The responses to these questions were edited for length and clarity by the Georgia Decides team. Each candidate was allotted 150 words for each answer and some answers were trimmed in order to abide by that length requirement. Other edits were made to make sure readers can fully follow and understand the candidate responses.
Campaigning for: US House Georgia District 13
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
I have decades of experience in the Georgia State House, State Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. Through these years of work representing Georgians, I have developed an expertise in navigating legislative systems to bring back dollars and results for my district. I now serve as Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and in this senior role I am able to exercise influence at the highest levels of leadership to be the most effective legislator I can be.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
I believe that the government should exist to improve the lives of Georgians and ensure that essential needs and rights are being met. In my role as Congressman for the 13th Congressional District, I have worked to provide funding for housing assistance and to ensure that our health care system functions for all. I will continue to ensure that our government systems are strong, effective, and work for all Georgians.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
As Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, my top priority in Congress is food security. With the Farm Bill reauthorization coming up in 2023, protecting SNAP and strengthening our food supply chain are among my major areas of focus so we can ensure that all Americans have access to healthy, affordable food.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
I believe that there are always ways we can find common ground with those who have differing opinions. I have developed a strong history of bipartisanship and cultivating relationships across the aisle to deliver for Georgia. One of my proudest achievements, securing $80 million in funding for scholarships at our 19 1890s African American Land Grant Colleges and Universities, was the product of bipartisan collaboration. I will continue to draw upon this experience to find ways to advance those priorities that are best for Georgia.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
I have been incredibly blessed to be surrounded by incredible friends and mentors throughout my life. Julian Bond and I were office mates in the state legislature, Andrew Young has been a friend for many decades, and Hank Aaron was my brother-in-law. All of them shaped my sense of conviction, my understanding of courage, and my ability to collaborate with others. There are so many other friends, confidants, and leaders that Georgia has produced that deserve recognition, but that is my personal Mount Rushmore.
Georgia has a lot to offer current and potential residents, but many parts of the state are becoming increasingly unaffordable. Please explain your proposed approach to address housing affordability through federal legislation and executive actions?
In my role as a senior member on the House Financial Services Committee, I have supported legislation targeted at improving housing affordability by increasing down payment assistance programs, ensuring fair closing costs and fees, strengthening federal investments in new affordable housing construction and rehabilitation of existing affordable housing, and fighting against predatory refinancing schemes. Most importantly, I secured $10 billion in funding for Homeowner Assistance through the American Rescue Plan so that families impacted by COVID-19 can get the help they need to remain in their homes. I look forward to building on this record to ensure all Georgians have access to safe and affordable housing.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
As Chairman of the powerful House Agriculture Committee, I am frequently placed in a position where compromise meets conviction. In my years in Congress, I know that I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas, but I know one when I see it, which is why I cosponsor bipartisan legislation and move republican legislation out of committee. I would never allow anyone to pressure me or my committee to move forward with legislation that compromised my values though, which is why we are standing strong on the Farm Bill which we will be completing next Congress.
There were politicians who questioned the outcomes of Georgia elections in 2018 and 2020. Do you think Georgia’s elections are secure and will you stand by the results?
Elections should be decided by voters, not politicians. When there are questions about the process or outcome of an election, all candidates have a right to avail themselves of our judicial system. The courts have ruled on both the 2018 and 2020 elections, and we should accept those decisions. We must preserve the integrity of our elections, which are the bedrock of our democracy, and ensure that every eligible voter has access to the ballot box. Anything that obstructs the vote is unAmerican.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion. If elected, how will you use your authority in the U.S. House to influence abortion access or enforcement of abortion restrictions?
As a senior member of the Democratic Caucus, I proudly stood with my colleagues to pass legislation affirming and protecting a woman’s right to choose. I firmly believe that reproductive health decisions should be made by a woman with her doctor, and without the involvement of the government. We owe women the respect and trust to make the decisions that are best for them and for their families, and I look forward to continuing to fight for legislation codifying nationwide access to abortion care.
The U.S. Congress often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?
Voting outcomes are a reflection of leadership. That is why I like to focus on the work happening in my committee. I work well with the ranking member, whom I strive to respect and include, which means that he rarely feels the need to undermine our work by whipping party-line votes. We may have different ideas on how to specifically achieve our aims, but Democrats and Republicans are very aligned on Agriculture. You do without a lot, but no Democrat or Republican can do without the food, shelter, or endless other products derived from our nation’s number one industry: agriculture.