Candidate Q&A – House District 83

Photo by Dean Hesse

Decaturish and Tucker Observer sent candidate Q&As to all candidates in our readership area running for state and federal office. The Q&As were sent to House District 83 candidates Catherine Bernard (R) and Karen Lupton (D). The answers have not been edited.

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Catherine Bernard (R)

Candidate name and party affiliation:

Catherine Bernard, reasonable Republican

Candidate website:

Catherine4GA.com

What is your occupation?

Public Defender/Private Citizen Defense Attorney

What neighborhood do you call home?

Ashford Park, near the Brookhaven MARTA Station

Why are you running for this position?

The newly re-districted HD83 is a dynamic and vibrant community of interest, comprising the most developed and business-dense areas of Brookhaven and Chamblee. I love this community and think I can do a good job representing us at the Capitol, using my experience working with neighbors and friends across the state on projects like the Redevelopment Powers Law (which would have allowed city government to take on debt without a referendum), no-knock search warrants (a truly bipartisan effort), fair elections and voter access, and more.

What are your top three priorities if you are elected? 

Reading all the bills. This is a basic duty of representation that has been abandoned by far too many – if there are too many bills to read, then there are too many bills to vote on. Promoting opportunity and prosperity for ALL Georgians. Civilization is communities of people living, working, playing, creating, innovating, and building together. Government can have a role in helping set rules for those interactions and coordinate large collective projects like infrastructure, but it can also get in the way and even be actively harmful in small and large ways. The key is focusing on human liberty and flourishing, not trying to run our neighbors’ lives for them while growing a cumbersome and ultimately dangerous bureaucracy. Justice/Public Safety reform. Georgia has a larger proportion of its citizens under criminal supervision than any other state, yet we are seeing concerning crime increases that make people feel unsafe in their homes and daily activities. The solution is re-examining law enforcement priorities & assignments, allocating resources to actually deter, investigate, & punish violent/property crime instead of using government against people who aren’t bothering anyone else, which allows state power to become corrupt.

If elected, how will you work with members of the opposite party to accomplish your goals? 

As Frederick Douglass said, I will unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong. The people and issues are what matters, not the labels – anyone committed to honestly representing the interests of their district is an ally.

How will you work with the leadership of DeKalb County to accomplish their legislative goals?

I take the same approach with DeKalb leadership as in the previous question: I’m always happy to work for good, principled policy with representatives and leaders from all around. We live in a county that has a population larger than some U.S. states, with unique opportunities and challenges, and we all need to work together to protect everyone’s rights, strengthen our infrastructure, and promote opportunity and prosperity. I’ve served on the County’s elections working group since 2018, joining with Board members and Commissioners to ensure that our elections are administered fairly and efficiently. I’ve also worked with neighbors and elected officials to resolve disputes over property taxes and education funding. We all share the goal of a healthy, functioning county that remains a great place to live, and I’m looking forward to helping further DeKalb’s goals and priorities at the state legislative level.

What is your reaction to the closure of Atlanta Medical Center and how would you work to improve healthcare access for all Georgians? 

Disappointed – it is a real loss for the entire state. I am committed to removing barriers for access to care and building new facilities, like the Certificate of Need laws.

If you are elected, would you support creating new cities in DeKalb County and Georgia? 

Not unless the cityhood movement reflects an authentic and sustained community of interest, with broad-based support from the actual citizens affected.

Should the General Assembly pass a law that guarantees a right to have an abortion in the state?

No, but I am also wary of government efforts to prohibit abortions – it is very easy for that kind of state power to be abused in ways that empower big government control over health care. Everyone deserves the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, and I will support policies that promote maternal health, financial stability, and safe adoption/fostering services.

What should the state do with any revenue surplus it receives? 

The revenue should be returned to taxpayers.

If you are elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner? How would you work to promote ethics and transparency in government?

Yes! I make that promise with enthusiasm, and a track record of transparency and accountable, ethical conduct. I’ve run for office before, suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous political behavior from all sides, and can promise to continue the approach of complete honesty and consideration of all perspectives, instead of allegiance to partisanship or special interests. Also, the Georgia General Assembly is currently not subject to the Open Records Act, which allows records and communications to be hidden from public view. As your HD83 state rep, I will work to ensure that exceptions like this are examined and removed, so that all citizens have the information to hold all representatives accountable for their actions in office.

Karen Lupton (D)

Candidate name and party affiliation:

Karen Lupton, Democrat

Candidate website:

www.karenlupton.com

What is your occupation?

