Springville Mayor Dave Thomas announced his candidacy for Alabama Governor at the conclusion of his city’s regular City Council meeting on Jan. 4. Reaction to the announcement has been mixed, especially after his story broke statewide on 1819 News.

"This is not really city business, but it pertains to the city somewhat," Thomas said during the council meeting. "I am excited to announce that as of this morning, I became a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor."

After the meeting, Thomas spoke to 1819 News about his stances on issues, including his concerns with the current leadership, and where he thinks the state needs to go with tax cuts, education, and the use of marijuana.

“The positives have outweighed the negatives 10-1, maybe 20-1,” he said. “So far, I’ve only gotten one piece of hate mail.”

Much of the negative reaction has been centered around his stance on marijuana use.

"Quite frankly, it seems absurd to me that a room full of people are going to decide that Americans can't take a seed, plant it in the ground, and grow a plant, no processing whatsoever required, and yet it's illegal,” Thomas said. “And yet we've got an opioid epidemic from coast to coast using pharmaceuticals that are legal."

Some residents of Springville have responded to the story with mixed feelings about his comments.

“As a Libertarian, I agree with most of his policy ideas,” said Vanessa Oakes. “As for admitting he smokes pot, while I don't care what he does in the privacy of his own home, I'm not sure it will resonate well with the older, very conservative voting block. I'd vote for him over Governor Ivey all day.”

“I like that the mayor doesn’t care what people think,” said local business owner Christa Hawkins. “I think that he should have kept his personal use to himself.”

Springville resident Lisa Keith, who voted for Thomas in the mayoral election, wrote to 1819 News expressing concern over some of Thomas’ comments.

“As a mom, I am doing my best to instill this into my daughter,” said Keith. “Leaders should lead by example, right? So, when I read articles about the recent quotes from the Mayor of Springville admitting that he smoked pot, that set off alarms for me.”

Keith expressed concern for the messaging the comments send to children and the impact the comments could have on legal cases for people in the community who have been arrested or ticketed for possession of marijuana.

“So basically, our leader is a lawbreaker!” said Keith. “Now, Springville moms and dads are going to have to explain this to our children. ‘Yes, I know he breaks the law; but we are not and here is why!’ He will not have my vote for Governor, and I hope he rescinds his application as he is a lawbreaker and not a leader.”

The story received attention across Alabama as it was shared across various platforms. Marty Schelper, a registered lobbyist and founder of Alabama Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (ALRAMP), said she has tried to reach Thomas to offer a kind word.

“I did reach out to Mayor Thomas yesterday,” said Schelper. “I sent him an email and told him we applauded his courage in speaking out about his own use of cannabis. We wanted him to know we want to provide him with the support of our organization.

“We’re elated that there is a candidate that is a fiscal conservative in the state that’s going to run for governor, but we also appreciate the fact that he is not a prohibitionist. The state of Alabama is full of prohibitionists.”

ALRAMP has no official affiliation with the Alabama Republican Party. A chapter of the national nonprofit Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP), ALRAMP conducted a phone and email campaign across the state in 2021 on behalf of medical marijuana.

“The organizations I’m affiliated with applaud his courage to make a bold statement like that, considering that we live in a state that’s filled with prohibition,” said Schelper.

Thomas served as an Alabama state representative from 1994 until 2002 as a Republican. 

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