By Arielle Robinson
The Courier had a phone interview with Angela Pence, the Libertarian Party candidate for the U.S. House in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District.
The primary is May 24 while the general election is November 8.
Talk about your background. Who are you and why did you decide to become involved in politics?
“I never wanted to become involved in politics. I think it just fell in my lap, quite honestly. I became really interested in 2015, going into the 2016 election, and that’s when I decided to be Libertarian — because I didn’t like Donald Trump, and I didn’t care for Hillary Clinton.
“I was looking for an alternative. I stumbled across a local Libertarian affiliate here and got connected with them and learned about Gary Johnson. I ended up being involved with his campaign — not a ton — but following him, and campaigning for him, in a sense, but that also led me to getting very involved with an Independent candidate here that was running for county commissioner.
?That’s where I really got involved because I truly loved that Independent candidate and admired the work that he had to do to get on the ballot because he also had to collect signatures as an Independent. It was really seeing him and believing in his message and getting involved with his campaign, that was where I first got involved.
“Then for the next several years, I was just locally involved in my Libertarian affiliate here and it wasn’t really until 2020 that I ended up super involved with politics…I ended up getting incredibly involved with the [Jo] Jorgensen-[Spike] Cohen campaign.
“I ended up doing one event for them and then by the end of it, I was actually a regional event coordinator. I organized multiple events and in that whole time, got super involved with LP Georgia working with affiliates, working with outreach, working with candidates, and things like that. It just really took off at that point.
“How [Greene] has been with her rhetoric, I think, is probably one of the things I most dislike about her — is just how she speaks and treats other folks. But also, she’s painted out this district to be absolutely horrible, just because of her rhetoric, and she has gotten nothing done. I think the most successful thing she’s been able to do was require a roll call, which I do think is good, but other than that, she really hasn’t done a lot.
“So looking at it…I knew that for me, it’s multifaceted, I knew I was a good enough messenger of the things I believe in which several people in this district believe in, which is just freedom in general and treating people right. I knew I was a good enough messenger for that, but also, understanding what I was going to be facing — which was a ballot access restriction — I definitely wanted to be able to shed light on that.
“And again, the way [Greene]’s painted my district, it couldn’t be further from the truth. She has made it look like we are a bunch of racist homophobes, which is so wrong on so many levels.
“I wanted to be able to represent my district for what it truly is, which is a district that really is truly full of caring, loving people. I have seen that all through the pandemic — people just stepping up to help other people, whether it was getting them groceries, paying a bill, multiple things that they weren’t asked to do, they just did it. They didn’t ask for who it was, they just stepped up, so that was a lot of it.
“And also, of course, I just want to be able to actually do things for my district and represent my district in that way. That is what caused me to decide to run for this office.
“I never anticipated running for a federal office. I’m actually incredibly involved in my local politics. I never saw myself running for a federal office, but there were just so many things that made this situation very unique. Like I said, for years, actually now, I’ve been very involved in my local politics and I have a history of holding our local elected officials accountable.
“There’s news articles all over about that, for better or worse, they’re there. I knew I have a strong enough voice when it comes to accountability to our elected officials and I really want to bring that to Washington. Of course, that’s on such a larger scale, but I feel like in a lot of ways being so locally involved has kind of prepared me for what I’m looking at.
“Also, everybody jokes around — I’m a mother of eight kids — and several of my friends were like, ‘you should just run on that only and say, I can deal with eight kids so I could deal with the babies in Congress.’ I mean, that might qualify me.
“I’m a small business owner, I run a local apothecary, I have done that for years. So as far as my background with regard to management — especially fiscally — they translate and on a much larger scale.
“I have never held a public office, so I don’t bring that to the table. I also don’t really see that as a disadvantage, because a lot of the people here, just interacting with folks, they’re sick of politicians. Just by working within my community doing multiple different things, I have learned a lot about what is important to the people here and what they truly are looking for. I do think that that helps in preparing me for being able to represent these people.”
How do you think your background has prepared you to become a Congress member?
“I have been so involved locally I think is probably the biggest thing and really knowing what the folks here want, and what they need, and what’s important to them.
“And also at the same time, being here and working with these people through so many different things. It’s so multifaceted in so many different settings and so I think that’s probably the biggest thing that has helped to prepare me.
“Like I said, I can’t say that I have a government background or a law-making background to bring to the table, but honestly, the way things are I really don’t feel like that’s super important.”
What are three top issues you see affecting residents within the 14th district and how would you aim to fix them?
“One of the biggest things that I’ve noticed here, which is interesting because it’s not necessarily something that I can fix, it’s just something that I can really truly speak about. At a federal level, I’m a proponent of small government, so I wouldn’t say [we need to enact laws], but people are very concerned that their votes didn’t count, especially in 2020.
“I actually sat in a town hall about two weeks ago now that Marjorie was at, and almost all of the questions that were asked were pertaining to the election. [The questions weren’t] ‘was [the election] stolen?’ It was, ‘how do we know that our votes counted?’ ‘How do we know that our voices mattered, and things like that.’
“That is a huge concern here. No matter what caused that, people are very concerned that their voice didn’t matter. I think it’s very important for our democracy, just in general, for people to realize how important their voice truly is, that their voice does count and that especially at a state and local level things are being done to ensure that they feel that way.
