A U.S. Navy veteran who gained national notoriety for wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt while kneeling during the national anthem at a DeSoto volleyball game in 2016 spoke before a modest crowd of local Democrats at the Decatur Visitor’s Center Monday.
Al Woolum, a potential Democratic challenger to U.S. Congresswoman Kay Granger, told the group he refused to stay away from social issues like race and gender, despite running in a typically-conservative District 12. Granger was elected with 69.4 percent of the vote. Her current term ends in 2019.
“I’m not going to back down on these issues,” Woolum said, responding to an audience member who questioned whether a candidate could win with a liberal social platform. “I won’t leave it alone. Tell the Republicans to leave it alone.”
Woolum balanced speaking and answering policy questions from the group while also taking time to take shots at Granger’s voting record. He said Granger votes along party lines, which has left himself and other Vietnam veterans without adequate healthcare for injuries and illnesses sustained while serving their country.
“[Granger] is not going to come [to Wise County],” he said. “She’s funded by Lockheed Martin and BNSF, and she’ll retire to a consulting job.”
Granger held a paid event in Decatur in 2015. She received more than $270,000 in donations from Lockheed Martin in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
However, Woolum stayed conservative on second amendment rights, which he said aren’t going anywhere.
While he feels college costs are too high, tuition shouldn’t be free. Students aren’t able to pay for college with part-time work anymore, he said.
“Bernie wants to give everything away for free,” he said. “I back away from that because then nobody values it.”
Woolum said his plan would have the state fund 50 percent of a student’s college, with the federal government covering 30 percent and the student covering the remaining 20 percent.
The potential candidate also went after public education, which he said is threatened by voucher systems and government officials unwilling to fund better schools.
“They’re too cheap,” he said. “You want your kids to have a better future? You’re not going to get that by hurting public education.”
Woolum also took questions on drugs, minimum wage increases and gerrymandering.