The Times will be publishing candidate information over the next few weeks for contested races, which can be found at gainesvilletimes.com/election2020. The Times is also offering virtual forums for select races: state House District 29 and 30 and U.S. House District 9. The District 30 event is 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1. Register online and learn more at gainesvilletimes.com/timestalks.
As a lawyer, caring about laws and following the legislature were part of the job. But government hit home when Leigh Miller’s oldest daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3.
“We quickly saw how devastatingly expensive insulin can be for families,” said the Flowery Branch woman, who, as a political newcomer, hopes to unseat state Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, from his state House District 30 office in the Nov. 3 general election.
“Having a background in insurance law, I thought I was in a good position to figure out what the best plan for our family was, what the best solution was, and there was no solution.”
The experience motivated her to run for office. District 30 covers the southern portion of Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Oakwood and Gillsville.
“There was no one fighting for our family or for other families in Georgia who can’t afford these life-necessary prescription medicines,” Miller said. “That is what I’m fighting for. That’s the most important thing.”
The 40-year-old said she realizes she is seeking a state, not federal office, "but there are tiny steps we can take to help Georgia families. We can put a (co-pay) cap on insulin.”
The Gwinnett County native and Emory University School of Law graduate stopped practicing when her third child was born, but she kept her hand in the business doing legal work for a family-owned business, Yonah Mountain Vineyards in White County.
That legal work led to concerns "about our state laws, our state budget and what our (elected) representatives are doing for the state of Georgia.
Her top issue is health care.
“I think that all Georgians should have access to care they can actually afford,” Miller said. “I’ve spoken to so many people who do have insurance but don’t see the doctor because it is too expensive. So, we’re missing out on all this preventative care, which is costing Georgia money in the long run.”
She believes Georgia should expand Medicaid to more low-income individuals and families. By not doing so, “Georgia has lost out on billions of dollars, and it’s reflected in rural hospitals closing and people’s insurance premiums going up. … These are tax dollars we’ve already paid, and the federal government has taken and given to other states for their health care systems.”
Plus, expanding Medicaid “would definitely help during a pandemic,” Miller said.
Her three daughters — who are ages 6, 8 and 10 and students at Martin Technology Academy in South Hall — is a big reason why another of her major concerns is education. Miller also is on the PTO at Martin.
On the issues
She favors expanding Medicaid. By not doing so, “Georgia has lost out on billions of dollars, and it’s reflected in rural hospitals closing and people’s insurance premiums going up. These are tax dollars we’ve already paid, and that the federal government has taken and given to other states for their health care systems.”
“There is no example where (cutting taxes) makes everything better. We need to ... think outside the box. One of the easiest things we can do is expand Medicaid,” which also could stimulate the economy. “It doesn’t make any senses that we have chosen to give that money to the federal government and not chosen to take it back."
COVID-19 pandemic response
“I would personally like to see more of a guiding hand from the state. I can say, as a small business owner, especially in March through June, it was really confusing. You want business owners to have freedom, but at the same time … if the state had just said at all businesses, you need to wear masks indoors, that would have been be so much easier for us.”
Law enforcement issues, reforms
“Our police officers should get paid more, and they should have more training. We need to invest in them further — give them more help, more social workers to help them.”
“I think education is our greatest resource. I think we should invest in our students, teachers and our schools,” Miller said, adding that she believes the state needs to keep education fully funded.
“It’s a ticket to a better future, and we all know that,” she said. “Why we don’t put our money where our mouth is, I don’t understand.”
Miller said she believes education should especially be a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, “when we’re asking teachers to go back to school and put their health on the line. And we’re doing the same thing for our students. They need more resources, not less.”
And that funding should be reflected in Georgia’s budget as lawmakers head to the 2021 session in January.
“Our budget is a moral document,” she said. “It should reflect our values and our morals.”