Among the items on the June 9 Republican primary ballot will be state House Representative, District 13. Two Republican candidates are on the ballot, including Incumbent Katie Dempsey and challenger Brad Barnes. There is no Democratic opposition. The interviews and profiles were compiled and written by Natalie Simms. You’ll find candidate profiles and other election information by clicking Politics.
Brad Barnes, age 36, is a lifelong resident of Rome. He attended Georgia Highlands College and Kennesaw State University, and has degrees in Biology and Computer Science. He is currently a software engineer and the sole propriator Brad Barnes Consulting. He previously served as a factory worker. As a private citizen, Barnes has worked to get bills of interest through the General Assembly, including suggesting improvements that have been incorporated into bills. He is a member of New Armuchee Baptist Church and volunteers in various church programs, as well as contributing to a program teaching disadvantaged youth coding skills through Georgia Highlands College. He is a past board member of the Martin Luther King Commission and of the Kelsey-Aycock-Burrell Center.
Katie Dempsey (Incumbent), age 67, was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2006 after serving two terms on the Rome City Commission. She is currently the Chairman of the Appropriations Human Resource Committee and is a member of the Economic Development & Tourism; Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications; Health & Human Services; Higher Education; Transportation and Rules Committees. She also serves on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, Georgia Children’s Cabinet, Georgia Older Adults Cabinet, Georgia Foundation for Early Care and Learning Board and chair of the Republican Leadership for Georgia board. Dempsey is a member of the Exchange Club Family Resource Center Advisory Board as well the Rome Floyd Chamber. She is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Floyd Medical Center and a Board Member Emeritus of the Rome/Floyd County Commission on Children and Youth. Dempsey is a recipient of the Heart of the Community Award. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Georgia and has developed two local businesses. She and her husband, Lynn, are members of Rome First United Methodist Church and have been married for 45 years. They have two grown children and seven grandchildren.
QUESTION: The pandemic will have major revenue implications for the state through 2021. What two specific things can you, as a legislator, do to maintain services for the community?
BARNES: “As your representative I will put our community first, rather than lobbyist donors and the Atlanta establishment, which will be a massive improvement for the citizens of Rome. My first and only concern is delivering for the people of Rome – I have no split loyalties. I think that a one-size-fits-all budget cut for the next year is not going to work; those are balanced on the backs of our community and families. Instead, I’ll make sure budget cuts are targeted to unnecessary programs and items that can be deferred a year, such as new textbooks or state vehicle purchases. Until our state recovers, we should defer tax credits that benefit large, out-of-state companies more than our local, in-state businesses and taxpayers. Once this crisis is over, we should prioritize rebuilding the state’s reserves fund before we spend on any new initiatives. Fiscal responsibility is very important!”
DEMPSEY: “The committees that I serve on in the Georgia House are intertwined and impact citizen’s lives and well-being every day. Dealing with the realities of services for our community will require funding and relationships. I am committed to listen to ideas and be a bridge to help reignite our local economy, while building confidence in measures that protect our health, safety and welfare. It is important that we strategically focus on our local small businesses and rehiring efforts so that we may safely reopen the diverse economic sectors impacted by necessary closures in Floyd County. As Chairman of the Appropriations Human Resource Committee, my responsibility is to secure funding to help many of Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens of all ages. Mental health, addiction, developmental disabilities, eldercare, family and children’s services, foster care and Veterans services to name a few. I will continue working to ensure that our state agencies help local organizations and service providers receive the maximum available funding and resources to genuinely help all who call Floyd County home live strong meaningful lives.”
QUESTION: Our school systems are being ravaged by the pandemic, including added costs for technology and dwindling revenue. With 15,000 public school students in Rome/Floyd County, what will you do to protect students, faculty and staff from cuts and loss of funding?
BARNES: “Our educators and students have done an incredible job adapting to the unprecedented challenges the last few months have presented. We owe it to them to ensure that we fully fund our education system. A lot of the budget outlook depends on the actions of Congress and our president. Thankfully, the relief bills that have passed so far have specific funds to mitigate some of the impacts on our education system. Further bills are being considered by Congress in this area. Even without the measures, our state reserve fund stands at $2.7 billion, and the current expected shortfall is anticipated to be between $3 and $4 billion. So even without the expected additional federal relief to states and localities, large cuts in education can be avoided for the coming fiscal year. I will fight to ensure that our teachers and students are well represented in the State Capitol.”
DEMPSEY: “Support from the federal level via the K-12 CARES Act is already being implemented with $441 million allocated to support Georgia’s schools. Funds are being distributed to districts as quickly as possible to address pressing needs and conduct long-term planning. The Georgia Department of Education is committed to a seamless process to help districts utilize these funds for gaps in connectivity, food security, learning opportunities, and non-academic support with a focus on meeting the needs of every student. K-12 education makes up nearly 40% of Georgia’s budget, which equated to $10.6 billion in FY 2020. Moving forward, we know there will be cuts; however, a quality education for the young people of this state is one of the most important objectives of the Georgia General Assembly. I will continue to work with Governor Kemp and (schools) Superintendent Woods to ensure that the City of Rome and Floyd County Schools will receive the maximum available funding and support that is necessary to meet the unique needs of our students. While the state budget process is formula driven, I support the flexibility of local school systems and their decisions in the collaborative process.”
QUESTION: From January through April 30, how do you assess the state’s response to coronavirus and why?
BARNES: “Hindsight is always 20/20. Balancing the desire of many people for greater restrictions and a longer shelter in place, with many others who want decisions on quarantine to be left to individual citizens and businesses, is no easy task. One thing that is certain, though, is that our medical community, our educators and everyday citizens throughout the state have risen to the challenge of adapting to the threat we face from the Wuhan Coronavirus. I will put forward two bills directly related to the crisis in the coming session: “The Georgia Medical Supply Security Act” and “The Georgia Strategic Personal Protective Equipment Reserve.” We are dependent on communist China for vital medical goods – such as 97% of our life-saving antibiotics. We would never allow our military to become 97% dependent on China for ammunition. The former will address this dependency by requiring that no single outside country is the monopoly location of production. The second will ensure that our state has a strategic reserve of medical supplies and personal protective equipment so that we are never again in the position of leaving our medical personnel vulnerable and unprotected during a pandemic or a natural disaster.”
DEMPSEY: “Gov. Brian Kemp has thoughtfully taken the appropriate steps to mitigate the impact on our health and our economy. This meant putting a great emphasis on personal responsibility and most Georgians have followed those guidelines. We are seeing the results as Georgia’s new infection rates have decreased. State and local response has been strong in responding to shelter-in-place orders and in making adjustments, such as, embracing technology and improving government service delivery. It is imperative that the state is relying upon data driven information that is leading to the careful reopening of Georgia’s economy. We will build upon the lessons learned during this crisis to ensure that we are sufficiently equipped to respond quickly with needed healthcare resources in the future. We will also use this as a lesson to look into other areas where we are able to invest in readiness and efficiency.”