Georgia 2020: Where 9th District Democratic candidates stand on the issues

Stations to fill out ballots are shown vacant as poll wokers wait to assist during special election voting at city hall to fill an empty city council seat on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Dacula.
Stations to fill out ballots are shown vacant as poll wokers wait to assist during special election voting at city hall to fill an empty city council seat on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Dacula.

Three Democrats are running for the 9th Congressional District and hoping to flip a solidly Republican district.

Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins currently represents the district, but he is running for the U.S. Senate.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent questions to the candidates about five key issues. Here are the responses:

Devin Pandy, Commerce

Brooke Siskin, Gainesville

Dan Wilson, Clayton

1. What should be done to improve the U.S. health care system?

Pandy: The goal is universal coverage one way or the other. No one should ever go broke because they get sick. No one should have to choose between their child's well-being and their child's next meal. And no one should lose their health insurance because their employer goes out of business.

Every United States resident should be automatically enrolled in and covered by a public option or options. I do feel, in order to maintain the freedom of choice that America stands for, people ought to have the option of purchasing private insurance. Those public options must cover all medically necessary checkups, treatments, procedures, medications, etc.

Some countries use a single-payer system, but others have really innovative mixes of private insurance and public options. Here in Georgia, we need to, at the very least, expand Medicaid. It’s infuriating that in the middle of a global pandemic we have over 470,000 Georgians, many of them right here in northeast Georgia where the novel coronavirus is hitting hardest, who could have the health coverage they so desperately need with a single swipe of the pen from Gov. (Brian) Kemp. Inside the 9th District, the two largest hospitals are the North Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville and Stephens County Hospital in Toccoa. As District 9’s representative, these hospitals would have a direct line to me, and my top priority would be getting them the resources they need. Whether through improving the (Affordable Care Act), public-private partnerships, an expanded clinic system or through new legislation brought forth by me and other forward-thinking legislators, I will fight to expand access to the human right of health care until we achieve 100% coverage.

Siskin: We should have universal health care coverage to cover all U.S. citizens living in this country.

>>Related: Where 9th District Republican candidates stand on the issues

>>Related: Primary candidates for Georgia's 9th Congressional District meet in virtual debate

Wilson:  Catastrophic family illness was a major driver in the home foreclosure crisis from 2006 to 2008. On the other hand, Money Magazine reported in May of 2017 that personal bankruptcies were cut in half due to the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Currently, with 30 million Americans in danger of losing their health insurance due to loss of employment, we must break the link once and for all between health and wealth, and we must remove the deadly feedback loop that makes our current health care system extremely vulnerable to economic factors.

We need a robust public health care option in this country that is always available for those who do not want to fall victim to the cycle of unaffordable health care. We are the only First World nation without universal health care, and it shows up in both our low health care ratings and low quality-of-life ratings.

2. Do you support the Green New Deal? If not, how would you tackle the issue of climate change?

Pandy: Yes, I full-throatedly support the Green New Deal. Just as the creation of the interstate system involved a massive investment, but ultimately yielded a vastly more efficient and profitable transportation system, it is well past time we optimize our energy grid for a sustainable and independent future. Fifty years ago, Exxon Mobile had conclusive evidence that continued reliance on fossil fuels to power our society would irrevocably damage our human and natural ecosystem. Imagine if they had shared that knowledge for the common good instead of suppressing it for private gain. The world would be cleaner for us today and safer for our children and grandchildren tomorrow. We could have changed our uses of dirty coal and oil gradually over time. Instead, we are now forced to make a mad dash to a 15- to 20-year finish line, made more and more difficult by a legion of corporate lobbyists whose idolization of profit is eclipsed only by their disregard for the fragility of human life. The science is clear: The Earth is sick, and we are the cause. It's time we become the cure. It's time to adopt the Green New Deal.

Siskin: Yes, I wholeheartedly support the Green New Deal. We need to think of our environment and our world carbon footprint for our children and generations to come.

Wilson: Carbon-based jobs are not sustainable, as witnessed by the record number of coal industry jobs lost under President (Donald) Trump. Creating sustainable jobs based on renewable energies and technologies is not a partisan issue and is exactly why I support the Green New Deal. The district I am campaigning in is especially in need of the kinds of jobs that this will bring to our area, whereas the continuing attempt to lure back old smokestack industries has repeatedly failed to solve our chronic 12% unemployment rate.