“Again, I think it’s multifaceted. I think a lot of it is what they’ve heard or what they’ve been told, or how a picture was painted. But when you get people that don’t feel like their voice matters, then they lose faith in the fact that they should stand up for what they believe in and that’s a problem.
“That’s a huge problem. I don’t think that the federal government should be casting out blanket laws about voting, but it is something that I do believe needs to be talked about and some sort of solution came up with in regards to that.
“Several states have started working on legislation regarding that, Georgia was one of them, so there is that, but it still doesn’t seem as though that is correlating to the actual voters. There has to be a bridge in communication and faith restored, to let them know that it really is important that they are getting out and voting. That is one of the biggest issues that I have seen here.
“Another big issue that is important to people is health care. That is a large field because that encompasses so many different things, one of those things being the vaccine and the vaccine mandates. This district for quite a while was lagging behind on vaccination rates for various different reasons.
“A lot of it was kind of the mistrust in the government and what was happening, which I can empathize with because I most certainly think that it could have been handled better.
“But I also am a huge proponent of choice. I most definitely don’t think anybody should ever be forced to do anything medically if they don’t want to. I would make sure one thing I could do in Congress would be to make sure that people retain their right to be able to make their medical decisions for themselves.
“Another thing is taxes. Really, we’re dealing with an economic crisis in a lot of ways. Our inflation I think I read was up to 7.4 percent and people are seeing that, that’s hitting them hard and I’m one of them. I mean, we’re a working family.
“I was comparing things that we bought like three months ago versus things that we just recently bought and it is subtle, but it adds up. When you get into how that correlates with taxes, how the tax system is dealt with, especially at a federal level, and how that kind of swings and changes and evolves or whatnot with whatever administration is in office, I just don’t think that that is appropriate. I personally am a huge proponent of just doing away with the IRS because I feel that taxation period is theft. But if we’re talking about just the reality of it, I think a flat tax is the way to go so that there isn’t just this wild swinging and changing.
“That is another issue that is important to folks here when we start getting into things that are affecting people’s wallets. It’s actually statistically been shown that the IRS disproportionately audits folks in the lower class, and the reason why is because those folks can’t fight back. First off, they’re not well-rehearsed in tax law.
“Secondly, they don’t have the money to get a tax lawyer to fight it, so they’re having to pay. We’re seeing more and more of this happening as well. That would be another thing that I feel is important to people here.”
How do you feel about Georgia’s economic and medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
“I go back and forth with it, quite honestly. I personally don’t believe that we should have ever been shut down, we’re seeing the aftermath of that just alone, overreaching into our economy and how things are. So I feel like we should have never shut down.
“I believe that the way that we ended up handling it as far as in comparison to other states, I think was better than other states. I believe that was the second-best case scenario, opening back up as early as we did to try to help mitigate some of the economic impacts of shutting everything down because the reality is when that happened, several small businesses were destroyed. Small businesses in general, these mom and pop shops kind of hinge, they’re hanging on, barely making ends meet and barely making a profit.
“You throw in this massive shutdown, and that’s just it. I have several friends that ended up having to close their doors. The same thing is happening now, with the economy and the price of everything going up, they just simply can’t afford it. So the ones that made it through the shutdown and made it through that part of the pandemic, you see some of them shutting down now because of the cost of things that are going up — especially in the restaurant industry, that’s one of the hardest-hit industries. Another is our agriculture, the folks that raise pigs or cows and people buy them.
“That is a very small profit for them. I know a few people that do that, and almost all of them have had to stop. They’ve had to say, look, we’re just not going to be able to do this because we can’t afford the feed. You see that impacting everything, but nonetheless, I think that how Georgia handled it was good in respect to not being shut down for an extended period of time and trying to open things back up. I also am very glad that we are not a state that has forced any kind of mandates and things like that because again, I’m a huge proponent of choice and feel like people should have that choice.
“One thing — and I don’t feel that this was so much in Georgia as much as it was just in general — one thing that I am severely disgusted by has been the narrative around vaccines. If our federal government hadn’t come out of the gate lying about what the vaccine’s job in general was, I don’t believe that people would have been as skeptical to get it.
“From the very beginning, it just was lie after lie and then backtracking, lie after lie, and then backtracking. I can empathize with people that are like, you know, what, no, I don’t trust this because it’s just documented how many times the federal government has had to backtrack on what they’ve said about the vaccine.
“If they would have just come out in general and been very clear about the actual scientific job of a vaccine and what to expect from it, then I don’t believe that it would have been as bad as it is now where people have been so distrusting, especially in my district. If there was one thing that I could change about how this has been handled, that would most certainly be one of them.
“Vaccines are meant to train your immune system to recognize the introduction of a virus, and then be able to more rapidly produce those antibodies to fight off that virus so that you don’t get it as severely as you otherwise may have. If they would have just started out with that, that would have been great. But that did not, and the narrative around it was so all over the place.
“That happened with the vaccine, that’s happened with the masks, this happened with almost everything and I guess you could argue that people were trying the best that they could, but I think that created more of a problem than it did anything. That would be one thing I would most certainly have changed.
“But otherwise, Georgia, I don’t think handled it horribly. It’s my personal belief [that] we have this virus that is very clearly not going to go anywhere, at least it seems that way. I think people need to choose personal responsibility — whether that is getting the vaccine if they feel like that’s right for them, or whether that is if you feel sick, just staying your ass home.
