By Arielle Robinson
Adam Petty, a Democratic candidate for State Senate District 38, spoke with the Courier Wednesday morning about his background and campaign.
Petty is one of three Democrats running to unseat the incumbent Senator Horacena Tate, who has been in office since 1999.
District 38 covers parts of Cobb and Fulton Counties.
The primary is Tuesday, May 24.
To check out other candidates the Courier has spoken to, please click here.
Talk about your background. Who are you and how do you think that prepares you to become a state senator?
Petty: “I’m a husband, I’m a family man, I’m an attorney, and service member. One thing to know about me I think is really important is my father passed when I was seven years old, so my mother had to raise my sister and I as a single mother in New Jersey. Kind of early in life, I learned that we all face challenges, but we need and have to kind of press forward anyway.
“I’m a living example of the proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ My mother provided for me and my sister and protected us, but she also knew that she needed help. She kept me in church, she enrolled me in Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs, she sent me to spend time with my grandparents over my summer breaks. She just made sure that I interacted with positive male influences that I could have in my life and with that she taught me to be a blessing to others and to serve my local community.
“So really from a young age, I was engaged and participating in things like clothing drives and serving food at soup kitchens and stocking food pantries. As I went on into college, I was a student athlete and I pledged a fraternity in college. Having those experiences gave me an opportunity to be active on campus and in the local neighborhoods doing more community service, things like neighborhood cleanups and voter registration, things like that.
“But it wasn’t really until after I graduated from undergrad that I found my real passion, which is mentoring young men. I’ve been doing that for probably the last 20 years or so. After I graduated, I worked as a computer programmer in the banking industry. I decided that at that time I wanted to leave that career field and become a lawyer, so I can use my platform as a lawyer to help others, so I went to law school. While I was there, I kind of continued that tradition of service.
“I received an award for the amount of pro bono hours I had logged while a student there and I served as the executive president of the student bar association. I was in leadership in some other local campus groups as well. I completed various internships and externships while in law school. The two that really kind of shaped my experience, they’re kind of the highlights for me, were my internships working at the local unit NAACP and also at the Ohio House of Representatives.
“Those things really kind of shaped how I saw public service and gave me some more insight into how I could use my platform as a lawyer to really help my local community. Then, when I graduated from law school, really my greatest opportunity to serve to date was when I commissioned into the Army. I served six and a half years on active duty in the Army, which included a tour in Afghanistan.
“The Army trains you for leadership and in a whole bunch of ways I really couldn’t have ever imagined — like how to lead by example, how to lead with selflessness and integrity, how to inspire others to be better versions of themselves and really how to be accountable to those who rely on you. That has been really a great blessing for me. I still serve now, I’m in the Army Reserves. I’m not on active duty anymore, but I’m in the Army Reserve, and I still serve currently.
“Just more recently, here in the Atlanta area, I’ve been a gang prosecutor, so I’ve prosecuted gang cases. I now have my own law practice doing mostly criminal defense and I still dedicate my time to mentoring young men. I’m active in some other organizations in the area. Really, all these experiences I think kind of shaped me and made me the man and the leader that I am today. I’ve never been a state senator but I think that my passion for service, my advocacy skills, really just my life experiences — those things kind of assured me that I’m ready to kind of take on this next opportunity to serve. That’s why I’m running.”
How do you feel about Georgia’s economic and medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Can anything be handled better?
“COVID-19 was, has been, and really remains a global health crisis. I was disappointed in the partisan politics that basically kind of took over what is a health and science issue. I don’t really believe that anybody — including Georgians — was best served by politicians arguing about vaccinations and mask mandates. One of the things that I just kind of take from it besides that, is I’m just grateful to our first responders and healthcare providers, people who basically stood at the forefront and fought the global health pandemic head-on.
“I think most of us probably lost a family member or a friend or a neighbor or even a co-worker to COVID-19. Looking back, I’m kind of inspired by the resilience that we all demonstrated throughout this difficult time, sometimes with not even really knowing what new variant or challenge was coming next.
“I think that from an economic standpoint, we still don’t know the full economic impact of what COVID will be. We’ve seen businesses close and people have lost jobs and we’ve seen how these losses have impacted families and people’s ability to pay their rent and put food on the table.
“I think that the federal relief that we received that went to the states and was pushed down — one, I think it took a little bit longer than we would have liked, but it did seem to help the economy and help people begin to recover. But I think that going forward, our legislatures need to continue really to press for additional and consistent release of funding, because we’re not really out of the dark yet. Families are still struggling and I think that there still remains a need for COVID relief.”
