By Arielle Robinson
The Courier spoke last week with Dr. Charles Lutin, a Republican hopeful for Georgia’s 14th Congressional House District.
Lutin is one of several candidates, Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian, who seeks to unseat the incumbent, Marjorie Taylor Greene.
The primaries are Tuesday, May 24.
Talk about your background. Who are you and why did you decide to become involved in politics?
Lutin: “I am a physician. I am retired from a 40-year medical practice. Most of my career I spent working in hospital emergency departments, I got plenty of experience with emergencies and triage and making diagnoses and prescribing treatment. I spent five years in the U.S. Air Force toward the end of my career and retired from active practice of medicine about two years ago.
“I’m also a student of history. I have done some writing on historical subjects and I’m very interested in the political and social background of the Civil War in particular. And I’m an aviator. I got interested in a career in aviation and I actually almost became a commercial pilot at one time. But I’ve had an interest in aviation since I was a child and I’ve been a licensed pilot since 1982. And I’ve been very interested in matters related to aviation and aircraft, construction and maintenance, and so forth.
“I’ve spent a lot of my career dealing with federal agencies — the FAA, associated with aviation, and the various emergency response agencies with the federal government, FEMA, Health and Human Services, and others related to disaster preparedness and mitigation.
“I got interested in politics about four or five years ago, I think our country’s in a bad way. It’s the worst that I’ve ever seen it since I was born in 1952. About a year ago, I got to the point where I was so fed up with things that instead of wringing my hands and worrying and saying how bad things are, I decided I was going to do something about it — starting with our current representative in the 14th District of Georgia, who I believe has no business whatsoever in public and especially not in a position of responsibility making our laws and enforcing our laws.”
How do you think your background has prepared you to become a Congress member?
“Well, essentially, it’s a public service job. Some of the other candidates will say how their background has prepared them for public service, but I’m the one who’s actually been providing public service to the people who come into hospital emergency departments with bad conditions of one kind or another.
“Dealing with the public is what I’ve done for 40 years. Essentially, the job in Congress is to make good decisions to figure out what the problems are and how best to solve them. I’ve got a 40-year history behind me of making good decisions and solving problems in the emergency department, so I think I am very well prepared. And nothing is going to throw me off my game or distract me from what is important about a situation because frankly, I’ve been dealing with life and death for over 40 years.”
Off the top of your head, what are three top issues you see affecting residents within the 14th district and how would you aim to fix them?
“I think the most important issue is the divisiveness in modern politics. The temperature in the district has reached the boiling point and people are ready to explode and fight a culture war that’s seriously [in] danger of becoming a shooting war. There really is a very high level of disaffection and even a hatred for people with different political opinions and it’s close to boiling over, so we need to lower the temperature.
“My disposition is very congenial, I’m certainly willing and interested to reach across the aisle and deal with people with all political backgrounds. It’s got to start with personal relationships. Democracy works well at a local and county level, but somehow or another, it’s been lost up in Washington D.C. and there needs to be a feeling of collegiality and working together to get things done. What we have now is a perfect gridlock. The only interaction that a lot of the senators and representatives seem to have with the opposite party is pointing fingers and poking the other party.
“[Also] there’s a serious underemployment issue in the district. The median income is below the national average and outside of the flooring industry and some other isolated areas where there is fairly good work available.
“For instance, in the hospital and healthcare industry in Rome — the employment opportunities in the district are fairly sparse, and not well compensated.
“There’s also a transportation issue. The road system is not well developed and some areas have issues with flooding and water control. That needs an infrastructure fix and that needs to be coordinated through the federal government to provide a better highway network for the community and the district.”
How do you feel about Georgia’s economic and medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
“The response has been disjointed and unfortunately, has been politicized. The virus has no politics, but our politicians have not responded very well.
“Now, you cannot force a person to take a vaccination. The vaccination rate in the rural areas of Georgia has been notably low and that has led to serious outbreaks of the virus that have been lethal in many cases. It has hit the rural parts of the state very hard.
