Mary Wynne Kling, Auburn resident and outreach coordinator at the Lee County Humane Society, is challenging incumbent Republican Joe Lovvorn to represent District 79 in the Alabama House of Representatives.

Kling, a Democrat, decided to run after feeling that her voice was not being represented in Montgomery.

"We've had a Republican super majority for eight years," she said. "They've held the governor's mansion and the State Supreme Court. They can pass any legislation that they want right now. There's no having to meet in the middle ... But our state is 47th in education. It's still first in infant mortality, and we deserve better than that.

"I believe government functions best when you have compromise, but to do that, we're going to have to vote some new people into office to help us reach for that middle."

While campaigning, Kling said she has listened to many voice concerns regarding a lack of access to appropriate health care. She said she supports the expansion of Medicaid, which she feels would help rural hospitals stay open.

"There are too many who don't have access to health care," she said. "We have to do something about that. We have to increase our access to mental health care and to drug treatment programs. We've got to stop using our prisons as mental health care facilities, and we have to increase access to treatment programs."

She added that the amount of opioid prescriptions in Alabama combined with the lack of access to health care for many is "really concerning."

King also feels passionately about securing more funding for education initiatives, she said.

While the Alabama Legislature passed its largest education budget in 10 years last session, Kling said that once inflation is factored in, that funding is not enough. To increase the education budget, Kling said she would support a state lottery.

"We are now the only state in the southeast without a lottery," she said. "I get there are some people who have issue with it, but we can’t deny that money is leaving our state and going to provide education for other people’s kids."

An Alabama lottery could help fund various educational programs, like pre-K and vocational education, she said, adding that providing students with vocational education and workforce skills would be an incentive for industry and businesses to locate in the state, thus creating more job opportunities.

Other issues Kling said she would prioritize include the replacement of aging bridges and infrastructure, prison reform and redistricting, which occurs every 10 years and was last done in 2010.

"We're coming up on redistricting in Alabama again. I really think it's key to make sure our district lines are drawn fairly," she said. "And that's something we're going to have to reach across the aisles to do."

Kling, who used to identify as a Republican and who worked for the Republican National Committee in college, said she feels she can work across party lines well. Though she now best identifies with the Democratic Party, she said the experience was valuable and that she can still "remember that perspective."

If elected, she said she would host frequent town halls so she can stay in touch with her constituents and understand their problems.

"I want to make sure people have the opportunity to look me in the face and tell me what their concerns are and what I can do," she said.

To find out more about Kling and where she stands on certain issues, visit her website, or find her on social media.

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