APN Interview with US Senate Candidate, Dr. Rad (UPDATE 2)
(APN) ATLANTA — As part of Atlanta Progressive News’s ongoing coverage of 2014 Elections in Georgia, APN sat down with Branko Radulovacki, Dr. Rad, candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).
Also seeking the Democratic nomination are former State Sen. Steen Miles (D-Decatur) and Michelle Nunn, daughter of the former US Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA).
It appears that the Democratic Party of Georgia and the corporate media are investing most of their energy and attention in Nunn, who has emerged as a centrist, or Republican-lite, candidate.
Over the last few months, for example, Nunn has supported a U.S. invasion of Syria; opposed timely implementation of the federal individual health insurance mandate that is part of the Affordable Care Act; and opposed same-sex marriage.
Dr. Rad came on the scene in 2013; however, since then, he has been appearing at many progressive functions and has been moving in many progressive social circles. Numerous progressive activists tell APN that they have seen Dr. Rad at one event or another.
APN has reached out to both the Miles and Nunn campaigns with interview requests.
Dr. Rad’s responses are as follows:
What is your position on nuclear power?
Nuclear Power appears to be the only alternative energy source that is currently able to meet our energy demand. Having said that, there are some stark concerns about nuclear power, especially after Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. Top of the list of the negatives is nuclear waste and it remains radioactive for thousands of years. And, we have not figured out how to rid our environment of that waste.
For now, nuclear power seems to be the most viable clean and no carbon-based electric generator.
What is your plan, if any, to increase solar and wind power?
Well-educated experts disagree on how we can best meet our energy needs. It is fair to say they know more about it than I do. What I do know, as we address our ever increasing demand for power and our increasing awareness of climate change, we must reduce our reliance on coal, oil and gas. These are major polluters and generators of greenhouse gas.
The advantages of renewable energy sources is self-evident. However, currently, solar and wind only provide a tiny portion, two percent to three percent, of what we need.
Do you support GMO labeling?
I absolutely support GMO labeling… I’m a physician. I’m a medical Doctor. Two years ago my family made some changes to what we eat to be better stewards of our bodies. I started reading more about nutrition and about how food relates to health. All foods are not created equal and that is where I think the GMO labeling comes into the picture… What are the health implications of ingesting these foods and consumers don’t know yet. I don’t know…
What we eat impacts our health and that goes beyond calories and fat content. I think a lot of questions remain about the effects of GMO foods. I think if companies want to sell their food to consumers they have to disclose it on their labels. Then consumers can make informed decisions about what they choose to eat.
Do you support a voter-verified paper audit trail for electronic voting?
Segments of our society have become increasingly concerned, and I think legitimately so, about their ability to vote readily and to be sure that their votes are counted.
The Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down the preclearance portion of the Voting Rights Act, that opened the door to some worrisome changes in the states’ voting laws, including some in Georgia.
A verified paper trail … provide an instant verification that a vote has been counted, used to detect possible malfunctions or possible voter fraud. It can prove as a deterrent to delete votes, used to resolve disputes… A number of states require a voter verified paper trail… It could be a step in the right direction to ensure all votes count. So, for that reason I would support its use in all states, including Georgia.
Do you support restoring voting rights in federal elections for felons and/or ex-felons?
Intuitively, when a person has paid their debt to society, I think their voting rights should be returned. I think that at a visceral level. I want to make an opportunity for them to rejoin society in a very meaningful way. We want them to be productive. We want them to contribute to society. We need to give them a chance to do so. I think voting is one of the principle ways we can offer individuals to rejoin society. I would be in favor of extending that opportunity to ex-felons.
Do you support a constitutional amendment in response to the Citizens United, clarifying that corporations do not have constitutional rights, and allowing the federal, state, and local governments to limit campaign contributions by corporations?
Yes, yes and yes. Corporations are not people and money is not speech. And, the Supreme Court, in Citizens United, profoundly altered our electoral system for the worse. Corporations are influencing politicians based on their contributions to pacts of political parties and opponents.
As a result, corporations and wealthy individuals are able to influence so-called free speech rights. Most Americans can’t. I’m saying this in my own race for United States Senate. I have made it clear, not only is this race for me, but for democracy in general.
What is your position on NSA spying on US citizens, including the PRISM program, telephony metadata program, and other recent revelations?
We live in a country of relative peace and safety. That is in a significant part due to our national security agencies. Comfort comes at a price, which is government intrusion into our lives. I believe strongly in a deep need to place limits on NSA and other national security agencies to protect the individual’s freedoms.
The New America Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit found [that] metadata was used in less than two percent of cases of individuals indicted for terrorism… I think that is an important finding, and I believe that a similar finding was drawn by a group appointed by the White House to study these reforms to NSA…
Metadata collection is not essential to preventing terrorist attacks. So, I think it is an intrusion on our civil rights. They are an intrusion into our privacy and they are not even producing the results that we want them to. We have to reign them in.
