Eight of the vast crowd of 18 candidates vying for the 6th Congressional District seat to replace Tom Price made short political pitches to members of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association at its March 5 meeting, each trying to find a way to set themselves apart in the crowded field.
Some embraced the new age of Donald Trump while others distanced themselves clearly from the president, setting the tone for the race for the district that includes parts of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. Price was recently appointed as Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services.
The DHA will also be hosting a candidate forum Sunday, April 9, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Dunwoody High School for all 18 candidates. The special election is April 18. If no one receives 50 percent +1, a runoff of the two top vote getters takes place in June.
Those accepting the invitation to speak at the DHA meeting included Alexander Hernandez of Dunwoody, an independent who works in the film industry.
Republican candidates addressing the DHA members were Kurt Wilson of Alpharetta; Mohammad Ali Bhuiyan, a Marietta economist; Bob Gray, a former Johns Creek City Councilmember; and Keith Grawert of Dunwoody, an Air Force pilot.
Democrats speaking to the DHA were Jon Ossoff, who runs a corruption-investigation firm; Richard Keatley, a Tucker resident who is a Georgia State University professor of world languages and cultures; and Ragin Edwards, a graduate of Pope High School in Marietta in Cobb County, whose qualifying statement did not include an address.
Ossoff was the most high-profile candidate at the meeting. He has garnered national media coverage as political pundits wonder if the traditionally Republican district can be flipped to Democratic as part of a movement against President Donald Trump.
Ossoff touted his credentials as a former Congressional aide and the experience he gained on Capitol Hill working with the military and cybersecurity programs.
“I saw what can get done in Washington, but I also Washington at its worst … and decided to leave,” he said. Ossoff now runs a small business that produces investigative films targeting corrupt politicians. The current political climate led him to seek to return to Washington, D.C., he said.
“I believe we are at the most divisive, dangerous place in modern history,” he said. “And I don’t think the White House is leading by example.”
If elected, Ossoff said among other things he would work to attract high-tech jobs to the state and the 6th District and focus on finding ways to improve the Affordable Healthcare Act.
“I want to send a message that I believe America can be strong and secure and prosperous without sacrificing our core values,” he said.
Bob Gray, who resigned his post as a Johns Creek Councilmember, said he was running for office “to save the American dream.” He said during the past eight to 15 years he has seen a country he “does not recognize.”
“This is not the country we grew up in, not the country I grew up in,” he said. Issues troubling the country, Gray said, include illegal immigration, protests and a “departure of our fundamental core values” of self-reliance, independence and personal responsibility.
Hernandez, of Dunwoody, said he was the “one and only true independent candidate” and chose to run as an independent because he believed politicians of both parties are beholden to corporate and special interest money. He said among other things he wanted to bring back a real jobs plan, modeled after President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s interstate project, to “get the country going again.”
Wilson, of Alpharetta, said his main goal if elected would be to get constitutional amendment approved for term limits. He also said he wants to get rid of the 16th amendment and replace it with a fair or flat tax.
Grawert, a Marist graduate, said his running for office was “all about service” and “all about bringing accountability back to our government.”
Edwards said she supported veterans, keeping Medicare and Social Security, education, women’s rights, civil rights and LGBT rights.
“We see today Americans are at odds … and that’s because we have made to line up behind a party,” she said. She said if elected she would create a way for constituents to vote themselves on bills coming before Congress and report that information back to voters.
Bhuiyan, who goes by Mohammad Ali, is a Muslim Republican who moved to the U.S. from Bangledesh in 1986. He joked he was a lightweight, “but when I go to Washington I will fight for you and the Constitution like a heavyweight.”
Bhuiyan said he became a U.S. citizen in 2000 “the right way.” He said he is seeking office because “it is time to give back to the country that gave so much to me.”
Keatley, of Tucker, said it was wrong for people to take an anti-Trump or pro-Trump stance and added that issues facing Americans must be looked at individually.
He said the most pressing issue facing the country is health care and that he does not support a repeal that would leave thousands of people without insurance.
Other Republicans vying for the 6th District post are Karen Handel, Bruce Levell, David Abroms, William Llop, Judson Hill, Amy Kremer and Dan Moody.
Democrats also in the race are Ron Slotin and Rebecca Quigg. Another independent in the race is Andre Pollard.