Bradley Byrne is the Congressman from the Mobile district who’s running for the U.S. Senate. But he has more ties to North Alabama and Marshall County than you might expect:
- He loved visiting Guntersville when he was a college student, particularly as a law student at the University of Alabama. He and friends would rent a room at Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge. He has continued to visit as the years have gone by, particularly enjoying both Guntersville and DeSoto State Parks.
- He was the chancellor of Alabama’s 2-year college system when Dr. Robert Exley was hired as the Snead State Community College president. “I was up here a lot before the hiring and a lot after,” he said.
- He was the chancellor when Snead started its Aviation College at the Albertville Airport.
- He’s friends with Steve Marshall, the former Marshall County District Attorney who is now the Alabama Attorney General.
- His daughter Kathleen Edwards lives in the Tennessee Valley. She first worked in Huntsville after graduating college and now has her own communications firm in Muscle Shoals.
- Byrne’s campaign manager is none other than Guntersville native Seth Morrow, who once wrote Guntersville High sports news for The Advertiser-Gleam.
Byrne was in Marshall County Tuesday and made the most of his trip. Arab mayor Bob Joslin gave him a guided tour of his city, showing him lots of projects that are underway or in the works and giving him a tour of Arab’s Historic Village at the City Park.
On Tuesday evening, Byrne was the guest speaker at the Marshall County Republican meeting.
Byrne has had a wide variety of life experiences – practicing lawyer, Alabama legislator, education chancellor and now Congressman. He’s a lifelong Alabama resident.
His state House district included Baldwin County when both Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina hit. Byrne rode out Ivan in the Baldwin County EMA Center in Robertsdale.
He’d been up for hours and hours and finally grabbed a little sleep in a small room when the phone woke him. It was then-Gov. Bob Riley, asking him if he could get to the coast and report firsthand on the damage.
“I punched a National Guard sergeant major on the arm and said, ‘Gov. Riley wants to know if we can get to the beach and give him a damage report,’” Byrne said.
They were among the first to see the devastation of the storm, traveling as far as the Flora-Bama on the Alabama-Florida line.
His travels lately have been a little wider.
“I was in El Paso 2 weeks ago,” he said.
He toured the border and viewed the operations of Border Patrol, ICE and the military, including some facilities where illegal immigrants were being housed. He said everything he saw was well run and humane.
“I asked one of the military guys, ‘What am I seeing? Is this just a show?’ He said no, that was how it was run,” Byrne said.
He said he rode with Border Patrol and saw how well a wall worked in one section and watched as 2 illegals crossed the border in an unfenced section.
“President Trump is exactly right to be directing resources to the border,” Byrne said.
He said protecting the border is an issue voters have spoken to him about on the campaign trail. He said it's also a security issue for Alabama and related how a Mobile woman was recently killed in a hit-and-run accident by an undocumented Guatemalan.
“The human trafficking and drug trafficking component of illegal immigration very much affects Alabama,” Byrne said. “Steve Marshall has shared with me some of his stories about this issue.”
He said the other issue citizens speak to him about frequently is the cost of healthcare.
“We have got to do something about the cost,” he said. “It’s affecting all Alabamians. It’s not just the elderly. It affects a young family of 4 as well. Co-pays and deductibles are eating people alive.”
He said he has been a proponent of a strong national defense and he said it affects the economy of Alabama when you consider places like Redstone Arsenal, Anniston Army Depot, Ft. Rucker, Maxwell Air Force Base and the Mobile shipyard.
“We did get some good news last Friday,” Byrne said. “Our hospitals have been receiving 20 percent less reimbursement from Medicare than other states. That is changing. It won’t erase the entire 20 percent difference, but it will be much better and could be the difference in some of our hospitals closing or staying open.”
If elected to the Senate, Byrne said he will wake up every morning remembering that he represents Alabama.