Democrats hold forum for state candidates

Tia Lynn Ivey News

The Morgan County Georgia Democrats (MCGD) brought together seven candidates running for state and federal offices for an informative forum at the Chophouse in Madison last Thursday.

Leaders of the MCGD are hoping to rally Democratic voters to the polls in the upcoming primary election on May 22. Over 60 people filled the Chophouse’s meeting room to hear from Democratic candidates running for office. Candidates took turn speaking and answering questions from the crowd. Candidates included:  John Noel, running for Public Service Commission, Samuel Mosteller, running for Superintendent of Georgia Schools, Chalis Montgomery, running for Georgia’s District 10 Representative, Richard Dien Winfield, also running for District 10 Representative, R. J. Hadley, running for Georgia Secretary of State, Fred Quinn, running for Labor Commissioner, and Sarah Riggs Amico, running for Lt. Governor. There were also two surrogates at the event, June Krise representing Stacey Evans, who is running for Governor, and Hayden Brooks, representing Cindy Zeldin, running for Insurance Commissioner.

“We were pleased so many candidates chose to attend this forum in Morgan County,” said Deneice Rice, first vice chair of the MCGD.  “Each presented his or her views succinctly and enthusiastically, and I am encouraged by the spirit and determination each person displayed.  I am especially delighted with the number of people in the audience who demonstrated a willingness to get involved with these campaigns.  This is a crucial time in our state and our nation.  People need to be knowledgeable about the candidates and actively support those whose views and values they endorse.”

Two of the candidates who spoke at the forum, Chalis Montgomery and Richard Dien Winfield, are vying for the same position, state representative for District 10, and hoping to oust incumbent candidate Jody Hice this November.

“This is our district, it does not belong to Jody Hice. It does not belong to anybody else. Even when I am your congresswoman, it will not belong to me, it will belong to all of us,” said Montgomery, who vows to “fight like a mother” for the citizens of District 10. “I am a person who has never forgotten what it means to be a Democrat and what it means to benefit from some of the so-called ‘dependency’ programs that some like to demean.

Montgomery is advocating for legislative measures to ensure ‘equal pay for equal work for women. Montgomery also promised to support “Medicaid for All” while still preserving choice in the healthcare system. Montgomery promised to also advocate for broadband in rural Georgia.

‘You are looking at the candidate who can build bridges,” said Montgomery, who promised to be a moderate and cooperative force in Congress willing to collaborate with all side to get things done.

Winfield is hoping Georgia Democrats will get behind his vision for America, which echoes President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “new bill of rights” to remedy the ills of the current social order.

“Our nation as a whole has failed to recognize and enforce the social rights without which we cannot curtail the increasing inequality of our nation and defend ourselves from the threats to our democracy,” said Winfield. “I am going back to the call that FDR made in his famous 1944 final address to congress…he said our nation cannot simply rely upon our constitution but we need a new bill of rights that will guarantee everyone a job, a decent wage, that will guarantee everyone affordable housing, that will guarantee everyone healthcare, that will guarantee everyone education at all levels. It will guarantee everyone the means to care for their families and pursue their careers, and will guarantee everyone access to culture. These rights, which are in trying in the universal declaration of human rights have fallen on deaf ears in our own country.”

Winfield is running on a platform of Federal Job Guarantee, which would guarantee a job to anyone who wants one. He also supports a $20 per hour minimum wage to ensure “economic security for all.”

Winfield believes his broad social agenda to eradicate poverty would result in an improved educational and healthcare system and would shut down the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, removing the fear of being fired for reporting sexual harassment, racial discrimination and corporate abuse.

“We need to wipe out poverty once and for all,” said Winfield. “We can be pioneers in our nation…the time is now, for us to began to elect a congress that stands for the social rights we as a nation have neglected.”

Sarah Riggs Amico, a first time political candidate after 15 years in the private sector is hoping to become Georgia’s next Lt. Governor.

“I am new to politics, but I am certianly neither new to public policy nor am I new to management and problem solving,’ said Amico.

“Fundamentally, I don’t believe there are problems we can’t solve.”

She promised to use her business experience to bring jobs to Georgia and put citizens to work. Amico, who has a background in the turning around a failing car hauling business, now heads one of the largest woman-owned businesses in America, employing more than 2000 Teamsters and covering healthcare costs for all of her employees.

“I am not just talking about this, I have done it for thousands of families,’ said Amico. So when your politicians, especially the republicans in our state, tell us they cannot invest in healthcare. They can’t invest in education. They can’t invest in infrastructure.…and they can’t do all those things and grow jobs. You remember Sarah Riggs Amico told you ‘I have done it for 15 years.’ We can walk and chew gum at the same time in the Democratic Party.”

R.J. Hadley, former tax commissioner of Rockdale County, is running for Georgia secretary of state, hoping his background in administration, technology, and fiscal responsibility will sway Georgia voters to cast their ballots for him. During Thursday’s forum, Hadley focused on voter education and updating voting machines throughout the State of Georgia. Hadley noted Georgia’s outdated voting machines are vulnerable to hacking.

“Election integrity and election security is very important for us right now,” said Hadley, who vowed to make improvements to election equipment, the voter registration process, and voter education top priorities should he be elected.

“I will be on top of that as your next secretary of state,” said Hadley, who wants automatic voter registration. “This is something Republicans don’t want to do. They don’t want more  voter participation.”

Samuel Mosteller, running for Superintendent of Georgia Schools, is planning to revamp Georgia’s school systems with discipline and focusing on improving academic performance in primary schools.

“I am a warrior. I am equipped for war, and warfare, because that is what it’s going to take to get the school system back in line,” said Mosteller, who served as a principal in DeKalb County for six years.

“There is no discipline in our schools. Right now, 69 percent of students cannot read at grade level. It’s a crisis…We need to reorient and retune the pre-k through fifth grade. That is where we are falling apart. If you don’t learn to read, write and arithmetic between first grade and third grade, we have lost them. If you don’t get it there, you never get it.”

Mosteller wants to incentivize the best teachers to instruct first-third grade classes to remedy Georgia’s literacy problems as well as address the unique challenges of schools in urban and rural districts.

Fred Quinn is the youngest candidate running for state office at just 30-years-old, hoping to become Georgia’s next Labor Commissioner. “There is a need for new leadership. We have a need for innovative ideas. We have a need for someone to come in to basically make change,” said Quinn. Quinn has experience in the Department of Labor and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He also earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.

John Noel, running for Public Service Commission (PSC), hopes his 20-year background in the energy industry will earn him a place on the commission. Noel promised to put consumers first in the oversight role the PSC plays in regulating companies like Georgia Power.

“I think a business person needs to get on the commission. All these guys are ex-politicians…Nobody has any energy experience. Nobody has any business experience. So just to be able to get in there and make some decisions that make business sense—I know how to make those,” said Noel. 

Georgia voters will be able to cast a ballot for these democratic candidates in the upcoming May 22 election. MCGD want as many voters as possible to turnout to the polls, encouraging people to watch the candidate forum on the group’s Facebook page: Facebook.com/mocogadems.

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