Two Democrats hope to run against Republican Mike Rogers in the November general election to represent Alabama's 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The two candidates, Mallory Hagan and Adia McClellan Winfrey, will face off in the June 5 primary.
Hagan, Opelika native and 2013 Miss America, is running for office to bring more diversity to the House and provide strong leadership, she said.
"There are four women under 40 in Congress," she said. "Only about 15 percent of our government leaders are women. I started to say, 'Well, maybe we need to bring some more gender and generational diversity to the table.'
"I think that we have an entire generation of young people who need strong leaders in government to look up to, and people in government should encourage them to become involved as well."
Hagan's time working with the National Children's Alliance to advocate for the Child Advocacy Center in 2013 gave her valuable experience working with senators and Congress, she said.
"I worked with Congress and ultimately testified in front of Congress to restore that funding, and we were successful," she said. "I was a part of a team that actually did make a difference in Washington by using our voices to really fight for what we believed in."
She has also testified for Erin's Law, a law that makes it mandatory for public schools to implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program.
"Yes, I am young, but I have been politically active for some time now," she said. "This isn't anything new to me."
If elected, health care would be Hagan's priority. The issue has been one brought up by citizens everywhere she goes, she said.
"I personally think we need to be moving towards a single-payer system in this country, and I'm concerned about the quality of care that we have here as it stands," she said.
She also wants to effect change in the areas of campaign finance and term limits. She supports term limits, which would encourage more young people with fresh ideas to step up, she said.
As far as financing her campaign, Hagan has not accepted any corporate PAC money, she said.
"The way we fund campaigns in this country is absolutely ridiculous," she said.
Other issues she is focused on include protecting the environment and Alabama's agriculture industry as well as advocating for voters rights, something she plans to do after the primaries, she said.
Voters who want to learn more about Hagan can visit her website, www.haganforhouse.com, or stop by her campaign headquarters, located at 1016, S. Railroad Ave. in Opelika. Each Wednesday night, Hagan hosts a free cookout at her headquarters, but voters are welcome to stop by any time, she said.
Also on the Democratic primary ballot is Winfrey, a resident of Talladega, psychologist and mother of four. Winfrey said she decided to step up as a candidate because she wants to be a voice for the unheard.
"I have done a lot of work throughout my career of advocating for youth and bringing innovative programming as it relates to mental health," she said.
She was also inspired by her time spent volunteering with Alabama Sen. Doug Jones' campaign last year.
Winfrey feels she is especially qualified to represent the district because of the skills she had developed during her career as a clinical psychologist and because she is a mother who understands other parents' concerns regarding education, jobs and other issues.
"My work and research has focused on integrating hip hop culture into the field, so it's really been a testament to how I look at life and how I'm able to bring things together that often don't seem like they fit," she said. "My professional background and my academic background has given me the unique opportunity to hone critical thinking skills, to be able to sift through large batches of information and create something new out of it. These are skills that are required as a representative."
Winfrey said that, if elected, she would focus on expanding the state's agriculture industry and supporting farmers, improving health care, solving broadband issues in her district and creating legislation that allows everyone to acquire their American dream. She also said she would work to unify the parties.
"It's time we engage through unity; in Washington, there has been a lot of division," she said. "It's time for a leader who is ready to come in with a unity mindset instead of a this-party-that-party mindset."