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Lt. Gov. candidates share thoughts on race, issues
FCN Sarah Riggs Amico Geoff Duncan 092318

Tuesday will mark six weeks until the midterm election, and candidates for lieutenant governor are planning to make the most of that time.

On Nov. 6, former state Rep. Geoff Duncan, a Republican, and Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico will face off for the state’s second-highest position, and while there are plenty of disagreements between the two, both said they were focused on improving education, healthcare and courting voters who are not a part of either party.

Meet the candidates

Forsyth County voters should be well-aware of Duncan, who represented District 26, which is comprised of east and north Forsyth, in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2013 to 2017, when he stepped down to focus on the lieutenant governor’s race.

Duncan, a businessman and former baseball player who reached the AAA level of the then-Florida Marlins organization, defeated fellow Republican state Sen. David Shafer, 50.15 percent to 49.85 percent, in a runoff in July after they were the top two vote-getters in May’s primary.

He carried Forsyth by a margin of 68.28 percent, or 11,233 votes, to Shafer’s 38.72 percent and said he will need the county’s help again this fall.

“I need Forsyth County to show up in a big way,” Duncan said. “To this point, they helped us get to the runoff, they helped us win the runoff with overwhelming support, and I need Forsyth County to show up big time on Nov. 6.”

Duncan will face Amico, a Cobb County resident who serves as chairperson of car haul company Jack Cooper and defeated fellow Democrat Triana Arnold James, 55.25 to 44.75 percent, in May’s primary.

Amico is a graduate of Washington and Lee University and earned an MBA from Harvard University. She is also a former Republican and said the party changed instead of her values.

“I’m a former, not only Republican, but I would say a committed Republican, and sort of became an independent over the years,” she said. “I think it was really the healthcare discussion [that made me shift.] I don’t think my views on anything have changed in the last 20 years much. I think the parties have changed a lot.”

She said she decided to run for lieutenant governor because it was a statewide race that would not be impacted by possibly unfair or gerrymandered districts, it played into her strengths as an executive and would put her in position to help people across the state.

Health care

The candidates said healthcare is one of the most common issues raised by potential voters.

Amico said she favored expanding Medicaid but didn’t see it as the only answer for improving health care in the state.

“I think you’re going to have to look at a variety of issues there,” she said. “Medicaid expansion helps us and our rural communities to stop what I think is the hemorrhaging, the closing of rural hospitals. And candidly, there are going to be a lot of things we have to look at: expanding the use of nurse practitioners, expanding the use of telemedicine, but I do think that by expanding Medicaid, we can put an insurance card in the pockets of nearly half-a-million Georgians.”

In 2017, Duncan’s House Bill 54, which later became Senate Bill 180, was approved by the state and increased the amount of money people who donate to hospitals get back in tax credits and sets the tap for those credits at $60 million each year.

He said he favors new solutions for healthcare problems.

“I want to look at ways to leverage technology and innovate around healthcare,” Duncan said. “Obviously, I had a tremendous opportunity through the rural health care bill to show new, innovative ideas, so wanting to put that can of thinking on display and put it into action for the state of Georgia is something that I think we have a great opportunity to do.”

Education

Both candidates said if elected one of their top goals is to continue building education in the state.

Duncan, whose sons attend local schools, highlighted the success of Forsyth County schools and said he wanted to use the local system as a model for the state.

“We do an incredibly good job of focusing our education on the child,” he said. “I believe that allows the child to achieve absolutely the most they can each and every day. It’s great to see our school system put a focus on safety… I think technology in education is really important. We do an incredibly good job of educating our kids with technology assets in Forsyth County.”

This week, Duncan and Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Brian Kemp debuted a school safety plan, pledging $90 million if elected to add new counselors to public high schools, a new school safety division of the Georgia Department of Education and additional funding for schools.

Amico said she had two daughters in elementary school and felt the state “have an education funding formula from the century they were born in” instead of one from the 1980s. She also slammed Republican leadership for not coming up with a new formula.

“It is disingenuous for these guys who have been in power in a majority party for the last 14 years to tell us they’re suddenly going to fix that formula,” Amico said. “They’ve had 14 years’ worth of power and opportunity to do it, and they chose not to.”

She favored increasing pay for teachers in the state.

Other issues

In what has already been a contentious election year that is expected to ramp up even more before November, both candidates were quick to say what they would offer the entire state, not just those who planned to vote for them.

Amico said the state had largely had a successful rebound from the economic downturn but there were still problems to be addressed, particularly those in rural parts of the state. She said state leaders need to have an honest conversation about how to invest in the health and well-being of Georgia residents.

“When we start talking about under-investing in public education by more than $9 billion against the [Quality Basic Education] or when we start talking about 79 counties without an OBGYN and of course a very high maternal mortality rate in Georgia, when we start talking about 626,000 without high-speed internet, those things will undermine the future of our economy and our workforce,” she said.

Duncan said along with looking for innovative solutions to the state’s problems, he believes an increased focus on technology statewide could have a major impact on business, transportation and future opportunities in Georgia.

“One of the big mission statements that I want to make sure is understood is [as] lieutenant governor, if we can win this election on Nov. 6, is make Georgia the technology capital of the east coast,” Duncan said. “It’s a big initiative, but it’s one that I want to take seriously, and it’s one that I think we can truly take the title.”