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Wood, Rauch prepare for runoff

VALLEY — With a runoff race for a seat in the Alabama House of Representatives to be decided next Tuesday, the two candidates in the race have been making speaking appearances this week.

On Tuesday, Todd Rauch spoke to members of American Legion Post 67 at their monthly meeting at Sunny’s Restaurant, and on Wednesday, Debbie Wood was the noon hour speaker at the weekly meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley.

Rauch urged everyone to take time out of their day and to vote next Tuesday. He said that he has enjoyed campaigning.

“It’s important to get out, meet people and talk to them about what’s important in their lives,” he said. “I’m so thankful for my wife Ali. She’s been so helpful to me.”

Rauch has knocked on thousands of doors in District 38, which includes the southeast portion of Chambers County, Beulah, Smith’s Station and part of Opelika in Lee County.

“When I was very young, I remember my dad telling me if you were represented by someone who had never knocked on your door and who you had never talked to you could never count on them to do anything for you,” he said.

Rauch said that he wanted young people who are in school today to get the kind of education that will prepare them for tomorrow’s jobs.

“I want them to have degrees that will make them workforce ready and prepared for good careers.” he said. “We need to have a wide ranging, well trained work force to go with the jobs and a business-friendly environment companies can come into.”

Rauch, a veteran who was wounded in the Iraq War, supports the formation of a Veterans Task Force (VTF), which will be aimed at helping veterans in District 38 and the surrounding region.

“Veterans often fall through the cracks when seeking out federal and state programs that are available to them,” he said. “I witnessed the onset of mental health issues amongst fellow service members during my time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Over the years I have connected with other veterans and created an amazing support network where we all look out for one another. I want to make it easier for young veterans to become involved, earn a degree, get a good paying job and pay it forward by helping veterans in the community.”

In her talk at the Kiwanis Club meeting, Debbie Wood talked about how important it is for Chambers County to have someone who lives in the county as part of the state legislature.

The county has had that for the past 35 years but is in jeopardy of losing it in this election.

The outgoing state representative, Isaac Whorton, lives in Valley, as does Wood. Rauch lives in Opelika.

In the June 5 GOP primary, Wood led the field but did not get 50 percent of the vote, requiring a runoff between her and runner-up Rauch.

“I need as many votes as I can get in Chambers County,” she said. “I’m calling this the ‘take your mama to vote’ campaign.”

Wood survived breast cancer in 2012 and says the experience changed her life.

“There’s a dash between the year you are born and the year you die,” she said. “That dash is what your life is all about. It’s what kind of difference you have made.”

Wood said that she’s proud of being a part of a Chambers County Commission that turned things around following a dark, dark period in 2008-09 when the mills closed. To create new jobs, the commission borrowed $7 million to build an industrial park off Exit 70 on I-85 in Cusseta.

“There’s 3,400 jobs in that industrial park today,” she said.

Wood has an acronym for Wood: W means wise, O is for outspoken but respectful, O for open minded and D for dedicated.

Wood says that Alabama has a somewhat negative perception nationally, largely because recent scandals have tarnished the state’s image.

“We’re not all uneducated, racist bigots who married our cousins,” she said. “We need new leadership in Montgomery to help turn this around.”

Getting things done will take lots of hard work and commitment.

“I want to represent District 38 because I live here,” she said. “I want my kids and my grandkids to live here, too. It’s our home. and it’s where we want to be.”

Wood said that Chambers County is poised for growth but that builders need to come here and build new homes.

“We don’t have enough inventory in real estate,” she said, “and it’s a big problem. Today’s couples want everything new. Instead of getting a used home and fixing it up they want to build a new one. We’ve got to do something about this home shortage.”

Wood commended Lanett on its current streetscape project.

“The only way Lanett can change is to dress for success,” she said. “I think success will come because of this. There’s an opportunity for growth because of what’s happened in West Point. We need to have people who know what they are doing in Montgomery. If I get elected on Tuesday, I will be an investor of your money and your time.”

The biggest problem in Montgomery, she said, is that the legislature tries to get everything done in one session.

She’d like to see two sessions per year – the first where all efforts are put into passing a budget and the second for all the issues that prevent that from taking place in a timely manner.

It’s not good, she said, for Alabama to have no transportation plan.

For some time now, Chambers County has been committed to a 10-year plan. There was a five-year plan before that.

But when it comes to state government, there’s no such plan.