I'm Richard Brackner And I'll be your server for House District 95
Richard Brackner doesn’t downplay his work history in the service industry.
He thinks it’s the perfect steppingstone to a seat in the Alabama House of Representatives serving Gulf Coast constituents of District 95.
“I just want people to know that I’m a server by trade and I want to continue serving by doing what a server does best – finding out what people want and then getting it for them,” he says.
Originally from Oxford, Ala, Brackner comes from a working-class family where he learned to be proud of simple honest labor. Standing up at local comedy clubs thickened his skin and set the stage for a calling in public speaking. Brackner worked his way through the University of Alabama with jobs in the hospitality industry to get a degree in advertising, then worked abroad for several years to study the inner workings of community development.
That fusion of hard work and commitment to caring for the community is the potential Brackner brings home to Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Commerce, education, and the environment are the three main factors of his formula to pull the state out of the national basement when it comes to educating coming generations, keeping them healthy, and creating plenty of living-wage jobs.
“Unfortunately, Alabama is just treading water. It’s long past time that we get aggressive with both our funding and our focus on the next generation of Alabamians,” Brackner says.
He is vying for an open seat following the retirement of Steve McMillan (R), who has held the slot for more than 40 years. It gives Democrats a shot at picking up a seat in the Alabama State House from the Baldwin County Gulf Coast. Unopposed in the May primary, Brackner will face the winner of the Republican primary – Francis Holk-Jones, Michael Ludvigsen, or Reginald Pulliam.
He’s unapologetically young and progressive. But he’s also a dollar and cents kind of Democrat. Unlike so many graduating from Alabama’s public schools – which rank last among all states in math scores – Brackner knows how to run the numbers.
Here’s his bottom line: 40 percent of Alabama’s state funding comes from District 95.
“In many ways, the possibilities of Alabama begin with Baldwin County and the crown jewel of Alabama, the Gulf Coast,” Brackner says.
Brackner embraces gaming, a state lottery, and legalizing recreational marijuana as cash cows that can pay for bettering education, infrastructure, and health care.
There are no protecting Alabamians from the pleasures and pitfalls of gambling, he points out. We are gambling and buying lottery tickets every day. We’re cashing in our chips and checking our numbers in Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia.
“All this money is flowing out of the state,” Brackner said. “It’s time we stopped funding these other states and start keeping this money at home to work for us.”
Brackner envisions a “Manhattan Project” to build state-of-the-art schools in every district. He wants to use proceeds from a lottery to invest in the Education Trust Fund, boost per-student funding, and hike educator salaries.
Alabama ranks 46th in the nation in education and 45th in spending per student, Brackner notes.
“It is true that Alabama has increased funding in recent years, but we are not keeping pace with surrounding states that are investing far more resources in their children’s knowledge and ability to learn,” he says.
Three words: Take the money.
With more than a tenth of the Alabama population struggling with no health insurance at all, just saying yes to an influx of federal dollars is an easy call.
Here In Baldwin County, we’d see a windfall of somewhere between 85 to 90 million a year as a sign-on bonus for Medicaid Expansion. New federal cash coming into the county would be 50 to 53 million a year as about 11,500 newly insured will be added to the healthcare insurance rolls each year, according to a 2019 study by the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama Birmingham.
Medicaid expansion in its first four years would create nearly 80 percent as many paychecks across the state as all its auto and auto parts jobs combined, an Alabama nonprofit finds.
That federal money would also help protect our rural hospitals, many of which don’t have the dollars to keep their doors open and are teetering on verge of closing, according to The Alabama Hospital Association.
“This is unacceptable,” Brackner says. “If we do nothing, the closest medical facility for thousands in virtually every region of the state could be hours away.”
Keeping our hospitals solvent will draw top-shelf medical professionals to our state for high-wage jobs that feed surrounding restaurants, stores, and car lots to keep pace with the median paycheck of the region.
“The loss of economic possibilities is only surpassed by the poor care many of our own citizens are receiving,” Bracken says.
Certain items shouldn’t be taxed at all. Alabama is just one of thirteen states that imposes a tax on food. This tax burden falls most heavily on low-income Alabamians because they spend a larger portion of their income on must-haves like groceries.
Federally funded SNAP grocery purchases are tax-exempt. But not every household meets SNAP criteria even though they may be below the poverty line. And SNAP participants still get taxed on non-food necessities.
“The state should take its foot off the back of low-income Alabamians,” Brackner says.
Brackner is a gun owner.
Yet he sympathizes with sheriffs who say doing away with gun permits will make their jobs more dangerous. He understands the fears of parents, principals and students facing mass shooter drills as their new normal.
“Constitutional carry” looks like defunding the police, Republican-style. It’s another of Brackner’s campaign planks that boils down to the bottom line.
The Baldwin County Sheriff’s office brings in $600,000 annually from concealed carry permits. Multiplied across Alabama’s 67 counties, that’s a loss to law enforcement statewide in the tens of millions.
“Now that Montgomery has passed the constitutional carry bill, our sheriffs are going to lose out on all that money every year,” Brackner says.
Growth is great. But it calls for proactive planning, not just playing whack-a-mole when problems pop up.
“When a moderate rain in one of the wettest climates in the country overflows our sewer systems, it’s time for a serious change,” Brackner says. “Our beautiful parks, beaches, and natural resources are being damaged from overuse and litter.”
As Baldwin County takes its place as not only the fastest-growing county in Alabama but also the seventh-fastest growing county in the nation, Brackner pledges to bring home the money Baldwin County needs to keep pace with our surging expansion and success.
“We live in paradise, and I intend to keep it that way,” he says.