This article continues an ongoing series of articles where BamaPolitics.com will ask questions of the candidates running for federal office in 2020. These articles are designed to give our readers an introduction to each candidate and give you a better understanding of why they are running. We also wanted to ask questions, that are not a part of their regular stump speech or talking points. Let us know what you think and let us know if there are questions you have you would like to see answered by reaching out on our BamaPolitics social media or my personal Twitter account @dpreston2020.
Kiani Gardner was born in Hawaii and raised by parents who each owned their own businesses. Kiani is also a wife and a mother. She and her husband, Matt, have been married since 2011. They have two sons, Ethan (5yo) and Nolan (3yo). In the course of building their family, Kiani and Matt became licensed foster parents in 2015. That experience has turned Kiani into a champion for children and policies that will protect and develop all of Alabama’s children. For the past 6 years, Kiani has been a full-time biology professor in the community college system. She chose to teach in the community colleges because she saw it as the most effective way to use her academic training to improve the lives of the members of her communities and expand the middle-class, thus improving the quality of life in her community as a whole. Now, Kiani is working to broaden her impact by running for the US Congress to sponsor and pass legislation that will improve the lives of all Americans.
We recently had the chance to sit down with Mrs. Gardner and ask her some questions about her run for Congress, here are her answers.
Why do you want to be the next Congressperson from Alabama House District 1?
Realistically, here in Alabama, the reason I’m running is I don’t feel that the average Alabaman family is adequately represented. We’ve got a lot of our representation that is pretty lockstep with the Republican party and that’s not in keeping with the values and needs of the community here. As a mom, as a wife, as a member of this community, as a scientist who’s just trained in looking at what phenomena are around me, looking at data and drawing conclusions from that I know that Alabama can do so much better and that our constituents deserve so much better and a stronger representation that’s rooted in our values and our communities here.
What qualifications do you have that you feel makes you qualified to be elected in District 1?
I think probably the biggest qualification that I have is I have a life that is very reminiscent of the lifestyle of most of our constituents. My husband and I, right up until… well, right now I’m a full-time Congressional candidate, but we’ve been a dual working family.
We’ve got kids, paying for daycare, we’re buying uniforms, we’re navigating healthcare systems. I’ve also been in various social and economic situations through foster care and adoption. So one of the qualifications I have is that I know what it’s like to be someone who just wants to work for their family, someone who wants the best policies for their family, and someone who feels like maybe they’re not getting a fair shot in achieving the American dream.
As far as just credentials and professional qualifications, I am a scientist. My Ph.D. is in cell biology. So I’m really well trained in data, in objective decision making, in drawing conclusions that are supported by the data that we have. The other sort of important qualifications that I have, and it’s gonna… we’ll just go with it. In my life, I’ve had sort of these two lessons that I’ve learned at different times that have stuck with me and informed me personally and a lot of the decisions I make. One was in my training as a scientist. I was an undergraduate and a very important advisor of mine taught me to never be so in love with the ideas that you’re blind to the data. An experiment didn’t work the way I thought it was going to work and I was really upset about it and I was insistent that I must have done the experiment wrong. He told me, “Kiani, you can’t love your conclusions more than you love the truth”. And that was really an important lesson for a scientist: to accept the truth and the reality and allow that truth and reality to inform how you view the world.
I think in policy a problem we probably have is people are so in love with their ideas and their ideologies that they’re blind to truth and reality and data. And so a major qualification that I have is that I’m not in lockstep with a party. I am in love with the reality of our lives and I’m in love with how that reality can make our ideas better.
Then the second sort of qualification that I have is from being a foster mom. A lot of people asked when we were fostering, “How you can.”
The Alabama 1st Congressional District is home to the Airbus manufacturing plant yet has never had a Representative on the House Subcommittee on Aviation. If elected would being on that Subcommittee be a goal?
So you know congressional representatives are limited in the number of committees and subcommittees they can serve on. And of course, I would try to get on the committees I want and understand that there’s this black box of assignments that no one really understands. I think the responsibility of a congresswoman is to be on the committees that best serve their community and best serve the country. So that’s going to come from this dual… or looking at both sides of this. What am I good at? What are my interests? What are my special talents and abilities? And then also what’s the needs of my community? And really that’s two committees right there if you think about it.
