be made up in a short period of time, and besides, that’s the market today. But, why can’t we provide some similar incentives to those already here paying our citizens, and paying taxes. Why not help 10 existing establishments to hire 20 people each in an expansion and get the same benefit as bringing in someone from Germany that would hire 200? Of course, until we get the courage to get rid of Obamacare, we will mostly see 30-hour low wage jobs. That is no vision for our grandchildren.
Johnny Mack Morrow: I was born in Vina and spent most of my childhood in Phil Campbell. In high school our family moved to Red Bay where I graduated. I attended Mississippi State University graduating with a major in Economics, later earning an MBA in Business Administration from Samford University. This educational background prepared me for both my profession as a college instructor at Northwest Community College and later serving District 18 in the State House. With a business education, I have served on various House committees. I am married to Dr. Martha Morrow where she is my teammate to serve District 18.
Gerry Wallace: I have been married to my wife, Ruth, for 53 years, with three children, eight grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. I was born and grew up in southern West Virginia where I graduated from Stoco High School, in Coal City, W.V. I attended no college, but went into the nuclear navy where I served as a reactor operator on nuclear submarines. After the navy, I spent approximately 25 years in commercial nuclear plant operation, management, training and consulting. In 1994, I was the founder of Shoals Sav-A-Life here in the Shoals area and served with my wife, Ruth, as Executive Director for 17 years before retiring. I served two years as the Chairman of the Alabama Pro Life Coalition Education Fund, which administers the funds produced by the sale of “Choose Life” license plates, until announcing my plans to conduct this campaign.