Dustin McCormick: Democratic candidate for HD 45 special and 2022 elections

headshot photo of Dustin McCormick in suit with trees in the backgroundDustin McCormick (photo provided by Dustin McCormick)

By Rebecca Gaunt

Businessman Dustin McCormick is running as a Democrat in both the House District 45 special election on April 5 and the regular 2022 election.

State Rep. Matt Dollar resigned in February to accept a position with the Technical College System of Georgia as the deputy commissioner of economic development. The special election is being held to fill his seat under the old boundaries.

District 45 was affected by recent redistricting and the seat is up again in the 2022 regular election, but under the new boundaries. The primary election is May 24 and the general election is Nov. 8. McCormick is the only candidate running in both.

Republican Sharon Cooper, who currently represents House District 43, was drawn into District 45, and is running for the seat in the regular election. Republican Carminthia Moore is challenging her in the primary.

Early voting in the special election has already begun. More information is available here.

McCormick has lived in East Cobb since 2008 with his partner Misty and their two kids who attend Cobb County public schools. He told the Courier he’s active in East Cobb Rotary, Cobb Chamber of Commerce, MUST Ministries, North Fulton Community Charities, Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House, Operation Mail Call, United Military Care, and more.

“This is where we work, live, play, go to church and thrive,” he said.

McCormick has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Georgia Southern University and an Executive MBA from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. He built his career in project management, supply chain logistics, corporate finance, and private wealth management. He has served in leadership positions at Merrill Lynch, E-Trade, Samsung, and several healthcare startups before joining McKesson Corporation, a healthcare distribution company, in 2020.

McCormick answered questions via email.

Why are you running for House District 45? How has state Rep. Matt Dollar’s resignation and the planned special election affected your campaign’s approach?

I’m running for House District 45 because I can longer stand idle while our elected officials fail to address pressing issues facing families, like mine, in East Cobb. There has been a 20-year void in this area, and as a community, we deserve representation. Unfortunately, ex Rep. Dollar and Rep. Cooper refuse to host town halls and listen to the public’s concern regarding the ill-timed and ill-planned East Cobb cityhood movement. Their lack of transparency and self-serving motives contribute to the sense that cityhood will not be good for our community.

Instead of addressing our concerns, they moved the cityhood vote to May in hopes their constituents won’t be paying attention. Like most voters, our campaign is paying attention. I’m proud to be a candidate in the April special election and to have qualified for the current 2022 cycle. I’m the only Special Elections candidate qualified to run for this seat to serve next year and for years to come. Over the next couple of months, I will be going door-to-door, neighborhood-to-neighborhood, educating voters, and listening to our neighbors, friends, small business owners, and the overall community about their concerns, hopes, and aspirations. I care deeply for our community, where I raise my kids, and I look forward to serving all of District 45.

You work for McKesson, a healthcare distribution company, and were involved in vaccine distribution efforts. How do you feel about the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

The state’s response to the pandemic was strong and unified in the start, with the governor issuing the State of Emergency, shutting down the schools, and issuing a shelter in place order; however, that was short-lived and the next month, as the pandemic raged on, the state government took a passive and back seat approach by rolling back those protective measures. As a result, over 30,000 Georgian lives were lost due to incompetent leadership.

Instead of listening to the science, the administration scorned mask-wearing – even suing cities in the middle of a Covid wave that enforced mask mandates. By the time state officials encouraged mask-wearing and other mitigation techniques, the pandemic had already cost thousands of lives. Only recently are individuals able to procure at-home tests easily, a resource needed over a year ago. Georgia, even today, still ranks in the bottom five of all states with a 54% vaccination rate. The politicization and misinformation of the vaccine have undoubtedly cost additional lives. Republicans prioritized opening tattoo parlors over how to get our kids back in school safely.

As a logistics and supply chain expert who helped healthcare companies distribute the life-saving vaccine, I know how important it is to make an evidence-based decision relying on the latest science. In the Capitol, I’ll apply my deep knowledge of supply chains, logistics, and fiscal management of pharmaceuticals to help our communities recover from the pandemic and get us back to normal.

