Written By: Michael Straw
Edited By: Annie Phan
This year, Democratic parties across the country grow and rebuild after Republican shellacking in 2010, 2014, 2016. Yet in Georgia, Democrats have yet to score a victory in recent special elections following defeat in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District and a loss in State Senate District 22. However, all is not lost for Georgia Democrats as there are not one, not two, but three special elections on November 7th where GA Democrats could pick up seats in the State Senate and the State House of Representatives.
Democrats field Deborah Gonzalez in the special election for Georgia House of Representative District 117, an open Republican-held seat in Athens, GA. Gonzalez, an attorney who has practiced for 19 years, created a DG4GA platform that includes support for a living wage, anti-discrimination reform, net neutrality support, women’s reproductive rights, and a change to partisan gerrymandering along with healthcare and education reforms.
In an exclusive interview with Deborah Gonzalez, Ready2Vote got to know the candidate.
Ready2Vote: What got you into this race?
Deborah Gonzalez: There were a number of reasons for why I got into this race at this time. First, was the recognition that a number of rights I and many around me were taking for granted could be lost if not fought for – examples include healthcare, women’s reproductive rights, protection for children, etc. Second, was the personal reflection that those rights were in jeopardy because of voices like mine – minority and female – were not in positions of power to make sure all people in the district were being represented in the Capitol Dome. Last, was the acceptance of the duty my father, a military veteran, has instilled in me – when there is something to be done and you are the only one who can do it, you have the responsibility to do so.
R2V: What are the main three issues you see facing the district and how will you tackle them in the state legislature?
Gonzalez: Three important challenges facing people in my district are making sure people have healthcare at affordable rates, making sure our children are safe (for me that includes ensuring quality public education and resources to help students against cyber-bullying, etc.) and making sure there are new pathways to prosperity for all District 117 residents. My proposal on health care is to push for expansion of Medicaid on the state level and support Medicare for All on the federal level. Keeping our children safe can be accomplished with providing resources to schools (and not cutting funding from the state budget every year for it) and to families. Access to prosperity means to look beyond the standard definition of economic development (just manufacturing jobs) to a definition that is broad enough to include innovations in technology, renewable energy, agribusiness, and the entertainment industries.
R2V: How are you reaching out to the community during this campaign?
Gonzalez: I love being with the people of District 117. Whether it is a community forum, canvassing and knocking on their doors, sharing a bite at a festival, interacting on social media, or speaking to them on the phone, listening and learning their stories keep me going. From these interactions, I’ve learned a few things: 1. Everyone has a story and most stories contain some struggle or heartbreak, 2. No one story invalidates another, but in truth, all these stories together make us stronger. 3. We have so much more in common than what sets us apart. Part of our commonality is the desire to protect our children, provide for our families, and help each other succeed – by making sure we are healthy, have quality education, and access to livable paying jobs and opportunity. We are neighbors, colleagues, friends, and family. We are in this together and together we make this is a great District to live, work and play in.
The GOP’s candidate, Houston Gaines consults at Lighthouse Counsel, an Athens-based company that partners with nonprofits.
This district is particularly interesting. HD-117 consists of four counties - Clark, Barrow, Jackson, and Oconee counties. In 2016, Donald Trump won the district 49.44% to 46.06%, however, he did not carry Clark County, the population anchor of the district. If Gonzalez wins, she will need to outperform Hillary Clinton in Clark County or keep her performance on par with the 2016 Clark County margin. Additionally, Gonzales would need to carry a higher percentage in Oconee, Jackson, and Barrow counties as seen below.
In order to win a seat such as this, we need to galvanize support from Democrats across the country. If states such as Georgia are going to be open to voting for Democrats, then funds and support must go to races such as these in order to help gain Democratic influence. Let’s help Deborah Gonzalez succeed in this battle to take another Trump seat away from the GOP! Donate $5 to her campaign today!
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