The Times is presenting candidates’ positions on local issues in print editions through the end of April ahead of the May 24 primary. Early voting began May 2. For more coverage, visit gainesvilletimes.com/election2022.
What to know about this race: A 2021 redrawing of district lines moved state Rep. Dewey McClain, D-Lilburn, out of District 100 and into District 109. The two Republican candidates for District 100 are both serving in other House districts in the legislature — David Clark of Buford in District 98 and Bonnie Rich of Suwanee in District 97. The winner will face Democrat Louisa Jackson, who faces no primary opposition.
How to vote: District 100 takes in the Buford portion of South Hall, the northwest corner of Gwinnett County and a small part of South Forsyth. Only those in the district vote. Check your districts at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. Voters select either a Republican or Democrat ballot in the primary.
Meet the candidates
Residence: Sugar Hill
Occupation: Small business owner
Political experience: Served eight years in state House representing District 98
Family: Married with one child and another on the way
Occupation: Tax, estate planning and small business attorney
Political experience: Served four years in state House representing District 97
Family: Married with two children
Candidates on education legislation
The state legislature has focused efforts this year toward giving parents more control over their children’s education. The Parents’ Bill of Rights will require teachers to make lesson plans available on request. Meanwhile, other bills focus on banning the teaching of “divisive concepts” related to race. Opponents say critical race theory, an examination of how societal structures perpetuate White dominance, isn’t being taught in schools and legislation may restrict open discussions about race, civil rights and history.
Clark: “I think the legislature has the role of stepping in when we should. Education should be about teaching the kids — the basic things.” Other potentially divisive issues, such as critical race theory, should be kept out. “That’s for parents to teach.” He acknowledged it’s a balancing act for legislators as they consider when to get involved. “It’s a balance of (schools) teaching kids what they need to know and letting parents be able to raise their kids.”
Rich: An education committee member in the House, she was involved in legislation that “prohibits the teaching of divisive concepts in our classrooms, so I’m very much in favor of that.” Legislative involvement and local control “is always the balance that I’m considering. Pretty much every bill we pass is a preemption of local control, so every legislator has to determine how far is appropriate. All of it depends on what is going on at the current time in history.”
Candidates on health care access
Gov. Brian Kemp signed bipartisan legislation to make mental health care more accessible, and it
includes incentives for training mental health professionals who work with law enforcement. We asked candidates, what other improvements to health care should legislators be looking at, especially in terms of access and affordability?
Clark: He said he believes regulations should be cut or eased to fuel more competitiveness among health care companies. “I’m more for … the government stepping out and letting more of a free market approach” occur. “That makes (health care) more affordable. Again, there’s a balance. Government likes to step in all the time, but by us stepping in, it creates more regulations. We get too involved and it creates more hurdles instead of more of that free market approach.”
Rich: “We do need to improve on affordability and access, not just for low-income people.” Her district is largely middle income and “I know that those individuals have had difficulty obtaining mainstream insurance at an affordable rate.” She believes Medicaid expansion isn’t the answer. “It’s very expensive and does not really achieve the parity that most people think it would. Medicaid (supporters) are really in favor of a universal health care program, “and that’s something I don’t think is good for Georgia.”
Candidates on the state budget
The General Assembly cut state income tax this legislative session and will give out more than $1 billion in tax rebates. Lawmakers also approved raises for teachers and many other state employees, buoyed by strong sales tax revenues during the pandemic creating a large budget surplus. Some candidates have advocated repealing the state income tax completely, but they would have to provide a plan to make back the billions in revenue it provides.
Clark: He said he believes the government should get away from gimmicky tax rebates and focus on more permanent relief. “If we’re bringing in so much additional revenue, maybe we should cut taxes for good instead of just, at campaign time, we’ll give you a check back. That’s like buying a vote.” He added: “The whole goal should be how do we cut taxes for good. Anything else is stealing — if you’re taking more taxes than you need.”
Rich: “I have a very conservative view on taxes. I would like to see our state income tax continue to be reduced, and our legislature has done a really good job of cutting it back. We have a lot of revenue. We have plenty of money right now. Instead of giving tax credits for a multitude of (things), I’d much rather continue cutting our state income tax. I think we could get down to a state income tax” in the 2% range, she said.
Candidates on the Republican Party
Gov. Brian Kemp is being challenged by multiple Republican candidates, including Trump-backed former U.S. Senator David Perdue. Several down-ballot races have a similar divide between candidates backed by former president Donald Trump and those who are not. Is there a significant divide in the Republican Party, and will Trump’s influence continue to be important in these races?
Clark: “I think the struggles we’re having, the reason we’re having so many primary opponents from the governor on down, is because Georgians and Americans, even across party lines, want fighters. They want people who are transparent, who are honest, who are open … who fight for them, will stand in the gap for them and their families.” As for the GOP’s future, “I think we’re all going to come out together, but it’s going to be up to us who are elected.”
Rich: “This has been such a soul-searching, thought-provoking” time for the GOP. Some conservatives have pressed too far, wanting certain requirements placed on private businesses, when, as Republicans, “we don’t tell private individuals or businesses what to do except in extremely limited circumstances.” Otherwise, she believes most Republican lawmakers “try to stay in touch with Georgians and meet them where they are and protect their rights while at the same time balancing public and societal interests.”