Jonathan Wallace said he first decided to run to represent Georgia House District 119 in the special election back in 2017 largely because of his desire to provide support for public education in the state.
Once he was elected and served in the General Assembly in 2018, Wallace said, the range of issues that concerned him broadened, with the COVID-19 pandemic now taking center stage.
“I don’t think there is anyone who has been untouched by the challenges that we face with this pandemic,” Wallace said. “And the challenges we face have just been magnified by the mismanagement at the federal and state levels in dealing with this pandemic.”
Wallace, the Democratic nominee facing incumbent Republican Marcus Wiedower in the Nov. 3 election, was speaking to Oconee County Democrats at the party’s virtual meeting last month. Wiedower defeated Wallace in November of 2018.
Wallace criticized Wiedower for his support for the anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill passed by the General Assembly in 2019, for his support for a monument protection bill, for his lack of support of a hate crimes bill, and for his support of President Donald Trump.
Wallace was joined at the August meeting by Richard Dien Winfield, one of eight qualified Democratic candidates in the non-primaried special election on Nov. 3 for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Kelly Loeffler.
Winfield outlined his plans for a job guarantee in which the federal government offers employment “at a fair wage” to anyone who cannot find a full-time job in the nongovernmental sector.
Wallace On Election
Wallace spoke for about eight minutes before taking questions in the virtual meeting on Aug. 20 live streamed via Zoom. Wallace said he has worked for 20 years in software and technology and has been involved in entrepreneurial work locally.
“It is incredibly important that we flip the state House so we have some balance and accountability at the state level for our governor, for the Senate,” Wallace said at the end of those comments. “That we have some balance and accountability when it comes to reapportionment and redistricting, which is coming up in 2021.”
House District 119 is split about evenly between Oconee County and Clarke County, with nine of the Oconee County’s 12 precincts falling into the District. The exceptions are East Oconee (formerly Athens Academy), Marswood Hall, and Bogart.
“I’m here in 2020 to win the seat back,” Wallace said as he began his comments.
Wallace On Healthcare
Wallace said he had always been concerned about education and he recognized the importance of fighting against gerrymandering and for election integrity from the start.
“But along the way I learned a lot about what’s afflicting House District 119,” Wallace said, “as well as Georgia as a whole. And one of those pieces is healthcare.”
Wallace has been a proponent of Medicaid expansion in his campaigns.
“We lose $8 million a day in funds that we don’t receive because of not expanding Medicaid,” he said at the Aug. 20 virtual meeting. “That’s around 500,000 Georgians who would have healthcare, access to healthcare. That’s around 50,000 jobs for the state.”
The number of rural hospitals that have closed in the state is now up to nine, he said.
“These are the failed policies that we’ve seen,” Wallace said. “And the policy of Republican leadership that we’ve seen over the last 20 years in the state of Georgia has led to very brittle circumstances for so many Georgians.”
Wallace On Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the problems in the state “of our healthcare access,” Wallace said.
“We were one of the last states to close,” he said. “We were one of the first states to open. There’s been a strong push for our children to go back to school.”
The state has suffered from “mixed messages” about how to respond to the virus, Wallace said.
“What that really reflects on is poor leadership,” Wallace said. “The reason that I need to go back and serve as your representative is because we need folks who have the courage to stand up for science, folks who stand up for people and who will fight for common sense reform across these issues.”
“We see mismanagement. We see malfeasance. We see phoning it in,” Wallace said. “ We see people who have no idea what it takes to support working Georgians. No idea what it takes to help us have an equitable society. Who keep eroding the social safety nets that we have come to depend on because of the rising inequity in our society.”
Wallace told the gathering that “We have to make the room in our lives to have an impact” on the upcoming election by volunteering, sending postcards, and talking to friends about the importance of the election.
Winfield And Employment
Winfield, a University of Georgia philosophy professor who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in the 10th Congressional District in 2018, spoke for just less than 20 minutes before taking questions.
“I am the philosopher and union member for the Senate,” Winfield said. He said he has been active in organizing for the Communication Workers of America.
“So I want to put before you the jobs first social rights agenda that I alone among all the candidates for the Senate am advancing,” Winfield said. “And the starting point, the anchor, is a federal job guarantee which involves fulfilling the true right to work, ensuring that everyone has a decent livelihood.
“We wipe out unemployment and poverty income at one blow,” Winfield said. “How do we do it? The federal government steps up and offers employment at a fair wage to anyone who cannot find a full-time job in the marketplace.
"And that means we put people to work doing the things that need to be done, that are not being done by the market, providing broadband for all, fixing up the 30 million houses that are unfit to live in, providing affordable housing when necessary,” Winfield continued.
“Providing an expansion of all our medical and schools as needed. Providing public transportation. Providing all the human services that are lacking. Access to all of the arts that is complete lacking in huge parts of our territory and to large parts of our population,” he continued.
Winfield On Other Issues
Winfield said he wants to establish a $20 an minimum wage, offer Medicare for All, phase out fossil fuels, and develop safe nuclear energy.
“The pandemic may dissipate in two years,” he said, “but the climate crisis will be there to torment us for thousands of years to come unless we act decisively in the next decade.
“We need a green new deal that aims to end all greenhouse gas emissions that are added to our atmosphere in energy production by 2030,” he said.
The country needs a better balance between the demands of work and family, Winfield said, and he said he is favor of paid family leave, nine-month parental leave, and free public care for children and the elderly.
“We have to ensure that the playing field is equalized between employees and employers,” Winfield said, “because American workers are more disempowered, more disadvantaged than any workers in the developed world, thanks to our labor laws, thanks to having the lowest rate of unionization in the developed world, thanks to having a total absence of representation on corporate boards.”
These programs can be paid for by eliminating existing welfare programs, removing the waste created by insurers and others in our medical system, and by implementing a graduated tax system that increases the taxes only on the top 10 percent of the population, Winfield said.
“I ask you to take seriously this agenda, because it is now a matter of life and death and saving our nation from destitution and saving our nation from a destruction of democracy if we do not step right up and put it into work,” Winfield said.
Twenty-one candidates have qualified for the special election to file the term of former Sen. Johnny Isakson, who stepped down in December for health reasons.
Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler to the seat pending a special election.
Loeffler has qualified as a Republican and is joined by five others who have chosen that party label for the special election.
Eight Democrats, including Winfield, have qualified, as has a Libertarian, a Green Party candidate, four independents, and a write-in candidate.
Much of the media attention has focused on Loeffler and Doug Collins on the Republican side and Matt Lieberman, Ed Tarver and Raphael Warnock on the Democratic side. The three Democrats will be featured at the next Democratic Party virtual meeting on Sept. 17.
“Would you consider dropping out of the race at some point and how do you feel about other candidates that are not polling with very high numbers doing the same so that we can throw our weight as a party behind the strongest candidate and not end up with two Republicans running against each other in a runoff?” Karen Hilyard asked Winfield at the end of his comments.
Warnick, Tarver and Liberman are the “spoilers,” Winfield said. “There is no reason for all three of them to be in the race,” he continued. “They are really indistinguishable in terms of what they have to offer, and it is to them that you need to direct this question.”
I recorded the video below from the Zoom meeting.
Wallace began speaking at 21:20 in the video.
Winfield began speaking at 45:45 in the video.