“Things like that, I really feel would have been great to educate people on and really push that, versus all the messaging being so all over the place. But, like I said, in the same respect, I do feel like this is something that at least in the near future that we’re going to be dealing with. What we’re going to see hopefully is that there is the immunity from the vaccine and just plain natural immunity that will help to offset that as we’re moving forward.”
Republican lawmakers in the state have passed laws loosening gun-carrying restrictions, also known as constitutional carry. They say it can deter crime. Do you support constitutional carry? Why or why not?
“I believe that if you have people that are quote-unquote ‘good citizens,’ I believe they should have access to guns. I am actually a supporter of constitutional carry. I absolutely feel like if people feel like they need to own guns, they should be able to go get them as long as there’s not this repeat felon history and things like that. My understanding of the constitutional carry bill in Georgia is that it removes the permit process, but it does not remove the background checks.
“I can say I empathize with both sides of the argument. I was actually glad that you asked this question because had you asked me this question say two years ago, I definitely was more on the side of no, we should have this process. I do believe in this argument that criminals are going to get guns if they want them. Plus, criminals that are going to get guns are very likely not going to go to the gun shop to get those guns, they’ll be going to the black market to get their guns or a flea market, things like that. The permit process to me honestly is an unnecessary thing.
“And again, criminals aren’t going to go get permits anyway, at least I would most certainly think not. So you have law-abiding citizens that are paying for this permit process and I don’t really necessarily agree with that. But like I said, I empathize with both sides of the argument, I just really believe that if a criminal is going to get a gun, they’re going to get a gun.
“Nothing is going to stop them, whether that is, like I said, going through the means of a flea market or buying from an individual just off of Craigslist or something like that or even crossing state lines. It’s just the permit process I don’t see stopping them from doing that. Reputable gunshops, they are running background checks, anyway.”
The Supreme Court has decided in recent months that a Texas law banning abortion after 6 weeks and allowing private citizens to sue someone helping a pregnant person seeking an abortion canstay 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 a Texas-style anti-abortion law?
“I most definitely would not support a Texas-style abortion law. I think that’s insane. First off, how in the world are you even going to enact that? That just on a law premise is stupid, in my opinion. I’m obviously pro-life. I mean, I have a thousand kids.
“But I am pro-life for my family. That is a choice I decided to make for my family. I absolutely feel that people should have the ability to make the choice for what is right for them. I feel like the federal government has absolutely no place making these blanket abortion laws and most certainly not to the extent of the Texas example.
“To me, there’s so much wrong with that. My understanding of the Georgia heartbeat bill, for example, it did allow for exemptions or exceptions. The Texas one did not. You said there was that small exception, but really, it was just so stupid.
“How counterproductive is this? You want these people to go through this court process and so you’re looking at probably at best, at minimum, you’re looking at two to four months. So now you have a lady who is like, four months pregnant, so we’re at 20 weeks pregnant and say the court then says that’s okay.
“It’s so asinine. Not that a court in Texas, for example, would rule in that favor, but you’re trying to ban abortion but now this court has said that, yes, this person can have an abortion. Instead of being able to have at it six weeks, seven weeks now they’re having it at 20, 25 weeks? What? So no, I just don’t believe the federal government should be involved in that, period. I believe that is a decision between a person and their health care provider.
“This kind of it thought to me falls along the same lines of what we were talking about with guns. If somebody really needs or is going to get an abortion, they’re going to find a way to get an abortion. Unfortunately, historically, that shows to be much more dangerous than if someone was to be able to access the ability to do that in a healthcare setting.
“To me, trying to do that just is awful for women in general, because then you see folks that truly feel like they have no option and they’re having to go well out of their way. You have women whose part of the reasoning for [getting an abortion] could be financial, so how are they going to have the funds to be able to [go to another state to get an abortion]?
“They’re not going to be able to do that. So then, again, you’re looking at them trying to abort in ways that are completely unsafe, and sometimes deadly. I’m not on board with that. Like I said, I am very pro-life for my family but what other people decide to do, that’s their decision.”
What is your view on Black Lives Matter protests and police/criminal justice reform?
“I want to make a distinction here between the Black Lives Matter protests, the folks that were in the street, especially after George Floyd versus the Black Lives Matter organization, which is a Marxist organization and they collect God only knows how much money and probably not great funding. I am most definitely not in support of the organization.
“What I am in support of was the protests that were happening. I know people have a lot of mixed feelings about that in general, and I think a lot of that falls back to just the varying narratives of course, around it. These are people that are crying out because they have been oppressed for years, decades, centuries, and if this wasn’t an issue, they wouldn’t be out in the streets.
“They wouldn’t be out in the streets protesting, they wouldn’t be putting themselves in a line of danger in regards to how a lot of those protests are handled. You have to really, truly believe in something to be putting yourself in that position and I absolutely support those protests.
“Our criminal justice system is so fucked up that people who haven’t done the research or don’t know to do the research don’t realize how horribly skewed our criminal justice system is to minorities — and by minorities, I mean people of color but also poor people.
“It’s just so skewed. It’s an uncomfortable subject, so people don’t want to address the fact that this really is very much so a real problem and it’s still very much a real problem, which is why folks are protesting and why they were speaking up. A man was murdered, I mean literally murdered on camera. You look at stuff like that and it’s insane to me, it’s terrible, I don’t have words very clearly about how awful it is.
“But on that same token, a lot of the things that did come out of the protests that were happening and things like the defund the police and stuff like that — I don’t believe all police officers are bad. You know that ACAB thing? I know police officers that are not terrible people but the problem is is that there are terrible police officers and we’ve seen it time and time and time again. Again, it was skewed towards minorities.
“The problem is these folks have qualified immunity, and they cannot be held accountable and oftentimes are not held accountable when they are out here acting like jackasses. They just take administrative leave. We have been seeing more justice being served which is great but before social media, God only knows how many police officers walked and never had to look back, again, because of qualified immunity. I am a huge proponent of ending qualified immunity, I absolutely feel that bad officers should be held accountable, absolutely. I quite frankly feel that they should be held accountable by the public.
“I also feel as though police officers desperately need better training, so I don’t believe we should defund the police. Instead, I feel like if we’re putting money into the police at all we should be doing it to train them better to deal better with situations so they’re not just shooting people, just killing them. There’s so many different ways you can handle situations.
“One thing that one of my friends actually here is working on and has been talking with legislators about here is training in jiu-jitsu. There’s so many other ways to de-escalate situations and that not only keeps the police officers safe but also keeps the people that they are encountering safer as well.
“There’s been so many cases of just useless loss of life over police officers panicking and freaking out or not reading a situation right or just being a shitass. There’s so many different situations, so I am a huge proponent in criminal justice reform.
“I really think that we need to get into the laws and we need to start working to repeal number one these useless laws but also these laws that again, seem to target minority communities. We need to start reworking through that system and giving it desperately needed repair.”
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?
“From a federal level, one of my biggest things especially as a Libertarian is I really think we should open market for competition.
“Say you have two businesses, we’ll use a McDonald’s-Burger King comparison. Burger King over here we’ll say is treating their employees like shit, they’re not paying them well, they’re overworking them, all these things. McDonald’s over here, though, is paying, we’ll say a $15 an hour minimum wage, they treat their employees kindly, they treat them well, with respect, they offer them incentives, things like that. Where is somebody going to want to work?
“When you open the markets and you open this competition, ultimately, you see these companies — especially those that are treating their folks like crap and not paying them like they should be paying them and things like that you — ultimately, see them wash out because nobody wants to work for them.
“I personally don’t feel that the federal government should be dictating how businesses should be and again, that comes in with opening the market because the ones that suck will fail and everybody else, of course, will learn by example. So you see this chain of events. It’s of course, not an immediate thing but it is something that I do feel we would see working itself out.
“As far as minimum wage, I am a proponent in the push for the $15 an hour minimum wage. It’s not what it was when I was growing up, and that’s everybody’s argument, they’re like, I worked for $5 an hour, but the reality is times are changing, especially when we are seeing what we’re seeing now where costs of living are going through the roof.
“People can’t support their families on $5 to $7 or $8 an hour, they just can’t. That’s really affected an entire generation. The millennial generation, I think we know that better than anyone just how hard it is to survive and get through these hurdles of owning a vehicle or owning a house, things like that. It just isn’t truly attainable, so I do feel like the minimum wage should reflect what we’re facing, especially economically.
“But like I said, I really feel that if we allowed businesses to truly compete and get the government — I feel like most things the government touches they just screw it up — out of these businesses, you’re going to see everything getting substantially better because they’re having to compete to stay alive. Not many business owners or company owners go into something to fail and when stakes are high — especially when you’re getting into corporations, stakes are really high — then they’re going to adjust.”
What is your view on environmental issues?
“I absolutely do believe [climate change is] real. I think it’s asinine that people say that it’s not real. Science says that it is, in fact, a thing. We as humans have been doing a horrible job at taking care of our planet. Everybody thinks about the future, the future for their kids, the future for their grandkids, and things like that, but oftentimes when they think about that, they don’t actually think about the planet. They’re thinking about financial things and stuff like that, they’re not thinking about the fact that literally none of that’s going to matter if we don’t have a planet to live on. I think that it is incredibly important that we are trying to find ways to preserve our planet and that spans across so many different things.
“I’m a huge advocate of renewable energy and we’ve seen a shift towards that, which is good. Solar panels, for example, they’re costly. They have become more cost-efficient in the last couple years but before they were super expensive. I feel like solar panels are so multifaceted. Not only are you using energy from the sun — which we already have — not only is that super effective, but it’s also appealing and effective to people that don’t want to be on a grid. When we get into electric cars and things like that, I’m a huge advocate because we’re not emitting all these emissions into our planet.
“Then that gets into your health issues, I mean, good Lord, the air we breathe especially in cities, where there are all these emissions and things like that, it’s no wonder so many people have so many health issues. I would love to see a push in renewable energy.
“But also, I think it’s so incredibly important that — and this is one thing that I do believe the federal government should be involved in — these corporations are not just pouring all kinds of crap into our water. These plants that are sitting on these waters where they dump it, I mean, if we don’t have water we ain’t living. I definitely feel that there should be more accountability when it comes to things like that, which I don’t necessarily feel is always the case.
“Those are some things that I would address as a congresswoman and I would love to work with people on coming up with solutions and better push for getting us to a place where we’re not every single day just horribly polluting.”
What is your view on education?
“We homeschool my children. The reason why we homeschool my children is because I have an issue with how the federal government and the Department of Education throw out these blanket things for the curriculums in the school systems, among other things, of course. I think it was like two days ago I saw on the news, actually a private school here, a teacher was charged with molestation. This is a teacher that had been all over down here as a teacher, so those are of course other things that drive us to homeschool.