“It’s been very noticeable in Floyd County, where I reside. There have been over 500 deaths from COVID in Floyd County, that’s over one percent of the population and that’s a large number.
“The vaccine certainly has been available, it certainly has been recommended. But unfortunately, not all of our politicians have seen fit to get behind it and recommend it. You can’t make a person get vaccinated, but we certainly should and can ask that our representatives at the local district and state level should all say that vaccination is a good thing and people ought to have it.”
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 do not support constitutional carry. The reason I do not is that there is a public safety issue with felons and people with mental illness carrying guns around.
“Yes, there should be a right to bear arms and yes, there is a right to bear arms but it’s not an unlimited right to bear arms. If we have armed felons and armed people who have serious mental issues and can’t think rationally, there have been and there will continue to be a number of shootings that are preventable.
“So yes, there’s a right to bear arms, but it is not an unlimited right. If you pass an ordinance saying that anyone can have a weapon, it’s contrary to public health and it’s contrary to the public interest.”
The Supreme Court decided a few months ago 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 tighter measures on abortion?
“I think that abortion should be restricted somewhat, but it can never be outlawed completely. There are times when a pregnancy threatens the mother’s life. There are situations such as rape and incest, where abortion can and must be available.
“Outlawing abortion across the board … is not humane. And again, it’s contrary to the public interest to totally ban abortion.”
What is your view on Black Lives Matter protests and police/criminal justice reform?
“The protests following George Floyd’s killing were mostly peaceful protests. They certainly did become violent and led to property destruction and even several killings in some areas, so violent protest cannot and should not be tolerated. But the protests were largely peaceful following George Floyd’s killing.
“The police have to be supported, they have to be fully funded, and they also have to be fully accountable. We need to have good accountability and good policing of police actions as well as good funding for police.”
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?
“Well, the first thing is that we need to have a minimum wage that’s realistic. The minimum wage is $7.25 an hour and it hasn’t changed I believe for 13 or 14 years. It is way below the actual rates at which even the low-skilled jobs are paid. So we need to have a realistic minimum wage and I think it needs to be tied to the index of inflation so that it doesn’t have to go back before Congress repeatedly to raise the minimum wage every few years.
“And the employment that’s offered certainly needs to be employment that’s beneficial and worthwhile to the worker, as well as providing services to the public, that wants to dine at restaurants and visit hotels and so on.”
What is your view on environmental issues?
“Climate change is real, that’s the first thing. And at some point, we’re going to have to start believing it and making the tough sacrifices that will be necessary to stop and eventually reverse the change in climate that is occurring, because it is occurring.
“It’s changed since I was a child, and it’s continuing to warm. We have one Earth, it’s a good place to live and we need to make sure that it remains a good place to live. In particular, climate warming and the disposal of plastics that do not degrade in the environment are very negative factors for children and grandchildren.”
What is your view on education?
“I think public education needs to be fully funded. If education is fully funded, many of the issues that presently plague the school system — lack of teachers, lack of retention — those issues will be mitigated. We need to fully fund public education.
“And there is an option for any parent who doesn’t like the education that the child is offered in the public schools, and those are called private schools. Those remain as an option for anyone who wishes to use it.
“At the same time, we need to pay attention to the parents’ wishes and desires in terms of education. It’s not necessarily a determining factor, but the parents always need to be listened to and have a voice in what’s being taught.”
“I think the changes that have been incorporated in the current version of SB 202 makes the law a good one. Certainly showing an ID prior to voting is a good idea.
“In terms of the actual number of days that early voting is available and the conditions under which an absentee ballot or a mail in ballot can be accepted, I think those changes have been pretty well worked out and I support the current version of SB 202.”
Do you think the 2020 presidential election was a free and fair election?
“I think that every candidate needs to be very clear on this. There’s a lot of mealy-mouthed talk that goes on about ‘well, I don’t know about one case or another, there might have been a few cases of fraud here or there.’
“I think the election of 2020 was absolutely a free and fair election. And the attempts to reverse that election are not only harmful, they’re shameful.”
How would you characterize the people who overran the US Capitol January 6th, 2021?