You have said you are committed to expanding access to quality and affordable healthcare. If elected, what will you do to achieve that goal?

We have a moral obligation to expand healthcare benefits to every member of our community. No one should have to go broke because of a devastating illness or having to care for a sick family member. Foremost, I will work with state lawmakers to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid. Our community leaves money on the table by not opting for this expansion. Over 30 other states, including Republican states, have prioritized this and enacted the expansion. Doing so would cover an additional 200,000 Georgians without coverage.

Second, I’m committed to supporting our healthcare workers by investing in our healthcare workforce. We should incentivize our medical and nursing school graduates to stay in Georgia and practice in our neighborhoods to close the nursing shortage. Third, we must embrace technology and utilize telemedicine to provide quality healthcare to those who need it without filling up our hospitals.

Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill dominated the Georgia legislature in 2019. Senate Bill 351 which would make it more difficult to obtain abortion pills, was introduced in the 2022 session. Where do you stand on the issue?

While I believe in the sanctity of life and that of an unborn child, I feel that the Heart Beat bills, particularly SB351 and HB481, overstep their intended purpose of providing goodwill and protection for the unborn and mother. As written, I strongly oppose the Heartbeat Bill, which threatens a woman’s bodily autonomy. Reproductive healthcare decisions are between a woman and her trusted healthcare provider, not the state legislators. Instead of listening to the leading OBGYNs, the bill architects arbitrarily and ignorantly attempted to define fetal personhood, a pseudo-scientific concept. Medical experts, including Georgia legislators with a healthcare background, do not support these bills regardless of party affiliation. We must enact protections that reduce the maternal mortality rate and support women’s personal decisions about when and under what circumstance they should carry a pregnancy to term.

There are several Cobb cityhood bills in the legislature, including East Cobb. Why are you opposed to East Cobb Cityhood?

East Cobb is not a city and should not be treated as such. We enjoy a great quality of life, the state’s best public education system, and sound sanitation, parks, fire, and police services through Cobb County. We must support these programs, not wall ourselves from an already functioning and highly effective county government. Adding an additional level of bureaucracy will hurt service delivery and add undue taxes upon residents to pay for city programs. A new city will bring higher taxes; it’s not an “If,” but when.

The feasibility study underestimates expenses and leaves the city with a $3M surplus, which equates to only a few weeks of emergency operating capital. A new city’s cost and operating expenses will require expansion of the tax base to generate more revenue. This means high-density housing or reworking the Johnson Ferry Corridor to attract commercialization. Despite the Cityhood Committee stating otherwise, several Cityhoods have raised taxes in recent years or are in the process of doing so, including Brookhaven, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Dunwoody, Tucker, and Stonecrest.

Isn’t it Republican ideology to support the smaller government? What is going on here? The Republican party is going against their long-standing values. The East Cobb cityhood referendum will be voted down at the ballot box by Republicans and Democrats alike because our local leaders, along with the Cityhood Committee, continue to mislead and have failed to engage the public in the planning process and have lacked transparency in the rushed legislation. I’m voting against the city of East Cobb as it is currently written, and I hope voters will be motivated enough to come out to vote against it.

GOP redistricting efforts (legislature, Board of Commissioners, school board) have been criticized as attempts to dilute Black and Brown voices. What are your thoughts?

Gerrymandering based on race violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, and legal experts should challenge the new district on those lines. By concentrating voters along racial lines in new voting districts, lawmakers are clearly attempting to silence minority voices. I believe that other areas shouldn’t impact what a local county does regarding mapping. Why should representatives in Macon, Augusta, Savannah, or other places decide how Cobb County commissioners or school boards are represented? Unfortunately, that is what is happening with HB1028 and HB1154. People should be outraged at the precedent that this sets for future redistricting and the overreach of state government into local issues. We should immediately move towards non-partisan redistricting through an independent commission that draws districts based on population density, not a race, partisanship, or any other divisive demographic. Our Democracy and community will be appropriately represented and stronger because of it.

There are multiple bills being discussed in the current session in response to the CRT debate, related to teaching “divisive concepts” in classrooms. House Bill 888, in particular, would cut funding if a school was found in violation. What is your response to these bills?

