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Election 2020 Preview: Georgia's 9th Congressional District
9th District
Andrew Clyde, left, and Devin Pandy face each other in the November election to fill the U.S. House of Representatives, 9th District seat.

Andrew Clyde

Party: Republican

Age: 56

Occupation: gun store owner

Political experience: first run for elected office

Residence: Jackson County

Battles with the IRS did more than open Andrew Clyde’s eyes to the ways of government. They motivated the Athens gun store owner to embark on a political campaign of his own.

“It gave me a great idea of how Congress works – the ins and outs of it,” said Clyde, a Jackson County resident, during a recent interview with The Times in Jefferson.

“The fact that I was able to accomplish this gave me the courage to say, ‘If a private citizen can do this, then what can a member of Congress who is committed do,’” said Clyde, who is seeking a two-year term as U.S. House 9th District representative, replacing Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Clyde is facing Democrat Devin Pandy of Gainesville in the Nov. 3 general election for the Northeast Georgia seat.

Clyde’s ordeal began in 2013, when he was hit by civil asset forfeiture. The IRS confiscated about $940,000 from his gun shop, Clyde Armory. Federal agents ultimately found no issues and returned $900,000 to Clyde.

The experience inspired him to go to Washington, D.C., to advocate for civil asset forfeiture reform. Clyde had been accused of “structuring,” or setting up bank deposits to avoid reporting to the IRS.

The RESPECT Act, signed by President Donald Trump in 2019, changed IRS rules to only allow forfeiture for “structuring” if the money comes from an illegal source or is used to hide illegal activity. Prosecutors are now required to demonstrate probable cause that the seized money was somehow used illegally.

“It should prevent any other law-abiding citizen from ever suffering the abuse that I suffered,” he said at the time[CS1] .

Clyde, 56, reflecting on the experience in the recent interview, said he found that “part of the government is off the rails. You don’t do that to a small business.”

He founded Clyde Armory in 1991 as a “hobby business” and made it a full-time venture in 1999, after graduating from the University of Georgia with a master’s degree in business administration.

Meanwhile, he was also serving in the Navy Reserve. Clyde, who was born in Ontario, Canada, and who has U.S. citizenship as both his parents are citizens, started his journey up the Navy ranks at University of Notre Dame’s ROTC.

He ended up serving in the Navy for 11 years active duty and 17 years in the Navy Reserve, including deployments to the Middle East, where he was stationed in Kuwait and Iraq. He retired from the Reserve as a commander in 2013.

He said he believes his military background helped “refine perseverance” as a personal character trait.

Clyde had to lean on that to get through a challenging political season, one that began with a nine-candidate field seeking the Republican nomination for the 9th District seat. And then, he won a contentious Aug. 11 runoff against state Rep. Matt Gurtler, R-Tiger.

In a nod to his profession, protecting gun rights covered by the Second Amendment is a top priority for Clyde.

“Deregulation … hasn’t happened in the firearms industry,” he said, citing especially the rules on noise-reducing devices on firearms.

“Everything that makes noise above 85 decibels, at which a person can start to lose their hearing, has a muffler on it,” Clyde said. “The government is penalizing people who want to put that kind of (equipment) on a firearm. You’ve got to pay a $200 tax and wait almost a year to get one. Having a firearm is a constitutional right. It’s unconstitutional to tax a constitutional right.”

Also, he strongly advocates right to life.

“If people don’t have respect for life, then what do they have respect for?” Clyde said. “I firmly believe that life begins at conception and ends at natural death, and that God created life and that life is precious and needs to be protected.”

He’s also pushing for rural broadband improvements.

“It’s like the electricity of the 1930s and the telephones of the 1940s,” Clyde said. “If we have to do all this distance learning and work from home, if you’re not connected, how are you going to be able to do that?

“And businesses are learning that without connectivity to the internet, you’re just not going to be very successful. I want businesses to have every advantage in North Georgia.”

Devin Pandy

Party: Democratic

Age: 46  

Occupation: Retired from Army, has worked as actor  

Political experience: first bid for elected office  

Residence: Gainesville

Devin Pandy is hoping to take on a major role starting in January, and it has nothing to do with acting.  

The retired Army officer who has dabbled in Hollywood movies and TV shows has committed himself to seeking a two-year term as U.S. House 9th District representative, replacing Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who is running for U.S. Senate.  

“I have pretty much dedicated everything to the campaign,” said Pandy, 46, who is facing Republican Andrew Clyde of Jackson County in the Nov. 3 general election for the Northeast Georgia seat.  

Pandy found his political interests stirred during President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings last year and in particular watching Collins at work as House Judiciary Committee ranking member.  

“I decided there on the spot I needed to become involved,” Pandy said during a recent interview with The Times in Gainesville.  

He explored supporting a candidate rather than becoming one himself. When he was approached about entering the 9th District race, “my first thought was ‘No, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ve never run for public office,’” Pandy said. 

“But then I thought about it and realized if I don’t stand up and say something, then I become complicit in what’s happening (politically), and I refuse to do that.”  

The sense of duty may be traced to his father. Pandy said he and his father had a strained relationship until his death in 2017, but he always wanted to emulate his father’s love of country and dedication to the military.  

Pandy’s father joined the Army in 1978, after the family had immigrated from Pandy’s native Belize in Central America.  

“I spent my life as an Army brat,” said Pandy, who became a naturalized citizen in 1981. “I didn’t have an upbringing in any one place. My father was very much a country boy, so everywhere we went, if we had a backyard, we had a garden and animals. And I don’t mean just dogs. We had chickens, turtles and a goat once.”  

To this day, he is comfortable in cowboy hat and boots. “I always wanted to tie in my hat and boots with a coat and tie, and now I’m able to do that,” he said, with a laugh.  

And Pandy’s father was serious about his duty to the U.S. A strong sense of patriotism, including standing as a family when the national anthem was played, “was ingrained in me from a very young age.”  

Pandy spent 21 years in the Army, retiring as a chief warrant officer and following five deployments, including to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.  

After the military, “I promised myself I would not work for 6 months, never have a 9-5 job, and I’d travel the world,” said Pandy, who ended up traveling for four months, including backpacking across Europe.  

Acting came about by accident. He was helping someone else look for an audition when he came across a part in an independent film being made in Philadelphia.  

“They were looking for some to play a soldier who was trying to save the world,” Pandy said. “(Later), I thought, ‘I’m not an actor, but I could play a soldier all day.’”  

He auditioned, got the part and caught the acting bug. Since then, he has had bit parts (“no major speaking roles,” Pandy said) in TV and film, including “The Walking Dead” and The Rock’s upcoming movie “Red Notice.”  

The COVID-19 pandemic put acting on hold, but that was OK as Pandy turned his sights on the congressional campaign, which meant forging through a three-person primary and runoff.  

His top issue is health care.  

“That’s something that affects everyone,” Pandy said. “We’re stuck in this loop of sick care versus health care. The only way to get out of that loop is to provide everyone with affordable, quality health care.”  

Also, Pandy said he would be a “big advocate” for veterans, saying he would like to see legislation that would help homeless and needy veterans get “the housing, training, education, health care assistance and career placement they need to become self-sufficient.”  

Another concern of Pandy’s is making sure workers deemed essential during the pandemic get more attention, such as making sure they get personal protective equipment as needed, hazard pay, paid sick leave if they get COVID-19 and testing for them and their families.  

“That keeps the workers safe at work, their families safe at home and keeps us all safe in our communities,” he said.