District 117 Candidate Forum, question by question

We posted the entire video of the 117 session, but the questions being asked and links to those specific moments are below:

Calendar for 2017 Elections

It’s that time of year, as the “days until” countdown above shows.

The original schedule was adjusted slightly for the qualification deadline because of Hurricane Irma, but the critical dates are:

Last Day to Qualify: Friday September 15 If you want to run for any of this year’s offices, you need you have your paperwork filed and fees paid by today.  Typically that’s done at either the city or county election board offices.

Voter Registration Deadline: Tuesday, October 10  Anyone not registered to vote by this deadline can’t vote in 2017.   You can register on-line; remember you’ll need to bring a photo id to the polls.  (And if you miss the deadline, register anyway, to get it done… but you’ll have to wait until 2018 to cast your ballot.)

Early Voting: Monday, October 16 through Friday, November 3  If you want to vote, but don’t expect to be able to make the polls on November 7, here’s your window.  Early voting in Oconne is at 10 Court Street Watkinsville, GA 30677, Monday to Friday, 8AM to 5PM.  Absentee and mail-in ballots accepted in the same timeframe.  Saturday voting is available October 28 (only), 9am to 4pm, at the same location.

General Election: Tuesday, November 7 This is the big day.  Go to your polling place and cast a ballot!

Early Voting for Special Election Run-off: ends December 1  Assuming no candidate in the 119th race gets 50% on the first ballot (that’s the only race with more than two candidates), the top two face-off in a run-off.  The Secretary of State calendar doesn’t list a start for early/absentee voting on that (probably as soon as they can get ballots printed!), but the end is December 1.

Special Election Run-off: Tuesday, December 5 With four candidates competing for the 119th, if no candidate gets 50% of the vote on November 7th, it’s important that you cast your ballot again on December 5th.  (The run-off pits the top two candidates against each other.)

Interview with Deborah Gonzalez

This year, both of Oconee County’s two districts for the Georgia State House are up for special elections: both Rep. Regina Quick and Rep. Chuck Williams (both Republicans) have accepted other positions, as a federal judge and as head of the state Forestry Commission respectively.

Athens attorney Deborah Gonzalez is running in the 2017 special election for the 117th district, hoping to claim Regina Quick’s former seat.  She recently gave us an interview covering her background, her views on state government, and many of the issues facing the state house today.

Deborah told us of her life as an Army child, her first job in a factory, and the challenges raising her daughter as a single mother.  She went to law school to be able to give her daughter more, running her law practice as a small business.  Running for office she describes as “an responsibility, instilled in me by my father”… but also one that is worthwhile and rewarding for the people she meets, and for their stories.

Asked about the district she hopes to represent, which includes portions of four counties (Oconee, Clarke, Jaskson, and Barrow), she described the district as “gerrymandered” and said she had originally been worried the various constituencies would have different needs and concerns.  Instead, however, she has found that across the district, people largely want the same things: affordable care to keep themselves and their families healthy; a good education, whether college or technical training, and K-12 education before that; jobs that pay well enough to support themselves.  In that very basic sense, she finds the district very unified in its desires.

When discussing plans to keep in touch with voters after the election, however, she did acknowledge some separation, describing a need for county-specific contact people, and plans to keep her office available late at least once a month, in locations varying across the four counties.  This would make her accessible to citizens whose schedule might not allow them to see her during “business hours:” she promised that anyone in the office by 9:00pm would be seen.  This is an idea she borrows from former Atlanta Mayer Shirley Franklin, which she hopes will augment more traditional hours, as well on on-line and social media resources.

Like many candidates, Deborah has announced positions on many national issues on her campaign website.  However, we wanted to ask her about her views at the state level, since that is the office she is contending for.   As Deborah noted, we are nationally very divided today, but what divides us is known.  That creates an opportunity to find what will bring us together—a process which she believes government, and particularly the state government, has a large role to play.  It is also an environment in which her experience at mediation may be particularly helpful.

In Deborah’s view, elected officials have information, collected by aides or provided by lobbyists, that citizens do not have access to, nor time to understand.  She views it as the officials’ job to gather as many viewpoints as possible, consider all of them, and then to communicate accurate, reliable information to all stakeholders.  She cited the recent Campus Carry bill as an example of the system not working properly: the governor received over 14,000 calls against from citizens’ voices across the community, but passed the bill in response to about 1/100th as many supporters, many of them lobbyists.

