Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Alabama Trucking leaders break down midterm elections at Town Hall event

This week, ATA held the latest installment of its semi-regular meeting series Alabama Trucking Town Hall with political strategist Rob Engstrom and ATA President and CEO Mark Colson providing insights and detail on the upcoming General Elections.

Engstrom is the founder of Wolfe Street Partners, a full-service strategic advocacy firm advising trade associations, corporations, and state and local chambers of commerce. He’s a regular speaker on political and advocacy issues for a range of audiences and leads the American Bankers Association’s political engagement operations, including the association’s political action committee, grassroots advocacy, and voter education initiatives.

Based in Alexandria, Va., he has previously served in various capacities for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Republican National Committee and also worked on former Speaker of the U.S. House Representatives Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign. He was recognized by Campaigns & Elections magazine as one of the top 50 influencers in the 2014 election.

In his presentation, Engstrom weaved through topics ranging from national election race projections as conservative leaders seek to gain House and Senate seats in key states to flip control of the Legislative Branch to Republicans to various court battles for redistricting in several states. 

“The balance of power in both houses is at play,” Engstrom said. “It’s unclear which way it will go. We remain in a protracted period of disruption in our politics in this country. There used to be a bipartisan agreement to move legislation. There were things that the left and the right would work together on to get done for our country. That (cooperation) has moved and changed significantly since the early nineties. It deals with social, economic, and international issues. This environment creates challenges for the trucking industry (and other business sectors).”

Engstrom said that all elections are about one of two things: intensity and persuasion. For instance, hot-button issues such as the Dobbs Decision with regard to Roe V. Wade have given a life raft to the Democratic Party, particularly in swing districts where Republicans need those districts in order to be successful to win back the House and Senate.

He explained issues like abortion and redistricting don’t necessarily impact the trucking industry directly. Still, they will affect the environment to get things done that truckers care deeply about, such as improved infrastructure, job creation, tort reform and tax fairness.

“For this election, there will be a historic turnout on all the issues that we have talked about,” he said. “The question is, ‘Where does that center of gravity live?’ Is it on social issues for the Democrats or is it about inflation and other economic kitchen-table issues (that typically strengthen Republican campaigns)? These are personal issues and will guide the outcome drastically one way or the other. The bigger question is what kind of composition will we have in the Legislative branch following this election.”

Engstrom does see Republicans, who need only 5 seats to win back the majority in the House, will pick 15-20 seats this election and give them additional power to keep the current administration in check.

However, with the Senate evenly divided, he thinks Republicans must play defense and also pick up four seats to gain the majority. He adds that will be a challenge for Republicans this time around, especially with key races in Florida, Georgia, Ohio Pennsylvania and South Carolina sapping finances that could help other races across the country.

For an outlook for state races, Colson recounted ATA’s successful work in the recent Primary Elections, where ATA political action committee TRUK PAC worked to promote and support business candidates who understand the role of trucking in today’s economy. 

Colson pointed to the successful campaigns of Katie Britt and Dale Strong for claiming the GOP nominations for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House District 5 respectively, and also previewed the upcoming Organizational Session of the Alabama Legislature occurring in January, hitting on key issues Alabama Trucking will tackle in the 2023 Regular Legislative Session.

The 2022 U.S. elections will be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. During this midterm election year, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested. To register vote or update your information visit, the Alabama Secretary of State’s webpage here.