“We have a Department of Education that dictates the curriculum, which I think is asinine. We have an entire generation now that doesn’t know how to do regular math because Common Core was such a thing. And they pushed and pushed and pushed for Common Core and I think it was last year, they finally were like, ‘yeah, you know what I don’t think so’ and started removing it.
“You have a whole group of kids now that were forced to learn this way of doing math that kids behind them now are not going to have to do and the kids that are adults now didn’t have to do, so what a huge injustice. These are the things that they have done and that’s just one of them. That’s just one of the most recent. Removing cursive writing from the curriculum doesn’t seem like a lot but how are these kids supposed to sign a check? I actually came across a kid two weeks ago I think it was, I was in the store and I’d asked him if he wanted to give a signature for a petition. When it came to signing his name, he had no idea how to sign his name. I was like, ‘oh, my God, what is happening?’
“In New Hampshire, traditionally, those kids go into a trade. Statistically, more kids up there are going into trades versus going off to college and the trades up there are different than say down here. The needs for regions, even, are so different.
“What we need down here in our school system, or what arguably should be taught or what needs to be taught down here could very well be vastly different from what needs to be taught in New England, in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, or out west in the Midwest. I do not believe the federal government should be involved in [dictating school curriculum]. I believe that if we’re having to have the government involved in it at all, I feel like it should be at a state level. Ideally, I think it should be a partnership between the parents and the local school systems.
“Moving beyond that, I am a huge supporter of the tax money following the children. If a kid is going to go to this school, I feel that that money should follow that child. It’s the same honestly with parents that are homeschooling. During the coronavirus, all these schools shut down and all of a sudden, all these parents are having to try to homeschool their kids but they’re still paying school taxes and a lot of those kids were out of school for a good portion of the year.
“I feel like the money should follow the kid and that parents should have these choices as to where that money goes and where their kids go. I don’t personally prescribe to the idea that private schools are better than public schools. I think that you see a lot of the same negative things that happen in schools across the board, so I really don’t have too much of an opinion on that. I just feel like really, a parent should be able to choose where they want to send their kid. I quite frankly don’t feel like they should have to be paying taxes to a certain school district that their kids don’t go to. I pay school taxes, and none of my kids are in [traditional] school.”
What are your views on SB 202, the voting law which critics on the left say will restrict voting rights for historically marginalized communities?
“I have differing views about different things within that bill. I agree with the fact that they should be enforcing [voting laws] more to make sure that whoever is voting, especially through absentee and mail, is eligible to be voting.
“Quite honestly, I am a huge proponent of showing identification and things like that, because if you’re not a resident here you shouldn’t be voting here. Or if you’re not eligible to vote, then you shouldn’t be voting, so I can agree with that. One thing that the bill also did that I do agree with is that when it comes to sending ballots overseas to our military personnel, they have the option of ranked-choice voting. I believe we should have ranked-choice voting, period.
“I’m a huge supporter of that because it helps in these contentious runoff situations and things like that, so I really do like ranked-choice voting. One thing I think is asinine, though, was one of the things that said you can’t hand out water or anything in line. I was like ‘what?’ Why did you feel the need to even put this in this bill? I guess you could say government’s going to govern and do stupid stuff but that to me was really asinine. I am not a fan of that.
“I do think that we should make voting accessible to everyone, so I did not quite understand the removal of like these buses, for example, that were going around and allowing voters to get on there and being able to easily drop off ballots in the drop boxes and things like that.
“Overall, I agree with most of how that bill was done, there’s just parts of it that I look at and don’t necessarily agree with. I think traditionally, especially on the Republican front, quite frankly, they are huge advocates of trying to make it harder for people to get on the ballot. I also think that they are advocates of trying to — whether it’s intentionally or not — make it more difficult to vote.
“I think that the bill could have been better and definitely, some things shouldn’t have been changed. Like I said, I do believe that the little remote buses they had, I just didn’t see a problem with that and I also think it’s insane you can’t pass out water. That’s just stupid. But overall, when it comes to the ID’ing, I do agree with that.”
Do you think the 2020 presidential election was a free and fair election?
“I’m going to say this loosely — I do believe there was fraud. Speaking from a Libertarian standpoint, we saw in Pennsylvania where Jo Jorgensen’s numbers fell magically by 40,000 votes, which was insane. It was a huge deal, of course.
“We also had an issue in Fulton County, where our poll watcher [for the Libertarian Party] was not allowed in initially. We had to fight to get our poll watcher into one of the precincts in Fulton County. Do I think that there was some fraud? Yes, I do.
“Do I think that the election was stolen? No, I don’t. I think any fraud that we saw wasn’t on a large enough scale to swing an entire election. I also feel that it would not be accurate to say that there wasn’t some fraud. I can’t say that I think it was a totally fair and free election because I do believe there were some mishandlings that did happen, but Donald Trump did not win. He just did not win. I don’t think it was enough to overturn a whole election.”
How would you characterize the people who overran the US Capitol last January 6th?
“I 100 percent believe that if people are upset about something, especially that our government is doing, that they should be able to protest. That falls back with what we were talking about with the Black Lives Matter protests. If you are upset about something that is being done, you should absolutely be able to get out and voice it. Now — there is a difference between protesting and making it clear how you feel and trying to overrun the Capitol.
