Q & A with Eric Cunningham, Republican candidate for Georgia’s 14th Congressional District

Eric Cunningham in front of red brick buildingEric Cunningham (photo provided by the candidate)

By Arielle Robinson

Last Wednesday, April 13, the Courier spoke with Eric Cunningham over the phone about his campaign for the state’s 14th Congressional District.

Cunningham is one of several candidates challenging incumbent Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The primary is Tuesday, May 24.

Talk about your background. Who are you and why did you decide to become involved in politics?

Cunningham: “I’m a husband, I’m a Christian, I’m a father of three, I’ve got college-aged kids as well. I’ve got a son that graduated from UGA and I’ve got another son that lives in Athens who’s currently not enrolled at UGA. And then I’ve got a daughter that’s a senior in high school, and she’s getting ready to go off to college.

“I’ve been in the supply chain for 26 years of my career, 23 years of that was CSX and then the past three years with another supply chain company where we work with exports and imports and things like that. I’ve spent a lot of time more so in the logistics supply chain transportation field.

“My wife and I attend church at West Ridge in Dallas, Georgia, so I’ve spent a lot of time in this community. We moved here in 2005 and have lived here longer than we’ve lived anywhere our whole lives, so I’ve really gotten to know this community and appreciate the folks that are around here.

“There’s a lot of different reasons why I got into this, there’s a lot of prayer on jumping into something like this, there’s a lot of frustration with the things that are going on around our country. But some of the key things that really drove me to do this is there’s just a lot of division in our country at all levels, not just in politics and our government, but at all levels.

“I just feel like I want to do something to help out, do something to get out there and be a servant to the people and try to help them not worry about all this division. Put all that on somebody like me, and let me try to be their voice to our government — which is not doing a very good job right now of keeping things calm, of reducing the division in our country. I think that’s really why I’ve kind of gotten into this race.”

What are three top issues you see affecting residents within the 14th district and how would you aim to fix them?

“Some of these issues are the same for the country, but if I just think about the 14th district as I’ve gone around to the whole district multiple times to all the counties and met with people, talked with people, seeing areas that are great and beautiful, but seeing the areas that are really sad to see — some of the conditions that people live in, I would say the high prices, the economy, that’s the main thing. That’s a drag on everybody right now. The price of gas, that’s a big drag. If we suspended the federal taxes on gas that would be something that would be helpful.

“Here in Georgia it’s not as strict as it is in other states, but from a country perspective, we’ve got to cancel all the mandates, we’ve got to make sure people are going back to work. From an economic perspective, I also think that we’ve got to prepare people to go to work. There are some areas of the district where there’s not an opportunity to learn a trade. Not everybody has to go to college and get a four-year degree. There’s a need for people in the electrical business and HVAC businesses and in welding. I think if we had the ability to offer more trade schools or training for folks like that, even in healthcare, I think that would be a benefit to helping with the economy in the 14th district.

“Another thing is the opioid, heroin, meth, and fentanyl issue that’s challenging the 14th district. I worked on an awareness program with the YMCA and partnered with different groups. We’ve got to make sure people understand how addictive opioids are. I believe that they’re overprescribed, so there needs to be accountability from our doctors who are prescribing opioids. And when folks cannot get opioids any longer because of the high costs or because their prescriptions run out, they turn to heroin.

“Heroin is much cheaper and it’s a heck of a lot easier for people to get access to. We’ve got to make sure that people are aware of how addictive opioids are and that there are alternatives to using opioids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the doctor for one reason or another and they want to prescribe me with opioids and I say no. We just got to make sure people understand how addictive they are.

“We’ve got way too much fentanyl coming across our borders, our borders need to be shut down. That’s causing a huge problem with all this illegal fentanyl coming into our country. I’ve got three kids like I told you, and a big concern of mine is that one of my kids is going to make a bad decision — they’re going to be with friends and they’re going to smoke marijuana, and that marijuana is going to be laced with fentanyl and they’re going to be dead. That scares me and it should scare everybody. So the first thing we need to do is close the borders and get control of this illegal fentanyl that’s coming across.

“Another kind of simpler thing to do too is to offer test strips to test and see if fentanyl is present in whatever drug it may be that somebody is using, if it’s pot or whatever it is, there’s test strips that you can use to test to see if fentanyl is in there, that would be a help. I think that’s another issue that is very concerning for the 14th district.

