MONTGOMERY — Fresh off his announcement in Mobile that he is running for the United States Senate in 2020, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) is already crisscrossing the state and sharing his campaign message directly with voters.
Thursday morning, Byrne visited Ray’s Restaurant in Dothan before heading to Alabama’s capital city for lunch at Yellowhammer Cafe, which is located just outside the gate of Maxwell Air Force Base.
The first question reporters at the lunch asked the congressman was why voters should select him as the Republican nominee against the Mountain Brook incumbent, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).
“We need a fighter for our values and our principles in Washington,” Byrne answered. “We’ve got a guy up there in Washington in Doug Jones who is not a fighter for our principles. In fact, he doesn’t even support our principles.”
He added, “I have a track record of being a fighter — someone who gets things done when he’s in a fight.”
Byrne then shared the example of his tenure as chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, when he led an historic house cleaning of the system that uncovered ongoing fraud and criminal activity.
“We took on the most corrupt part of state government,” he said. “We cleaned it up. We got that system turned around in the direction it needed to go and, at the same time, cut tens of millions of dollars … and didn’t miss the central functions of what we’re there to do. So, people say you can’t clean up the corruption in Washington — I say, ‘I know I can, I’ve done it.’ People say you can’t cut spending in Washington and still make government work — I say, ‘Yes, you can, because I’ve done it.’ And I can’t think of another person that would be running in this race that can claim the things that I just claimed.”
Byrne, when asked on a follow-up question, then listed some of the core Alabama “principles” he was referring to.
“Number one: we are pro-life. We’re not pro-abortion. Doug Jones is pro-abortion,” Byrne outlined. “Number two: we’re for gun rights, the Second Amendment. We’re not for gun control. Doug Jones is for gun control.”
The congressman continued, “Number three: we’re for building a wall on the southern border. Doug Jones is against building a wall on the southern border. Number four: we’re for conservative judges, judges that apply the law and don’t make up the law. Doug Jones voted against Judge Kavanaugh, who is such a judge. Number five: we’re for President Trump and [Jones is] not.”
“Palmer is definitely weighing a campaign for the Senate, but has yet to make a decision.”#alpolitics
— Sean Ross (@sean_yhn) February 21, 2019
Byrne was also asked about the Club for Growth attempting to recruit Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-6) to run for the Senate. The out-of-state political organization released dubious polling hours before Byrne’s announcement Wednesday, along with a press release attacking him.
“Club for Growth is against President Trump. Let’s get that out there right now. Club for Growth is looking for somebody that they can put up on their side so they can raise money for themselves. That’s what that’s all about,” Byrne advised.
He urged Republicans to look at his congressional voting record as a good indication of his conservative bonafides, adding that he also has a strong record of voting with Trump and fighting for his constituents in Alabama.
Near the end of his remarks to the Montgomery press pool, Byrne explained why he was motivated to leave a safe House seat to run for the Senate.
“I’ve loved being in the House. I mean, don’t get me wrong – it’s been a slog. It’s particularly a slog right now with Nancy Pelosi running the House,” Byrne shared. “But this is so important that we have the right person representing us in the United States Senate. Because that person is going to be there for six years, maybe longer. And we’ve got to have somebody over there that’s fighting for us, that’s not doing whatever Chuck Schumer wants him to do. I think I’m that person.”
Byrne is the first Republican candidate to officially declare candidacy against Jones. In addition to Palmer “weighing a campaign,” Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) is strongly considering jumping into the race. State Auditor Jim Zeigler has launched an informal exploratory effort, and retired Marine Col. Lee Busby is also testing the waters.
Here’s a couple pictures of Byrne greeting supporters in Montgomery today. pic.twitter.com/SWfMdKtch8
— Sean Ross (@sean_yhn) February 21, 2019
After visiting Montgomery, Byrne headed to Decatur and Athens to wrap up his day. He is scheduled to have a breakfast event in Huntsville Friday before heading to Birmingham for the annual Alabama Republican Party winter dinner and meeting.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn