Angling to attract voters who may be frustrated with the current political climate, candidates running for lieutenant governor each tried to establish themselves as outsiders during a debate Tuesday.
Both business executive Sarah Riggs Amico, a Democrat, and Republican former state Rep. Geoff Duncan said their “outsider” status best suits them to lead the Georgia Senate as lieutenant governor.
Duncan served five years in the state House before resigning last year to focus on his campaign.
“How is it that you see yourself as an outsider, or is that really just a tacit admission that even Republicans acknowledge Georgia needs a change in leadership?” she asked Duncan during an Atlanta Press Club debate.
Duncan said the voters he encounters call him an outsider because of his approach to shaping policy.
“In my five quick years in the General Assembly … I looked for opportunities to look through the lens of a small-business owner,” he said. Duncan said his experience as an employer makes him approach governing differently than a longtime politician.
Amico said Duncan’s five years serving in the Republican-controlled Legislature has led the state into a crisis, including being ranked 35th out of 50 states for pre-k through 12th grade education and having the highest maternal mortality rate in the country.
This is Amico’s first campaign for public office. She said her business experience, serving as executive chairwoman for the truck hauling company Jack Cooper, has taught her how to work with various groups to get things done.
The candidates also fielded questions that gave them the opportunity to underscore their different approaches to expanding access to health care.
Duncan, who disagrees with expanding access to Medicaid — the public health program that provides care to the poor and disabled — touted a tax credit program created through legislation he sponsored while in the House that encourages private donors to give money to rural hospitals. State government gives donors a tax credit equal to their donation through the program.
“The rural health care bill was only intended to be part of the solutions,” the Cumming Republican said. “Expanding Medicaid is bad health care. We can find additional opportunities to get access into these rural areas. We can leverage innovation and technology. And we can invite the best and brightest from around the world to come to Georgia and solve this problem here.”
Amico, who lives in Marietta, called expanding Medicaid the best way to cover Georgia’s uninsured. She pointed to a study by the Urban Institute that found Medicaid expansion would ensure 473,000 Georgians and create 56,000 jobs.
“And return $3 billion of Georgia taxpayer money right here to our own state to take care of our own people and shore up our health care system,” she said.
The debate will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Wednesday on Georgia Public Broadcasting.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is covering the issues and candidates up and down the ballot in a busy election year. Look for more at ajc.com/politics as the state heads for the general election on Nov. 6.
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