“And then I think I kind of mentioned this on the economy side, but offering more education to the folks within the 14th district and helping them from a transportation perspective. If you get to some of the rural areas of the district, there’s a challenge in folks being able to get to other places where the work really is. So I think if you’re able to help folks in the rural districts through providing transportation, whether that’s maybe a tax credit for an organization — or like the carpet industry, that provides a lot of economic stimulus to the district — if you provided some sort of tax credit for them to provide transportation in the rural districts, or maybe even to Uber to offer van service to certain sections to help folks, I think those are a couple of things that that can help the folks of the 14th district.

“Quite frankly, there’s a lot of issues that are impacting our country right now that impact the 14th district. To support smaller government, to support doing something about the out of control spending, that’s the basic stuff that I expect my representative to be focused on. But there’s a lot of real issues that are impacting the 14th district, like the ones I touched on, the economy, access to good trade schools or training programs once students graduate from high school, the fentanyl, the opioid awareness. There’s a lot of true issues that are impacting our district that aren’t talked about that need to get more attention. When I’m in office I’m going to give those more attention.”

How do you feel about Georgia’s economic and medical response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Could anything have been handled better?

“Georgia did an okay job. It’s hard to go back and play Monday morning quarterback, if you will. Nobody knew what this COVID thing was, everybody was scared. And that was part of the issue. There was so much fear-mongering going on without any facts behind it.

“I don’t want to come down too hard on Georgia. I will say overall, I think we did okay. The company that I currently work for is headquartered in California and we have facilities all around the country and so I’ve talked to my co-workers in Washington and California, and they’re still dealing with mandates and shutdowns and things like that that’s just gone way too far.

“But I even think that in Georgia we were too late in opening up businesses. We opened up bowling alleys, but we couldn’t even open up a restaurant. Some of the decisions didn’t make sense. I think we needed to open up things a little bit sooner than we did. But I am glad that I at least live in Georgia, and not in a state like California or Washington where they’re still having to deal with those types of mandates.”

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 support constitutional carry. I support our Second Amendment completely and it’s just because I support our constitution holistically. I support our Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

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 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 support tighter measures on abortion?

“Yeah, I am 100 percent pro-life, so I oppose abortion completely.”

What is your view on Black Lives Matter protests and police/criminal justice reform?

“I support our police 100 percent. There’s been way too many calls for defunding the police, which is absolutely ludicrous to even think of something like that. With regard to any organization that’s out there protesting, I support people’s right to protest in a civil manner.

“But what I don’t support is any organization that would purposely destroy small businesses within their own communities, that takes in donations of hundreds of millions of dollars, but then is not held accountable for where or how those funds are spent. And then, in doing so, they do it under a name that is just meant to pull kind of at the heartstrings of the American people.”

There have been many stories in the news about worker shortages, but perhaps not as many stories about the reasons whymillions of Americans quit their jobs in record numberslast 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?

“I know you said some folks have said they quit working because of poor working conditions, but they quit working because they were forced to with the mandated shutdowns of businesses. It really hurt our businesses and the economies of various communities and states, because of these forced mandates to shut down.

“And so you send a lot of people home that were working and then you start paying them to stay home and so there wasn’t an incentive to go back to work. I’m sure there are places that may not treat employees fairly or anything like that, but to kind of use a broad brush and say that’s why people quit their jobs to me is a little bit of an overstatement. I think it more has to do with the shutdowns, and the mandates, and paying people to stay at home.”

What is your view on environmental issues such as climate change?

“I think we’re spending too much on it…When you talk about climate control, I think of the infrastructure spending bill that was passed and I think about all the money that was given to different companies or organizations for various things. Other more important key things were left out [like providing adequate funding for Veterans’ Affairs].

“Of course, I want to protect our environment, I don’t want to do things that negatively impact our environment. I want to keep things clean and healthy. It really frustrates me, though, that there’s so much attention and focus from those on the left on climate control and clean energy, but they forget about those who have kept them safe, who’s kept our country safe, so that’s a touchy subject for me.

“One more thing, I’m not going to go out and buy an electric vehicle, and I don’t oppose anybody going to get one, I want people to do what they want to do. But there’s such a push for electric vehicles when right now, I think probably less than one percent of the vehicles on the road are electric vehicles. Imagine if that grows to 10 percent or 25 percent or 50 percent — what would happen to our grid? It would shut our electric grid down. So, it’s great to sit and talk about electric vehicles and all that kind of stuff, but we got to have some forward thinking on what that would mean, what that would mean to the grid. How do you produce the electricity that’s going to go into these cars and all that kind of stuff?”

