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State Rep. Susan DuBose is a self-described “policy nerd” who says she’s not afraid of controversy.
House District 45’s newest representative has a degree in finance from the University of South Alabama and an MBA from Spring Hill College.
The Hoover resident was one of a few primary challengers to unseat incumbents in May. She beat two-term lawmaker Dickie Drake of Leeds with about 67% of the vote. House District 45 includes part of northern Shelby County, a southeastern chunk of Jefferson County and a sliver of southwest St. Clair County. She attributes her win to getting out and meeting groups and leaders in the district.
“I’m a hard worker, I will put it that way. You know, I have a lot of energy. Once I am in on something, I am in 100% and I’m gonna work hard to make sure I succeed or that I succeed for the people that I’m representing or the group that I’m representing.
“… And I don’t shy away from controversy. I don’t mind if my view differs from someone else’s. I think we should respectfully discuss the issues, find a point where we do agree and work from there. So I actually enjoy the tough issues and bringing people together.”
For example, DuBose thinks the 2021 medical marijuana law went too far in who it allows access to cannabis products. And she thinks the 2021 prohibition on transgender students playing K-12 sports didn’t go far enough. She hopes to change that. She’s an advocate for “educational freedom” and would like to see state tax dollars follow students to the schools of their choice.
Originally from the Mississippi coast, DuBose and her husband moved to Shelby County more than 30 years ago as she pursued a career in real estate banking. And when it made more sense for her to stay home with their two children, DuBose focused on that and volunteering.
She’s a recent past president of Republican Women of North Shelby County.
Shelby County Republican Party Chair Joan Reynolds credited DuBose with growing the women’s group. She also said DuBose worked hard to get to the House.
“That hard work getting there will give you an idea of the hard work she’ll do there,” Reynolds said. “She’ll listen to both sides, but I think she’ll make her own decision based on what she feels is best for her constituents. That’s what we really want in a legislator.”
DuBose has been assigned to the House’s education policy, health and fiscal responsibility committees.
Q&A with Susan DuDose (edited for brevity)
Q: You were one of a handful of GOP challengers to beat an incumbent. Why did you decide 2022 was the year to run for the House?
A: “Well, I felt like we needed a more effective, engaged legislator in our district. I represent a diverse group, all the way from Irondale to Leeds to Chelsea to Hoover. I’ve got Shelby County and Jefferson County going into St. Clair County. It’s a lot of people and I didn’t feel like our (previous) legislator was engaged and active throughout the district.
“And so I worked for almost a year … to be active and engaged in the community, to get to know the leaders, elected officials, the educational leaders. I joined all of the chambers of commerce, from Hoover to Leeds, and that was just wonderful — just getting to know people.
“But besides that, there were some issues where I differed with my opponent, and one of them was the medical marijuana law that we passed. And I’m not necessarily against compassionate care marijuana, medical marijuana, but I felt like this bill was really just an introduction to recreational marijuana. The conditions in which you’re allowed to get medical marijuana are so far reaching, from depression, to PTSD to epilepsy. I just felt like it wasn’t limited to just people with chronic pain and end-of-life issues. I would have been for it if it had just been that.”
“Also, I believe in low taxes. I want to see us work toward a lower tax rate and I didn’t see my opponent voting for things in that direction.
And then the third thing that I really want to push even farther is protecting women’s sports. So my opponent did not vote for (the 2021 ban on transgender athletes participating in K-12 sports). He (voted present).
“… I think that bill is very important. And I want to go even farther and take that to the collegiate level. So, I want to pass a bill now that will protect women’s sports through higher education.”
Q: Is that a bill you planned to file? Is that something you’re working on?
A: “That’s something I’m going to work on, yes.”
Q: You mentioned concerns about the medical marijuana law. Is there anything you’d like to change there, or are we past that point?
Q: We’re probably past that point. We’re already licensing facilities. We have a cannabis commission now that regulates and makes all those decisions. If I thought there was a way to tighten that up a little bit as far as limiting some of the conditions that qualify for it, I would certainly be in favor of that.”
Q: When you announced in 2021 that you were running, one of the things you highlighted was that you had not taken any money from political action committees, unlike your opponent. I think that was true through the primary?
A: That is true. This is why so many people don’t want to jump into a race against an incumbent, because it’s very difficult to raise money. So all the money I raised up to the primary was from individuals, friends, you know, small businesses that supported me and I was able to get elected with that. Even though my opponent had a lot of PAC support. At the very end, (Alabama Forestry PAC) supported me and I was very thankful for that. And (Alabama Families for Great Schools, a pro-charter school group) also gave me a check at the very end which I was very grateful for.
Q: And your campaign finance reports show more PACs listed in September and October.
A: “Oh, yeah, since the primary, it’s amazing how your phone starts ringing off the hook. It’s like magic.
“… I am careful about the PAC money I take. For example, (the Alabama Education Association) did give me a very, very generous check. And I really enjoyed my conversation with them, but I gave them that check back. It was a large check, $10,000 and I gave it back. That was one of the things I specifically criticized my opponent for was that particular PAC, because he took so much money from them, and I saw how it directly affected his voting…
“Education is really, really important to me, and I’m a huge supporter of public schools. And I want our public schools to be better, but I don’t want people to think I’m voting the way I’m voting because I’ve taken such a large check from any one (group).
“… It’s hard for people not to think that you’re biased when you’re taking that kind of money. So I don’t want that perception. And they don’t need to give me money to talk to me.”
Q: About education, you mentioned the charter school group. I think there’s going to be a lot of conversations about education in the upcoming session. There’s been a push of late for more school choice. You have some great school systems in your district. What would you like to see done to create more school choice or just improving education for students and families?
A: “Yes, I am in favor of school choice. I really like to refer to it as educational freedom so that state money follows the student so that students could choose whether they want to be homeschooled or go to a Christian school or a private school. Now, I don’t think it would be used much in my district because everywhere I’ve talked to people, they are happy with their current education systems. So, the good school systems, it really is not going to affect them. But, there are enough school systems throughout our state that I think, given that opportunity, it will help some (people)…”
Q: Early on in our conversation, you said you’re a policy nerd. How will that help you and help your constituents in the State House?
A: I’ve already been studying policy. I went to (an American Legislative Exchange Council conference), so I have been studying the model legislation in other states, and seeing where we can learn from what other states are doing. You know, everybody brings different gifts and talents when they get down there to the State House. And that’s just what I enjoy doing, reading policy, reading bills and studying…
Q: You’re the past president of a very large Republican women’s group in Shelby County. What are some of the priorities from that group that you’ll be taking to Montgomery?
A: “… We, as a group, of course are very pro life. And we want to protect the current (law) that is in place. We’re not interested in seeing any changes to that bill.
“.. And in my group in particular, we want to place an emphasis on civics education, which I think is very important, the good and the bad and the difficult topics about our history, and our government the way that we work needs to be emphasized in our state education, and sometimes I think we are glossing over things that are difficult to talk about. And we don’t need to do that. We need to talk about our history as a whole and our civics people need to know how our government works. Students need to know how our government works. We need to bring back pride and patriotism. You know, being an American being an exceptional country has always been a part of us and I am proud of the fact that I believe America is an exceptional country. And I want to make sure our children continue to have that patriotic education with the emphasis on civics.”
Q: When you’re talking about not glossing over the ugly, is that slavery, is that the fight for civil rights?
A: “Absolutely. We do have a dark history when it comes to slavery and prejudice and things like that, but we have come so far and we can’t pretend that didn’t happen.”
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges facing your district? And I realize that may be tricky because your district touches three counties.
A: “I think that our district is having the same problem as a whole lot of our state is, and that is workforce participation. Sadly, we are seeing a lot of people in Alabama not returned to the workforce and it is affecting our small businesses. There are businesses in Shelby County, in Jefferson County, in St. Clair County and throughout the state that cannot remain open because they don’t have the workforce. And this is really, really concerning for me. We have a very low workforce participation rate in our state, about 57%. So 43% of able bodied Alabamians between the ages of 16 and 65 have chosen not to even look for a job.
“… I don’t know why people are staying home and not going back to work other than the fact that they’re pretty comfortable at home. So we need to make them a little less comfortable and we need to incentivize them to work. That’s one reason I’m in favor of reducing, little by little, the state income tax across the board.
“… We may not get to 0, but maybe we can reduce it. And I think that would help incentivize people to work if they get to keep more of their own money.”