Vote: State House, Senate candidates on Georgia’s ‘reopening’ and coronavirus response, and what similar issues are ahead for the 2021 General Assembly.

Vote: State House, Senate candidates on Georgia’s ‘reopening’ and coronavirus response, and what similar issues are ahead for the 2021 General Assembly.

Among the items on the Nov. 3 ballot will be the two state legislative races in House District 12 and Senate District 52. For the state House District 12 race, Incumbent Eddie Lumsden (R) faces Jonathan Gilreath-Harvey (D). In the state Senate District 52 race, incumbent Chuck Hufstetler (R) faces Charles DeYoung (D). Hometown Headlines offers interviews with all four candidates. The interviews and profiles were complied and written by Natalie Simms. 

>Floyd County Commission candidates respond to questions about pandemic response, new economic development option and what’s ahead. County commission.


State House District 12 (covers parts of Floyd and Chattooga counties)

Gilreath-Harvey

Jonathan Gilreath-Harvey, 32, is a native of Northwest Georgia. He is a graduate of Darlington School and a 2012 graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design. He owns and operates a full-service interior design firm based in Rome. He is an active board member and co-vice president of the Rome Area Heritage Foundation. He also serves on the Executive Board of Helping Hands Ending Hunger based in Trion. He participates in many alumni events at Darlington School where he has been a member of the Alumni Council since 2019. He and his husband, William, reside in Summerville, where they also serve as foster parents through Chattooga County DFCS.

Lumsden

Eddie Lumsden (Incumbent), age 68, was first elected to the state House in 2012. He currently serves as Chair of the House Insurance Committee and was Chair of House Congressional and Legislative Reapportionment Committee (2018) and Chair of House Human Relations and Aging (2017). He also serves on other committees including Appropriations, Public Safety and Homeland Security, Governmental Affairs, Rules, State Properties and Budget Oversight. He is a past Floyd County Commissioner (2007-2011), having served as chairman. He is an active member and past president of Armuchee Ruritan Club. He is a retired state trooper and currently is co-owner and agent with Teresa Lumsden Insurance Agency. He served in the Air Force/Air Guard (1970-1976). He is a graduate of Armuchee High School and holds an bachelor of Science in Communications degree from Berry College and associates degree from Floyd Junior College. He and his wife, Teresa, have two children and four grandchildren. They are active members at Pleasant Valley North Baptist Church.

QUESTION: Georgia’s push to “reopen” following the first months of the pandemic came at the cost of a surge in deaths and new cases. Even the White House has been critical of the state’s response and ongoing handling of coronavirus. Looking back, was the reopen push the right move or wrong move, and why?

Gilreath-Harvey: “Looking back at Georgia’s push to re-open in the midst of a global pandemic, I believe there should have been many extra precautions taken in the early days. The governor made the wrong decision to be one of the first states to lift restrictions without a firm plan in place by the administration. Masks should have been required when in public from the beginning as well as a strict set of guidelines that more closely followed CDC recommendations; including occupancy restrictions and the continued closures of certain types of businesses like restaurants.”

Lumsden: “The Governor’s decision to reopen Georgia was done with a great deal of thought about and reliance on data provided by the Department of Public Health and its Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, who is nationally recognized as an authority on infectious diseases. You also need to take into consideration that the purpose for the shutdown was to slow down the spread rate of COVID 19 so as to allow our medical facilities time to prepare for the surge that might overwhelm our hospital NOT as a long-term primary defense against COVID. Shutting down the state for a long period of time has long term devastating effects on our population as well. People need to work. Businesses need to operate. Government services need to be functioning. The decision was one of balancing these two realities. I believe he made a good call.”

QUESTION: As a member of the General Assembly in 2021, what coronavirus- and public safety issues will you support — or block?

Gilreath-Harvey: “If elected I will stand behind, as a business owner, legislation like the Georgia Pandemic Business Immunity Act that will allow the Georgia business community to begin to return to our new normal without fear of legal action. I will also stand behind any legislation including a set of national standards set forth by our Administration that have been based more on CDC Guidelines and science. With examples such as these set forth, we can avoid further state by state piece work that has caused a surge in new cases within our state and deaths that came as a result. We must work toward legislation that will allow Georgians to return to our daily routines without the fear of contracting COVID-19.”

Lumsden: “I have spoken with the Chairman of Public Safety and Public Health and they do not have any measures before them at present relative to COVID 19. The governor’s office is reviewing elements of the Governor’s Executive Order to see if any of those provisions should be put into law. Nothing is on the table for consideration at this time.”