Republican lawmakers in the state are in the process of passing 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?
“No, I do not support constitutional carry. I am a gun owner, but I have my concealed carry permit. I’ve taken gun safety courses in the past and of course, being in the military, I trained with weapons along the way. But I don’t believe that flooding our streets with more guns will deter crime. I think crime is deterred by giving people jobs with livable wages and encouraging people to resolve their conflicts, rather than resorting to violence, and placing greater emphasis on strengthening our communities.
“I think as a community, we need to decide that enough is enough. We can’t afford to lose any more family members or neighbors to jail or even worse, the grave. I think as we’ve all seen from the prevalence of gun violence that we see probably almost every day, what we need is fewer guns on the streets. I’m an advocate for reasonable firearm regulations, background checks, and responsible gun ownership. I believe that requiring a gun owner to obtain a permit to carry a firearm outside of their home is one of the effective ways to help limit the number of guns on our streets.”
The Supreme Court in December 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 more restrictive measures on abortion?
“No, I would not support more restrictive measures on abortion. I do support a woman’s right to choose whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. I recognize cases like Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey as established Constitutional law. As an elected official, I would stand up against laws that restrict abortion outside of that Constitutional law framework.”
What is your view on Black Lives Matter protests and police/criminal justice reform?
“First and foremost, I believe Black Lives Matter and I support any activism that brings awareness to police misconduct and the use of excessive force. I do believe, though, that the majority of our men and women in law enforcement are responsible, I believe are well trained and want to protect our communities the right way. But unfortunately, there are definitely, as we’ve seen, individual actors throughout the police force that don’t really have our communities’ or their residents’ best interests at heart. I think as a result, there’s a deep mistrust of law enforcement, especially in our communities of color. I think that we need to kind of mend some of those feelings of mistrust and bridge some of those divides in our communities.
“I am an advocate for community-based policing. I’d like to see the reallocation of police funding towards efforts that goes to help support the community. I think that policing should utilize standards that are really focused on data and conflict resolution, and just recognizing civil and human rights. I’ve been practicing criminal law for nearly 10 years. Over those years, I prosecuted cases, I’ve defended cases, I’ve even been a part-time magistrate, and I know firsthand the need for criminal justice reform.
“I think reform has happened in a number of ways. Some of the things I think we can reform would be Georgia’s bail system, I think we need to eliminate cash bail. I think we should really re-examine some of the mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes, and I think that we really need to have some discussions about limiting the length of time the offender can be placed on probation. I think what I’ve seen over the past 10 years is that long-term probation can really have an adverse effect over time and can have really wide-ranging collateral effects on the offender, like loss of employment and loss of housing opportunities and things like that. I think that we need to look at reform in those types of areas.”
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 state senator to improve working Georgians’ economic conditions so that they return to work?
“As a senator, I would work to increase Georgia’s minimum wage. I think it needs to exceed the federal rate, which I believe is $7.25 an hour. We’ve got to do better than that as a state. Especially in Georgia’s metro areas, we’re seeing a rising cost of living but the wages that our employees are earning don’t necessarily match. We need to begin to take some affirmative steps to eliminate that deficit and just make sure that all Georgians can earn a livable wage.
“Additionally, I would look at any other reasons why people have chosen to leave their jobs and maybe not return, such as rising costs of childcare, lack of healthcare coverage, and even unequal pay across different sectors. We’ve seen unequal pay between gender and race. I would support legislation that addresses these other considerations that have made it more difficult for Georgians to return to work.”
What is your view on environmental issues such as climate change?
“I think environmental scientists have been warning us for decades about certain environmental issues and climate change. I don’t think that we can continue to pollute and use natural resources at the current rate. I think climate change is real and I think the threat that we as humans are presenting to the Earth is a real threat. We’re looking at trends [that show we are headed] towards completely depleting our natural resources.
“I support efforts by the federal government and local government to reduce our dependency on natural resources like oil and gas. I think that we should invest in cleaner, renewable, and non-oil based alternative energy. I think we can also encourage efforts to reduce the production of non-recyclable materials and we can emphasize the need to conserve water and do things like reduce air pollution. That is what I would like a focus of our local and federal government to really be with respect to environmental issues.”
Many working Georgians in the metro area say that there isn’t enough affordable housing and rent costs continue to skyrocket while wages remain low. What is your view on adding more affordable housing to the district?
“We’re seeing in metro Atlanta and other metropolitan areas across the country the cost of buying or renting a home continuously rising while the income that people are earning hasn’t necessarily tracked at that same rising rate. I think that the approach to addressing this particular issue has to kind of be multifaceted. I think that Georgians need to be ensured a livable wage. As I mentioned, $7.25 an hour for our hourly wage employees is not enough to ensure that they can have a roof over their head, put food on the table, and meet everyone else’s other financial obligations. I think we need to start there.
“I also believe that we need to add more affordable housing in the district, certainly. I don’t believe that building housing by itself really is enough. We’ve got to add affordable housing, and we also need to make sure that we’re preserving the historic neighborhoods that currently exist and have existed for generations. We’ve got to fight development that displaces the residents of these historic neighborhoods. I would support incentives that help, for example, senior citizens repair their homes and incentives that would be offered to landlords to give them alternatives to evicting tenants who are behind on their rent. I think those are some things that we can do to address affordable housing.
“I think we also kind of need to take that approach a step further and look at stimulating our economy and even investing in things like mixed-use development. I think that all these things are related to one another. I think we can utilize underutilized land and create mixed-use communities where residents can live there, but they can also have better access to transportation and grocery stores and parks, retail, and things like that. That is what I think is the multi-faceted, multi-tiered approach that we need to take, and really just to ensure that Georgians have a reliable place to live, work, and play.”
What is your view on education?
“I’m from New Jersey originally, but I’m a product of public schools. I’m an advocate for public education, and I believe in strong and diverse public education systems for our students. I definitely support fully funded K-12 education and I would fight for increased funding for each public school student. I support our boards of education [and support offering] age-appropriate, career-related education and work — what I call work-based learning, in an effort to prepare students to be college and career ready.
“I think we oftentimes think about college prep for our high school students, and of course, we need college prep but we also need to focus on career prep, so technical colleges and trade schools, things of that nature. I would like to secure funding for wraparound support that schools can provide in order to help students overcome non-academic barriers to learning. That can be anything from food insecurity or counseling services that our students might need to help address issues that they have at home. I think all those things that affect the child outside of the school impact their ability to learn and be successful while they’re in class. We need to address that as well and I would like to empower our school boards to be able to do that.
“I definitely believe in increased pay for our teachers and school employees. The last thing I’ll say about this is I support any school curriculums that are teaching accurate and complete historical information. That’s of course something that we hear a lot about right now, in terms of what is considered CRT and things like that. I support our schools’ ability to teach our students accurate information.”
“SB 202 passed last year and signed into law by the governor. I would support any efforts to repeal any type of voter suppression legislation. I also support continued challenges to [SB 202] in state and federal judicial systems. I would support any effort to help get it overturned in the courts.
“While those things are happening, I plan to keep the issue relevant by having conversations, raising awareness among our constituents, and just making sure that we’re mobilized and excited about voting. [I support] making sure that as a community, we demonstrate that we won’t be deterred from exercising our right to vote. From a federal level, I fully endorse federal legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as necessary means to combat voter suppression.”
How do you feel about transportation issues in the district?
“I think we’re all probably pretty frustrated by the traffic and congestion and transportation gaps in the district. I believe in researching the most efficient ways to expand and fund public transportation options like MARTA and CobbLinc so that they can become integrated in a way that meets our needs.
“I think the consistent issue for our district creates an opportunity for us to really discuss other long-term alternatives, like expanding telework options at our places of employment or installing more managed toll lanes in our interstates and even increasing bicycle and pedestrian paths throughout the district.
“Similar to the housing [issue], I think there needs to be a multi-faceted approach to addressing this issue. I don’t think we can necessarily just widen highways and build more highways. I don’t think that’s necessarily the answer. I think that we need to look at different avenues, an all-encompassing type of approach.”
What is your view on healthcare issues in Georgia and what would you do to improve them?
“I believe that access to healthcare is a right. It shouldn’t just be offered to people who can afford private insurance. I believe we desperately need to expand Medicaid. It’s not just that right, I think we need to support certain healthcare reform that aims to do things like reducing the cost of prescription medication and increasing the use or the availability of telehealth services.
“I would look at incentivizing healthcare providers to provide a wider array of telehealth services. I think by modifying the licensure requirements and increasing reimbursement to providers who are providing telehealth services, by taking these sorts of measures — healthcare for our seniors, individuals with pre-existing conditions, or even individuals without reliable transportation — we would make healthcare more accessible to all Georgians.”
Can you talk a little about your endorsers/donors and how much your campaign has raised so far?
