Brad Cox, Bryan Brinyark competing in GOP runoff for Tuscaloosa-area House seat
Brad Cox from Fayette (left) and Bryan Brinyark (right) from Windham Springs moved on the a special runoff election for House District 16. (Photos courtesy of Cox and Brinyark, Graphic: Alander Rocha/Alabama Reflector)
The two Republicans facing off in the Oct.24 GOP runoff for House District 16 are both conservative.
But Brad Cox and Bryan Brinyark would bring vastly different experiences to Goat Hill.
Cox, 33, a Fayette County Commissioner since 2021, worked as a high school teacher before becoming a banker. He was appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey in 2021 and then ran unopposed in 2022.
“I feel like I have a lot of talents and abilities that have enabled me to serve well, and really kind of at the core that is just a desire to serve my community, to see the community grow and to help others,” Cox said in an interview.
Brinyark, 55, is a Windham Springs resident and a lawyer with 30 years of experience. He was appointed and currently serves as a Centreville municipal court judge, a position he has held since 2005. He is also a back-up judge for Tuscaloosa.
Brinyark said said several people he respected encouraged him to consider a House run, which he had not thought about before Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, stepped down this summer to lead the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce.
“I’m at a time in my life that it makes sense,” Brinyark said. “I don’t think I should complain about things they do down there if I’m not willing to go down and help, so it’s my time to serve.”
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Cox and Brinyark finished first and second in the Sept. 26 primary, with only 15 votes separating them. The winner of the runoff will face Democratic nominee John Underwood in the general election on Jan. 9, 2024.
House District 16 includes Fayette County, northern Tuscaloosa County and western Jefferson County.
Cox and Brinyark have broadly similar views on the issues. Both candidates talked about the need to build better infrastructure to support job creation.
Brinyark said that Berry in Fayette County just got fiber internet. That, he said, will allow businesses to run more efficiently. But Brinyark said that the district needs more accessible roads. District constituents want Highway 43 widened from Tuscaloosa to Fayette, he said, and the district can’t attract industry if businesses can’t get their product to the markets easily.
Brinyark called the lack of accessible roads for commerce in the district a “negative force.”
“If they’re having to run curvy roads all the time, it hampers their ability to take their product and it makes it less or less,” he said. “It doesn’t make it a good sight to have that business or that industry in your county or in that area if they don’t have good roads and that ability.”
Cox said infrastructure has been a priority as county commissioner, citing the development of a five-year plan to repair roads in Fayette County and the purchase of new equipment.
Cox said better infrastructure would attract good jobs and keep people in the area to work at them. He said he’d like to start by focusing on training young people in the district for high-paying tech jobs.
“I think people in this district want their kids to go to a good school, and they want to drive on a good road — they want good infrastructure,” Cox said.
On education, both candidates believe that parents should have more oversight over their children’s schooling.
Brinyark supports vouchers, and said that parents “ought to be able to take [public school] money with [them] out of the voucher system.”
Brinyark said he believes it promotes competition amongst schools and that people would be better off if they are able to choose a better education for their children.
“I believe in freedom, and that is something that I think people should be free to do,” he said.
Cox said that while there aren’t any private or charter schools in his district that he is aware of, he also supports giving parents more options to enroll their child in a school they are not zoned for.
“I think it goes beyond just being a school choice matter, but just a matter of freedom and liberty in general,” Cox said.
People in the district, he said, are fortunate to have good-ranking public schools, but he said that if he lived in an area that did not have a high-ranking school, he would want his child to have “every opportunity they had to succeed educationally.”
“If I lived in one of those districts, or one of those counties, and I had a child that I thought could benefit from a charter school, a private school, a religious school, if I thought my son would get a better education, I would absolutely send him there,” Cox said. “And I would hope that I get some kind of assistance from the state in terms of tax relief, because I’m already paying taxes that go toward public education.”
When asked about diverting funds from public schools to be used by private schools or homeschooling, he said “you can have your cake and eat it too.”
“I think there’s a way that you can fund charter schools and other educational opportunities without robbing public education coffers,” he said. “I’m for charter schools. I’m not for defunding good public schools that we have,” adding that a solution that addresses both issues needs to be found.
Cox said that the ability to go to charter schools is a right of “every mom and dad in the state,” but when it comes to providing gender-affirming care to children, he feels that parents need to wait until their children are adults.
“Most of the time parents know best. Sometimes they don’t, and I think this is a prime example of that,” he said.
He said he doesn’t have any “malice” toward transgender people, but he feels that treatment needs to be delayed as children don’t have the “full-cognitive ability.”
Brinyark said that as a Christian, he believes “there are men and there are women.”
“I think you have a gender at birth, and especially don’t think that children ought to be making decisions that affect that when they are a child,” he said.
Broadly accepted standards of care for transgender minors can include doctor-guided hormone therapy in conjunction with social transitioning, which can include changing the child’s name, pronouns and style of dress, and treatment is personalized. Surgery is not the standard of care for transgender minors and much less common than hormone treatment, but the data on how many gender-altering surgeries in minors is not clear.
Medical organizations, including the American Pediatric Association, The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and the Association of American Medical Colleges, generally support gender-affirming care for minors.
The candidate who wins will face Democratic candidate John Underwood in the General Election for the seat in January.
South won House District 16 with 75% of the vote in 2014. He ran unopposed in 2018 and 2022.
Cox has raised $60,544 as of Sept. 30 and spent $39,008. He has accepted $46,000 from 14 PACs, with Alabama Voice of Teachers For Education as the largest donor, totalling $15,000.
Brinyark has raised $68,955.00, as of Oct. 6, and spent $61,260. He has accepted $34,000 from seven PACs, with Alabama Development PAC as the largest donor, totalling $8750.
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