Lisa Campbell: Democratic candidate for House District 35

Lisa Campbell, a Democratic candidate for Georgia House District 35Lisa Campbell (photo courtesy of the Campbell campaign)

By Rebecca Gaunt

Lisa Campbell hopes to bring 30 years of business experience to the Georgia legislature as the representative for newly-redrawn House District 35.

Ed Setzler, a Republican, currently represents the district, which includes Acworth and Kennesaw, under the old boundaries. He has held the seat since 2005.

Campbell’s family ties to Cobb County date back to the 1940s. Born in Texas, but raised in East Cobb, Campbell attended Cobb County public schools and graduated from the University of Georgia. She has worked in business consulting, marketing, advertising and technology. She spent a few years in Tennessee and Michigan, but returned to Atlanta in 2000. Kennesaw has been her home since 2017.

The General Primary election is May 24, 2022.

Campbell spoke with the Courier by phone.

You challenged Ed Setzler in 2020 for the HD 35 seat [Campbell lost the Democratic primary to Kyle Rinaudo in a runoff. Setzler won with 50.5% of the vote vs. Rinaudo’s 49.5%]. Now you are running again for the redrawn House District 35. Why do you feel it’s important for a woman to represent this part of Cobb?

“There seemed to be such great growth in Cobb County in terms of our vibrant diversity, thriving economy, just so many things that were on the upward growth trend in terms of our ability to support each other and thrive. With one big exception – and that was our 17-year incumbent, who, unfortunately, [is] working against most of us in Cobb County in terms of his extreme legislation. So that was a big motivator for me to say, where are the places where we can strengthen our community and what kind of skills would it take to be that kind of leader? Looking at my own background, in terms of building teams and building consensus, and understanding how to build coalitions, I decided that I thought those skills could be useful and I wanted to serve,” she said.

Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill dominated the Georgia legislature in 2019, sponsored by Setzler. Senate Bill 351, which would make it more difficult to obtain abortion pills, was introduced in the 2022 session. What is your response to these bills?

Campbell said Setzler’s role in sponsoring the 2019 anti-abortion bill was a factor in her decision to run in 2020.

“[It was] a real great example of his extreme approach to leading and to legislating in direct opposition to voices within our district who overwhelmingly did not support that bill, in direct opposition to the healthcare community that did not support that bill, and in direct opposition to the business community that did not support that bill,” she said.

“We need a leader that understands how to listen, understands the diversity of needs in our county, and is willing to stand up for those needs. To expand our rights, women’s rights in particular, rather than diminish them.”

Campbell is opposed to Senate Bill 351, which bans abortion pills by mail, requires a doctor’s appointment to get a prescription, a return visit to pick up the pills, as well as an ultrasound.

“I’m opposed to that bill and to all legislation that would deny women the ability to make decisions about our own body, including access to abortion services. This bill, I believe, is bad for women because it overrides our current federally approved telemedicine prescription protocols,” she said.

“That bill has also been named the Women’s Health and Safety Act. I think, again, it’s an example of leaders who are naming something – it’s a false statement, right? It’s not protecting women’s health and safety. In fact, it’s doing the opposite,” she said.

Campbell pointed to a part of the bill that would require patients to sign off on a statement that the pills can be reversed by taking the hormone progesterone. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says there’s no proof of that statement.

“This district has never elected a woman to serve as House representative…and I want to champion our rights as equals and work against what I think are really unfounded legislative mandates that represent dangerous political interference. They compromise our rights and safety and well being,” she said.

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. During last year’s budget cuts, activists had to lobby to prevent all new waivers from being cut. What can be done to improve the situation for struggling families?

Campbell has first-hand experience with the challenges of caregiving. Part of the reason she returned to Cobb was to help her parents.

She believes shifting spending from nursing homes and institutions to home care is one way to be more efficient with funds.

“Georgia has been really out of step with the national trends there. We spend far less on the national average on community-based support and far more on nursing homes,” she said.

Campbell also acknowledged the challenges of applying for assistance and the need to streamline the process.

“Another idea for improvement there could be updating our technology, and that is an area of experience in my background…we are very behind in most of our infrastructure needs as related to technology,” she said.

“One of the barriers to receiving care is a multi-layered and a very confusing process. An investment in that process can improve it, make it easy to access, convenient, allow more people to continue through the process and to receive a successfully completed application… just a step one that many people opt out of because it’s so overwhelming and it’s so difficult. Or they don’t have access to the technology to actually complete the process.”

Technology is a big issue for you. When you say Georgia needs “to build the technology infrastructure we need to thrive in the global world,” what does that look like to you?

Campbell’s desire to streamline the application process for disability waivers extends to making other government services more accessible. Voting is one.

“Try to go to the various county websites or the secretary of state website to download your absentee ballot these days. It’s not straightforward. It’s not easy. It requires not only a computer but now a printer. Many people: 1. don’t have the hardware to do these things, and 2. it’s not streamlined.