“My sheer thought on that was it was stupid. I really just don’t know what their thought process was. I mean, what did you think you were going to do? What did you think you were going to accomplish by trying to run into one of the most — if not the most — heavily guarded buildings in the United States? Who told you that was a good idea? Who told you that?
“If you are trying to overrun the federal government, that is not the way to do it. I feel like the protesting and getting out and showing that they were unhappy, I am down for that. When they decided to do what they did, that is where they lost all kinds of any respect, ever. All of it to me was absolutely insane.
“A lot of people were very concerned about it and understandably so, and a lot of people were horrified about it, and it was a scary situation, of course. I just have no idea what they thought they would accomplish. Say you succeeded — what was your next step? What the hell were you going to do? Because obviously, there was not a huge plan beyond what happened. I most certainly did not agree with those actions.
“Number one, because I think it was freaking stupid.
“But number two, just trying to show your frustration by means of doing that, you lost all credibility that you could have ever had. And the after-effects of that, just like I said, there’s just no credibility there. Any message you were trying to send is gone. It’s just gone.
“And then you see kind of this aftermath of I think it was yesterday or the day before where the Department of Homeland Security has now issued this huge bulletin on identifying domestic terrorists, and it goes into the people sowing seeds of dissent against the government [Note: This interview was conducted on February 11].
“These are products of them doing these things, so you did not do any justice for whatever message you were trying to send. If your message was that our government was overreaching — which I agree with, I most definitely agree that our government is too large and overreaching on so many different levels — well, it was super counterproductive. Because now, I’d say a good 75 percent of us fall into the domestic terrorist category, so thanks for nothing. I did not agree with what they did. When they decided to storm the Capitol, I did not agree with it.”
Would you have voted to certify the election of Joe Biden?
“I don’t like him. I don’t like him at all, I do not think he is a good president, I most definitely do not know what in the hell the Democratic Party thought when pushing him as their nominee, I just don’t. He has done some wretched stuff over his time in office. He literally is the constructor of the skewed criminal justice system — there’s so many reasons I do not like that man.
“But he won the election, so I would have certified it, yes. Not because he’s my favorite person, because he most certainly is not. I would personally have never voted for that man. I did not vote for that man, but would never even if I wasn’t a Libertarian. I disagree with so many things that he has done that I just think are awful. But again, he was the winner of the election. So yes, I would have certified him.”
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 — especially as a Libertarian — economically and socially appeal to rural, conservative voters while also appealing to suburban, liberal voters?
“Well you mention, ‘especially as a Libertarian,’ I think that is the answer. Of course, any party has its own factions, if you will. Even the Republican Party, for example, you have your more moderate and then you have your far-right-wing folks.
“It’s the same within the Democratic Party. You have your moderate Democrats and then you have these far left-leaning Democrats.
“And the Libertarian Party, of course, you also have folks that lean left or right, but I am very much so right in the middle, which is how I’ve always typically been. Growing up and being raised here, I definitely lean more conservative, it’s just kind of who I am. When you talk about a Libertarian, the short way to describe them is fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
“I really do not care what people decide to do in their everyday lives as long as they are not harming people or taking their stuff. I’m a huge advocate of the GSM [gender and sexual minorities] community. In 2020, I was on the news talking about criminal justice reform and that’s what the whole thing was, it was all on criminal justice reform and ending qualified immunity, ending no-knock raids, and things that disproportionately affect African-Americans, especially. I feel like because of how I feel, in general, with my policies, I am able to relate to both sides.
“Now, I will tell you, I was not impressed when that part of Cobb was gerrymandered into the district, and the reason why is because you’re talking about two very different situations. The needs of an incredibly rural area are different than the needs of the suburbs of Atlanta. That’s why it upset me, because I thought for their own selfish gain — which is exactly what it was — they stuck that part of Cobb into one of the most conservative districts in the United States to try to offset the blue vote in Cobb County, which
“I just think is insane. Just why? But that was a safe bet for them, and in doing so, they have made my job much more difficult because, again, you’re looking at having to represent two very different areas.
“I know this is further down, but you were talking about MARTA and expanding out. We have no public transportation in rural Georgia outside of the Amtrak when it filters through or the train, and that’s just one example. It is definitely interesting looking at it from my perspective on how I can work with both and represent both and do it well. I feel more prepared to represent the rural part of my district because that’s where I was born and raised and I know rural Georgia.
“It hasn’t been up until the last couple of years that I’ve really gotten familiar with Atlanta and being around Atlanta and being in bigger cities. It’s definitely interesting to try to navigate what that’s going to look like. I look forward to getting down into that part of Cobb and really talking with folks and really navigating what is important to them because I can promise that what is going to be important to them is likely going to be different than what’s important to the rest of this rural swab of Georgia.”
You touched on it a bit in the previous question, but how do you feel about transportation issues in the district?
“Up in my neck of the woods — I live in Walker County and from Walker County — we don’t have public transportation. They have the senior bus or the Walker County Transit that will go around and pick mostly seniors up. I believe you can pay to have them take you around, but these are small buses, so it’s mostly elderly folks that are going to doctor’s appointments and stuff like that.
“That’s it, that’s what we’ve got. I think a bus might stop in Dalton, but there is no true public [transportation]. We can’t really go hop the train and have it take you to downtown somewhere in say downtown Atlanta, that is not a thing. Our train stops in these small towns for sightseeing. It’s not, I’m going to get on this train and go to work. We don’t have that, especially up in this part. Now, as far as I know, that is the case just period throughout most of the district. It’s not like Chattanooga, for example, that has the bus that goes around town, we don’t have that.
