Yolanda Flowers is the first to say she’s not like the rest of Alabama’s gubernatorial candidates.
“I’m different,” Flowers said during Thursday night’s Democratic runoff debate. “I come with the perspective – and I make no slight of it – my campaign is based on the word of God.”
The Birmingham native is facing off against Sen. Malika Sanders Fortier of Selma in the runoff to become the state’s Democratic candidate for governor June 21. The winner will face Republican Gov. Kay Ivey in November.
Flowers has been backed by Democrats for Life, a national group that seeks to “defend universal human rights” by opposing issues like abortion, assisted suicide and the death penalty. In an interview, Flowers said she hopes to provide counseling for mothers who are considering abortion and to establish more resources for people who carry babies to term but don’t want to raise them. She said she does not believe that abortion should be illegal.
If someone is pregnant, receives counseling and still decides they want to terminate a pregnancy, Flowers said that “we can’t abuse our authority,” and that the state should leave the decision up to the individual.
“We don’t need to ban abortion, but abortion need to be done safely,” Flowers said. “I’m not trying to sway them, I’m not trying to change their minds, but just giving them information and informed choices so that they can make a real choice.”
In 2019, the state to ban abortions at all stages of pregnancy except to protect women from serious health risks. A federal judge blocked the law, but it could be in position to take effect if Supreme Court justices overturn Roe v. Wade in a case involving a Mississippi law. A Supreme Court decision is expected at the end of the month.
Flowers also said she supports the rights of gun owners, but believes that the state should implement more stringent laws about purchasing and usage.
“Don’t you know that we can have gun laws that allow folks to keep their guns and keep Alabamians safe?” Flowers asked in her virtual criminal justice town hall meeting. “I’m asking you just to call me not “this or that,” but to call me an “and” candidate.”
Flowers also said she wants to raise Alabama’s legal age for gun owners from 18 years old to 21.
“For a child: 18 years old – that is too much power, so we need to do something better,” she said during Thursday’s debate.
Flowers said that she wants psychological evaluations for people who want to purchase guns in the state, as well as training for pawn brokers and other gun salespeople.
Flowers’ suggestion to increase the legal purchasing age comes in the midst of a years-long national conversation about different ways to address gun violence.
While the June 16 debate was airing, a gunman entered a potluck dinner at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, injuring and killing three Alabama residents.
This spring, the state legislator also continued efforts to remove some regulations on gun owners, ending a permit requirement for concealed carry.
Flowers, who recently lost her husband Curtis Flowers, is a mother of three. She has 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
She was born in Birmingham in 1961 and educated in the Birmingham public school system before moving to Tennessee to attend college. After three decades, Flowers is back in what she calls “my dear Alabama.”
She said her grandson encouraged her to run for governor after pointing out the state’s lack of Black leaders.
Her website details four main focuses: education, health care, criminal justice and the economy. Flowers lists each focus as “reconstruction.”
“God has given me a vision of what he saw in Alabama,” she said during the debate.
Flowers’ campaign intersects with many critical and polarized moments in Alabama’s history: Bans on transgender treatment of minors, the possibility of near-total limits on abortion, sharp debates on gun control and education struggles.
As an educator herself, Flowers has been eager to speak about her proposed reconstruction of the education system. She received her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville after obtaining a bachelor of arts degree in audiology. She worked in the education system in Tennessee for decades before moving back to Alabama, where she was a substitute teacher in Birmingham city schools for three years.
She called her proposed education reform plan LIFE – or “learning is forever evolving.”
In a virtual town hall meeting May 3, Flowers said she would like more support for children’s mental and behavioral health, such as increased screenings.
One of Flowers’ plans for criminal justice reform is the creation of what she calls her “justice league” team. In efforts to keep the state’s parole board accountable, Flowers said she will assemble a group of lawyers, law students, researchers and a judge.
In an interview, she said the group would sit in on parole hearings and meet with officers beforehand. The team would also keep watch on prison operations and establish an accountability database. She said there would be multiple groups placed throughout the state.
Flowers said that she wants each legislator to walk through every prison in the state.
When it comes to health care, Flowers wrote on her website that she plans to expand Medicaid coverage for more older adults in the state, as well as workers who cannot afford health coverage. Alabama is among 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid.
In her first virtual town hall meeting April 26, Flowers spoke of her reconstructed health plan and said she hopes the state’s legislators “will help uninsured people and those people who are poor, the poor working class citizens and the small businesses to be able to obtain health care, premium health care, this healthcare that all of us deserve.”
Flowers also hopes to implement the lottery in Alabama.
She cites the impact of the lottery on her education, health care and economic reconstruction pages, saying that it would help provide revenue to improve infrastructure, support teachers and schools and make prescription drugs more affordable.
“We are surrounded by gambling states, and they are thriving and we are not,” Flowers said in an interview.
Flowers’ additional economic priorities include raising minimum wage in the state to $15 an hour, expanding broadband coverage, supporting small businesses and hiring more police officers, according to her website.