Opelika native Jeremy Gray was sworn in Wednesday as the District 83 representative in the Alabama House.
The ceremony was held at Greater Peace Missionary Baptist Church.
After a primary and runoff race, the Democrat Gray was declared the District 83 winner on Tuesday night. Gray had a total of 4,327 votes, or 58.99 percent, while his Republican opponent, Michael J. Holden, had 2,990 votes and 40.76 percent.
“I feel pretty good, going through the primary with three other opponents then going through the runoff," Gray said. "I kind of became almost like a veteran running those two campaigns, so the third one was a smoother transition for me and made it where I felt comfortable with what I was doing and I felt like I was running a quality race."
Gray said he ran for the position because he started realizing how government leaders didn’t have any representation for the future generation.
“We needed someone to bridge that gap. So sometimes, you are called into a career and profession because it's needed. And that is what my whole aspirations were for running,” he continued. “We needed someone to bridge the gap and someone that understands the youth, but still respects the elders. I believe I can bridge that gap and find a common place where we can all have what we want.”
Gray said he has a broad scope of goals for District 83 because a majority of his district consists of African Americans. He plans to focus on issues such as prison reform, decriminalizing marijuana, education lottery, putting money back in public schools, finding work and economic opportunities. Gray also thinks District 83 needs an expansion of Medicaid.
Gray is also focusing on the rural areas in his district and the citizens that care about agricultural businesses. He thinks this will make him more diverse as well.
'A clear vision'
Pastor Clifford Jones was at Greater Peace Missionary Baptist Church Wednesday when Gray was sworn in, just like he was 25 years ago when Gray was one of the first children he baptized.
“I think he will do well. He’s focused, he knows where he has come from and knows what needs to be done,” Jones said. “He has a clear vision about what needs to be done to help the community and have an impact in the state, and will make a good legislator.”
Gray's mother also was present for the swearing-in ceremony.
“I am truly blessed and proud of Jeremy,” said Valerie Gray. “This is not what he planned to do, but this is what God had for him to do, and so I am glad he decided to be a part of his district to improve it.”