“That hurts people that could benefit from public transportation. I’m not entirely sure how beneficial that would be somewhere like here, but when you have folks that are out of work right now, say their car shits the bed, the inflation on used cars right now is insane, so they really can’t afford to get another car. Well, then they’re out of work.
“This is not a federal thing, but the road conditions throughout this whole district suck. I mean, they are awful. That starts getting into state and local, how the local municipalities put their funds or where they put them, or how they use them. Driving through this district, in general, is rough because the roads are just not kept up at all.”
What is your view on healthcare issues in Georgia and what would you do to improve them?
“I’m not against the expansion of Medicaid and Medicare. Especially with so many people losing their jobs or out of jobs for various different reasons, that is a resource. I definitely think that should absolutely be available to anybody who needs that.
“Now, on that same token, though, it has been proven that the care that people will get on Medicaid and Medicare and beyond that into the VA system is oftentimes not the same quality of care that somebody with private insurance would get. Then you start getting into the things like the WIC program, for example — I haven’t run into a situation from somebody at least not that I know that it was a huge issue — they say they require vaccination and stuff like that.
“Then there have been talks actually at a federal level of requiring that of Medicaid recipients, which I don’t agree with. I feel like yes, expand [Medicaid and Medicare] and the people that need that and can find use for it, absolutely use that. But I also feel like there needs to be a reform. Just because it is a quote-unquote ‘government program’ should not equate to people getting poor quality of care.
“I really feel that that needs to be looked at and dealt with if we’re putting money into also expanding it because why expand something that is potentially crappy? ‘Sure, here’s your Medicaid, but here’s the four doctors you can go to.’ ‘Sorry, the specialist isn’t covered,’ or ‘we have to jump through these horrible hoops to get this specialist covered.’ I just feel like the whole program should be dealt with better and that we should be making sure the quality of care that folks are receiving in those programs is the quality of care that they should be getting.”
Can you talk a little about your endorsers/donors and how much your campaign has raised so far?
“I have a hard time bragging on myself. I don’t have major endorsements. Of course, I’m close friends with several people within the Libertarian Party, well-known people like Spike Cohen. I have this friendship, but I feel awful bragging about the endorsements. I don’t know, something about that seems weird to me. As far as fundraising goes, I have run multiple campaigns over the last several years, actually. All of them have been on a shoestring budget, which I’m proud of, actually.
“Obviously, to run a campaign, there’s multiple things you need to fundraise for. You have to fundraise for signs, you have to fundraise for billboards, you have to fundraise for literature, you have to fundraise for filing fees, you have to fundraise for ad time, and things like that. But I’m also very realistic about how people are hurting right now and I am very lower middle class, so I get it, I most certainly get how people are suffering right now. It’s hard for me to ask the people that I know are suffering as well for money because I know that while $10 might not seem like a lot to somebody, that’s a pack of diapers.
“That used to be maybe three loaves of bread now it might be one and a half. While I have fundraised, I have not met my FEC threshold of $5,000 and I will by next month because I have to file and qualify as a candidate. I’m not sad about that at all, actually. Marjorie Greene, for example, if you’ve ever looked at that lady’s FEC filings, it’s insane.
“What are you doing with all that money? Really, what are you doing with all that money? I’ll tell you what she’s doing, she’s eating $1,000 lunches in Washington, D.C. She’s traveling all over the United States, which blows my mind, I’m not even sure if that’s even FEC compliant because I’m not sure how traveling to the Midwest benefits the people here. It’s just insane things.
“The same has happened with like Holly McCormack and Marcus Flowers, looking at their fundraising. What are you doing with that money? Where’s that money going? If you get elected where is that money going? What are you going to do to have earned that money?
“Backing up to Marjorie Greene, I haven’t looked at it in the last few months, but for every one donation that was from Georgia — just from Georgia in general, we’re not even talking about the district — there were like 50 from out of state. Good for you on your hustle on fundraising but I don’t really see that as a barometer of success, because what has she done to really constitute that? What has she done to constitute the $175,000 she’s getting paid a year to be a congresswoman?
“I’m okay with not having fundraised a whole lot but I will say that the donors that I have gotten are from the state of Georgia, for the most part, I think I’ve had like two or three that have been from out of state and they weren’t large. Everybody else has been from the state of Georgia, and the majority of them have been within my district.
“The people here are actually funding me, which is really cool to see. The biggest support that I’ve seen and I have is from the people that I’ve talked with here. There has been such a phenomenal outpouring of support for my petitioning, that is amazing.
“People are very empathetic to the fact that I shouldn’t have to go out here and collect 23,000 signatures just to be on the ballot. I’ve only gotten just a handful of people that have said no, and when they say no, they’re not even ugly about it. They’re just like, ‘no, I don’t think so.’ It’s not anything other than that. It’s not nasty. It’s not mean, they wish me luck.
“The support that I’m seeing here is really actually quite humbling. When I told one of my good friends who’s also involved in politics in my area I was running for Congress, he laughed, and he said, ‘really?’ I said, ‘yeah,’ he goes, ‘I would have always thought you were going to run for a local office because that’s where your heart is.’ And I said, ‘yeah, you know what, you’re right. My heart is here locally.’ To me, it’s not important for me to have support from people all over the United States — I mean, great if they do — but it’s important for me to have the support here.