I have had a career as a professional singer and choral conductor for more than 20 years. I have also run a therapeutic music program for elders with dementia in nonprofit nursing homes for the past seven years. I also consider raising my children – Hailey who is 18, and Evan who is 15- as an occupation. Only a few more years until I can “retire” from child-rearing.

What neighborhood do you call home?

I live in the part of the Ashford Park neighborhood that’s actually in Chamblee, near the Peachtree-DeKalb Airport.

Why are you running for this position?

I’m running for State House District 83 for the same reason I became a Chamblee City Councilmember: to build thriving communities for all residents. While I was making a difference serving on Chamblee’s City Council, I found that the roots of the challenging issues our neighborhoods are facing – sustaining safe and secure communities, improving our schools, creating affordable housing – need to be addressed at the state level. I believe that affordable healthcare, equal access to the ballot box, excellent schools and the safeguarding of our rights and freedoms are within our grasp when we work together.

What are your top three priorities if you are elected? 

1) Mitigating the rising costs of energy, housing, and health care. 2) Assuring safe, healthy communities for all Georgians: from protecting our families from gun violence, safeguarding women’s reproductive healthcare, to expanding access to affordable healthcare and supporting our police and first responders. 3) Providing an excellent public education for all our children.

If elected, how will you work with members of the opposite party to accomplish your goals? 

I served as a non-partisan elected official as a Chamblee City Councilmember. Despite the political divides among the Council and Mayor, I was motivated to find common ground and prioritize the needs of the whole community because that is our role and responsibility- to work on behalf of the people. In order to accomplish our goals, I had to establish trust through active listening and engagement with my colleagues. The same will be true of working across the aisle at the General Assembly. I might not agree with another Representative’s viewpoint, but by listening to their reasoning and respecting their point of view, the chance to establish mutual respect is created. With that respect comes a willingness to work together in spite of differences. Ideas that I propose will be met with less resistance when an expectation of reasonableness has been established, and I plan to make great efforts to build that type of trust.

How will you work with the leadership of DeKalb County to accomplish their legislative goals?

Communication between the General Assembly, the DeKalb House Delegation and DeKalb Commissioners can be improved to bring better results for residents. Several of the DeKalb Commissioners and I already have positive working relationships, so for starters, I will rely on those partnerships to help ensure a collaborative process.

What is your reaction to the closure of Atlanta Medical Center and how would you work to improve healthcare access for all Georgians? 

The closure of the Atlanta Medical Center is not only a blow to the city of Atlanta but to DeKalb County and the entire region. The first step to recover from this loss is to fully expand Medicaid. Thanks to new federal financial incentives, which would provide more than $1.2 billion to Georgia’s failing healthcare system, we can use these resources to fully expand Medicaid and get access to life-saving care for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Georgians. The state’s expansion costs would be more than offset during the first two years after expansion. And it will save all Georgians money – in reduced premium costs and a reinvestment in Georgia with the taxes we already pay to the federal government. However, expanding Medicaid is just the first step. We must also expand our mental health and community health facilities. The state needs to be able to attract healthcare practitioners – Georgia already has a critical doctor shortage, including a crisis-level shortage of ob/gyn doctors in rural counties. Even so, healthcare professionals are not interested in practicing in Georgia because of our draconian abortion ban that criminalizes providers. This law is dangerous to women, families, and healthcare providers.

If you are elected, would you support creating new cities in DeKalb County and Georgia? 

This is a complicated question with positives and negatives on both sides. In the end, I believe that it is the citizens themselves who need to be given the chance to vote directly on how they want their governance to be constructed. That means putting proposals of cityhood on the ballot and allowing the democratic process to do its work.

Should the General Assembly pass a law that guarantees a right to have an abortion in the state?

Absolutely, yes. Abortion is healthcare. Current abortion restrictions reveal a complete misunderstanding of pregnancy and the needs of women and families by the current state leadership – and every elected official who voted in support of HB202.

What should the state do with any revenue surplus it receives? 

Public taxes can and should be spent on the public good. We live in a connected society, not in isolation. When our communities get stronger and healthier, everyone benefits. Therefore, surpluses should go towards proper investment in the lives of the citizens of Georgia. Our healthcare system is crumbling, and we cannot in good conscience expect people to continue to live here without proper care. Economic prosperity cannot exist in places without a healthy populace.

If you are elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner? How would you work to promote ethics and transparency in government?

If people elect me and put their trust in me, I intend to keep that trust. I am strongly committed to communicating clearly with my constituents, and to uphold the ethical standards proper to a public servant. In my previous elected office, I maintained a monthly newsletter and made myself available in many ways to citizens in order to hear their concerns. I will continue to make every effort to connect people to their government in the State House and represent them fairly and ethically.

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