Incumbent Democratic Representative Lucy McBath is up for re-election this year and has one challenger for her U.S. House seat: Republican Karen Handel. We sent the same 12 questions to both candidates. McBath’s responses are below. As of publication time, Handel has not yet provided responses to our questions.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
If you’re re-elected, what does your first day in office look like?
I am going to continue the work we started in Congress: providing relief to families and small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, securing healthcare for Americans including those with pre-existing conditions, and, yes, continuing the work we have done on gun safety. I am proud to say I have held the first in-person town halls my district has seen in years—and I plan to win by continuing to be open and accessible to all my constituents. I am accountable to my district, and I will be listening and working for them as I have been since day one.
How would you rate the local and national response to the COVID-19 crisis? What should public officials have done differently, what have they done well, and what responses do you want to see in the future?
Months before the pandemic hit the United States, I sponsored legislation to modernize our public health data systems and increase the CDC’s pandemic response preparedness. And when COVID-19 began impacting our country, I hosted numerous virtual town halls so that my constituents—whether they are small business owners, concerned parents, or caregivers—could ask questions directly to health experts, business leaders, and local officials. In Washington, I immediately got to work. I am proud to have voted for legislation to fund vaccine development, free testing to all who need it, expanded protections for those who lost their job, and protections for our seniors. I have also supported legislation which would cut taxes to provide those impacted with financial relief. I believe we must continue to listen to the scientists and health experts.
What has the pandemic taught you about yourself?
I learned that now, more than ever, people in this country need to have a government that works for them. I immediately transitioned from hosting in-person town halls to tele-town halls so that I could hear from my constituents and they could be connected with health professionals and business leaders. I learned that the work never stops. I am proud to represent the people of Georgia’s 6th and will do what I can to provide relief to every family.
Before a vaccine becomes widely available, should Americans be afforded another stimulus check? If so, for how much and who should be eligible to receive it?
I supported legislation which would provide funding for another stimulus check. Americans are hurting right now, more than ever, and we must do more as a country to help those who are most impacted. I am working everyday in the House to provide American families with the relief they need during this pandemic. We must also provide the necessary help to small businesses in a time of crisis. In office, I am fighting for measures to lessen the financial burden our small businesses and families are facing.
Hundreds of thousands of Georgians could face eviction due to the economic hardships spurred by the pandemic, and many of those residents are relying on government-imposed eviction moratoriums to keep them at home for now. But once those protections expire, people will still owe rent. What recourse do they have? And what protections should landlords have for cases of delinquent renters? Should landlord and tenant laws be changed to adapt to the COVID-19 era?
I am proud to have voted for legislation which invests in affordable housing by directing funding to create jobs, stimulate the economy, and reduce housing inequality in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have also voted for legislation which ensures families in our district are not being forcibly removed from their homes, and even worked to cut taxes by thousands for families in our district to ease the financial stress. Lastly, I have co-sponsored legislation to ensure all families living in affordable housing are able to live in a safe environment, while expanding grants to help communities facing hard times.
Do you think America and Georgia still struggle with systemic racism? What safeguards, if any, should be enacted to ensure people of color are not disproportionately afflicted by law enforcement, the criminal justice system, income inequality, and other factors?
I firmly believe and know that systemic racism is a problem in our country. I believe my story is proof that when we stand up and speak out, we can impact our government, change our laws, and make positive changes in our community. In Washington, I have co-led and co-sponsored legislation which would create a commission to study the disparities among African American men and boys in this country. That bill has been passed by the House and the Senate, and is now signed into law.
As public protests have broken out in Georgia and around the nation—especially over conflicts between police and people of color—do you believe the federal government should play a role in quelling local tensions? If so, when do you believe it is appropriate to dispatch federal law enforcement or military personnel, and why?
I have worked hard to bring our communities together. In Washington, I have supported legislation to enhance transparency and data collection across police departments, as well as supporting multiple bills to secure more funding and training. I have several attended unity events to stand with local police, community leaders, and our neighbors.
What are the most pressing issues facing the state/nation on the healthcare front? Should Medicaid be expanded? What are your thoughts on the push for Medicare for All? What steps should be taken to help Georgia’s maternal mortality crisis?
Medicaid should be expanded in the state of Georgia. As a two-time breast cancer survivor, I know personally the toll that high costs of prescription drugs and healthcare can have on families. In the House, I have co-sponsored and passed legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs and ensure everyone with pre-existing conditions, like myself, are able to receive quality and affordable healthcare. I promise to continue fighting to make our healthcare more affordable and accessible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed many weaknesses in Georgia’s healthcare system, particularly in rural Georgia. What can be done to fix the problems?
Healthcare is not a privilege but a right. When I was receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer, I was fortunate to have some of the best care in the nation. However, I know many others in this country are denied that access, so I am committed to fighting to expand access to healthcare in this country, regardless of zip code. Our representatives have a duty to protect every American. I am fighting in the House to ensure quality healthcare is accessible.
What role should Congress play in protecting our environment? What measures (regulations, funding, initiatives) should be imposed to help curb the dangerous effects of climate change?
Climate change poses an existential threat to our environment, our economy, and national security, and we must acknowledge this as a nation and follow the science. In Congress, I am proud to have co-sponsored and voted for legislation to ensure the United States stays in the Paris Climate Accords. I have also voted in favor of protecting our nation’s national parks. We must continue to increase our investments in sustainable energy while taking steps to protect our environment.
The City of Atlanta has for years shouldered the dubious title of income inequality capital of the nation. What can be done to bridge the gap between the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor across the entire metro region?
Income inequality has always been an issue for the United States. I know how important an economy that works for everyone is, especially right now. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every single part of our lives, including middle class families’ income. That’s why in Congress, I voted for legislation that ensures that our government and economy works for everyone in our communities. I helped pass the Heroes Act, which provided a stimulus check to working families, in hopes to ease the pressure of the pandemic.
Demographics are shifting in both urban and suburban districts. How do you plan to manage the challenges of density and diversity in your district and ensure your community remains a welcoming place for all?
Inclusivity is very important to me and the families of the 6th District. As a member of Congress, I have focused on bringing people together. Just a few weeks ago, I stood with the Jewish community to speak out against acts of anti-Semitism. I believe discrimination has no place in our nation. I even attended unity events to stand with local police, community leaders, and our neighbors. I am working every day to provide a safe and inclusive environment for everyone. I do not condone divisiveness and believe we must work together to combat all forms of hate in this country.