APN Questionnaire, Taylor Bennett, HD 80 Special Election
(APN) ATLANTA — In Atlanta Progressive News’s ongoing coverage to the State House District 80 Special Election, which will take place on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, this article presents questionnaire responses from candidate Taylor Bennett.
District 80 includes parts of Sandy Springs in Fulton County and Brookhaven in DeKalb.
In a four-person race in a Special Election with no primary process, Bennett is the single Democratic candidate. He has been endorsed by former State Rep. Dubose Porter (D-Dublin), Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG); and State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta).
Democrats view this as an opportunity to take back a seat that was Democratic until former State Rep. Mike Jacobs (D-then R-Brookhaven) switched parties in 2007. Jacobs–now a State Court Judge in DeKalb County–held the seat as a Democrat from 2005 to 2007.
In 2004, Jacobs, then a Democrat, defeated J. Max Davis, a Republican who went on to serve as Mayor of Brookhaven, 51 percent to 49 percent. Jacobs, as a Democrat, defeated another Republican candidate, Tom Elliott, in 2006.
In these elections, Jacobs received the support of some progressive, DPG-oriented Democrats, who were enamored with Jacobs for his propensity for attacking then-U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA).
In 2008, Jacobs defeated an independent, Michelle Conlon; and in 2010, he defeated Democrat Sandy Murray. In 2012, he defeated Catherine Bernard in the Republican Primary, 75 percent to 25 percent, facing no Democrat in the General Election.
The current Democratic candidate, Mr. Bennett, is an attorney and former football professional.
There is no phone number or email address for Bennett on his website, so APN was only able to reach the campaign through the campaign manager, whose phone number was obtained from the DPG.
The other candidates are three Republicans: Catherine Bernard, Loren Collins, and former Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis.
APN’s questionnaire with candidate Loren Collins is published here:
Davis’s responses were received just before press time and will be published shortly under separate cover.
APN has not received questionnaire responses to date from Bernard. Bernard confirmed receipt of the questionnaire and has promised a response on two occasions, although it has not yet been received.
Bennett’s responses to questions posed by APN are as follows:
DO YOU BELIEVE ALL HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEES SHOULD KEEP MINUTES, AND THOSE MINUTES SHOULD BE MADE PUBLIC? DO YOU HAVE ANY ADDITIONAL IDEAS FOR TRANSPARENCY AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS?
I absolutely believe that all House and Senate committees should keep minutes, and that those minutes should be available to the public. I firmly believe that transparency must be one of government’s highest priorities at any level, and that conducting the people’s business in full view of the people is the only way to function in a democratic society. I will support any legislation to improve transparency in our state government, and I will conduct my business as an elected official in a fully transparent manner.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON NUCLEAR POWER?
Nuclear power is a clean, highly efficient source of energy. I believe that it offers tremendous opportunities and benefits as we move towards cleaner, more sustainable energy sources. I support the use of nuclear power, though I also support any and all investment necessary to make it as safe as possible and protect our citizens.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS, IF ANY, TO EXPAND WIND AND SOLAR IN GEORGIA?
Georgia has grown into a regional if not national leader in investment in solar power, and I fully support efforts to continue to facilitate that progress. Alternative sources of energy not only help protect our environment, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and result in cleaner air, but they also represent areas for economic growth, development, and job creation. I look forward to helping Georgia continue to develop the responsible use of efficient, alternative energy sources and seeing the economic opportunities they generate become a reality for our hard-working citizens.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT REDUCING PETITION REQUIREMENTS FOR INDEPENDENT AND POLITICAL BODY (MINOR PARTY) CANDIDATES FROM THE CURRENT ONE PERCENT STATEWIDE, FIVE PERCENT NON-STATEWIDE REQUIREMENT?
Our democracy should be accessible to all individuals from all walks of life and points of view. I would welcome a conversation at the state level concerning the burdens placed on independent and minor party candidates and would give such a reduction all due consideration.
WOULD YOU SUPPORT ADDING A VOTER VERIFIABLE PAPER AUDIT TRAIL TO ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEMS IN GEORGIA?
I support any legitimate efforts to make our government more transparent, our voter registration process more effective, and our electoral process more fair and accurate. A VVPAT can enable voters to ensure that their ballot was cast correctly and it can defend against fraud. I would welcome a conversation about the need for and cost of such a system statewide, and would certainly support the use of a VVPAT if proven advantageous to Georgia voters.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON THE REFERENDUM TO CREATE A STATEWIDE OPPORTUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT TO TAKE OVER SO-CALLED FAILING SCHOOLS?
I oppose the referendum to create the Opportunity School District, I will vote against it, and I would have voted against the legislation that proposed the referendum last session. I believe that our public education must strive to take into account input from all concerned parties, including parents, teachers, and administrators. I believe that public education operates most effectively when it is adequately funded and the aforementioned groups are all part of the process. The Opportunity School District effectively removes this collaboration from the equation, while doing nothing to eliminate the funding gap, reduce class sizes, or retain our hard-working teachers. Rather, it gives a relatively unchecked statewide appointed official the ability to drastically alter the operation of a local district without adequate safeguards for appeal or true accountability for the decision.
DO YOU SUPPORT AN EXPANDED MEDICAL CANNABIS PROGRAM (IN-STATE CULTIVATION, FULL PLANT MEDICINE, EXPANDED LIST OF CONDITIONS)? DO YOU SUPPORT DECRIMINALIZATION? DO YOU SUPPORT LEGALIZATION?
I would support an expanded medical cannabis program in our state based on demonstrated need. Haleigh’s Hope was an important step for Georgia to take in order to offer relief to thousands of Georgians suffering from the presently listed conditions. However, we have seen additional concerns arise for these families despite the bill’s passage, mostly around the legal procurement of cannabinoid oil. If Georgia is willing to take one step to help it’s citizens make use of the medicinal benefits of marijuana and its derivatives, it should be prepared to explore the next steps needed to make those benefits more accessible and effective, and I would support efforts to do so. I also support a substantial and comprehensive review of our criminal justice policies as they relate to drug crimes and penalties.
WHAT IS YOUR POSITION ON CITYHOOD PROPOSAL FOR THE CITY OF LAVISTA HILLS, AND ATLANTA’S PROPOSAL FOR DRUID HILLS ANNEXATION?
Cityhood proposals are incredibly important issues for would-be residents of new municipalities. As a resident of neither Druid Hills or [LaVista Hills], I believe that these decisions belong to those individuals who would be affected. That being said, cityhood should be carefully considered in all instances, as such a decision directly relates to important issues such as a county’s tax base and the appropriate division of public services.
DO YOU SUPPORT GMO LABELING?
I do support GMO labeling.
DO YOU SUPPORT ANY OF THE RECENT PROPOSALS REDUCING THE EARLY VOTING PERIOD, OR ALLOWING LOCAL JURISDICTIONS FLEXIBILITY TO REDUCE EARLY VOTING?
I oppose any attempts to reduce the early voting period. Just a few years ago, early voting was reduced from 45 days to 21 days. That reduction received bipartisan support and was enacted after the careful consideration of the economic pressures put on localities by having such an extended voting period despite the fact that the vast majority of voters did not take advantage of the first few weeks polls were open. Since then, early voting has been incredibly popular among Georgians and no evidence has been offered that the costs of early voting remotely outweigh the flexibility and accessibility that voters enjoy. I believe that our current early voting laws represent an appropriate balance between economic costs and benefits to all voters, and that the standardized structure ensures that regardless of where a voter lives, they will have the same opportunity to exercise their fundamental right as any other Georgian. I will oppose any efforts to limit early voting in our state or restrict access to the ballot box.