By Arielle Robinson
The Courier interviewed Marcus Flowers, a Democrat running for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, by phone Wednesday afternoon.
Flowers seeks to unseat current U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right freshman known for racist remarks and conspiracy theories who now represents portions of Cobb County thanks to a new redistricting map.
Late last month, Governor Brian Kemp signed the new map into law.
To the chagrin of Cobb Democrats and even Greene herself, part of the new map now puts the majority Black and Democrat suburban Cobb cities of Austell and Powder Springs into the mostly white, rural and conservative 14th District.
The primary is May 24 while the general election is November 8.
Flowers answered our questions about his background and campaign.
Talk about your background. Who are you and why did you decide to become involved in politics?
Flowers: “I am Marcus Flowers. I’m an Army veteran, a former defense contractor and former government official for the Department of Defense. I was born in Troy, Alabama, and that’s of course, the birthplace of John Lewis. At 11 years old, I moved into a children’s home because my family had some difficulties, not unlike many families in our district and across the country. At 18 years old, I joined the Army and swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last almost 30 years, as a soldier, defense contractor, government official. I’ve worked on humanitarian efforts in the Sudan, done peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and also spent a decade in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. So that’s a little bit about my background. What I do as far as my role in national security is I have a logistics background. I also am a compliance official. And that’s what I did for the Department of Defense, I worked in compliance overseeing large defense contractors.
Now, why I’m in this race. That story goes back to when I watched George Floyd being murdered … that same summer, there was a lot of disinformation and misinformation being spread. I could see [it] in the last election — even the last previous elections with Russia and China and other groups spreading disinformation within our country. And coming from the background that I came from — in national defense — I’ve seen what misinformation and disinformation does. Again, I spent a decade in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, I lost friends overseas who were supporting our country. [Prior to George Floyd] I kind of always kept my head down, I was serving the country. And watching [Floyd’s killing] I decided to over that summer kind of get involved with activism.
One of the things I started doing in my district here was peeling off Confederate flag stickers from public property. I started talking to people on social media to kind of get a feeling of what people were thinking about everything that was going on in our politics, as of late. But then on January 6, having seen what happened there, seeing police officers beaten with American flags and Confederate battle flags being flown through the Capitol or paraded through the Capitol Rotunda and having watched Marjorie Taylor Greene talk about it being ‘our 1776 moment‘ and everything that led up to January 6, I knew I had to do something. I had to get involved in some type of way. So I decided to resign my post as a government official and run for Congress.”
How do you think your background has prepared you to become a congress member?
“I’ve worked within our system of government for almost three decades. I’ve provided reports to Congress on several different issues relating to things that were going on on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m a logistics and compliance guy and I provided those services to intelligence and electronics warfare type units and communication units. I helped train the Afghan army, I’ve also served on contracts where we taught governance to Iraqi officials who were local leaders. So I’ve done a lot of things that have prepared me for this, again, working within the system for almost three decades and knowing how to work within the system to get things done. And with that comes a lot of continuous education and learning how the wheels of government actually work, like being very familiar with federal regulations and case law concerning our government, so that has prepared me to actually sit in Congress and help legislate.
But for me, it’s more about service — and I’ve served the country for quite some time. It’s about working with local leaders, church leaders, small business leaders, to get things done for the people here on the ground in the district. That’s what I’ve always done. I’m a logistics guy, I know how to operate within fluid situations and talk to people to get things done. I know where to go and how to find out what it takes to get things we need done like rural broadband, like veterans issues, constituent services, that’s what it’s really all about — serving the people that you are elected to serve. That’s what I’ve done throughout all my years — serve the nation.”
Off the top of your head, what are three top issues you see affecting residents within the 14th district and how would you aim to fix them?
