With just a few weeks remaining to campaign, the Alabama Education Association has chosen State Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) as its preferred candidate for Senate District 9.

A campaign mailer recently sent out by the AEA encouraged voters to choose Kitchens for his "proven leadership and support for our schools."

"I come from a family of teachers and coaches. It makes sense that those employees, nearly 3,000 of them, that call Senate District 9 home would support my campaign on January 9," Kitchens told 1819 News in response to the AEA endorsement.

"I've always been a friend of our local schools, public, private and homeschooling," he said. "I have served as the chairman of the Pre-K commission that promoted the expansion of our nationally recognized Pre-K program so 4-year-olds around Alabama have access to a strong educational foundation. As the next State Senator from Blount, Madison and Marshall counties, I'm committed to adequate funding and providing students and teachers what they need to be successful in the classroom."

When 1819 News asked the AEA if it was formally backing Kitchens in the District 9 race, AEA Government Relations Manager Allison King said, "AEA hasn't given money to either candidate in this race."

SEE ALSO: Where do SD9 candidates line up on school choice, AEA contributions?

The AEA has flexed its influence over lawmakers in the past by taking credit for the PRICE Act failing in 2023 after the AEA contributed roughly $1.5 million to various Alabama lawmakers in 2022. Kitchens received PAC money from the AEA in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022, but not in 2023 while running for Senate District 9.

Gov. Kay Ivey and Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth have committed to addressing school choice during the 2024 legislative session, and the winner of the District 9 seat could have a significant impact on what bills are put forward.

National school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis warned that Kitchens would work against Ivey's efforts and called the AEA endorsement "the political kiss of death for any Republican."

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