“I’ve been meeting with constituents, community advocates, elected officials, public interest organizations, and others throughout the state to discuss the changes that they would like to see, and how they can support my campaign. Those meetings have been going on, they’re ongoing. I have more planned for later on today, so it’s ongoing for me.
“[With regard to endorsements], as we continue to grow, I’m looking forward to releasing that information and sharing it very soon. And it’s kind of the same as it pertains to the money piece. As far as how much money the campaign has raised so far, I’m on budget and I’m raising money every day. I’m excited about the momentum that the campaign has gained. I look forward to releasing the next campaign disclosure report, which is due at the end of this month. I think that is kind of the best way I can answer that right now.”
You kind of touched on it in the last question, but how are you reaching out to voters to get your message heard?
“The approach is meet people where they are, it’s that simple, go where the people are. I’ve been active in the community, meeting neighbors, talking with concerned citizens all throughout the district, and I’m going to events. One of the unique characteristics of this district is that it incorporates Fulton and Cobb counties, so I’m in both places. I’m all over the place meeting with people that want to have better leadership in the Georgia Senate. I’ll continue and that’s the work to do. I’ve been all over Cobb and Fulton counties and I’ll continue to do so.
“We are hosting virtual events like meet and greets, using social media, phone banking, and I can do a shameless plug for the website, which is www.adamforga.com. I’m excited about this next push as the campaign gets ready for early voting, which begins May 2. So we’re in local neighborhoods, mobilizing the community and volunteers. We’re doing that and we’re pushing now. What I can say is be on the lookout for the campaign, but if you’re looking it’s going to be hard to miss us. We’re going to be everywhere in Cobb and Fulton County, so I’m just really excited.”
What makes you the best person to represent the 38th district?
“I’m the only candidate in this race with the breadth of experiences that I have. I’m a practicing trial lawyer and I’m in court consistently, so I’m accustomed to having to research law and learn facts and do data research, for lack of a better term. I’m accustomed to formulating and presenting an argument on behalf of my client. When I was a prosecutor, my client was the state, and as a defense attorney, [I had] individual clients. I’m comfortable and accustomed to presenting arguments on their behalf.
“Along with that is responding to oppositional positions, so I think that this skill set will serve me well as I debate proposed legislation in committee hearings, and have the opportunity to speak on the Senate floor. I think that skill set really served me well.
“I am a small business owner, I have my own law practice, so I understand the need to support the businesses and entities that help support our local economy and help it thrive. I understand that component as well. As I’ve talked about, [I have] military experience, I have served on active duty for six and a half years, and I’m currently in the reserves still. I’ve been serving now for a total of over 10 years.
“I think that my service requires a sense of duty, and it’s got to be done with integrity at all times. I’m a better leader because of my service and the training and the experiences I’ve had over these past 10 years.
“I touched on it a little bit earlier, but I’m passionate about mentorship. I’m passionate about it because I just understand that as a community, we have responsibilities to our next generation of leaders like yourself. We’ve got to ensure that they receive quality education and have a path to long-lasting and successful careers to keep our next generation safe and to make our neighborhoods better places for them to live, to work, to play, to protect your voting rights, and really just so much more.
“I work daily to protect others and serve our community in one capacity or another — as a small business owner, as a mentor, as a service member. But I do these things daily because these things are important to me. I will do the same as senator for Georgia’s 38th district.”
Is there anything else important not mentioned here that you would like to make sure voters know about you and/or your campaign?
“Yeah, so an interesting fact about my family, service has been deeply rooted in my family for generations. My great, great, great — so three greats — grandfather served as a US Colored Cavalryman in the Civil War.
“My grandfather fought in the Korea and Vietnam wars, and my father served in the US Army Reserve. So through their examples, they’ve encouraged me and other members of my family to also show up to lead and to serve.
“It’s kind of in the fabric of my DNA and that’s why I was driven to serve in the military and why I’m driven to serve my local communities. Service to others in one shape or another is critical to me.
“I am running for senate district 38 because there’s a need for a dynamic, present, and engaged leader, and I want to ensure that the social and economic rights of all the residents of this district are represented to the fullest extent.
“This district needs a senator who is going to answer the call to service, to be present consistently both in session and out of session, to be present in the community and at the statehouse. I think that this is what our district needs, for both Fulton and Cobb counties. I think that it’s been a long time since our district has had that and that’s why I’m running. I’m running to change that.”
To learn more about Petty, visit his website.
Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She is the current president of the university’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and former editor at the KSU Sentinel. She enjoys music, reading poetry and non-fiction books and collecting books and records. She enjoys all kinds of music and reading poetry and non-fiction books.