The incumbent Republican candidate for Georgia Senate District 32, Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, answered questions from the Courier about her campaign recently.
Kirkpatrick, an orthopedic surgeon, is running for re-election against Democratic Party candidate Christine Triebsch this November.
Kirkpatrick has been in office since June 2017, after she defeated her Republican opponents and then Triebsch in a special election. The special election was called after then-Senator Judson Hill vacated his seat after deciding to run for U.S. Congress.
Kirkpatrick is on Governor Brian Kemp’s coronavirus task force, part of the primary care provider committee.
She was also diagnosed with COVID-19. Kirkpatrick announced in March that she had the disease and has since been recovering.
Can you talk about your background? Who are you?
Kirkpatrick: I am an orthopaedic surgeon and former President of Resurgens Orthopaedics. I have served in many leadership roles in my business and my specialty. My husband and I have lived in East Cobb since 1986 and I get a lot of satisfaction from being very involved in the community. I care deeply about the district and have a reputation for integrity, problem-solving and common sense.
What political issues are most important to you in this day and age?
Kirkpatrick: I work a lot on healthcare, insurance and patient safety issues because that is my area of expertise. I am concerned about the polarization we are seeing and I like working with others to solve tough problems. I have demonstrated an ability to get things done at the Capitol and have a track record of effectiveness.
Months ago, you announced you had COVID-19. How are you doing now? Do you mind sharing your experience, how you were treated, etc.?
Kirkpatrick: I am fully recovered and am part of an antibody study at Emory; I have donated plasma twice as part of the study. I was treated at home with strict isolation by my physician husband and did not have to seek treatment at a hospital. I feel lucky to have a strong immune system.
You’re part of Gov. Kemp’s coronavirus task force and a doctor. How do you feel about the work done with regard to local and federal government responses to the COVID pandemic? Would you do anything differently about the pandemic response?
Kirkpatrick: I am an advocate for [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and [Georgia Department of Public Health] guidelines and mask wear. I frequently see people wearing their masks incorrectly and have made a video about why mask wear is important. I am glad the Governor is giving local governments the option of local control of their mask requirements and am also happy to see businesses following the guidelines. I have heard a lot from constituents with young students and those with special needs about their struggles with virtual learningand I am glad that CCSD is moving toward safely getting the students back in a phased manner.
Can you talk about your support for legislation that protects healthcare workers you mention on your website?
Kirkpatrick: You are referring to SB 359 that protects healthcare providers, facilities and businesses from liability for COVID cases provided they are following the restrictions that are in place. I think this is important since we know that COVID can be spread by asymptomatic people, which means that you can basically get it anywhere. The bill still leaves the option for legal action if the guidelines are not followed.
In your primary this year, the difference between the number of people who voted for you and your opponent have been closer than they’ve ever been (Triebsch receiving around 23,000 and you receiving around 24,000 votes). On a larger scale, 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?
Kirkpatrick: I think the demographics in our district has changed and that the area has become younger and more urban.
a. How do you plan to counter it?
Kirkpatrick: I am working full-time on behalf of our community, and those I have helped during my few years down there understand that I take the job seriously. Now it is a matter of getting the word out on all the things I am doing for the benefit of East Cobb.
What legislation have you supported and/or passed that you’re proud of?
Kirkpatrick: I was able to pass 6 bills during the last session and the one I was most proud of was the “Save our Sandwiches” bill that fixed the problem that came up with the summer feeding programs for MUST [Ministries] and other nonprofits.
I worked on that for a year with state agencies, nonprofits and people on both sides of the aisle and was happy to be successful. This will save MUST 250K every year that they can use for other important programs.
I passed a medical interstate compact bill that expedites licensure and will help healthcare access.
I passed a domestic violence bill that helps prevent arresting the wrong person in domestic violence calls.
I passed a bill allowing early prescription refills in emergencies. I voted for the hate crimes bill.
I carried the maternal mortality bill. I have the 2nd highest “batting average” in the Senate for effectiveness by the AJC’s Legislative Navigator. I work a lot on issues important to individuals in my district: mental health, support for families with special needs, people in recovery. I am an animal lover and have had several bills that advocate for animal welfare.
Can you talk about your position on education? How do you feel about cuts to dual enrollment? Voucher programs? Public education?
Kirkpatrick: I support our great schools in Cobb County and have been able to work with the school district, teacher groups and parents to be sure that we maintain our quality. That is why I was endorsed by Educators First. I also think education is not always a “one size fits all” and that it is beneficial to give parents as much flexibility as possible within the framework of maintaining the excellence of our public system.
The dual enrollment program became a victim of its own success and [is] quickly becoming unsustainable. The cuts that were made were logical. Students will still be able to take advantage of this great program when they are juniors and seniors.
I hope that our economy will recover quickly so that we can give the teachers the rest of their raise.
How do you think you differ best from your opponent?
Kirkpatrick: My belief is that the government cannot solve all our problems. I believe that individuals and businesses can thrive better in an environment of freedom and getting the government out of the way. I support our military, veterans and law enforcement. I believe in dialogue with people who disagree with me in order to fully understand their point of view.
What do you think of police brutality and the protests surrounding it?
Kirkpatrick: I support peaceful protests but I do not support property damage and riots. The vast majority of our law enforcement officers do an excellent and professional job. They need more resources and training, not less. Bad actors should be dealt with in a timely way.
Can you expand on your support for legislation on hate crimes protections for first responders?
Kirkpatrick: I supported the hate crimes bill and also supported protections for first responders. The two bills were linked and the hate crimes bill would not have passed the Senate if the other bill had not passed. We have seen recent examples of police being shot just because they are police and they need protection as much as any other victim.
How do you feel about bans on assault rifles and the 2nd Amendment?
Kirkpatrick: I support the right of law-abiding citizens to own weapons as per the 2nd Amendment. I do not want criminals such as people convicted of felonies to have guns and have worked on legislation related to convicted domestic abusers. I do believe in safety training for gun owners.
Your opponent mentions plans for dealing with pollution around the Chattahoochee, Kennesaw Mountain, and more. What plans do you have that address climate change?
Kirkpatrick: I supported a lot of environmental legislation last session and specifically the bill about ethylene oxide reporting. This is another example of working together across party lines on an issue that affects the public health of our community. I also support keeping our river and our drinking water clean and worked closely with the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper organization last session.
What do you want voters to know most about you and your campaign?
Kirkpatrick: I am doing this public service job in order to make a difference for our community. I am accessible and do my best to listen to those with different points of view. I learned in my life as a surgeon the approach that is working well for me in elected office: Ask the right questions to define the problem, get the right people in the room, develop the best option and move forward.
Any last thoughts you feel the public should know?
Kirkpatrick: People move here because they want to be safe, work productively, raise their kids and pay as little tax as possible. I support maintaining the great quality of life that we have in East Cobb. I believe in treating others the way I want to be treated. That has served me well in life and now in politics.
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.