And Deborah pointed out that the state government is relevant even on those national issues.  Healthcare, for example, is not only the ACA and its repeal and replace efforts: it includes expansion of Medicare, which  is a state decision.  So are school privatization decisions, livable wage and minimum wage laws, and other examples.  Asked about the top challenges facing Georgia specifically, Deborah lists representation as one: which voices are heard, who gets to vote, and how those votes are apportioned during redistricting.  All are issues addressed at the state level.

Deborah also brought up Internet privacy and accessibility issues during our interview; these are issues she feels strongly about, and has expertise in, from her previous work.  When I pressed about why she emphasized those, and why voters should care about issues that may seem abstract and technical, she reminded me of how deeply the Internet has penetrated our lives.  The issue for her is not only about bandwidth costs for large corporations like Netflix, but about Internet service costs to consumers, and costs to smaller entities: schools and on-line education offerings,  technology entrepreneurs, and “mom-and-pop” companies hosting their websites.  If Internet costs for those enterprises rise sharply, that causes a loss of access to what has become a necessary resource in modern business and modern life.

And, despite viewing the district as having been gerrymandered, Deborah sees an opportunity to flip the 117th.  The district voted for President Trump, but only by a 3% margin; her challenge, as she sees it, is ensuring turnout in the special election, particularly by those who are supporters, but hesitant of her chances: she feels she can win, but only with all of those voters’ votes.

Time to Speak

Wouldn’t it be nice for a political candidate to start by knowing what the district actually wants from their representative?

Deborah Gonzalez is running for the GA House of Representatives District 117 (which includes parts of Oconee County). Deborah wants to know what the residents in Oconee County are concerned about so she is inviting you to come to a forum so she can listen to and learn exactly what is on your minds.

Join us on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in the Main Auditorium at the Oconee County Library from 7:00 – 9:00 pm.

This forum is open to and welcomes the public.  Oconee Democrats are sponsoring it, but the goal is a non-partisan discussion.

Deborah has some questions she’d like to ask you, such as:
• What do you like about living in Oconee County?
• What are the most significant issues facing our county?
• What should be the role of citizens related to legislation in the State?

Most importantly, she would like to hear your concerns and questions. As a candidate Deborah really wants to know what can she do for you.

The forum will be moderated by Oconee County resident, Margaret Holt, who has worked with the National Issues Forums since 1981. The process is designed for our community to have a conversation, not a protest. Ideas shared will be captured to help Deborah shape a legislative agenda that matches the concerns of the District. She’s a candidate who will speak to you clearly and honestly. She is also a candidate who will listen to you attentively and authentically. So stop by and share your thoughts, your story, your voice.

Non-partisan. All are welcome.

Website for Deborah Gonzalez:
votedeborahgonzalez.com

Oconee Democrats at Deborah Gonzalez’ Launch

Deborah Gonzalez
Deborah Gonzalez at her launch event

Today at Bishop Park, Deborah Gonzalez official launched her campaign for Georgia State House Representative for District 117, composed of parts of Oconee, Clark, Barrow, and Jackson counties.  She is challenging Regina Quick in November 2018.

 

Deborah Gonzalez
Deborah Gonzalez speaking at her launch

We’re excited to have a strong candidate to support, in a district which has been identified as one of the likeliest for Democrats to flip.  Ms. Gonzalez spoke of her father’s service in the U.S. Army and his Puerto Rican heritage, of her own career spanning from computer networking to entertainment law, and of her philosophy on the importance of “borrowing” the present from future generations: how can we ensure we not only give to our children all that we enjoy today, but more?  She also stressed her support for local entrepreneurship, environment, and education issues, all dear to the hearts of those of us who attended her launch from Oconee County.

Thank you for running, Deborah!  Those interested in volunteering to assist or, or merely in learning more about the candidate, can visit her website at http://votedeborahgonzalez.com/.

Oconee Democrats at Gonzalez launch
Oconee Democrats with Deborah Gonzalez after her campaign launch