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: State House District 99
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
My service as attorney for the House Judiciary Committee will allow me to fight for Gwinnett’s taxpayers. I have lived in Gwinnett for around two decades practicing law at Andersen, Tate & Carr, the largest full-service law firm in Gwinnett. I have seen the impact of Georgia public policy on hardworking Georgians. We need to continue to be the No. 1 place to do business, and not govern from the mindset that Georgia is the worst place to live, or that we should be more like New Jersey. As a Mercer and UGA alum as well as a south Georgia native, I have experience that provides common ground with the 180 state House members from across Georgia. My children are still in school, and my mother-in-law lives nearby in Duluth, so my wife Suzette and I know the important issues that face three generations in our community.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
State government should do a few things and do them well, and leave the rest of the money and authority to hardworking Georgians and local elected officials. Georgia should stay pro-jobs and fight inflation through small business and hard work, rather than big government, spending and regulations. We urgently need to reduce the property tax burden on Gwinnett’s taxpayers, through a higher homestead exemption for county taxes and improved appeal procedures that ensure that the government does not inflate our tax value higher than the market. We need to continue to lower the income tax burden. We need to respect, support and defend law enforcement and public safety, and not disrespect and defund the police and school police. Half of our state budget goes to education, and we need to make sure that our schools are focused on academic excellence.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
Fight for Gwinnett’s homeowners and taxpayers, promote jobs and work, fight inflation, lower taxes, support public safety, promote academic excellence in our schools, and be an effective advocate for my three cities — Suwanee, Sugar Hill and Duluth.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
As a Duluth resident and business lawyer for two decades, every day I have worked with Georgians from diverse backgrounds who have moved here from all across the state, nation, and world to live the American dream. Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Latino, Black and other churches, professional organizations, civic groups and other institutions in the fabric of life in my community have taught me so much, that I will take to the Georgia House. We need more people in public service who are problem-solvers, use common sense, and pursue common ground.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
Brooks Coleman is a neighbor and friend who did a great job as House education chairman. I was former Judiciary Chair Wendell Willard’s counsel during the 2008 Georgia General Assembly, and learned a lot from his advocacy for new cities in North Fulton and North DeKalb, and about local governments, reforming Fulton County government, how to pass and defeat bills, and from his Marine and banking careers before becoming a lawyer and Judiciary chairman. During college I worked for U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, and I learned about bipartisan problem-solving and common sense solutions, agribusiness, and national defense. In high school, I worked for Tillie Kidd Fowler, Jacksonville, Florida’s first Republican Member of Congress, who kept her word to term-limit herself, and focused on supporting Jacksonville’s Navy bases and constituent services.
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 legislation and executive actions?
A family in Ruby Forest told me their property taxes went up $1,500 in one year. A homeowner in Duluth used to pay $16,000 a year in residential property taxes on a modest home in New Jersey. Lowering the residential tax burden is urgently needed in Gwinnett. The current inflation and supply chain crisis has caused homebuilding costs to skyrocket. Big government “solutions” is something people should be skeptical of when it comes to housing costs. State government should not pick winners and losers when it comes to real estate development, particularly apartments and rentals. I am focused on fighting for the quality of life for the homeowners and neighborhoods in Suwanee, Sugar Hill and Duluth. These cities have been innovative and have already delivered a variety of housing options. I will fight coercive, top-down agendas that would make Georgia more like New Jersey.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
Some principles that come to mind are: 100% of nothing is nothing. Fight from the high ground. Pick battles wisely, and know when it’s just one battle, or the whole war that is at stake. Don’t win the argument but kill the relationship. When I was House Judiciary Committee Counsel in 2008, there were around 1,300 bills, only a few hundred of which passed. I will focus on important public policy needs for our community.
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?
The 2022 primary had record turnout with few problems, and hopefully Georgia will be a state where its easy to vote and hard to cheat in the 2022 general election. Ballot security and the rule of law are important. I trust the people of Suwanee, Sugar Hill & Duluth in the 2022 election and look forward to seeing who my neighbors elect up and down the ballot.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion.
Courts are performing judicial review on the Georgia’s abortion law. In law school, I read all of the court decisions on point at that time. Since then, my Vietnamese, Latino and other Catholic neighbors and friends in particular have persuaded me to value human life during pregnancy, childhood, and throughout life. Life is a sacred gift. I will be a workhorse and not a showhorse on this issue, and will focus on making adoption more affordable in Georgia, and other ways to help women and children. I will promote personal responsibility, through more aggressive child support efforts to let prospective biological fathers know they will be expected to take financial responsibility for their children. An unexpected pregnancy is a scary situation, and I will approach this matter with love, conscience and practical solutions.
Are there any programs/legislation you’ve sponsored or created to help people with disabilities?
Local architect Rob Ponder of Duluth, my law firm colleague Liz Clack-Freeman and I have worked on Americans with Disabilities Act real estate cases concerning access to local businesses. Earlier in my legal career, Tom Tate, Liz Clack-Freeman, I worked on a case concerning the ADA’s applicability to drug rehab centers. After the rise of mental health issues during the pandemic and with our anxious and fast-paced world of technology and social media, I want to make sure that Georgians are able to get mental health assistance when needed, in addition to access and support for more traditionally known or visible disabilities.
Georgia closed out its budget year with a “likely record surplus, billions of dollars in federal aid and a growing economy.” Georgia spends more than half of this money on education and health care. What would you want to see in the budget in terms of spending or taxes?
Georgia should not take on long-term spending commitments with one-time money. A lot of Georgia’s budget surplus has come from some of the federal COVID-19 spending that has placed our economy into a state of inflation, and other contributions to the surplus are likely temporary. Therefore, Georgia should not lock in major spending initiatives based on this situation. We should constantly reduce the tax burden on working people as much as possible to send the right message that Georgia values work and jobs, which will keep Georgia the No.1 place to do business. Georgia was able to fully fund our QBE (Quality Basic Education Act) education formula once Georgia became the No. 1 place to do business, after decades of failing to meet that education funding level when our state economy was more at the middle of the pack. In good times and bad, we need to keep education and public safety as our priorities.
The Legislature often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?
I will always be on the lookout for the elusive common ground in which centrist Democrats, independents, Libertarians, and Republicans agree. I have a long-term track record of promoting nonpartisanship. As Gwinnett County Bar Association President nearly a decade ago, I was part of a group which supported making the Gwinnett Probate Judge and Gwinnett Magistrate Judge positions nonpartisan, and I have the bill signing pen from when Gov. Deal signed off on that nonpartisan change. My aunt was a Probate Judge in southwest Georgia who changed from being a partisan official to nonpartisan official when I worked in the state House in 2008. Years ago, I advocated making most Gwinnett County offices nonpartisan, like Suwanee, Sugar Hill and Duluth offices already are.