By Andrea Tice
A new type of political networking emerging in Alabama is genuinely organic and grassroots at its core.
How could it not be when it started with two mothers running into each other at a grocery store and talking about COVID-19? One thing led to another, and now the group LocalAlabama is up and running, with a recent event attracting a national election integrity analyst to speak.
LocalAlabama founder Allison Sinclair said she had some college experience with political campaigns decades ago, but once marriage happened, and the babies started coming, she turned her focus on the home. Sinclair said that COVID-19 was the impetus for significant change.
”The world just got weird, and then the November 2020 election occurred and things got even weirder,” Sinclair said.
After the election, Sinclair prayed and searched for what she needed to do to re-engage in the political arena. She believed she could no longer sit on the sidelines, trusting elected officials to do the right thing without any input or influence from their local constituents.
“A lot of this awakening is happening among moms, really because a lot of this started to influence our kids, and moms had to step in,” Sinclair said. “When you want to see moms get to a point of action, start involving their kids.”
Sinclair said most people she talked to saw the same problems but did not know what to do or where to start. That's why LocalAlabama was launched this past July by Sinclair and her co-founder Kelley Jo Brand.
"The main thing is we need to have a way to communicate,” Sinclair said. "Some people have a lot of information about mask mandates, some people had connections to legislators, some people were running for the local school board. But we weren’t connected.
"So I started LocalAlabama on the premise that if we are going to change America, it starts in our own backyard. It starts locally. We always pay attention to national politics thinking it will trickle down to us, but that’s just not the case."
LocalAlabama held its first meeting this past July with 45 people attending, only to see its numbers explode and chapters form in Decatur, Huntsville, and Montgomery.
The first issue the group chose to address was the local school boards, after the ADPH guidelines for returning to school were handed down from State Health officer Scott Harris.
“These school superintendents felt beholden to follow Harris, who is not an elected official, to follow his directives as if they were law,” said Sinclair. “So, LocalAlabama contacted the state attorney general, the governor’s office, the state health officer’s office, and the state school superintendent, where we got a reply that this is really a suggestion, not law.”
LocalAlabama then created a packet of information and started distributing it to local school boards so that board members would realize that they are free to make different decisions based on their discernment of the needs of the local community.
“There is a respectful and right way to appeal and kind of question some of these directives (that are) coming down,” Sinclair said. “There is a great system in place within the constitutional republic that we have to work these matters out. We want to take the avenues that are there to stand up for the people, have our voices heard, and to hold these officials accountable to the people.”
The group meets once a month, now discussing various issues ranging from marijuana dispensary placement to election integrity to understanding and following the state legislative process. Some state legislators have attended these meetings and stuck around to take some challenging questions from constituents.
“The goal is to get constitutional candidates in front of the people, to give them a platform to educate people,” Sinclair said. “We want to see these chapters get informed, share information, and then take ideas back to county, city, and school leadership to put into action. We are hoping to spread across the whole state with our chapters, and down the road have the chapters come together to address the bigger state and federal issues as needed.”
Sinclair said some people may be frustrated with elected officials, but there is a portion of blame on those who have disengaged.
“We checked out for far too long,” she said. “It’s on us to let our elected officials know how we want to be represented.
"As conservatives, it’s hard to be in this new place in America, because we really have always wanted a smaller government and just to go to work and raise our families and be left alone. Engaging in the political process feels kind of unnatural. There is a tension that is very uncomfortable for people to be in right now, but we are called to be part of the political process. It is the process that God has given us in America. And we have to work through it, and we are also called to speak truth. We are learning all of this in 2021.”
More information on this organization can be found at LocalAlabama.org