What is your view on education?

“Well, first off let me say, I think kids should be in school, they should have been in school all along. And they should be in school without masks, we’ve got to get rid of these ridiculous mask mandates. We’ve got to allow kids to be able to go to school and interact with other children and be able to see their faces and read the looks on their faces and that kind of stuff — you just can’t do that when folks have a mask on.

“But I think there’s a lot of bad things going on in our public schools today, especially when you get on the topic of gender identity and teaching that to little kids. I can’t believe that we even have to have laws in place to protect our little kids from being instructed on gender identity. From kindergarteners to third graders, we’ve got to put a law in place to protect them? Things like that really, really get to me and frustrate me. We’ve just got to make sure that our schools are teaching the right things — they’re teaching history, they’re teaching math, they’re preparing our kids for their future, and educating them well enough so that they can go get a job.

“My youngest son that lives in Athens, he always said, ‘I don’t understand why I have to study this particular science,’ he’s like, ‘I wish when I was in high school and instead of having to take this science class or this specific math class, something that I’ll never use, that they taught me how to manage a budget, how to create a budget.’ I think we should focus on things like that and improve our education system.”

What are your views onSB 202, the voting law which critics on the left say will restrict voting rights for historically marginalized communities?

“Let me back up and tell you this, with regards to the voting laws, I am somebody that believes there was election fraud. And I say I believe it because I witnessed it. I received mail-in ballots to my house that I could have easily — and I didn’t request them at all, and they came from the state of California — I could have easily completed those ballots during the presidential election and mailed them back in. To see something like that happen, it’s just crazy, so we absolutely need to do better with election integrity and making sure that the right things are taking place at the voting places, that we’ve got smart, good, honest people working at these voting locations.

“I 100 percent support that an ID be required. Some of these laws that were passed in SB 202 are similar to other states’ laws that were already in place, like the ID law. I support SB 202 and I think that we really need to do more about the Dominion voting machines, I think we need to get rid of those. So I think there’s more work to be done.”

Do you think the 2020 presidential election was a free and fair election?

“I honestly believe there was election fraud because I had evidence of it taking place. And I believe that we need to learn from that and make sure that we’re doing things to avoid election fraud going into this year’s elections, and we need to protect election integrity. People need to have faith that when they go and vote, that their vote’s being counted and it’s being counted the way they intended it to be counted.”

[See Cobb County Courier editor’s note below the article about claims that the election was stolen.]

How would you characterize the people who overran the US Capitol last January 6th?

“I don’t want to paint a broad brush, but there were some folks who did that that were just wrong. Like I said earlier, if you’re damaging property purposely, then you’re doing something wrong. That’s not a fair protest. If you’re going in and damaging property or purposely trying to harm somebody, then I think that was wrong. But I will say this — I think using the term ‘insurrection’ is way too strong.”

Would you have voted to certify the election of Joe Biden?

“No, I would not. I can’t judge those that did or didn’t, but based on what I shared with you about what I saw with election fraud, I couldn’t have.”

The 14th Congressional District has recently beenchangedso 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?

“I’ve campaigned in Powder Springs and in Austell, more in Austell, too, and I think right now it’s easy to appeal to folks because there’s so much wrong going on with our country right now, just focused on the economy with the high prices, the inflation — people are looking for a change. There’s a lot of divisiveness in our country and within our politics.

“I have opinions and I’m strongly conservative, but I’m not dismissive of people and their opinions. I want to hear what they have to say, I want to listen to them and so I think that’s a key thing that I bring to the table for the 14th district and for those folks that may not have the same opinion as me. I think there’s some folks who normally would vote Democrat, maybe swing voters, maybe independents, that can be convinced to vote Republican in these upcoming elections, and I think I could appeal to those folks.”

What is your view on healthcare issues in Georgia and what would you do to improve them?

“The cost is too high everywhere — it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Georgia or anywhere else — the cost of healthcare is high. I had the pleasure of meeting with a veterans group yesterday and this was a topic that came up. We talked about Medicare and Social Security and things like that and just the high cost of that. I think one thing that we can look at is putting an out of pocket cap for seniors and for veterans to help with the cost of healthcare.

