Voters will decide a state senator on Nov. 6 to represent a district which the Madison area. Republican Tom Butler and Democrat Amy Wasyluka are running for the Senate’s District 2 seat in the general election.
Wasyluka is a political newcomers. Butler is a former longtime lawmaker attempting a comeback.
“I love the work,” said Butler, a pharmacist who spent 28 years in the Statehouse as a Democrat before he switched parties and was defeated in 2010 by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, who didn’t seek a third term.
“Twelve members of the Senate — a third of the Senate — are leaving,” Butler said. “That takes a lot of institutional knowledge out of the body. I decided I could take my experience and my institutional knowledge and be effective and productive for the district and the state as a whole right off the bat.”
Among education issues Butler wants to focus on are school safety, a renewed emphasis on career tech to meet workforce requirements for new jobs coming into the area and support for the new Alabama Cyber and Engineering School in Huntsville.
“I want to take a leadership role in addressing health care issues in the Legislature including Medicaid reform,” he said, “with a goal of trying to cover as many people as we can.”
Butler said the area has critical road needs like widening Interstate 565 and improving Alabama 53 and U.S. 72 West, and he believes President Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan could help in addressing those, if the state can come up with the required matching funds. He’s working on a plan for that effort.
The president unveiled a plan earlier this year to turn $200 billion in federal funding into $1.5 trillion to help fix the country’s infrastructure by leveraging local and state tax money and private investment.
Wasyluka, an appellate attorney, has worked in family law, bankruptcy and civil litigation, and believes her legal experience, including sometimes working with adversarial parties to reach a resolution, would be beneficial as a legislator.
Wasyluka supports the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, referring to Alabama Hospital Association estimates that about 300,000 uninsured Alabamians would receive health insurance coverage and 30,000 new jobs would be created as a result of the expansion.
Wasyluka, a childhood cancer survivor who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma at age 17, said she was fortunate to have insurance coverage through her parents, both public school teachers, though she “aged out” of her parents’ coverage during law school.
“There are too many Alabamians who don’t have access to basic preventive care,” she said. “That’s one of the things we have the potential to impact with this election. We need to make sure Alabamians have access to the preventive care they need in order to learn and work.”
Wasyluka, who has never run for public office before, also wants Alabamians to have the chance to vote on a lottery referendum.
“I would love to see a lottery in Alabama,” she said, to provide funding for the state’s pre-K program and other education system needs.
She also supports the creation of a scholarship program that would be similar to one now in place in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Promise program, launched in 2014, provides free tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant and other awards for recent high school graduates enrolled in a community college or technical school.