Standing before a crowd at Anniston’s Zinn Park Friday, congressional candidate Mallory Hagan summed up all the frustration her fellow Democrats seemed to feel in the Trump era — without mentioning Trump by name.
“I don’t think that what we’re living in right now is normal,” said Hagan, the Democratic nominee for the 3rd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, at evening rally attended by about 50 people. “I don’t think that it should be normalized. I don’t think we should go anywhere, talk to anyone, without making sure that they understand that this November could change the course of this nation.”
Hagan came to Anniston Friday for an old-fashioned campaign stop, with a loudspeaker and an outdoor venue large enough to accommodate a potentially large crowd. It was one of a series of stops Hagan is making across the district, and it could mark the start of a long season of dueling campaign appearances. Or not.
Hagan, an Opelika resident and former Miss America, is trying to unseat longtime incumbent Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks. A majority member of defense and agriculture committees in the House, Rogers in recent weeks seems to have campaigned largely from D.C., tweeting his support for Trump and posting photos from “Mornings with Mike” meetings with constituents who visit him at his office.
With Congress going into recess in August, Rogers could take to the road soon, though it’s unclear what plans he’s made. Asked when Rogers had his next Anniston rally planned, staff at his Anniston campaign office referred questions to campaign spokeswoman Shea Miller. Attempts to reach Miller for comment were not successful.
Local Democrats have long claimed Rogers is rarely seen in the district — and they see that absence as a boon to Hagan.
“I think she should focus on the effects of the Trump tariffs, and on the fact that Rogers is a complete zero,” said Robert Felgar, a college professor who lives in Jacksonville. “He’s not here. He doesn’t even answer email.”
Democrats have waged asymmetric war against the better-funded Rogers before, and they’ve lost. Army veteran Jesse Smith ran twice for the seat, ribbing Rogers for his alleged absence from the district and pledging to win the race with face-to-face campaigning and hard work. Rogers beat him by 30-plus-point margins in 2014 and 2016.
Still, Democrats entered 2018 buoyed by the U.S. Senate special election win by Doug Jones. A sex scandal for Republican Roy Moore was clearly a boon for Jones, but the Democratic victory for Jones also seemed to validate Jones’ focus on bread-and-butter issues.
Hagan kept a similar focus on Friday, talking in general terms about education, health care, the state’s poor standing in various national rankings and the fact that young people often leave the district.
“They’re saying, ‘If something doesn’t change in this state, I don’t want to stay here,’ and I don’t blame them,” Hagan said.
Hagan called for volunteers to sign up to work — and acknowledged that she was having trouble getting all the volunteers she needs.
“I know that we are all politically fatigued,” she said, and, making reference to Rogers’ campaign, added, “I can guarantee you we’re working harder than him.”