“We definitely, absolutely need to promote competition, we have to promote competition across state lines. Another issue that’s being talked about and tossed around is the variability I guess is the right word [of the] Medicare payments based on a location, so Medicare payments for somebody in this part of the city or this part of the state may be one amount for the same service and completely different for someone else. Why is that? Let’s try to do something to close that gap so it’s more affordable to everyone.”

Can you talk a little about your endorsers/donors and how much your campaign has raised so far?

“Your question’s almost timeline, I can’t answer you on the campaign contributions right now, we have to file with the FEC by the 15th, so I’ve got that slated on my calendar to do tomorrow. But when I jumped into this race, I knew that the incumbent had a lot of money available to them. And I knew that being someone that’s new to this, that doesn’t have the name recognition, I wasn’t going to be able to compete from a fundraising standpoint. But I think my message is what’s helping me to compete, my ability to get out in front of the constituents and talk about the ideas and concerns that I have are what’s helping me to compete.”

How are you reaching out to voters to get your message heard?

“Throughout the whole district I’ve gone to different meetings and spoken to different folks — veterans meetings, GOP meetings, I’ve got some other things slated for the next couple of weeks. But aside from scheduled meetings, what I typically do is each week, I go out into different parts of the district and I just go from location to location talking to folks, like I mentioned Austell as an example. I went out on the East West Connector kind of close to Austell Road in that area, I just kind of set up shop there, if you will. I made it known who I was, I had my signs and stuff out and just reached out and talked to people in the community.

“I move around and do that exact same thing, so it’s very important for me to have a good ground game and to get out and see as many people as possible so they know about my campaign and what it is that I stand for. So that’s a lot of what I’m doing. I do work a full-time job, so I’ve got to focus on that. But I absolutely make time in the late afternoons, the evenings, and weekends to get out in the district and talk to folks. You can also find information on me at www.ericcunninghamforcongress.com. Also, if you go to ballotpedia.org and do a search for either the 14th district or for me and you scroll down to the bottom to candidate connection, they’ve got a survey out there that you can read my responses to. I’m on Twitter @EricBCunningham. So those are some other ways you can contact me.”

What makes you the best person to represent the 14th district?

“I think my work experience in negotiating tough, large deals, I think my experience in leading teams — and I have a lot of leadership experience — my supply chain experience for sure, 26 years [has helped prepare me for the job]. I work on a day to day basis with imports and exports, with the ports around the country, with trucking, with rail, I’m very engaged with what’s going on in supply chain, so I think that’s going to be an issue going forward and something that I’m very experienced in.

“I think my work with the YMCA and having already been a volunteer in our community for the past seven plus years shows the kind of person that I am. I’m not trying to be a politician — I’m trying to be a public servant, I truly want to work for the people. I’m a very engaging, open door kind of person. I think that those qualities and the fact that I’m not dismissive of people and I’m not divisive, that I want to hear different opinions [qualifies me]. And we may not agree — just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean that we have to dislike each other.

“One of the first meetings that I spoke at a while back, I was talking and a gentleman stood up and interrupted me and was upset that I was even in this race and just didn’t understand why I was running. Another gentleman stood up and supported me, and his words that I continue to use that he said to the other gentleman, he’s like, ‘hey, just because you support one candidate and I support another like Eric Cunningham doesn’t mean we have to hate each other. You know, I like you, I think you’re a good person. We just disagree on who we’re going to vote for. That shouldn’t keep us from being friends or being able to communicate with each other.’ And I think that’s an issue. I think there’s folks that purposely want to divide our country, for sure Biden and that administration and the far left are trying to divide our country. So I think that the fact that I want to represent the whole district is something that’s going to be a key factor in my success.”

Is there anything else important not mentioned here that you would like to make sure voters know about you and/or your campaign?

“I think that voters should know that I truly mean that I’m a public servant, that I really will have an open door policy, that I actually want to set up a tool to measure my success in representing the people. Whether that’s on my website or whatever it is, I want people to understand what I’m doing and how I’m representing them. And if they’re not happy with what I’m doing and how I’m representing them, then I would support them voting me out. But I think people are going to be very happy with how I represent the 14th district, how I represent our conservative Republican Party, and how I represent the people of the United States of America.”

To learn more about Cunningham, visit his website.

[Editor’s note: The Cobb County Courier has a policy of not providing a platform for the false assertion that the 2022 election was stolen. The election was fair, free and held up under the force of dozens of frivolous lawsuits and amateur audits. But if a candidate makes the assertion in an interview, we’ll include it along with this disclaimer.]

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.