During the past two years, with kids being homeschooled, parents have had a rare opportunity to see firsthand the curriculum and are engaged in the learning process from the kitchen table. Bills like HB 888 restrict academic freedom and the ability for educators to teach objectively. There is a misconception about what is and isn’t CRT. It is vital to educate the public about the facts around CRT and when, where, and how it is applied to curriculums. Teachers must have the ability to run their classrooms without prying government eyes. Teachers need to be supported more than ever, not reprimanded, jailed, or fined for doing their job. Uncomfortable concepts like racism, diversity, and multiculturalism should be welcomed in the classroom and adapted for the age-appropriate audience, not discouraged. There is room for us to learn and grow and better teach our kids about our history. “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Our communities are stronger when our kids learn about our nation’s proud yet fraught history.

Disability waiver waitlists are a major issue for the disability community in Georgia. Waitlists have thousands of people competing for a handful of slots and some people wait years to get one. What can be done to improve the situation for struggling families?

Medicaid services need to be expanded across the board to reduce the disability waiver waitlist of over 6,000 Georgians. Many of these individuals need services that support intellectual and developmental disabilities. We must reverse last year’s $91 million that was cut from the Dept of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities budget. Foremost, Georgia should welcome federal dollars to expand Medicaid benefits. States that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act have reduced their waitlist times tenfold and provide superior coverage compared to states that haven’t. Our community is only as strong as its most vulnerable.

The Sterigenics ethylene oxide emissions and Georgia Power coal ash pits in Cobb have made recent headlines. What are your views on the environment?

Providing clean water and ensuring clean air is an essential function of government. The legislature must hold companies accountable for emission violations and environmental contaminants. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has updated its classification for ethylene oxide from “likely to cause cancer” to “definitely causes cancer.” The company has the right to operate and provides a valuable service. Still, we must find a way to limit the impact on the surrounding areas and ensure the people are protected from harmful chemicals.

We must also protect our pine canopy by preventing commercial developments in residential areas and supporting sidewalk improvements and parks. Developers should be held accountable and forced to replace the destroyed trees during development. The state needs to take steps to reduce carbon emissions by first incentivizing the use of solar panels. If a resident in East Cobb would like to power their house using renewable energy, they should be allowed to do so without charge. As a community, we can do our part to reduce carbon emissions and provide a suitable ecosystem for generations to come.

What should be done to improve public transportation?

We live in a commuter suburb where the main form of transportation is a personal vehicle. As our communities begin to return to “normal,” traffic congestion is becoming an issue again. We must continue to improve traffic programs, smart and synced traffic lights, and be strategic about the future planning of our community. The CobbLinc bus program must be expanded in East and West Cobb. The number of stops and routes is inadequate compared to the community’s rising population. Express bus routes could be a solution by expanding services and including service outside of peak business hours. The legislature must also study the feasibility, cost, and efficiency of light rail transit in Cobb. I’m concerned about the state of our bridges in this area, and the 14,000 across the state of which over 300 have been deemed structurally deficient. We need to partner with surrounding areas to complete a strategic, comprehensive regional plan that will set us up for the success of future automation.

Senate Bill 319 would allow concealed carry of guns without a permit. Would you support such a bill?

We must address rising crime and gun violence by preventing unauthorized and unsafe use of firearms. Police must have the ability to ensure those with concealed guns have been vetted and licensed by the state. I support the second amendment and am a responsible gun owner myself. But, we must ensure those who possess dangerous weapons and conceal them are doing so for self-protection, not in the furtherance of a crime. I believe that common-sense gun laws, background checks, and gun safety training are the key to maintaining our second amendment rights and safeguarding our law enforcement and communities.

What other issues would you like to address that we haven’t already?

I’m the only candidate running in the Special Election and the 2022 Cycle. The Special Election is on April 5, which is during Cobb County school spring break; make a plan to vote early. Early voting started this week and runs through Friday, April 1! Learn more about my campaign and obtain voter information at DustinMcCormick.com. I would be honored to have your support and vote, and I look forward to serving this community for years to come. Let me give you a voice at the Capitol.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.