I would try to get on the committee that best serves this community. And to be frank, I’m not sure whether getting on the aviation subcommittee or a subcommittee that directing military spending is going to be the best way to adequately support and serve this community, but I do think it’s going to be one of those two. We need our congresswoman to be on a committee that is directly influencing policies that are going to grow our economy. I probably foresee, because of my science background and my experiences in research and publishing also, attempting to serve on education and labor force development. Something like that as committee choice but I would attempt to serve on the committee that most immediately would impact economic growth in our area, and I think aviation would probably be a big one.
The Mobile region regularly competes with Seattle and New Orleans for the title of ‘Rainiest City in America’. As a result, sewage overflows are becoming more common in the region. What can you do as a Congressman to help local sewage system operators reduce or eliminate these overflows and protect our local environment?
That’s a real problem I feel pretty strongly about. I have sewage problems. You know, sewage overflows come from blockages or from degraded pipes, tree roots growing into sewer lines, that sort of thing. And one of the things we need to understand when we talk about things like infrastructure, while bridges and roads are really important, sewer systems are an important part of our infrastructure as well. And so one thing we need in our congressional representative is someone up in DC who is actually fighting for infrastructure funding.
I don’t care what anyone else says, Bradley Byrne did not do his job to secure infrastructure funding for our area. Which is how this whole Mobile Bay bridge situation became such a nightmare. We need someone who’s actually willing to say “My region needs this and it’s not just about my town or this district, it’s about the states around us. It’s about our waterways.”
As someone who feels really strongly about quotas, about environmental regulations, the sewer systems are an important need topic for me. The other thing we really need when we’re talking about the sewer system is we need to take a scaled-back look at how we’re allowing our economic development to happen in our areas and in our counties. Baldwin County is a great example. With such huge population growth, we’ve had developers coming in with sort of their eye on this ability to make a lot of money really quickly building tons and tons of homes. We’re not… We’re allowing, and by we, I mean our county officials, our government systems are allowing these developers to outpace our infrastructure needs. We need to have some regulations about how you can build with an eye towards the longevity of the community, with an eye towards sustainable communities, and also with an eye towards just responsible economic development. If you don’t have a sewer system for that housing development, you probably shouldn’t build that housing development.
As a congressional representative, a lot of that’s going to be advocacy. It’s going to be encouraging our local governments to do their job to protect our environment, but it’s also going to be on the federal level working with different agencies like the EPA to secure funding for some of these projects. I’m a great grant writer, I have really good grant success in science at least. In fact, I’ve never written a grant that wasn’t funded. So I’m looking forward to finding some innovative funding sources, writing some grants, and finding ways that we can partner with different environmental protection agencies or environmental regulatory agencies to allow for sustainable and responsible growth in our areas.
Farmers face challenges every day to make a living. One of the challenges they have had to face recently is a growing worldwide trade war between the United States and the rest of the world. What can you do as a member of Congress to help Southwest Alabama weather this challenge, and help bring it to an end?
So my husband actually grew up on a farm. He comes from a farming family and a farming community in North Carolina. I’m actually really interested, and probably more tuned in to the struggle of farming right now than a lot of people would expect a Democrat woman from Hawaii who’s a cell biologist would be.
I have spent a day digging potatoes and it is very hard work digging them up. I think really the major thing we need in our congressional representative in protecting our farmers is someone who’s willing to stand up to this ridiculous trade policy and isn’t willing to blindly support tariffs. We have a problem in our representatives, and it’s trickled down into the general population, of thinking that trade is a zero-sum game. That if you win, I lose; that if I win, you lose.
Realistically trade is a global phenomenon. It can be when done well, a very mutually beneficial thing. What we really need to do is start from conducting smart trade policies that don’t happen on Twitter and actually consider the downstream impact: who’s going to pay for what and how it’s going to cut off certain markets for our farmers. The best thing I can do to support our farmers in regard to trade is to be a very vocal opponent of these mindless trade wars. Let’s say thoughtless trade wars, I do think they’re a little mindless though… Of the thoughtless trade wars and this real sort of callous trade policy that we see where it’s more about posturing than it is about actual economic growth and development.