Charlie Bailey told a virtual gathering of Oconee County Democrats earlier this month that he is focusing his campaign for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor on healthcare, education, and public safety.
His top priority, he said, is expansion of Medicaid, which he said would not only address problems of healthcare in rural Georgia but also be a boost to the economy of the whole state.
Bailey said he looks forward to working with Democrat Stacey Abrams as governor and believes a Democratic Lieutenant Governor can have impact as head of the state Senate, even if that body remains in Republican control.
Bailey was critical of the Republican-controlled General Assembly, citing proposed legislation that would restrict how history is taught in schools as a move toward authoritarianism.
“That’s the kind of thing they do in Russia,” he said.
Bailey was the sole speaker at the March 17 meeting of Oconee County Democrats, and he talked for a little less than 15 minutes and then responded to questions for another 20 minutes.
Bailey is one of nine candidates for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor in the May 24 primary.
Four Republicans are seeking that party’s nomination. One Libertarian has qualified for the race.
Bailey, now an Atlanta attorney, said his roots in rural Harris County, on the Alabama border north of Columbus, help set him apart from many of his competitors.
Bailey also worked for the last Democratic Governor, Mark Taylor, who served two terms between 1999 and 2007.
Bailey was senior Assistant District Attorney in Fulton County, where he prosecuted organized crime and gangs.
As the party’s nominee for Attorney General in 2008, he received 48.7 percent of the vote to 51.3 by Chris Carr, the current incumbent.
At least 24 people were online for the Zoom meeting with Bailey.
“We’ve got to expand Medicaid in Georgia,” Bailey said. “It is an abject moral failure that we have not done so the last 12 years.”
Bailey said that more than 600,000 Georgians made too much money to qualify for Medicaid “but they don’t have enough money (for insurance) or they don’t have health insurance through their employer.”
“Covering those people not only is a moral thing to do because I believe we have a right to health care,” Bailey said, “but also it will be the single biggest economic development engine we can employ.”
Bailey said the state has had eight rural hospitals close in last 10 years “because of a decision not to expand Medicaid.”
“I believe our schools ought to be palaces,” Bailey said, and the state needs to increase salaries for teachers.
Bailey said teachers should be paid “70, 80, 90 thousand dollars” for their work.
The state needs to fund the hiring of more teachers to reduce class size, he said.
The state’s funding formula, written in 1985, is outdated and needs to be revised, Bailey said.
Technical school tuition free, Bailey said.
“Give our kids the tools they need to complete in a 21st Century economy,” he said.
“We have far too few public defenders,” Bailey said. “We have far too few prosecutors. We have far too few judges to deal with the load that we have.”
“Right now we’ve got years long backlogs in the GBI testing sexual assault kits,” Bailey said, referring to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
“And that is all because of a lack of fortitude to provide the funds that are necessary. All that is a womanpower and manpower issue,” he said.
“You can hire the technicians to do it, but you’ve got to have the money to hire them,” he said.
“We’ve got 10-months delays in the testing of ballistics because of at GBI we’ve got one person testing all the ballistics for the state of Georgia,” Bailey claimed.
“We’ve got to treat these issues with the seriousness that I think the people of Georgia expect,” Bailey said.
“If we really believe we share that common humanity, then we will be committed to equal safety, and equal justice, and equal opportunity for all of the people of our state,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he is in favor of legalization of marijuana.
“We need to legalize it and regulate it and tax it,” he said.
“That would bring a lot of dollars in that we can use for these things,” he said, referring to spending on his priorities of healthcare, education, and public safety.
“I’m also in favor of legalizing sports gambling and horse racing and casino gambling,” Bailey continued.
“And we use those proceeds to fold back into our health care system, and our schools and the infrastructure around the criminal justice that actually keep people safe,” he said.
Role Of Lieutenant Governor
Bailey said he wants to be the “right hand man for the governor.”
“If Gov. Abrams says this is the game plan, I’m there to go out there and execute it in the state Senate,” he said.
Abrams is running unopposed for the Democratic Party nomination for Governor. Five candidate, including incumbent Brian Kemp, are seeking the Republican Party nomination.
“I’ve got the power as Lieutenant Governor to decide who sits on what committee,” Bailey said. “Decide who chairs what committee. Decide what committee a bill that is introduced goes to.”
“Georgia has a particularly powerful governor,” Bailey said, and the governor can force the legislature, even one controlled by another party, to negotiate.”
The Governor sets revenue estimates that control the budget process, Bailey said. The governor submits a budget. And the Governor has line item veto over that budget.
“We’re not going to get everything we want,” Bailey said. “But it actually is going to be a compromise.”
“I’m really confident, even if we don’t win the Senate and House, I think we’re going to be able to pass Medicaid expansion,” Bailey said. He said he believes some Republicans, particularly from rural areas, will vote for the expansion.
Partisanship, Teaching History
Bailey said the two leading Republicans in the race, Burt Jones and Butch Miller, are focused on “hate and division” in their campaigns.
The two believe that “Not everybody’s vote is the same. And not everybody’s community matters the same. Not everybody’s school matters the same.”
“I’ll tell you what I believe,” he said. “I believe we all breath the same air. And that we all love our families. And that we all deserve the same respect. We deserve the same justice.
“And we deserve the same opportunity to live and build a life so we can leave for our kids a life with more opportunity than we had,” he continued. “It’s those ideals and those beliefs that drive this campaign, and that have driven my career.”
“Right now they are trying to pass laws and get the governor to sign that will restrict the ability of teachers to teach history in our schools,” Bailey said of laws being discussed in the General Assembly.
“That’s the kind of thing they do in Russia,” he said.
“I’m from the south,” Bailey said. “I’m an eighth generation Georgian.”
“There are great things in our history, and there are sins. Great sins,” Bailey said. “And we need to be taught all of it.”
I recorded the video below from the Zoom session on March 17.
Melissa Hopkins and Eric Gisler, party co-chairs, presided at the meeting.
Bailey began speaking at 2:20 in video.
He started taking questions at 15:25.
I am not able to cover Republican Party meetings, which are in-person, because I am immune compromised.
The Republican Party leadership will not allow me to arrange to have the meetings video recorded.