“Jobs and the economy, those are one issue for me. Rural broadband is another issue, infrastructure, those are our top issues. As far as infrastructure, that’s a big thing and I’ll lump that in with rural broadband as well, because we need that infrastructure here to attract larger businesses or more small businesses to our district. Let’s face it, we’re not going to get businesses to come here and operate if you don’t have reliable Internet and then that crosses over into several other things like education as well. We don’t want our kids getting left behind. And I want to work with companies, local leaders, the Small Business Administration, to bring things and companies to our district to help get jobs. It all falls down to constituent services, serving the people and serving the needs of northwest Georgia, not being involved in all of the bitter partisan rhetoric that is all too commonplace in our political discourse nowadays. Those are the things that I see as important. And also something else important to me is veterans issues. As a veteran, I think we need to be taking better care of our veterans and our disabled veterans when it comes to VA facilities so they can get the services that are needed in our area because we don’t have a whole lot of VA hospitals here. Disabled veterans have to travel an hour, two hours, three hours away, to get the care that they need. These are things that are important to me, that I want to work on as an elected official for this district.”
How do you feel about Georgia’s economic and medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic? For example, the issues of stimulus checks, mask and vaccine mandates, the federal CARES Act, the high transmission rates currently in Georgia, etc. Can anything be handled better?
“I think the pandemic was made a political issue when it shouldn’t have been a political issue, it should have been a public health issue. That was a shame. I’m looking at the number of deaths here in Georgia, and how with the Omicron variant things are spiking, and we’re two years into this pandemic. It could have been handled so much better. We got a vaccine out in record time but it was so politicized. People were afraid to take it — and I respect people’s opinions about vaccines or things of that nature — but the science is there, it supports the vaccines, vaccines do work, but we’re still struggling with this vaccine two years later. That’s because of a lot of our elected officials who first said it was a hoax and it’d go away as soon as the election happened. Now we’re in a situation where there’s so much misinformation out there about the vaccine that we’re still in this crisis two years down the road. I think that’s a shame. And it’s not just for Georgia, it’s for many places all over the country.”
Republican lawmakers in the state are thinking of passing laws making it easier for Georgians to access guns. Do you think it should be easier for Georgians to access guns? Why or why not?
“I support the Second Amendment and I’ve heard all the arguments about constitutional carry. I think we need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders. I think there should be a violent history check, a background check. We’ve got to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, violent offenders — that we have to. [Many] people here in Georgia and across the country are responsible gun owners like myself, but we can push back against all the gun violence that we’re seeing in our nation and we can pass common-sense gun reform laws in this country. I think most Americans, I think in the 80 percent range, feel that we need violent history checks on violent offenders who could possess weapons easily in the state. I’d be one who would definitely push back on constitutional carry, which is something that Governor Kemp has been flirting with passing here in the state.”
The Supreme Court has recently decided that a Texas law banning abortion after 6 weeks and allowing private citizens to sue someone helping a pregnant person seeking an abortion can stay in place, but abortion providers can challenge the ruling in federal court. Many believe this ruling paves the way for more states — including Georgia with its attempted“heartbeat” bill— to enact laws restricting abortion and ultimately, the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Would you support a Texas-style anti-abortion law in Georgia?
“No, I absolutely would not. I stand behind Roe v. Wade and I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I think that is an issue that’s between a woman and her doctor, her family and her church. I do respect, once again, people’s feelings about abortion but I believe in a woman’s right to choose and I think the Supreme Court should uphold Roe v. Wade.”
What is your view on Black Lives Matter and police reform?
“I don’t support defunding the police if that’s what you mean. I come from a family of police officers and I definitely support our men and women in uniform. But just like anyone else, those who are bad actors should be held accountable. As far as defunding the police, I do not support that whatsoever. But I do support laws to hold those accountable, who commit crimes as police officers.
… I think [body cameras] protect not only the citizens, but it protects the police officers as well. I do believe in [improved training]. I’ve heard talk about implicit bias training and other types of training for our police officers, I think that’s important. I also think it’s important to [learn more about] situations where we’re asking our officers to deal with mental health issues when they may not be trained or equipped to handle those.”
There have been many stories in the news about worker shortages, but perhaps not as many stories about the reasons why millions of Americans quit their jobs in record numbers last fall, including many Georgians. Many who quit cited poor treatment and pay at their workplace. What would you do as a US Representative to improve working people’s economic conditions so that they return to work?
