MONTGOMERY — Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville on Monday morning made one of the final stops of his “The People vs. The Swamp” bus tour ahead of Alabama’s 2020 Republican U.S. Senate primary, which will be held on Tuesday, March 3.
Tuberville visited with voters at the Cahawba House restaurant in downtown Montgomery ahead of stops later in the day in Pell City, Talladega and Vestavia.
Speaking to Yellowhammer News in an almost 15-minute interview while seated at the restaurant, Tuberville reflected thus far on his first time running for office, hammering away at his campaign’s central point: he is the only true outsider in this race, the one who will be a change from business as usual in Washington, D.C.
With one day left until primary voters go to the polls, Tuberville expressed that he is feeling “good.”
“It’s been a lot of fun, you know. Me and my wife got up this morning at about 5:00, talking about it, talking about how little I’ve been home — I hadn’t been home a dozen or so days. She told me [back] when we prayed about this and decided to do it, ‘Don’t come home until you win.’ So I took her [advice] on that,” he said.
“But the thing about it is I don’t think people really realize the work ethic that coaches put in,” Tuberville continued. “So it doesn’t bother me. I’d leave at five or six in the morning, come home at 11 at night or stay in a hotel somewhere. And after three or four months, my wife said, ‘I’m starting to worry about something.’ I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘You’re starting to like this.’ But I like people. And that’s what this business is about, it’s about people.”
Tuberville emphasized that meeting so many different people across Alabama has been his favorite part of campaigning.
“There are so many egos in politics, and I got a huge induction into that. But at the end of the day, traveling over the state many times … just going to all the small towns, I wanted to do my due diligence. Because people knew who I was. I wanted to go out and have people personally, as many as I could, hear what I had to say. Not on TV,” he advised.
The former football coach outlined that from his travels, he believes “people are a lot more educated on politics … than you’d think they were.”
“They get into it more [nowadays]. Talk radio and [cable news] television has educated people more,” he added. “So it was fun getting to listen to their ideas and their concerns, what they were looking for.”
‘I’m not a politician’
“You know, I’m not a politician, so if they ask me a question, I’m going to tell them what I think,” Tuberville noted. “And they appreciated that. I didn’t stick my finger up in the air and see which way the wind was blowing, see if it was going to cost me a vote. No reason to do that.”
He underlined that “this is an important election.”
“Maybe one of the [most important] ones in the lifetime of this state and the country, because, first, we’ve got to get this seat back,” Tuberville remarked. “And we’ve got to send somebody up there that’s not going to be afraid of making decisions. I’m going to go up and support President Trump, but I’m going to first be a voice for Alabama. … I’m going to come back here and spend a lot of time talking to people [and listening to their wishes], it’s going to be their vote, it’s not going to be mine. … There’s no reason for me to go up there and listen to special interests and those people; just do it the right way. And I think we’ve gotten away from that [in the country].”
Tuberville lauded the reception he has gotten from voters while on the campaign trail, adding that this does not always translate into votes, especially with the negative advertising against him on television and other mediums as of late.
“You don’t know how that affects people that I haven’t been able to get in front of [personally],” he commented. “I’ve tried to let people know on TV as much as you can, radio, about what I truly stand for.”
He said that after a recent poll showed him leading the field over former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), “all hell broke loose.”
Tuberville explained that he expected the opposing campaigns to respond to that polling with negative advertising against him.
“That’s politics. It’s like when you’re recruiting a great football player, and you’ve got him committed. But they can’t sign for a few weeks. And [other teams] go and do everything they possibly can to convince [the player] that that’s not the right team or that’s not the right coaching staff to play for. They pull everything out of the bag. Sometimes it works, most times [the player] can kind of feel through it,” he added.
“I don’t know how many people we’ve talked to, but our crowds have gotten bigger, more energized,” Tuberville said. “And I think we’re doing good. I just don’t know how to judge it. I don’t look at the scoreboard (polls). Never did. I’m just going to try and get it over the goal-line the best I can.”