“The best I know how to describe that is I made a post on a county page a couple of days ago, I was actually trying to be shifty about it because I knew they were going to take it down. I said I would love to have your ideas about breakfast places I could just go around and sit and hang out, eat there and everything and people could come sign the petition.
“Of course, naturally, people asked what the petition was for. I told them and I had like two people on there that were just outright, ‘we don’t like Libertarians here,’ which is weird because actually, this district, in general, has polled phenomenally for Libertarians. I didn’t say anything, of course, but for those two people, there were around 40 or 50 people in the timespan that the post was up — which is not long — that were like, ‘oh, that’s not true, you don’t speak for us.’ Multiple people [were like] ‘where can I sign your petition? You shouldn’t have to do this, we support you, how can we help,’ things like that.
“It’s amazing to see just the individual people here and that’s who I would want to back me. I don’t need the government here to support me. Brian Kemp has all these commissioner endorsements, I don’t need or want necessarily the elected officials here to support me. Because of who I am and how I am, just the regular people here supporting me is everything to me.”
What makes you the best person to represent the 14th district?
“I think that falls back to what I was talking about the fact that I am one of them, quite literally one of them. Marjorie was not. I’m sure you probably know the story, but originally she was running [in the 6th district] and when she realized that the Democrats had more of a stronghold there, she rented property in Rome.
“There’s nothing [legally] against running in a district you don’t live in, but she rented property and decided to run here, so she is most definitely not from here. She can’t relate to us here. Because number one, she actually does not live here.
“She may own a house now but she has I think it was almost a million dollars, if not a million dollars, of property in Alpharetta. She’s so disconnected from the reality of this district and how these people truly are and what they go through where I am, quite literally one of them. Like I said, I’m middle-lower class, I’m just right above that line.
“I went to school here, I grew up with so many folks here. My kids are growing up with folks here that I knew. Everybody knows my family. My roots are really, really deep here. Because they’re so deep here, I can relate to these folks and I think that’s honestly what makes me one of the best contenders for this job. I’m not a politician. I’m not somebody who’s out here seeking fame and glory.
“Quite honestly, I want to be a one-term congresswoman, I don’t want to be in there for the next 50 years.
“My heart is truly here and I want to be able to serve these people and number one represent them how they deserve to be represented. I really want to do the work, because these politicians aren’t doing it. They don’t care. They’re self-serving. And you can tell it, you can tell it when you look at them, that they’re just incredibly self-serving. Not all of them, but you can most certainly tell the ones that are.
“Even in my own race, of course, I won’t throw out their names — well Marjorie, most definitely is, but I won’t throw out any other names — you can tell who is there for the right reasons and who isn’t. My hope is that for the sake of this district, and really just in general for the United States, hopefully, this becomes a thing that people are electing these people that truly want to do the job and do it right and they’re not in it for money.
“They’re not in it for some sort of weird thing, because that seems to be a thing with Congress now. They’re not in it for the kickbacks, they’re just there to do the work. And that’s what I want to do.”
Is there anything else important not mentioned here that you would like to make sure voters know about you and/or your campaign?
“The biggest thing is my signature requirement. When I went to the town hall with Marjorie a few weeks back, it was actually funny, because I got in, I had no problems. I wrote down my question, I figured it would be sifted out because they did take the questions to the back but they did not take my question out, which makes me believe they did not screen them as heavily maybe as I thought, because my direct question was, as somebody who is such a proponent of fair and free elections, how do you feel about the fact that a third party candidate has to get thousands of signatures to even be on the ballot?
“Because any district candidate in the state of Georgia that runs as a Libertarian or an independent has to get signatures. Of course, they vary depending on the district and size. For me, like I said, that equates to 23,000 signatures just to even be on the ballot. [Greene] basically said that she was in favor of ballot restriction.
“She was like, ‘I feel that these third parties should have to show that enough people support them so that they can go on the ballot.’ And then she mumbled about random things, it actually very weird, it did not make sense. And then at the end, she was like, I think people should be able to vote for people — wildly all over the place.
“I feel like something that so many people don’t realize in the state of Georgia — and so they wonder why all these incumbents run unopposed, or why they rarely see a Libertarian or an independent on the ballot unless it is a nonpartisan race, or we’ve already retained ballot access, like with our statewide candidates — that the reason why they don’t see our name on the ballot is because we have to jump through these hoops to even get there.
“In my case, only one other person has ever gotten that amount of signatures, so it’s almost impossible. That is one thing that I feel is so important for people to know. Somebody like me, who wants to do the work, may not even be able to make it on the ballot because of the restrictions. That’s the biggest thing I like to get out there.
“Of course, we’re doing the work. I’m out every day that I can be going door to door collecting signatures. We’re setting up events and going and sitting around at different places, and people can come to us and talk about whatever really, and sign the petition if they want to. We’re putting in the work.
“The Libertarian Party, it is a party of volunteers, and boy, do I have some great volunteers on my campaign that are plugging away because it is such a hard hill to climb up, but we’re pushing to get there. Hopefully, we will, if I don’t then I absolutely intend on going through as a write-in. Luckily, my name is easy enough to remember.
“Most people, here especially, will remember Pence because of Mike Pence, unfortunately. But they’ll remember my last name, so it’s just getting my first name right. The hope is absolutely to make it on the ballot and that’s really the biggest thing.”
To learn more about Pence and her campaign, you can visit her website linked here.
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.