The Courier asked Democratic Party candidate Christine Triebsch, who is running for Georgia State Senate District 32 to answer a few questions for our readers.
Triebsch is a lawyer and running to unseat Republican incumbent Senator Dr. Kay Kirkpatrick this November.
Triebsch first ran against Kirkpatrick in a special election in 2017 and lost 57 percent to 43 percent. The special election was called when then-Republican Senator Judson Hill vacated his seat to run for U.S. Congress.
In the 2018 general election, Triebsch faced Kirkpatrick again and lost, this time at 57.4 percent to 42.6 percent.
Can you talk about your background? Who are you?
Triebsch: I am the wife of a Cobb County school teacher, a mom of two children (my daughter is a Senior at Pope High School and my son is a Senior at the University of Missouri), and a family law trial attorney. We are members of St. James Episcopal Church off the Marietta Square. I have lived in Georgia for 27 years and in Cobb County for 23. I was born in Nebraska and raised in Overland Park, Kansas with my four brothers and sisters by my awesome Mom, Kate. I am a Chiefs fan!
What political issues are most important to you in this day and age?
Triebsch: The issues most important to me are: (1) healthcare and the expansion of Medicaid; (2) public education; and (3) gerrymandering or redrawing the voting districts so that votes are not diluted due to unfair district lines. All three of these issues are non-partisan and non-political.
(1) We are in a pandemic and healthcare is needed now more than ever. Access to quality and affordable healthcare ensures our community will receive preventive services to stay healthy and avert serious illness by receiving immediate care at the onset of an illness. Having access to insurance reduces the potential for large medical bills and provides mental health and substance abuse treatment, as well. Access to healthcare also impacts one’s overall physical, social, and mental health status and their quality of life. Being healthy is central to happiness. By expanding Medicaid in Georgia, over 500,000 vulnerable Georgians will have healthcare. Those include lower income families, uninsured women, and uninsured veterans. Georgia’s uninsured rate is the THIRD highest in the country. The expansion would also provide economic recovery to our rural hospitals and provide over fifty thousand jobs, as well as providing a financial boost to our economy.
(2) We must fully fund our public education in order to ensure our children receive the best public education. Without strong public education, our society will crumble. I cannot stress enough, the importance of a good quality public education for our children and our society.
(3) Every ten years, the voting districts are reviewed and redrawn, due to the information provided by the U.S. Census. I fully support a non-partisan, independent commission to redraw the voting districts so that every vote counts and gerrymandered districts are eliminated, once and for all.
If the voting districts are fairly drawn, and the votes are no longer diluted due to gerrymandering, then the voice of the voters will finally be fairly heard, and the pressing issues of healthcare and education will be realized and resolved by the voters at the polls.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 and the loss of jobs and as a result, loss of healthcare, some Democrats have been calling for options beyond Medicaid, such as single-payer healthcare and Medicare-for-all. How do you feel about healthcare options beyond Medicaid, like Medicare-for-all or single-payer healthcare?
Triebsch: First, we must immediately expand Medicaid in Georgia. Georgia is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid. Georgian’s are dying (13.7% of Georgians have NO health insurance) and rural hospitals are closing because Georgia has not expanded Medicaid. Let me repeat, your fellow Georgians are dying because they do not have health insurance.
After expanding Medicaid in Georgia, we can look at our healthcare system and determine how to make it work better for all Georgians.
In general, how do you feel about local and federal government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic? Would you do anything differently about the pandemic response when elected?
Triebsch: Since the position I am running for is SD-32, I will address that level of government. All one must do is look at the statistics and data based on science to determine our state is doing poorly. As I respond to this questionnaire on September 14, 2020, Georgia has lost 6,353 innocent children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, and friends to Covid-19 during this pandemic. There are currently 295,337 Georgians infected with the virus.
What would I do differently? I would think about the health of my fellow Georgians. I would follow the science, the CDC, and the data. Furthermore, I would make masks mandatory. As stated by CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield, “We are not defenseless against COVID-19, cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.” Again, this is a non-partisan, non-political issue – wear a mask.
Thoughts on mask mandates and sending children back to school in-person?
Triebsch: Children, educators, administrators, and staff should NOT go back into the physical school buildings until everyone can do so safely, based on science and data. To prevent the spread of the virus, masks must always be worn. Teachers and students must also socially distance themselves from each other which is impossible in a school setting. Education should continue with the virtual model until all stakeholders have a guarantee it is safe to return. That may not occur until safe and effective vaccinations have been administered.
Can you expand upon your position on education from your website? Why do you not support a voucher system?
Triebsch: I support fully funding Georgian’s public education. I do not support a private voucher system that redirects or siphons public education funds into private schools. The Republican incumbent voted FOR private school vouchers (see SB 173). Our public education should not be defunded. I will always stand with and support our public schools.
Similarly, Kennesaw State University recently started limiting its dual enrollment hours. How do you feel about KSU and schools in general across Georgia beginning to limit dual enrollment hours? Why do you feel this way?
