Due to Jeff Sessions’ appointment as Attorney General, the Alabama congressional delegation is one elected senator short. On August 15, Alabamian Democrats and Republicans will go to the polls in a special primary to choose their party’s nominee to replace him in the United States Senate. The consensus is that the seat will go a Republican, most likely the governor-appointed incumbent Luther Strange. But some Alabama Democrats have hope that the race will be more competitive than predicted.
The last time Alabama elected a Democrat to the Senate was 1992, but just two years later, the still-serving Senator Richard Shelby became a Republican. That, coupled with the fact that a Democrat has not won the presidential race in Alabama since 1976, has made national Democrats lose interest in fighting for a win in the Cotton State. Nonetheless, hope is not completely lost amongst state Democrats, which is why seven candidates are vying for the party nomination. Among them is a young, openly gay environmentalist named Michael Hansen.
Among the seven Democratic candidates will be a young, openly gay environmental advocate named Michael Hansen.
“Let’s not kid ourselves, this is a long shot,” Hansen wrote in an impassioned piece on why he’s running. “I’m 35, gay, and a Democrat — but it’s one we have to take.”
Hansen is the Executive Director of the environmental advocacy group GASP, founded in 2009 to address Alabama’s ongoing environmental crisis. They have successfully challenged the air pollution permits of Walter Coke and ABC Coke plants for areas in North Birmingham.
On his campaign website, Hansen describes his environmental concerns as stemming from a need to “protect our environment and natural resources” in “one of the most ecologically diverse states.” He advocates for strengthening the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts and the powers of the EPA. Hansen strikes an urgent tone with his stance on climate change, acknowledging the realities and challenges in addressing this global phenomenon.
Hansen is deeply concerned about a wide array of issues, including public education, healthcare, a living wage, immigration reform, and ensuring equality and justice for all, but what truly stands out in our modern political climate is his progressive healthcare policy.
Hansen calls for universal healthcare system to remove the burden of providing healthcare from “the backs of employers.” He also tersely states that decisions women make about their healthcare are best left up to the individual and her provider.
In his issue section entitled “Justice For All,” Hansen covers comprehensive immigration reform, LGBTQ protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, and racial equality. He vows to fight for reforms that help to bring down systems of oppression for all marginalized groups. In a bold demonstration of his dedication to intersectionality, he declares that not only must we pass reforms for LGBTQ equality; “we must declare Black Lives Matter and mean it.”
Like the previous federal special elections to replace Republicans who joined the Trump regime, the 2017 Alabama Senate race will likely not result in a Democratic gain. But Michael Hansen truly stands out in a field that’s filled with bigoted climate change deniers, such as disgraced anti-gay judge Roy Moore. Hopefully, he progressive pragmatism and sincere optimism will be able to change the tone of the race and help stoke the red-hot embers of liberal participation in the American electoral system.