The College Democrats hosted Mallory Hagan Monday night on campus, where the Democratic candidate for Alabama’s 3rd Congressional district said her Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, isn’t accessible to his constituents.
Hagan said one of the problems with Rogers is that he isn’t receptive about conversations with people who don’t share his political views.
Additionally, she said he is difficult to reach through email or phone calls and doesn’t participate in town halls.
“While he might be right now, because there is an election coming, he hasn’t been for the other seven months of this year,” Hagan said, “and the year before that, and the year before that, and before that and before that.”
Hagan said some of the issues she has heard from around the district include the lack of expansion of Medicaid, the state’s high infant mortality rate and the closing of local hospitals.
Hagan also addressed the significant difference in money being spent on public education per student in Alabama — $8,500 — versus the national average of $12,500.
“So, what that tells me is that we have state legislators and representatives who don’t value us being critical thinkers and don’t value our kids having the intelligence and the smarts to go into the workforce and be productive members of our society,” Hagan said.
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Hagan began by discussing her experience growing up in the Opelika area.
Hagan’s parents were 18 years old when she was born. They relied heavily on support from the community and government, which allowed them to complete their higher education.
“They really utilized the community around them, and to me, that’s really important in discussing what kind of representative I will be,” Hagan said. “Our family has known what it is like to have relatively nothing and have to work really hard to build a life for ourselves.”
Hagan worked three jobs while attending Auburn University as a freshman, she said, and then she moved to New York for a semester to try to discover a career path. She ended up staying there for the next eight years.
Later, Hagan participated in the Miss America competition to pay for her education at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She said her experience with Miss America taught her what it meant to be a servant to her community.
After winning Miss New York and Miss America in 2013, Hagan spent the next year as a national ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and a public advocate for the prevention of child abuse.
“Many of the women in my family were sexually abused as children, myself included,” Hagan said. “Many of us have also been sexually assaulted, myself included.”
Hagan said she wanted to use Miss America to bring attention to issues such as these.
“Unfortunately, I think I was a little before my time in that conversation, but it’s one that we are having now as a country, and I think it’s very important,” Hagan said.
Hagan said she lobbied on Capitol Hill for the National Children’s Alliance and the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She also worked with Prevent Child Abuse America, Safe Horizon and Stop It Now, among others.
Hagan said her team that advocated for these organizations was able to restore federal funding for child advocacy centers, which provide a safe space for children to report when they are a victim of a crime.
The former Miss America continued these efforts by working on Erin’s Law, which makes child abuse education mandatory in schools.
“I’m a huge advocate for the LGBTQ community. I always have been,” Hagan said.
She said she grew up around the LGBTQ community because her mother owned a hair salon and dance studio.
“We are facing what I would say is one of the most important elections that our country has seen in a very long time,” Hagan said.
Hagan said that well-educated white men have dominated politics for generations, and the country’s politics could benefit from some more diversity, which creates better decisions.
There are four women under 40 years old in Congress, while there are 43 million millennial women in the United States, Hagan pointed out.
Hagan said she cares about gender parity between men and women. She said she was proud to be endorsed by Lilly Ledbetter, who she described as a champion for women’s rights and is the namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
Ledbetter is a Jacksonville, Alabama, native who sued Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for paying her less than her male counterparts. Congress later passed the fair pay act in her name.
While speaking about racial equality and race relations, Hagan said regressive rhetoric was becoming more popular within Alabama and the nation.
“We used to be a state that led the way,” Hagan said. “We had leaders that were quite literally leading our country into the future when it came to race relations, and what I’m seeing today is that is simply not the case.”
Hagan was unable to answer questions due to time constraints, but she invited the students to message her on social media if they had any questions or concerns.
“I’m not afraid of having a conversation,” Hagan said.
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