“That was a riot.”
Would you have voted to certify the election of Joe Biden?
“Again, this is an area where I think the candidates need to speak unequivocally. Yes, I would have voted to certify President Biden’s election.”
The 14th Congressional District has recently been changed so that Austell and Powder Springs — two majority Black and Democrat-leaning suburban cities in Cobb County have been added to the mostly white, rural, conservative areas of the 14th. How do you economically and socially appeal to rural, conservative voters while also appealing to suburban, liberal voters?
“Well, the first thing is you have to tell the truth. Whether it’s an urban or suburban or a rural area, if they know that the candidate is speaking from a position of truth, the people will respond.
“There are certain economic factors that are different from one area to another in terms of what will benefit a particular town or county. But speaking truth is the most important thing and having an attitude and an orientation of public service will speak well to any town or district.”
How do you feel about transportation issues in the district?
“In an urbanized area — and Cobb County is increasingly becoming urbanized — public transit makes a whole lot of sense. In a rural area, for example, Polk County, public transit is very much more difficult to arrange. I think that expanding MARTA into Cobb County will be done, it’s only a question of when.”
What is your view on healthcare issues in Georgia?
“You can’t fix healthcare in one part of the state or one part of the country without fixing healthcare more generally throughout the country. Systems such as Medicare that we have for our retired and disabled people is very effective and very well loved — except by the hospitals and the other profit making entities that benefit from high healthcare costs.
“I think at some point, our country’s going to have to come to grips with the fact that we’re the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t have a guaranteed healthcare system for all our citizens, and we’re going to have to fix that.”
Can you talk a little about your endorsers/donors and how much your campaign has raised so far?
“Not enough, I can certainly tell you that without any hesitation. It’s unfortunate that money plays such a dominant role in our current politics, but it’s true. The fact that I’m the most qualified candidate with the most experience doesn’t seem to resonate much with the Republican donors in the district, who have not responded to the message.
“It’s unfortunate, but it does play a role in so far as a candidate without funding has a very limited opportunity to get his message out to the people. But I am continuing to improve in this area and I will continue to carry my campaign through to the primary until the voters tell me at some point that it’s time to go home.”
How are you reaching out to voters to get your message heard?
“I’m of course on the web, I have a social media presence on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I am traveling the district to meet voters personally on a daily basis, going to visit voters at their places of worship, and meetings of all types — both governmental and private groups meeting and getting the word out to one area of the district after another.”
What makes you the best person to represent the 14th district?
“Well, of course, I’m not a career politician. I’ve had a career in medicine lasting 40 years and I have no ambition or agenda to have another lengthy career in politics. I am running strictly for the benefit of the district.
“I am in favor of term limits for Congress, and my personal term limit is going to be about eight years. I will not serve, if elected, longer than eight years.
“Beyond that, I have extensive experience going back in emergency preparedness and emergency management. I’ve dealt with federal agencies, the entire alphabet soup, going back 40 years to hospital work and disaster planning.
“And, of course, the military experience in my background is very important. It’s difficult to overestimate the importance of having a military service in your background. It’s a fact that cannot be duplicated in any other way, I believe. From the standpoint of my previous career experience and my interest in public service and my wariness about career or professional politicians, I think I’m the best candidate to represent the district.”
Is there anything else important not mentioned here that you would like to make sure voters know about you and/or your campaign?
“Yes, I’m a Ukrainian. Two of my grandparents were born in Ukraine and moved to the United States in the late 19th century. We’ve been living in the land of freedom and opportunity since then.
“But my Ukrainian heritage is very important to me, particularly now that my Ukrainian brothers and cousins are fighting for freedom in Ukraine against very long odds. But Ukrainians know how to fight. The incumbent representative styles herself as a fighter, but the Ukrainians have shown people how to fight for their country and I will too.”
To learn more about Lutin’s background and his campaign, visit his website.
Arielle Robinson is a student at Kennesaw State University. She also freelances for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and is the former president of KSU’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as well as a former CNN intern. She enjoys music, reading, and live shows.