Candidates for Alabama House District 26 Brock Colvin and Ben Alford gathered for a second time at Snead State Community College recently to field questions posed by student leaders.
The questions asked in front of a large audience inside Fielder Auditorium ranged from improving traffic on U.S. 431 and a state lottery to climate change and inflation.
The two candidates — Brock running as a Republican and Alford as a Democrat — were able to find common ground on the first of those two topics as well as many others but differed on the latter issues.
Both spoke about wanting to improve infrastructure including roads and broadband access, increasing access to mental health, overhauling Alabama’s prison system, expanding the workforce and improving education.
Both also said they would support a state lottery, or at least the public’s right to vote on the issue, if it is presented in a clean bill with transparency on where the funds would go.
Their differing political philosophies shone brightest when it came to issues with inflation and the economy. Alford said he would be in favor of local governments being allowed to increase the minimum wage to as high as $15. Colvin said he supports high wages but thinks it should be a consequence of the free market and not something imposed by the government.
“Inflation is already at 8% across the country, and an artificial increase in wages is only going to worsen that,” he said. “It destroys small businesses.”
Alford said leaving the decision to local community governments may prove beneficial since the cost of living and economic landscape is vastly different between large and small cities.
“In 1982 or ‘84, minimum wage was somewhere in the neighborhood of three dollars an hour,” Alford said. “If you figured that for inflation, it would be about $25 an hour now. I’m not about to ask to increase the minimum wage to $25 an hour, but I think $15 an hour would give people a little bit of a leg up.”
When it comes to inflation, Alford took issue with Colvin’s assertion that the blame lies with bad policy from the Biden administration.
Alford pointed to the two-year COVID-19 pandemic, government stimulus and fuel supply issues as contributing factors.
“Inflation is a much more complicated issue than bad policies out of Washington,” Alford said. “...It’s just not as simple as you make it out to be. It’s involved, and it’s going to take both parties to solve it.”
But Colvin doubled down on blaming the federal government. Drawing from his degree in economics, he said, “The M2 money supply since the beginning of 2021 has increased 40%... An increase in money supply decreases the value of your dollar, which is why inflation is so high.”
He also said the country becoming less energy independent was having negative impacts on the economy, namely in the form of higher gas prices.
“I think you’ll have to do some reading of whether or not we’re energy independent. We’re still energy independent,” Alford said.
Despite their age difference, both candidates said inspiring young people to get involved in politics was one of their main goals in running for office, win or lose.
Alford said he hopes more young Democrats will get involved in politics, because a one-party system is “dangerous” in any state, and 26-year-old Colvin said he’s not running just to improve things for his future kids and grandkids, but for his own future as well.
Both encouraged everyone to get out and vote in the upcoming election Nov. 8.
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