The Alabama Democratic Party’s “big tent” may be larger and a lot more colorful in 2018. Activists fed up with the corruption and general mean-spiritedness of state government are stepping up to challenge the GOP supermajority.
After her public feud with Roy Moore hit the national news, Ambrosia Starling is considering a run for governor. Another activist, Chris Countryman, has been running for months. He announced his candidacy in September 2015. While Countryman isn’t new to activism, this is his first run for public office.
For a decade, Countryman has been active in the LGBTQ community and was a co-founder of Equality Wiregrass, a LGBYQ & civil rights advocacy group. After he and his partner were refused a marriage license on February 9, 2015, his activism increased as Equality Wiregrass became more involved in the fight for marriage equality and dignity for all Alabamians.
Countryman was tired of the political games, the marriage inequality, and the open discrimination that was being practiced by the probate judge in his county and others across the state. It was time to take to the streets in protest. He organized several rallies and protests that encouraged the LGBTQ community to stand up for their rights and called for probate judges and other elected officials to do their jobs and issue marriage licenses.
Finally, his “tolerance for intolerance” reached a breaking point. Advocacy and protests are important, but Alabama wouldn’t be in this mess if we had better political leaders. Countryman stepped down from Equality Wiregrass in the fall of 2015 and announced his run for Governor of Alabama.
His “Rethink Alabama Campaign” kicked off on September 21, 2015, and it’s about more than GLBTQ issues. It’s a call for people in the state to treat each other respect and a challenge to state government to address the issues that really matter in Alabama.
Seriously, we have a lot bigger problems than worrying about who’s in the next bathroom stall. Education reform, ethics reform, budget reform, and Medicaid expansion are all issues that the state must address. He says he’s running for Governor because he wanted to work for all the people of Alabama. Countryman stresses that it doesn’t matter if you gay, straight, bisexual, or trans-gendered: everyone deserves to be treated equally in Alabama.
No matter what your race, religion, color, or class, you deserve the same opportunities as any other Alabama citizen. Countryman vows to make that vision a reality.
Perhaps the only positive thing that Roy Moore and the GOP supermajority has done for Alabama is to draw new activists into the political process. Alabama is a state where, for too long, voters have ignored the corruption of self-serving politicians who use ugly language to divide the state. If we’re busy pointing fingers at each other, then (they assume), we won’t notice that they’re lining their pockets with sweetheart contracts and outright bribes.
We could be at a tipping point, and all that’s needed is for good people to stand up and speak out. After all, we can only “vote the bums out” if we have someone else to vote for! In 2014, over half of legislative seats were unopposed. It was a huge mistake then, and will be even worse mistake in 2018.
Let’s hope that many, many people follow Countryman’s lead. The only way to take the state back is through the ballot box.