Do you support an interest rate cap of 15 or 18 percent on credit cards?
Yes, I do support a cap. I don’t know if it is fifteen percent or eighteen percent. I have to look at the rationale for choosing a particular number.
There will always be people who consider a cap as a threat to free enterprise and believe people should be free to sign up for any outrageous rate that they choose. I think some people don’t have a choice. They may have lost their home to foreclosure or lost a job during the recent great recession through corporate downsizing, or they may have finished college, but been unable to find work. So, for whatever reason, they are trying to support themselves and their families. They are at the mercy of these credit card companies, who by definition are focused on the bottom line and maximum profits. Until we can provide opportunities we need for affordable housing, work that pays a living wage, a job with a future, we need to do what we can to help them and protect them from predatory lending of all types.
Do you support legalizing cannabis (marijuana) at the federal level for medical purposes and/or recreational purposes?
I’m willing to keep an open mind on the issue of medical marijuana and consider whatever credible evidence can be gathered.
As I said, I am a physician and a psychiatrist, who treats many people for addictions. And, I am concerned about ready access to any addictive substance. I know there are doctors who prescribe addictive substances to people who don’t really need them for a health reason. There are others who make addictive substances available for fun and profit.
So I would say I don’t support legalizing recreational marijuana. I think the public health concerns are too significant. But, I do support revisiting sentencing guidelines for the possession or use of marijuana. That over-sentencing is a major problem, especially among certain demographic groups such as minorities. And, we have got to replace jail time with addiction treatment and other more constructive alternatives.
What is your position on implementation of the Affordable Care Act? Should there be a delay in implementation of certain components, as Michelle Nunn has suggested?
As a physician, I feel very strongly about every person’s right to accessible and affordable health care. I believe the Affordable Care Act is a significant step in the direction of healthcare for all. I believe we are right now the last nation in the industrialized world to move toward this achievable goal. I think it’s long overdue. Americans now have new rights to free preventative care; guaranteed health care, despite pre-existing conditions; and no annual or lifetime limits. It is going to significantly reduce the financial worry associated with ill family members. And, I think that’s a wonderful thing.
I’ve taken a strong stand in support of the Affordable Care Act here in Georgia, against Governor Deal and the conservatives. I think the law is a step in the right direction for Georgians’ believe there are significant improvements that can and should be made to the legislation. But, despite these vulnerabilities, the basic premise is right that healthcare should be a basic right for all persons.
You’ve mentioned Michelle Nunn. She has called for a delay in the individual mandate, as I understand it. Had that suggestion been followed, it would have had a devastating effect on the Affordable Care Act and that would have been disastrous. There was no reason.
18 to 25 year-olds account for more than 25 percent of the Affordable Care Act enrollments. Which means the system is now financially viable. There are enough healthy young people to offset those who fall into higher risk categories.
What do I think needs to be changed? We need a larger pool of doctors and hospitals to choose from. We need to find a way to serve those without Medicaid expansion, like Georgia; consider closing the Medicare doughnut hole faster; improving information access to Spanish speakers; and just better communicating its benefits.
I have actually created an Affordable Healthcare FAQ Frequently Asked Questions on my website www.DrRadForSenate.com
Do you support same-sex marriage?
Yes, I do. As a psychiatrist, I believe sexual orientation is a strong genetic component rather than a simple choice. And, as a result, I see no basis for judging or discriminating against his or her to their sexual orientation. I am a Christian, and as a Christian, I believe in the separation of church and state.
I don’t think our government should be in the business of discriminating against anyone because of their beliefs. As a happily married man, I understand the desire to make a lifelong commitment to one person. I see no legitimate reason to deny that right to someone else. Pope Frances said, “Who am I to judge?” That’s a strong statement and I agree with it.
What was your position on invading Syria, prior to its announcement of an agreement with Russia?
President Obama asked for permission to attack Syria last summer in response to its use of chemical weapons. I made it very clear I did not support that response. Instead, I called for a redoubling of diplomatic efforts and to address refugee aid in that part of the world. And, although the United Nations inspired peace talks that just began in the last couple of months got off to a rocky start, I still believe that countless Syrian lives were saved when President Obama chose diplomacy over war.
Peace is the outcome we should be pursuing. Syria’s chemicals are being rapidly documented prior to being destroyed. And, I think the success has opened doors for diplomacy with some other countries that we thought were previously unwilling to negotiate with us. So I think there have been some real positive results due to President Obama’s decision to pursue diplomacy and I support that.
On a related note, I don’t believe the United States can or should be the world’s policeman… We must turn away from this temptation and turn away from these wars of choice. We must reclaim our position as a model for democracy, a position of moral authority, and always be accountable for our actions.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article identified former US Sen. Sam Nunn as a Republican. In fact, he was a Democrat.
CORRECTION #2: An earlier version of this article mis-spelled the candidate’s last name, Bradulovacki, by omitting the “i.” APN regrets the error