3. Should there be a pathway for citizenship for people who enter the U.S. illegally? If so, what should it look like?

Pandy: It's important to remember that the majority of undocumented immigrants currently residing in the United States did not, in fact, cross our borders illegally. Most came here with a work or travel visa and stayed past the expiration date. But just like the date stamped on an item at the grocery store does not actually represent a medical opinion of the shelf life of the item, our immigration system has been continually twisted by one party or another's subjective whims. It is not the fault of a young mother fleeing wanton violence that the wait time to enter a country "the right way" can exceed 50 years. Millions of undocumented immigrants file their taxes with the Internal Revenue Service, yet they receive no benefits for their contributions. Therefore, I believe that anyone who has proven that they want to be here and are willing to add to the definition of America be granted amnesty from the civil misdemeanor of lapsed legal status.

Siskin: I believe that all new citizens coming to this country should follow the legal pathway to citizenship. If you want to become a citizen of this country, you should learn our laws and our language and work on becoming a citizen of this country. Also I believe in (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) and no separation of children from their parents.

Wilson:  If someone has served multiple tours overseas defending our nation, the reward for that service should not be deportation or attempted deportation. And, yet, this is the reality facing thousands of veterans in this country. There are many services to our nation that have been rendered by those who entered our nation illegally, as acknowledged by Ronald Reagan in one of his famous speeches. We are currently ignoring the laws of this nation on asylum seekers, thus creating entire groups of people in legal limbo. Comprehensive immigration reform that includes border security, expanding legal services for immigrants and creating pathways for citizenship makes sense if we want to continue to be the "shining city on the hill" of which previous presidents have spoken.

4. Do you think college should be free for certain students, and if so how would you pay for it?

Pandy: I believe college should be free for all students, regardless of their economic status. All Americans deserve the education and training to pursue the career path of their choice. I also believe that, in return for this societal investment, graduates should subsequently enter apprenticeship pipelines to gain real-world experience and contribute to the regional quality of life with a focus on underserved areas.

There are many options for funding tuition-free higher education. We could completely cover it with a minuscule tax on the types of high-volume Wall Street transactions that are out of reach for the average middle- or lower-class American. We could build on what Georgia has already established through larger allocations from gambling sources, such as the lottery. Or, and stay with me here, we could simply stop funding unnecessary wars. A better-skilled, higher-earning workforce will return increased tax revenue over time – further offsetting the overall price tag. The cumulative cost of our military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan could fund a program such as this from now through 2040.

Siskin: This depends on the financial situation that a student faces in this country. However, there is no free ride, so a work study program might be the option for certain students to pay for their tuition.

Wilson:  Some students choose majors solely to make money to pay back their student loans instead of the kind of entrepreneurial career building that stimulates the economy. Free education for some students would be the equivalent of a research and development investment in America. A simple half-percent tax on stock transactions plus an increase in the top marginal rate for income tax could be used to cover all tuition and fees. Students from families making below $67,000 would have 75% of their expenses covered, and students from poverty-level families would have 100% of their expenses covered. Colleges that struggle to remain open in certain parts of the country could offer tuition-free education to students who agree to serve four years in the area after graduation. The resulting growth in local economies and tax bases could also be a base for further funding colleges and student education.

5. Should Congress do whatever it can to rebuild the economy no matter the long-term impact on the national debt?

Pandy: While the need for debate exists on a "healthy" level of debt – whether it exists, and, if so, what that level is – unlike some of my friends from across the aisle, I do not consider the loss of a business to be as tragic as the loss of a human life. It may seem counterintuitive, but you don't fight a recession by decreasing production. Almost 80 years ago, it was the massive and unprecedented investment of the federal government into the nation's economy as we entered World War II that ended the Great Depression. We must develop projects of similar scope and imagination, directed toward self-improvement rather than destruction, to meet the challenges of our time.

Siskin: Yes, I think Congress should play a big role in helping build back our economy. There should be more legislation written to help groups of citizens who need our help with social programs and disability needs. Small to midsize businesses need our help as well.

Wilson:  We supposedly had the best economy in the world until a few weeks of a virus brought the entire system crashing down, requiring the government to "fix it." This illustrates that there are deep structural problems in our system. We cannot continue to subsidize businesses that create salary inequities between management and labor, which worry more about the stock market than the communities in which they are located and which do not invest in America. Future help from Congress should focus on people rather than corporations and will also need to address flaws in the last tax bill which allow the very rich to pay no taxes while costing middle-class families. Current economic disparities are dangerous for democracy and cannot sustain the economy. Any investment in the people by Congress will pay off in the long run in a vibrant and healthy economy.