The Alabama Senate race drew 19 candidates. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of some of the major contenders
Brian Lyman / Advertiser
Randy Brinson may be the closest thing to Donald Trump Alabama has.
At least that’s the message he has been sharing with voters.
“This is my first time running for office; it was his first time. We’re both businessmen. We’re both international investors. We’ve both negotiated trade deals. We’re both political outsiders,” Brinson said of how he compares with the 45th president of the United States.
Brinson, a Republican and president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, announced he was running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he said he didn’t want to see another career politician run for the office.
A Montgomery-based gastroenterologist and international businessman, Brinson thinks he is most qualified to lend his expertise to what he feels are the two most pressing issues: health care and trade.
Brinson started his company, Panamerican Marketing in 2011. Brinson said that, through his business, he has succeeded in expanding Alabama’s economy globally.
“I just came back from Zambia with 28 projects worth over $9 billion,” Brinson said. “One, which is building 200,000 homes here and packaging for reassembly in Africa, is creating hundreds of jobs in Alabama and has a $16 billion impact to the Alabama economy.”
Brinson also said he has purchased over 300,000 acres of land in Zambia and is working to get private investors to help support a venture in which Alabama farmers will be sent to grow crops such as peanuts on the land.
Brinson plans to then purchase the peanuts and sell them internationally for the farmers, something he said he’s done before when he helped sell Alabama catfish in Colombian markets.
“I have markets in the Middle East, Africa, Indonesia and Asia I can sell them to,” Brinson said. “That money comes back to the farmers in Alabama, which allows us to have better tax revenue, build more schools, better roads, better hospitals. That’s how you grow your economy, … There’s nobody in Alabama that has the experience I have in foreign affairs that’s running for U.S. Senate.”
In the political arena, Brinson is primarily known for being president of the CCA as well as head of Redeem the Vote, a faith-based voting advocacy organization that claims to have registered 78,000 voters during the 2004 presidential election won by George Bush.
Brinson’s first experience with politics came as a teenager working for James Edwards’ successful South Carolina gubernatorial campaign in 1974, and after moving to Montgomery to work at Maxwell Air Force Base as a gastroenterologist, Brinson advised Gov. Fob James on health care matters.
Like most Republicans, Brinson would like to see Obamacare repealed. Brinson’s solution to taking care of those supported by Medicaid is to create block grants — that are paid directly to Medicaid subscribers — and regional care organizations where those grants must be spent. To cut costs at the regional care centers, Brinson suggested staffing them primarily with medical students.
“Then you only have one or two doctors to pay and a nurse educator to pay who are supervising all these students who are providing the care,” Brinson said. “That would pass, and then you would get rid of Obamacare with all the mandates and everything.”
Besides trade and health care, Brinson’s top priorities are national security — he’s in favor of building a wall along America’s southern border shared with Mexico — and to create better foreign relations policies.
“I’ve worked in the Middle East, in Africa, with the Korean government, with Central and South America; there’s nobody in Alabama that has the experience I have in foreign affairs that’s running for US Senate,” Brinson said.
Like Trump, Brinson is pushing himself as an anti-establishment candidate. He said he began thinking about running for Senate after seeing the way Luther Strange was put into office. Brinson has also received the endorsements of Citizens for Trump and former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone.
In discussing his plans for Alabama, Brinson’s focus was almost entirely on global trade. When asked how he conveys such broad plans to voters, Brinson again evoked a message similar to the Trump campaign’s.
“What I tell them is I’m not a career politician. I’m a businessman that’s worked across the world and is growing our economy outside the United States that will grow jobs in Alabama,” Brinson said.
The primary knock on Brinson stems from the 2010 Associated Press report that the CCA accepted $12,500 from two political action committees funded by gambling interests in Alabama. Brinson told the AP that he did not know how the PACs were funded, something he repeated again ahead of the primaries. The CCA stopped accepting money from PACs after the report.
Brinson said he has been backed by the Put Vets First! PAC along with several medical PACs he did not name. When asked how he plans to compete with the big money campaigns of Luther Strange and Mo Brooks, Brinson hearkened back to another prominent Alabama politician.
“I look back to what happened when Dr. Bentley was running. He emerged from a pack where he was actually outfunded. You see Luther Strange and Mo Brooks fighting each other because they don’t have anything to offer the people of Alabama,” Brinson said.
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