We haven’t invested in making it friendly for the user in addition to being safe and convenient,” she said.

“These systems are not inexpensive, but they’re certainly doubly ineffective if we are building multiple systems that do exactly the same thing in our cities and our counties and statewide,” she said.

Campbell said safe online voting can be a reality in Georgia if it’s made a priority.

What did you think of Georgia’s COVID-19 response?

“Unfortunately we did not have clear leadership at the state level and, as a result, our response has been inadequate. I don’t believe we had enough transparency in the process for how we were going to approach our strategic plan to address COVID. We did not see evidence of an actual plan… we’ve yet to see measurable goals from the state level to mitigate the spread of COVID,” she said.

With 30,000 deaths in Georgia, Campbell called the response a failure. She also criticized the decision not to expand Medicaid during a global pandemic.

Your website states that you “will work at the state level to ensure our leadership is accountable for making improvements to avoid invoking the district’s loss of accreditation” in light of the COGNIA review of Cobb County School District last year. The division on the school board has been under scrutiny. How would you like to see the district move forward?

“I would like to see our leaders be held accountable to being transparent,” Campbell said.

She said the board should add the accreditation improvement plan as a standing agenda item, set measurable goals and review each month, communicate about protocols in place, discuss the formal policy for competitive bid review and the threshold for financial approval, and provide a feedback loop for the taxpayers.

“I think the most egregious expenditure during the pandemic, in my understanding, was a no-bid situation for the red lighting to sanitize the schools. Again, did we have a competitive bid review process for a major contract like that?” Campbell said. “What sort of review process, what sort of financial approval was in place? There’s a lot to be desired there in terms of the gap in communication. Transparency and communication was one of the biggest things noted in the COGNIA report.”

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?

“I oppose that bill and any related legislation that is seeking to censor the rights of students. Our students deserve to receive a full and honest education in the classroom,” she said. “I trust our teachers.”

Campbell views the bills as part of a “devastating pattern” of legislation trying to undermine the education system.

“One of the main reasons I’m running is to champion educators and partner with parents,” she said.

GOP redistricting efforts have been criticized as attempts to dilute Black and Brown voices. What are your thoughts?

“If we look at the timing of the efforts, it’s really clear. We’ve seen significant growth in a diverse population,” she said. “Simultaneously, in the most recent election, we elected a more diverse coalition of leaders. I don’t think this is a coincidence, the timing of these things. We elected an all-female, for the first time, board of commissioners. For the first time, we elected a Black woman to lead as chair, and it’s at this exact moment that the Republican legislators are seeking to take control of our local maps.”

East Cobb, Mableton, Vinings, and Lost Mountain are seeking cityhood in May referendums. Do you support these movements?

“We have two cities in our district so I’m not opposed to cities, but I do oppose these current and active cityhood movements,” she said. “I’m running to promote unity, inclusivity and opportunity. I think these city movements do the opposite. They divide our county; they divide our strong services. These particular movements, I think timing, the issue of why they’re doing this now is important…I have not seen evidence that’s been shared or proposed that the services in the county are lacking.”

The Sterigenics ethylene oxide emissions and Georgia Power coal ash pits in Cobb have made recent headlines. What are your views on climate change and what can be done at the state level?

“I believe climate change is real and it’s rooted in science, and it is an existential threat. We need to have it front and center as a whole government and whole society issue… One of the reasons that Cobb and Georgia are great places to live is because we do have thriving business communities,” she said.

“I am pro-business, pro-workers, pro-jobs, but also absolutely support the requirement of those businesses to be good community partners. I think that they must be held accountable.”

“In addition, we now know [Sterigenics] knew well before it was released to the public that what they were doing was harmful and cancer-causing. The other element to that…the way that they managed their finances also had a detrimental and will continue to have a detrimental effect on our ability to address the cleanup that is related to ongoing protection of our environment,” she said, referring to company owners borrowing $2 billion since 2015 to pay shareholders and executives, as reported in the AJC.

What should be done to improve public transportation?

The ability to tap into federal dollars is key, from Campbell’s perspective.

There’s often a tendency to focus on large-scale changes, but Campbell sees the importance of starting out on a smaller practical level. Simple things like increasing bus routes and service hours can improve people’s lives in the short term.

She also supports creating a preparedness plan to achieve net-zero emissions.

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

“I don’t support it at all. It’s a huge rollback of safety measures,” she said.

Campbell supports strengthening background checks and safety training programs.

Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you want to address?

“Voting rights…My platform is about affirming the rights of Georgians and proactively working to build unity, inclusivity and opportunity. I would apply that also to voting. How we, at the local level, at the state level, are working to expand all eligible voters’ opportunities to cast a vote and do it with convenience, ease and security.”

Campbell supports secure drop boxes, voting by mail and same-day registration.

“Everything we can do to make voting easy, accessible and to protect this potent right that we all have to take part in our government,” she said.

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