“Here in Georgia we don’t have very strong unions. I would sit down with unions, I’d sit down with business leaders, I’d sit down with the Small Business Administration to try and figure out what is it that we can do to get people back to work. One of the things that we could definitely do is pay people a living wage, I think that’s important. I would definitely try and figure out what are the reasons we’re having these worker shortages right now, what are the reasons that are keeping people home. I know one of the things that is keeping people home is childcare, we have to get to the root cause of a lot of the issues. Some people aren’t going back to work because they can’t afford childcare. We need to make that affordable so that we can get people back into the workforce, I think that’s important.
There could be a lot of underlying issues there that are causing this worker shortage. I mean, we get out and we talk to people all the time, we’ve got a shortage of nurses right now so hospital systems are paying traveling nurses to come in and help out. This is partially because of the pandemic but these are some of the things I think we can get addressed. I think childcare is a big issue. Here in our district, I don’t think we have enough childcare facilities. And it needs to be affordable. I think we can do things to make it affordable, I think we need to keep the childcare tax credit in place and extend it. I think that’ll be a huge help — not only does it lift children out of poverty, but it would allow families to go back to work. But we also need to address the issue of a shortage in childcare facilities here in our district.”
What is your view on environmental issues?
“God gave us this Earth and we are the stewards of it. We need to do everything that we can to take care of this Earth and pass it on to future generations. There are some environmental issues here. We need to be doing as much as we can to help save our environment. I also look at it as a national security issue. You hear a lot about people on our southern borders, crossing illegally. But if you think about it, when I talk to a lot of national security experts, they cite climate refugees as being a big threat with our rising sea levels. We could have a situation where we have millions of people on all of our borders because of climate change. So I think we need to be doing everything that we can to protect our environment.”
What is your view on education?
“For our district, I’d say about 16 percent of our high school graduates go on to university or higher level education, and it’s not going to be possible for everyone to go to college. One of the things I do talk about with people here is I want to help bring back trades and apprenticeships in our district and make that more accessible to our kids who are looking to go on after school and get some type of formal or informal education. My father taught industrial arts in the district for 31 years. So I think that’s one of the things that we need to start focusing on our district and this brings me back to the issue of rural broadband, we don’t want our children being left behind because they don’t have access to reliable internet so that they can do their homework and study after school.”
“I thought SB 202 was a naked attempt to suppress the Black vote here in Georgia. We just had the most secure election in the history of our country and the laws that were in place before were voted on by the Republicans here in this state. But then all of a sudden because of a big lie they were saying, ‘oh, we need to secure our voting system.’ I think it was just a bunch of hogwash in order to keep people from voting. I want to push back heavily on that. That’s one of the things that we talk about all the time, is pushing back on SB 202 and the laws that are not just in Georgia, but kind of all over the country. I think it’s something like 550 voter suppression laws that have come out in 47 states now, so it’s not just Georgia. We need to be pushing back across the board. This is an attempt or conspiracy to steal power, in my opinion.”
Do you think the 2020 presidential election was a free and fair election?
“I think it’s been proven that it was the most secure election in our nation’s history. And it was definitely free and fair.”
How would you characterize the people who overran the US Capitol last January 6th?
“Insurrectionists. It was a crime committed on that day and they’re all criminals as they went inside the Capitol and tried to overturn a free and fair election and stop the certification of the vote. That’s the biggest issue by far for this campaign. That is what got me into this race, seeing what happened on January 6, and those who push people to go out and do it like Marjorie Taylor Greene — she was one of the people talking about ‘this is our 1776 moment,’ and go out and let’s take our country back. They incited violence that day.”
Would you have voted to certify the election of Joe Biden?
The 14th Congressional District has recently been changed so that Austell and Powder Springs — two majority Black and Democrat-leaning suburban cities in Cobb County have been added to the mostly white, rural, conservative areas of the 14th. How do you economically and socially appeal to rural, conservative voters while also appealing to suburban, liberal voters?
