VESTAVIA HILLS — If re-elected in 2024, U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) would secure a sixth term in Congress.

However, Palmer said he would only serve five terms in Congress during his campaign for the 2014 special election to fill the unexpired term of former U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus. 

While there's no evidence Palmer is in any danger of losing the upcoming sixth congressional district Republican primary less than two months away, his initial promise to only serve five terms was the most-discussed topic during a candidate forum with Palmer and his two opponents, Gerrick Wilkins and Ken McFeeters, on Saturday at the Mid Alabama Republican Club at the Vestavia Hills Public Library.

Palmer said at the debate, "I own this. I said it. I don't make any excuses for it, but I believe that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do."

"It was a struggle. There were people in this room that asked me to run again. There are other people that asked me to run again. As I pointed out, I think we're in a critical point in our country. I really did struggle with this going back. I felt like the job is not done. President Trump, I'm working with him on some things and it is my hope and prayer that he gets elected, that we get the majority in the House and Senate. I think that we've got about a two-year window to really make some change. Again, I'm a person of deep faith. It's really challenged my decision on this. I really believe that God wanted me to do this," Palmer said.

Wilkins, a businessman, said Palmer's explanation for serving an additional term "actually offended me."

"A pivotal moment of why I decided to run happened last March when our current Congressman who I supported his entire time, Gary, broke his promise and decided to run for a sixth term. You see back in 2014 he said, 'I've committed to serving only five terms. That's ten years. That's enough.' When he said that, I took that to heart because term limits is more than words to me. In fact, I just poured my passion into that subject into a book 'Unshackling Democracy: Embracing Term Limits, Empowering Citizens' because I believe in action not just words," Wilkins said. "As I understand scripture, you look at Joshua 9, the Gibeonites were tricked into making a deal and Israel kept their promise. In fact, Saul went back on that promise centuries later and God judged him for that. Ecclesiastes 5:5 tells us it's better to not vow than to vow a vow and break it." 

McFeeters, an insurance agent, said he'd limit himself to five terms in office if elected but said term limits aren't the best idea if just Republicans are placing term limits voluntarily on themselves.

"You can be drooling but if you've been there for 50 years, your office has all the power," McFeeters said. 

Alabama's sixth congressional district has changed in the latest redistricting order by a federal court. It now consists of most Republican areas of Jefferson County and Shelby, Bibb, Chilton, Coosa, Elmore, and Autauga Counties. Interstate 65 is the spine of the district, entering at the Blount/Jefferson County line on the north end and leaving on the Elmore/Montgomery County line on the south end.

Alabama's Republican primary for Congress, president, and some state and local offices is Tuesday, March 5. It falls on national "Super Tuesday," with several states holding presidential primaries that day.

The winner of the Republican primary for sixth district congress will face Democrat Elizabeth Anderson, who was unopposed in the Democrat primary. The two nominees meet in the November 5 general election in this heavily Republican district.

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