9 Questions for Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor Candidates

Geoff Duncan (R)

Geoff Duncan Georgia lieutenant governor candidate election 2018
Geoff Duncan

Photograph courtesy of Geoff Dunacn Campaign

Republican Geoff Duncan spent about four years in the Georgia House of Representatives before this run for higher office. He’s an entrepreneur who’s worked in the health care and venture capital spaces.

1. The lieutenant governor can use their bully pulpit to push issues. Casey Cagle, for example, has been a vocal advocate of technical colleges. How would you use this power of the office?
I will use my office to work to promote Georgia as one of the best places to relocate new jobs in the United States. I plan to do that in two ways: first, I want to see Georgia cut the state income tax by 2 percent so we can be more competitive with our neighboring states. Georgia already took a small step toward reducing our state income tax this past year with a ¼ percent reduction. But we have much more room to go. I believe reducing taxes creates an incentive for companies to locate in Georgia—and it puts more money in the pockets of our residents who are consumers and help boost the state’s economy.

Second, I will use the bully pulpit of the lieutenant governor’s office to speak out about bring more equity in education for all children. And the way we do that is through school choice. My sons have tremendous choice by attending some of the finest public schools in the state in Forsyth County. But too many students are trapped in schools that are not providing them a 21st-Century education that will give them the training they need for jobs in today’s economy. With that in mind, you will hear me speak out a lot about offering public and private options for all children because not all students learn the same way and some need a choice other than their local public school.

2. The state has only recently started investing in transit, and at negligible amounts relative to spending on roads. What types of transit projects—bus, rail, commuter rail—does Georgia need, how much would the state contribute to building them, and what role can the lieutenant governor play in those efforts?

Jobs in metro Atlanta are spread out from Cumming to Newnan, from Lawrenceville to Smyrna to Downtown Atlanta. This makes it very difficult for transit to improve mobility. Just as Amazon has changed the shopping experience, we need to seriously embrace technology and how it is changing the workplace and many other aspects of life. As lieutenant governor, I will take bold steps to encourage staggered work hours and telecommuting in the 20-county metro Atlanta area for all public employees, private-sector employees, and those who are self-employed. I am also encouraged by what the future holds for autonomous vehicles and support the effort to put freight on these vehicles through our highways on off-peak hours. I believe in encouraging ridesharing and vanpooling that commuters can access via smartphones. Instead of embracing 19th-Century ideas, I believe we have a host of 21st-Century solutions that can make it easier for workers and commuters to conduct their every day lives.

3. Healthcare advocates have called Medicaid expansion a smart strategy to improve healthcare for Georgians living on low incomes, keep rural hospitals open, and create jobs. Should Georgia expand Medicaid? If not, what specifically should the state do to address the coverage gap and crisis facing many rural hospitals?

Having a Medicaid card does not mean access to healthcare nor quality healthcare as fewer and fewer physicians in our state accept new Medicaid patients. If you are a Medicaid patient and need a specialist to monitor your diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart condition, for example, it’s often more difficult to find a physician who will take Medicaid than someone with private insurance, Medicare, or even Obamacare. As the former CEO of  [employee wellness program provider] Wellview Health, I know the importance of encouraging rural communities to embrace transformational healthcare delivery models for their patients. I will encourage the state to seek grants to help rural communities embrace telehealth—or the ability for patients to see a physician on a smart phone or via Skype at a low-cost, as it makes healthcare more accessible and creates real-time interaction between doctors and patients. I will promote an expansion of Georgia’s Rural Hospital Tax Credit that has allowed rural hospitals to purchase equipment to provide better healthcare delivery to their patients. And I will encourage more widespread utilization of community and charitable clinics where the working poor may receive healthcare on a sliding scale or at no cost so they may prevent diseases from escalating into crisis conditions. As we have seen with the Affordable Care Act, expanding a government program such as Medicaid is not a solution to providing quality healthcare.

4. Should Georgia continue the overhaul of Georgia’s criminal justice system that was started under Governor Nathan Deal? If so, what would you advocate? If not, what do you propose to do involving the criminal justice system?

I agree with Governor Deal that jail and prison should be for our worst offenders and that the state should work to rehabilitate those with addictions—especially when those addictions are the root of minor offenses. I am troubled, however, by what I see in some municipalities with an effort to decriminalize behavior that escalates into greater crimes—such as marijuana possession and panhandling. I believe these offenses should still remain on the books and be enforced by local police. But overall, we must have a healthy balance between helping addicts who want to turn their lives around and those that need to be punished for what they have done to society.

5. Businesses, including the lucrative film industry, have threatened to boycott or leave Georgia if religious liberty legislation passes the General Assembly and is signed by the governor. Critics of such legislation have claimed it would essentially allow discrimination. How do you balance someone’s beliefs with another person’s right to live free of discrimination, plus the economic well-being of the state?

I believe that Georgia can follow the model of other highly successful states such as Florida, Texas, and Louisiana that have not only hosted major sporting events such as Super Bowls but have attracted major Fortune 500 companies to their state. All this has occurred while they have enacted religious liberty protections similar to the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act—signed into law by President Bill Clinton and authored by leading Democrats including then-Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts). It originally said that Congress shall not pass any laws restricting free exercise of religion. States have now adopted similar laws with the same simple language. I do not believe that is discriminatory. And a simple, clean bill will not impede our ability to continue to attract amazing wealth and business to Georgia—just as it hasn’t hurt states such as Florida, Texas, or Louisiana.

6. Following the 2020 census, Georgia will conduct the decennial redistricting process to determine new political districts. Advocates for redistricting reform have urged lawmakers to give control of the highly political process to an independent commission to prevent gerrymandering. Do you support the current process or favor reform? If it’s the latter, what do you propose?

I support the current process which I believe has been fair to Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and voters in rural, urban, and exurban Georgia. I believe redistricting is a complicated process that involves a host of entities in state government but in the end, we have always produced maps that fairly represent the people of Georgia, and I see no need to change that.

7. Georgia has made baby steps in allowing patients to use medical marijuana, yet it’s stopped short of in-state cultivation. What are your views on medical marijuana in Georgia and should the state allow regulated and taxed recreational marijuana? If not, why?

There are many who want to bring marijuana to Georgia as a cash crop—whether for medical reasons or recreational use. I believe it is time to draw the line and say, “Time out.” We have opened up Georgia law to permit the usage of low-grade cannabis oil for a host of medical conditions. I agree with that phase but am opposed to regulated and taxed recreational marijuana.

8. Study after study projects sea levels along Georgia’s coast will rise over the coming decades. What should the state do to reduce the effects of climate change and prepare residents across Georgia for what researchers predict will be a hotter future?

God gave us an amazing earth, and certainly Georgia is blessed to be one of the most beautiful states in our nation from the mountains to our wonderful coastline. We are all called to be stewards of this blessing, and I am proud that my wife and I are raising three boys to respect the environment. I believe we should all be good stewards of Georgia’s environment and take it upon ourselves to do that every day by making a conscious decision on how we behave.

9. In August, AJC columnist Jim Galloway reported that some state senators were discussing stripping the lieutenant governor of some of their powers, such as assigning committees and naming senators to lead committees. If this happens, how will it affect your ability to address these issues?

I have been meeting with Georgia state senators and have cultivated a great respect for the state Senate and its role under the Gold Dome. If elected in November, it will be because hard-working Georgians believe in me and see that my leadership style will make their lives more productive. I will have a strong team that can work with both sides of the aisle.