When Travis Klavohn voted in the 2016 election, he noticed there were very few Republicans on the ballot to represent his South Cobb home. That didn’t seem right to him.
“Democracy only works if voters have choices on the ballot,” he said, noting how unusual it was for a traditionally red state like Georgia to have so few Republicans running in his area. “The GOP should start acting like a majority party.”
Eventually, Klavohn decided he should be the person to take up that challenge, running to unseat 10-term incumbent State Sen. Horacena Tate (D – Atlanta) in a district including south Cobb, plus parts of south Fulton and the City of Atlanta.
Klavohn describes District 38 as “an independent district” despite being represented by a Democrat and added that he feels voters aren’t nearly as energized in the district as they could be.
He’s been asked to run for office many times, he said, and after considering other seats decided this was the right office to aim for. Tate was first elected in 1998, and Klavohn feels she has become distant over the last two decades and is no longer engaged with voters.
“We do not see Horacena anymore,” reads a portion of his campaign website. “That is why people are saying ‘Horacena, haven’t seen ya!’”
Tate easily won the 2016 election, taking 59,542 votes (78.54 percent) to challenger James Morrow’s 16,265 votes (21.46 percent). Klavohn and Tate both ran unopposed in this spring’s primary elections, with Klavohn picking up 2,492 votes and Tate 14,435.
Tate is the daughter of the late Horace Tate, a state senator himself who helped bring about the desegregation of schools in Georgia. Klavohn feels she has failed to live up to her father’s legacy.
“Horace Tate, I believe, was a good man. He was a civil rights leader who did a lot of good things for the African-American community,” said Klavohn. “Horacena has not lived up to the mantle of her inheritance.”
Klavohn said he campaigned through the primary season even without a challenger and noted he was often the only Republican at political events in South Cobb. He plans to put out yard signs and go door to door for the next 30 days or so, and to reach out to independent and swing voters over the last 45 days of the race.
He feels that most local Democrats are moderate in nature and that while most of them are more well-off economically than they were eight years ago, not much of that economic growth has reached District 38. There is too much industrial property and not enough retail, he said, a situation which leads to shoppers exiting the district to spend their money.
“At the root of this problem is inequality,” he said. “We need a leader who understands business and economic development.”
Married for 23 years, Klavohn has a 19-year-old son who attends Georgia Tech, and a 15-year-old son who he said attends private school in Atlanta. He’s a graduate of the University of South Carolina and the University of Georgia and is a managing partner at Klavohn Consulting.
Along with economic development, Klavohn’s top priorities are health care and education. He has a 10-point plan for healthcare, which includes the repeal or reform of certificate of need laws and the repeal of minimum essential coverage for plans offered under the Affordable Care Act.
Klavohn’s education goals include reducing suspension rates among Black and Hispanic males.
“We’re suspending kids for having braided hair, for kicking a trash can, for rolling their eyes at a teacher,” he said. “Those are not major offenses, and I believe those need to be handled differently.”
He added that students suspended from school by the 9th grade are twice as likely to drop out of high school and more likely to end up incarcerated. One solution he proposes is peer councils who can work with students displaying behavior issues.
“Society has a responsibility and an interest in addressing the problems in public schools. This is one way we can do it, which is consistent with conservative Republican principles.”