After facing no Republican opposition in 2014 or 2016, U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, has an Election Day contest next week against challengers from the GOP and the Libertarian party.
Scott was first elected to Congress in 2002 and has won reelection every two years since. He is seeking his ninth term as congressman for Georgia’s 13th District, which includes Cobb, Clayton, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton and Henry counties.
Seeking to unseat him are Republican David Callahan of South Fulton, who will be on the ballot, and write-in candidate Martin Cowen, a Libertarian.
Among Scott’s reasons for seeking another term is to focus on the economy, “particularly not just in getting the jobs, but we have to make sure people have a livable wage,” he said.
“In this year’s farm bill, I have a (provision) which would bring $5 million to schools like Fort Valley, Tuskegee University — the African-American 1890s land-grant (institutions). It was the land-grant schools that really rescued the South after the Civil War,” Scott said. “If we can get this farm bill, which I’m working on day and night ... each of these schools, their curriculums are geared into science, technology, engineering and math, STEM, which is where we’ve got to go because the technology is moving much faster than the job force is educated to keep up with.”
Callahan, a semi-retired printing industry worker, advanced to the general election after defeating Army veteran Femi Akinkugbe in the May GOP primary. He says his top priority lies in welfare reform, particularly changes in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“When I moved into the 13th District in 2011, I bought a HUD foreclosure that I live in now, but when I understood and realized how that whole system works and how much it costs the taxpayers, and the way that it functioned where it enticed people to borrow more than they could potentially were going to be able pay back — it’s just a very bad system and it hurts everybody,” Callahan said. “The people who lost their homes were hurt because they had already put money into these homes and then lost their credit rating. It also hurt the neighborhoods, because this neighborhood I live in in South Fulton has still not recovered in terms of the values of their homes.”
Cowen was nominated by the Libertarian Party during their convention but did not meet a signature requirement in order to get on the ballot as a Libertarian. He is suing Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in an effort to declare unconstitutional the signature provision in state law.
“My signature requirement was something like 20,188 signatures — I don’t think that many people voted in the primary,” Cowen said.
However, Cowen is a certified write-in candidate.
One of Cowen’s areas of focus if elected would be the student loan program.
“It’s such a huge fraud — nobody in their right mind would loan $100,000 to a 20-year-old kid. Nobody. The only reasons kids are loaned $100,000 or any sum of money is because it’s a program subsidized by the government, and it’s a program that’s not designed to help the kids ... but to create ‘indentured servants’ out of the kids — it’s just a horror,” Cowen said. “There are people say just cancel all student debts across the board — that’s not my position. My position is allow the debt to be bankruptable, just as any ordinary debt.”
Though three men are in the electoral contest, there is no contest between the three in terms of fundraising, with the incumbent pulling much larger donations and maintaining a huge war chest over his challengers.
Federal campaign finance reports show that Scott has raised more than $1 million and spent more than $961,000 from January 2017 to Oct. 17 of this year, but still has nearly $432,000 in the campaign bank.
Since July 1, 2017 through mid-October, Cowen has received $23,390 and spent nearly all of it, leaving him with just under $150, while Callahan this year has brought in $17,282 and spent just over $12,000. Callahan’s campaign had more than $5,900 unspent, according to his finance report.
The MDJ asked all three candidates their thoughts on top issues. Their responses have been edited for word count:
The federal budget deficit was $895 billion for the first 11 months of the 2018 fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. What is a concrete proposal you would support to lower the deficit?
SCOTT: We’re going to have to come clear with all of the American people and understand that with the tax cut — it’s wonderful, it’s there — if we can afford it as far as the deficit is concerned. ... I think there has to be a rather wholesome look at our spending and our revenue, and we have to talk to the American people honestly so they can understand that we’re going to have to make a choice. You can’t go on with this deficit.
CALLAHAN: I have promised to vote against any future Continuing Resolution Budgets. Each federal department should be submitting their budget for Congressional debate. Programs failing to fulfill their stated purpose should be eliminated. We also need welfare reform to move people out of poverty rather than maintaining a permanent underclass. We need to take a hard look at the early retirement option for Social Security and federal employees if early retirement causes the recipient to be below the poverty line and eligible for welfare programs.
COWEN: My wish list (these things cannot be achieved in the present environment) includes these items: cut the defense budget in half, with-drawing all troops from undeclared foreign wars in 70 percent of all countries; eliminate the Department of Education; eliminate the Department of Homeland Security, including TSA; cut all discretionary spending by 10 percent, including all federal salaries; fire 10 percent of all federal employees; cut congressional salaries by half; cut the $1 million per congressperson budget by half.
Unemployment is low, the stock market is hitting record highs and corporations are reporting strong gains, but wages continue growing at a stagnant rate. What can Congress do to address slow wage growth?
SCOTT: (We) have to call upon the Labor Department and the Commerce Department folks and see why the stagnation is there. With the tax cuts, I think President Trump has done a creditable job in dealing with the economy, but not in the area of (wages). We have some experts, we’ll call them in and get their advice, and if there’s certain kinds of legislation that needs to be introduced, we need to do that, but we need to find an answer.
CALLAHAN: We are seeing wages rise as a result of the reduction in corporate taxes. Starting pay for Walmart employees went from $9 an hour to $11 an hour as a direct result of the Tax Cut Bill. Wages move based upon the supply and demand for labor and job skills. If the job market is flooded with low- and medium-skilled labor from other countries, then the wages will be depressed. Building the wall and insisting on E-Verify will help.
COWEN: Drastic cuts in federal regulations, including the federal minimum wage (eliminate completely), will greatly improve wage conditions.
What changes to the U.S. immigration system would you support?
SCOTT: We can’t just open ourselves up to everybody who wants to come in without them being properly checked ... I’ll be doggoned if we can continue to be taken advantage of by these Central American dictators who are taking our (aid) money ... (We need to) let them know, “If you can’t take care of your problems down there and keep your people down there where they can provide and grow your economy ... then we can help you with our military and come in there and to get those gangs from running the people up here.”
CALLAHAN: The reasons for having a physical barrier (border wall) have become much more evident ... We legally accept a large number of immigrants into the U.S. Our capitalist system requires more workers and particularly with skills and work ethic that is sometimes a challenge to find domestically. I would like to see some form of sponsorship programs for people claiming refugee status. The sponsoring organization would be liable for maintaining close contact with the refugee and would make sure that the refugee was not over taxing our education and welfare programs.
COWEN: I would eliminate all welfare immigration. Zero benefits for illegal immigrants.