Triebsch: Dual enrollment is a wonderful opportunity for high school students who are in lower income families to earn college credit and make college more affordable in a time when college tuition is so expensive. The Republican incumbent voted FOR the bill (HB 444) that was passed into law on July 1, 2020, which limits the number of college credit hours that would be paid through state funds. The law also limits the program, with some exceptions, to only 11th-and 12th-grade students. Our public education should not be defunded. I will always stand with and support our public schools.
Why do you support the repeal of campus carry?
Triebsch: Guns do not belong in classrooms, at tailgating events, or in the student recreation center. Period.
Can you expand on how you plan to address climate change around Kennesaw Mountain, Lake Allatoona, the Chattahoochee, etc.?
Triebsch: I have children and I want to protect the environment so that they can enjoy what I have enjoyed my whole life. Therefore, we need to protect all our land, air, water, and wildlife. I support affordable clean energy, powered by solar and wind resources. Climate change and global warming is real and needs to be addressed now, not later. Issues such as land and forest degradation, along with air and water pollution also need to be addressed. I would support bills that reduce dependence on fossil fuel power and support clean energy that opposes oil and gas drilling along Georgia’s coast, to name a few. I would also support requiring permits and establishing requirements for coal ash and landfills, urging Georgia Power to put coal cash in a lined landfill.
Can you expand on voting rights and gerrymandering in your district from your website?
Triebsch: Absolutely. SD-32 was carefully crafted over 20 years ago to ensure that it would remain a safe and secure Republican majority. I support a non-partisan, non-political, independent commission to redraw all the voting districts/lines fairly so that the votes in SD-32, as well as the other districts, are not diluted. This would be the first time in decades a fair representation of the newly drawn district would exist. The Republican incumbent is opposed to an independent or bipartisan commission for redistricting. (See Justfacts/VoteSmart.org)
How do you think you differ from your Republican opponent?
Triebsch: Healthcare: I support a full expansion of Medicaid; the Republican incumbent does not support a full expansion of Medicaid.
Public Education: I support fully funding public education and I support the dual enrollment program; the Republican incumbent does not and voted against public schools and the Dual Enrollment program.
During the Pandemic, the Republican incumbent voted to cut the public-school budget by … nearly one billion dollars [Editor’s note: a previous version mentioned the figure of $950,000 as “nearly $1 billion.” The correct figure was approximately $1 billion. We regret the error] . I, on the other hand, support public schools.
Voting Districts: I support an independent commission to redraw the lines. Elected officials/politicians should not have any input in redrawing voting districts. The Republican incumbent opposes an independent commission redrawing voting districts.
Across Cobb County, more traditionally Republican seats are now beginning to be challenged, with Democrats receiving many votes in traditionally red places. What do you think has changed in your district and perhaps county-wide that has caused traditionally Republican seats to be more contested?
Triebsch: In my opinion, I think the voters are now realizing that they have a voice, and their voice in their district has not been heard in many years. It has not been heard because a few seats, primarily Republicans, have not been contested. In other words, the Republicans, have historically run unopposed on the ballot. In 2020, almost all races on the Georgia ballots this year are contested. We have a two-party system and this year the voters will decide the type of government they want when they elect the candidate that most closely represents their preferences on important issues such as healthcare in the middle of pandemic, public education, gerrymandering, repealing the guns on college campuses, etc. And people are more likely to vote when they are engaged and educated in the process and on the issues. The voters know who they want to win and eventually represent them in the legislature. No longer can Georgia citizens just vote as their parents did. The results on November 3 will affect the voter, the voter’s family, the voter’s employment, etc.
What do you think of police brutality and the protests surrounding it?
Triebsch: First, we need accurate data and research about the use of force by the police. That data should be studied and used to prevent additional police brutality incidents. Potential training for police officers may include additional education, better vetting of new recruits, requirements of officers to de-escalate before using force, using specific guidelines when responding to specific situations, restricting or banning chokeholds, and requiring officers to exhaust all other options before resorting to deadly force.
Realize that systemic racism is real. The peaceful protests have been effective in raising the public consciousness about the issue of police brutality.
What do you want voters to know most about you and your campaign?
Triebsch: I am not a career politician and I do not intend to be a career politician. The voters deserve to have representation by a moderate, common sense Democrat who understands that there is a middle ground and can reach that middle ground for the benefit of all involved. I did what any concerned citizen would do: I ran for office.
My campaign is not funded by big corporations and lobbyists. I run a grassroots, small-dollar campaign.
Any last thoughts you feel the public should know?
Triebsch: We are in a pandemic, so I ask you to make a plan to vote. Here is a plan: request an absentee ballot at my website: ChristineForGa.com/vote. Once you get the ballot in the mail, immediately fill it out and return it to one of the safe drop boxes located in Cobb County – no postage needed. You can find one of the boxes at this link:Cobb County Drop Box Locations. If you prefer to early vote in person, that will begin October 12, 2020. Do not forget, November 3 is your very last opportunity to vote.
We need new leadership as the current leaders have failed you and me. I am asking for your trust and your vote as your next State Senator in District 32.
Finally, daily I try to follow Micah 6:8, “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.”
Thank you and wear a mask!
Find me at my website and on social media:
Arielle Robinson is an undergrad at Kennesaw State University. She is the president of the university’s Society of Professional Journalists and an editor at the KSU Sentinel. She enjoys music, reading poetry and non-fiction books and collecting books and records.