“It’s all about meeting people where they are. For me, it doesn’t matter what your political leanings are. If I’m elected, I will serve the people of Georgia’s 14th Congressional District. I don’t base it on their race, whether they’re a rural or urban voter, it’s about getting things done for the people of the district — bringing in jobs, helping out the economy, doing constituent services, being as transparent as possible, and also letting people know that I will be visible and you can hold me accountable for the things that go on in our district. I will be there for them, I will talk to them, they will see me. They won’t see me on television spouting wild conspiracy theories, I’d be back in the district talking to them about everything that’s going on. To me, it doesn’t matter. We’re all Americans here. At the end of the day we all want the same things — we want decent jobs, decent education, we want to be able to put a roof over our heads, food on the table. These are all kitchen table issues that I will address as an elected official.”
How do you feel about transportation issues in the district?
“I’ve spoken with some elected officials in Cobb County about expanding MARTA and I think it wouldn’t be a bad thing. Obviously, we’d have to look at the cost versus benefit analysis of that, but it’s definitely something I would work with the local leaders in Cobb to get done if the people of the community want that. I understand that a lot of people, especially in Austell, want MARTA extended out to Six Flags. I don’t think it’s a bad idea. Also, there’s issues with students going from maybe Austell or Powder Springs and getting up to Kennesaw State and how long it takes there. I think we can do better with that. Those are the type of issues that an elected leader in Congress can and should be able to help with.”
What is your view on healthcare issues in Georgia and what would you do to improve them?
“I think Medicaid should be expanded. I think that’s one of the things that we can do in Georgia, I think there’s actually been money allocated for Medicaid expansion here in the state and our governor hasn’t done anything about it. I’m definitely in favor of expanding Medicaid. Also, rural healthcare is one of the big issues that we talk about. Telehealth, that’s another thing, and I come back to our rural broadband and our infrastructure here in the district. Telehealth has become more and more popular throughout the country. I think that’s something that could help us here with an aging population in our district.”
Can you talk a little about your donors and how much your campaign has raised so far?
“As far as endorsements, we’ve been endorsed by before he died, Senator Max Cleland, Ambassador Andrew Young and State Senator Jen Jordan, and in addition to them, we’ve been endorsed by VoteVets, No Dem Left Behind, the Collective PAC, the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressman Eric Swalwell. As far as donors and how much money we’ve made, we up to date have raised over $4 million from over 150,000 individual contributors, so our campaign is moving right along. We’re thankful for all of the donors and endorsements we’ve gotten.”
How are you reaching out to voters to get your message heard?
“We do have a robust social media outreach program, but also just phone calls, knocking doors, we’re getting out talking to people, we hold town halls, we do a Zoom town hall once a month so that we can talk to the voters. We’re getting out, talking to people, meeting them where they are, going to events, knocking on doors, making phone calls. That’s all a part of our outreach program.”
What makes you the best person to represent the 14th district?
“Having served the country on four different continents for almost 30 years, not being a partisan politician, it’s about service and support and defending the Constitution. It’s what I’ve always done, I’ve served this country honorably and never been a partisan. This fight is really about our democracy at the end of the day. It’s about standing up to those like Marjorie Taylor Greene or extremists who just want to burn it all down. She’s out infecting our district and the country with misinformation and disinformation and we need a strong voice, someone who will stand up to the bullies and push back on that and stand up for our voting rights. I’ll do that. I’m not afraid to do what I’ve always done — support and defend the Constitution. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. I believe that this country is worth saving, our democracy is worth saving. I believe that service and honor still matter. That’s a cornerstone of who I am. I have the track record to prove it.”
Is there anything else important not mentioned today that you would like to make sure voters know about you and/or your campaign?
“This is a grassroots movement. We don’t take corporate PAC money because I think we should be getting dark money out of politics. And I’ll be fully transparent. I’m an anti-corruption guy and one of the things that I’ve done throughout my career as a compliance official with the Department of Defense is fight fraud, waste and abuse. I’ll be fully transparent as possible. We don’t accept corporate PAC money because politicians should be the voice of the people — not PACs, not big money. You’re there to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and you’re supposed to represent the everyday Americans of your district. That’s one of the issues that we talk about in our campaign is getting dark money out of politics and being accountable to your constituents, not big PACs and wealthy donors. The average donation at our campaign is about 20 bucks.”
To learn more about Flowers and his campaign, you can visit his website.
Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She also freelances for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and is the former president of KSU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a former CNN intern. She enjoys music, reading, and live shows.