State Senate District 52 (covers Floyd and parts of Polk, Gordon counties)

DeYoung

Charles DeYoung, 46, is a native of Cedartown, but has resided in Rome for the last 10 years. He is a welder working in both industrial and structural welding and currently owns his own metal art studio. He has attended Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Georgia Highlands College, Armstrong Atlantic University and has taken online course with Ashford University. He has also completed small business courses at the Savannah Entrepreneur Center, focused on teaching welding and art. He previously taught welding and metallurgy at Laurus Technical College in Atlanta, as well as taught metal working classes at his studio. He and his family have spent time volunteering at various local programs. He and his wife have three children.

Hufstetler

Chuck Hufstetler (Incumbent), 64, was first elected to the Georgia Senate in 2012. He currently serves as Chair of Finance, Vice-Chair of Retirement, and a member of Higher Education, Health and Human Services, and Appropriations.  He served as a member and chair of the Floyd County Commission from 1998 to 2006.  He negotiated for the Rome Braves stadium and was one of two in charge of construction. Professionally, he served 14 years in Corporate Management in New York, Texas and California and was also a small business owner of a restaurant for 18 years. A native Roman and graduate of East Rome High School, he holds a bachelor of Science degree from the University of Georgia, and a masters in Anesthesiology from the Emory School of Medicine.  He is employed in Anesthesia at Redmond Regional Medical Center where he has provided Anesthesia Services for the last 13 years.  He also serves as an Adjunct professor at Emory University Medical School. He and his wife Joan have 3 children and attend Seven Hills Presbyterian Church.

QUESTION: Georgia’s push to “reopen” following the first months of the pandemic came at the cost of a surge in deaths and new cases. Even the White House has been critical of the state’s response and ongoing handling of coronavirus. Looking back, was the reopen push the right move or wrong move, and why?

DeYoung: “I know everyone wants one answer that is the right answer, and we all want a simple answer. I personally found that when I take any question I face in life, no matter how complicated it is, and break it down to its simplest form, which is, what is right and what is wrong…the answer to the problem is right there, and simple. For instance, is COVID-19 deadly? Yes. Should businesses have opened early? No. Did businesses open early only to get tax revenue flowing again? Yes. Did people die? Yes. Was that the right thing to do? No. Ok, there is the answer in black and white. We should have suspended the separation between states and federal tax money and used a portion of the military budget to fight the war on COVID-19. The money is there, and our military budget is 20 times larger than any one military budget on the planet. During a pandemic, no nation would attack as they are in the same boat. Seems like some politicians try to hang on to our tax dollars like it’s their personal accounts. It’s our money.”

Hufstetler: “As a member of the Georgia Senate Health & Human Services committee, I have been involved in Governor Kemp’s COVID task force.  We have all learned from this virus and know much more about it than just months ago.  As the only senator involved in critical care in the hospital, I work with COVID patients and have kept the Senate updated from a ‘boots-on-the-ground’ perspective.  I was proud of Rome for its early response in flattening the curve.  While I would have waited longer on opening the economy, the Governor has tried to strike a balance between not destroying the economy while also not letting the virus overwhelm us.  We are now out of the red zone and have a positive test rate of 6% while the Midwest is the hot spot currently. I have continued to push for mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing, all proven to be effective. Georgia’s revenue is actually up for this fiscal year, its unemployment at 5.8%, is much lower than the national average, and we finally are at a much lower infection rate. We will continue to make the best decisions with the knowledge we have.”

QUESTION: As a member of the General Assembly in 2021, what coronavirus- and public safety issues will you support — or block?

DeYoung: “I can’t tell you how I will support or block any issue until I see it, anyone saying they can have already made their mind up on something based on an unfounded belief or playing a game. Again, let’s simplify, will a policy kill more people or protect them? I want to know how a pandemic became political. 200,000 people and counting have been buried. Other than complete failure of leadership, the face that a virus is killed people has nothing to do with political parties. Americans’ rights and our founders’ beliefs for this nation are my core values. I know that as annoying as a mask can be, saving lives of my fellow Georgians is my top priority. When this is over, whatever you feel was an invasion of freedom goes away by default, that is just common sense.”

Hufstetler: “We still have no proven cure or vaccine for the virus.  I would expect there to be one or more vaccines by early spring available. We must continue to use data to make decisions on how much we open up the economy. It was important that the infection rate and thereby hospitalization rate be kept below what would overwhelm our hospitals and particularly ICU beds.  We came close on a couple of occasions but are in much better shape currently.  I will push to make the vaccine widely available for all those who want it.  It is also my hope that we have behavior changes which will lead to lower flu, cold, etc. infection rates due to better sanitation methods.”

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