Where U.S. House District 5 candidates stand on the issues
A December runoff will pick U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ successor through the end of the year. But the November general election between Democrat Nikema Williams and Republican Angela Stanton-King will decide who represents the 5th District for the next full term.
The district, which stretches from Buckhead to south Fulton County and also includes parts of western DeKalb and northern Clayton counties, is a Democratic stronghold. Hillary Clinton won 85% of the district's vote in 2016.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent questions to the candidates about seven key issues. The questions were generated in part via input from AJC readers. Here are the candidates and their responses:
An entrepreneur, Stanton-King received a pardon from President Donald Trump earlier this year after he heard her story of giving birth in prison.
Williams is a State senator and chairwoman of Democratic Party of Georgia.
DO YOU STAND
1. Democrats in Congress recently pushed for a $3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill while Republicans backed a scaled-down proposal of $500 billion to $700 billion. Which approach would you have preferred and why?
Stanton-King: Neither approach got results. Smaller and now is better than bigger and never. Due to the pandemic’s impact on the economy, small businesses and hardworking families are hurting through no fault of their own. Elected officials in Washington should focus on a targeted package that provides immediate relief to those who need it most. While the politicians are bickering, we're losing too many jobs and too many people can’t pay their bills.
Williams: Not only do I support the measures proposed by the Democrats – I believe we must go several steps further to correct the inequities which exacerbated the disastrous fallout from COVID-19. I believe we must enact mandatory paid leave policies in this country, not solely as a response to the pandemic. I support stronger protections for people facing potential evictions, and I support increasing unemployment benefits and universal student debt forgiveness.
Many of the inequities we are experiencing right now are the result of generations of neglect from our government. It should not take a pandemic for our country to be forced to reckon with conditions of extreme inequality that have been exposed.
DO YOU STAND
2. The severity of recent hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters has been tied to climate change. What, if anything, should Congress do to reverse the impact of human activity on the climate?
Stanton-King: I believe we can be environmentally responsible while not hampering our economic growth. Without getting into a political argument about “man-made global warming," Congress can work together to curb pollution and keep toxins out of our air and water. Government can also reduce wildfires by better forest management policies and a modernized power grid. That being said, we are energy independent for the first time in my lifetime, and we cannot let over-regulation take us back to the days of depending on countries that hate us for our fuel.
Williams: Climate change is not only real, but already wreaking havoc on our communities. We are facing irreversible and life threatening changes, especially for those in Black and brown communities. I support the Green New Deal, because we have seen that environmental justice and the climate crisis go hand-in-hand. Air and water pollution are increasing daily, so I support the aggressive target of transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2050 with bold proposals of affordable transit, good-paying and environmentally friendly jobs and the infrastructure upgrades to ensure we have safe drinking water for generations to come.
DO YOU STAND
3. What legislation would you back to lower prescription drug costs for seniors and those with chronic diseases?
Stanton-King: While Congress has failed to act on this important issue, President Trump has taken the lead. He is a tough negotiator and is calling out the pharmaceutical companies that are selling the same American manufactured drugs cheaper in Canada than here at home. We can certainly use the buying power of the federal and state governments through Medicare, the VA, and Medicaid to lower costs. The United States is currently subsidizing drug prices for the rest of the world and that has to change.
Williams: I know the failures of our healthcare system all too well. After a dangerous car accident, I declined medical care because I would have not been able to afford a visit to the emergency room. I struggled to pay for my mom’s treatment as she battled stage 4 cancer in the final years of her life. It is a failure of our country that millions of Americans are dying due to a lack of access to health care.
So I am proud to support Medicare for All to ensure every single American, regardless of income or zip code, is able to receive the care they deserve. I believe healthcare is a fundamental human right. Being diagnosed with a disease should not lead to bankruptcy.
DO YOU STAND
4. What is your biggest concern about ensuring elections are fair, secure and accurate, and what would you do to address it?
Stanton-King: (There is) nothing more sacred in a democratic republic than the integrity of one person's vote. It is unacceptable if anyone’s legitimate vote is cancelled out by a fraudulent one. I believe that during the pandemic more people should utilize the early in-person and absentee options; however, mass mailing of ballots to individuals who did not request them is just asking for trouble. Common sense tells you that, and anyone that says otherwise is simply seeking a political advantage and can’t be trusted.