“Like my wife said this morning, ‘One thing I’ll tell you, you didn’t leave nothing in the bag. You did it all, all you could do.’ So, let’s pray about it and see what happens,” he continued.
‘Vote ’em out’
Asked by Yellowhammer News what his “closing message” is to primary voters, Tuberville responded, “Everywhere I’ve been, I get a lot of questions — ‘Our education’s all messed up.’ We’ve got to get that straightened out.”
He then stressed the importance of building “the wall” championed by President Trump.
“No pathway for citizenship,” Tuberville underscored.
“Our hospitals and schools are getting overrun by people that don’t need to be in this country,” he said. “They need to be invited (enter legally).”
Tuberville expressed the need for solutions for rural healthcare woes, calling the situation “atrocious.” Pickens County Medical Center in recent days became the 17th hospital in the state to announce closure over the past 10 years.
The first-time candidate subsequently pointed to his support of term limits while noting that until term limits legislation is enacted on the federal level, elections are effectively term limits.
“The one message I’ve been hearing consistently, ‘Coach, we’re for term limits. What are you for?’ I’m for term limits,” Tuberville advised. “And more now than ever before, because we’re starting to get on the left a lot of people in there that their group is just going to continue to grow, and we’re going to get overrun, but term limits are not in the constitution — our term limits are, ‘You go vote, and vote ’em out.'”
“So all those people that are saying, ‘Coach, we’ve got to have term limits,’ this is our term limit tomorrow,” Tuberville emphasized, before lamenting both Sessions’ and Byrne’s respective amounts of time in public office and government service.
“It’s time for them to go home, we’ve got to have a new voice for Alabama,” he stressed.
“People are concerned,” Tuberville subsequently stated. “They’re really concerned, and I think that’s the reason we’ve got a great chance. Because they’re tired of the career politicians. They’re absolutely sick of people going and not representing them but representing the special interests. It’s time that the swamp gets the message.”
He added that he views his potential election as a chance to spark similar Republican outsiders seeking office across the United States.
He expressed his wish that, “[If elected], people across the country will go, ‘My God, look at what they did. Look at what Alabama did.’ Start a precedent that we’ve got to have citizen legislators in Washington, D.C. It’s okay to send somebody that’s had a job, that knows what’s going on, that’s got a sense of what this country’s about and not somebody that’s been in Washington, D.C. 20 years that sat behind a desk and has no clue what’s going on.”
“We’ve got to have different voices up there, because this country’s been running on autopilot for 40-50 years,” Tuberville added. “Politicians haven’t had to make tough decisions, they just want to get reelected. Because we’re such a strong country [we’ve survived], but that autopilot’s about to burn out. … Thank goodness we’ve got Donald Trump. He’s made tough decisions, and what he’s done, too, is that clock runs real slow in government. When he got in there, you can tell how much faster government is moving. He’s told ’em, ‘Hey, we’re going to go to work.’ … That’s the reason we’ve got to get him four more years.”
Tuberville praised the job Trump is doing handling the potential spread of coronavirus into the United States.
“He’s shown his leadership skills in how he’s handled this,” the former coach said.
“We’ve got to have leadership in this country, we can’t have followers,” Tuberville subsequently outlined. “And I think that’s the biggest message I tell people. If we keep sending followers up there that want to go up there for a job [and] don’t want to make tough decisions, we’re going to get what we deserve. And in the long run, we’re going to get socialism. Because the wave is coming.”
He continued, “And we’re indoctrinating our kids in the schools about socialism and not capitalism. We’ve got to get our education straight. It scares me to death that Bernie Sanders looks like he’s going to have a great chance to [win the Democratic primary]. To even have the opportunity to be president of this country as a socialist, communist, just scares the heck out of me. … All the people behind him are from 18-30 [years old], they’re supporting him — it’s all coming from our education. So if we don’t change it, everything else ain’t going to matter.”
Tuberville concluded by reiterating that being a U.S. Senator would be service and not a job for him, as he would not accept a salary. That money instead would be donated to benefit Alabama veterans and/or the families of Alabama veterans.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn