The State House District 99 race features a rematch of Democratic contenders, as challenger Henry Haseeb faces longtime incumbent James Buskey.
Buskey, who declined an interview for this story, has raised more money than the challenger and has a bigger balance, according to information provided by the Alabama Secretary of State’s website.
Buskey added more than $36,000 to his campaign account since Jan. 1, 2014. The ending balance as of April was $74,565. Haseeb has raised $6,113, so far in 2014 and began the year with no money in his campaign account.
With no Republican running in the district, the June 3 primary will decide the seat. Haseeb unsuccessfully ran in the primary four years ago, but believes he’ll be more successful this time around because of better name recognition and new ideas.
“When you’re in an occupation and most people work 25-30 years, but here we’ve got an opponent with 40-year-old ideas,” he said. Now, even Muhammed Ali, considered the greatest boxer that has ever been, had to realize that the time came that he needed to get out of the ring.”
Haseeb said one problem that doesn’t seem to go away in his district is the frequency of crime. He said he would work at the state level to reduce crime by giving more teeth to laws that prevent crime.
“We need fresh ideas and new innovations to bring about these things,” he said. “I’m sure the police department is as stretched out as they can be, but if we’re trying to apply an old solution to an old problem that has not been working then we are going to get the same, old same old.”
The challenger said good education would also help improve the district’s crime statistics, as well as provide a key to business growth because of a well-trained workforce.
“The reason our state is in the shape it’s in today is because we have the least educated people,” he said. “The other problem we have to address with education is for many, many years our best educated people have to leave the state and go all over the country to find a better job because the state in which they were educated does not provide that type of business or business growth opportunity so they can use the skills they’ve acquired.”
The owner of H&H Financial Services said the state needs to “reset our priorities” when it comes to education and pay teachers a higher salary.
“They have to take out the little money that we pay them to buy the supplies for the school for their student out of their own pockets,” he said. “That just don’t sit right with me.”
On the small business front, Haseeb said he would work to remove a negative reputation he believes Mobile has of not being business friendly. He said he would work to remove restrictions on businesses because right now “most business owners don’t see Mobile as one that’s trying to them stay in business, they see Mobile as one that’s trying to put them out of business.”
We’ve got to change that perception,” he said. “We’ve got to be proactive in encouraging businesses to come to our area and not just the Airbus. We appreciate the Airbus, but locally owned, neighborhood businesses is what we need to thrive in the community.”
He said one way to be more proactive in government would be to do a better job listening to citizens’ concerns. Haseeb wants to set up a think tank that would allow his constituents to work directly with him on issues in the community, like education.
“The solution is not going to come from one mind, we get the best of the minds in District 99 and any of those that are concerned about education,” he said. “If we bring those minds together there’s no doubt in my mind that we can come up with a workable and a viable solution to the problem with education.”
In addition to allowing citizens to work more closely with local legislators, Haseeb would like to see more cooperation in the state House. He said regardless of which party is in charge, there’s always been gridlock.
“We cannot afford to be divided among party lines,” Haseeb said.
In addition to education, an issue that’s important for Haseeb is care for the elderly in the district. He said senior citizens in District 99 have to choose between food and medication. In addition, many seniors in the district question their safety, due to crime in the area, Haseeb said.
“I understand Democrats and Republicans and I understand philosophies, but somewhere along the road we got to look out for what’s best for the citizens of Alabama. We have to address that,” he said. “It gives a bad mark on the state of Alabama when we treat our senior citizens like we do.”
Haseeb also would like to see the state reprioritize the budget. He said this could be accomplished simply by trimming it to make money available for more important initiatives.
“If you’ve got $100, but you’ve got $200 worth of things you’d like to do then you’ve got to trim something,” he said. “You’ve got to prioritize and I think we’ve got to change our priorities in a lot of the spending issues. When it’s good then that’s one thing, but when it tightens up. We’ve got to look at that.”