Williams: As the Democratic nominee for the seat once held by my mentor, Congressman John Lewis, expanding access to the ballot box is one of my top priorities. In Congress, I plan to fight for legislation to protect and expand our right to vote. I will urge the Senate to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and I will push for measures such as same day voter registration, restoring voting rights for those who have been convicted of a felony and ending partisan gerrymandering.
Unfortunately, Georgia has a history of rampant voter suppression, but I will stand up and speak out against all efforts to suppress votes. In 2018, I got into “good trouble” as I was arrested for standing with my constituents in the State Capitol and demanding that every vote be counted after the disastrous 2018 gubernatorial election. Nothing will stop me from standing up for my community.
DO YOU STAND
5. Do you believe the federal government has done enough to support unemployed workers and their families? What is your long-term strategy to keep these workers and their families from plunging into financial desperation?
Stanton-King: The simple cure for unemployment is a job. Before the pandemic, we had record low unemployment across the board. During the shutdown, the federal government laid aside partisan differences, took decisive action, and passed massive spending packages. Benefits were so generous that in some cases they disincentivized returning to work. Now our efforts should be focused on policies that safely and quickly get able bodied people back to work.
Williams: The federal government has failed us in its overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the millions of workers that are unemployed. As a former grocery store cashier, public school educator, union member, and the current deputy director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, I strongly believe reforms are needed so that our workers and their families are treated with dignity and fairness. I support enhancing the collective bargaining protections for our workers, as the working class, predominantly people of color, has always kept the lights on and our society running. I support dignity and fairness for all workers.
DO YOU STAND
6. COVID-19 looks like it will continue to be a part of our lives well into next year. How will you balance scientific guidance with the economic needs of Georgia?
Stanton-King: We listen to the medical experts and follow the data to take every reasonable precaution to keep people safe. But once those guidelines have been established, we have to put people back to work and encourage a greater sense of normalcy in everyday life. There is an emotional cost to isolation or the inability to provide for your family. There is a public health risk to delaying non-COVID medical procedures for conditions that only get worse or allowing children who are usually fed at school to become malnourished. Those statistics and data matter, too, when making decisions.
Williams: As someone who personally contracted and suffered from COVID-19, I know how difficult this virus is to overcome. Many of my neighbors know the impact of COVID-19 all too well, as my zip code had one of the highest confirmed COVID-19 cases in Fulton County at one point. I support the measures to expand aid to small businesses and families that are so badly hurting right now, but I also believe we must go further. I will fight to increase the support we are giving to those who are unemployed, and I also believe we must prioritize the health and safety of our communities to ensure that our economy thrives. I have urged the state and local governments to issue mask mandates and encourage social distancing and follow the guidelines of medical experts.
DO YOU STAND
7. Do you think the killing of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks were isolated incidents or a sign of broader problems in the treatment of Black Americans by police? If you believe the incidents reflect a broader problem, what should Congress do to address it?
Stanton-King: I think the statistics would show that a black man, woman, or child are much more likely to be killed by violent criminals in their own neighborhood than while being arrested or detained by the police. That doesn’t mean that we should not continue to use these tragedies as opportunities to reform and improve policing tactics. Banning choke-holds, more training in de-escalation techniques, and early intervention against officers that show signs of over-aggression are all reasonable and necessary steps to take. Defunding is not an option. It would only lead to more violent crime and hurt innocent, law-abiding Black Americans the most.
Williams: The murders of so many Black Americans in this country are the result of centuries of unfair and unjust treatment of communities of color. As a mother of a Black son, my "Carter Cakes," I should not fear for his life while jogging, driving in a car, or out in public. I’m fighting for an America that recognizes our ability to thrive and not merely survive.
I support sweeping police reform measures and the repealing of qualified immunity to hold officers accountable for misconduct. I support the Breathe Act, which encourages re-defining our approach to public safety and supports the funding of programs to build more equitable communities throughout our nation.