Stopping in Statesboro 25 days before the votes are counted, U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn reminded local Democrats of her stands for an increase in the minimum wage, for immigration reform and for universal access to prekindergarten.
Nunn faces Republican candidate David Perdue in the Nov. 4 general election to replace retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, and early voting begins Monday. About 50 people, many holding signs and cheering, greeted her at the Bulloch County Democratic Party headquarters on East Olliff Street.
“If you think about what is at stake in this election, it’s everything from lifting the minimum wage to make sure that every family or individual that is working hard has the capacity to be self-sufficient …, really investing in job creation …, passing comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform, alleviating the regulatory burden on small businesses,” she told the group.
She mentioned protecting Medicare and Social Security, and then speaking also of education, noted a stop she made last week at Augusta Technical College. Earlier Friday, she made a couple of stops in Savannah.
“Think about just the issue of education,” she said. “I’m for making sure that we have universal access to pre-K for all kids to have the capacity for success, making sure that we are making those kinds of investments, and an affordable pathway for college and technical school and community college.”
This she contrasted to Perdue’s stance on education funding.
“Just imagine, if David Perdue has his way, we would be eradicating the Department of Education,” Nunn said.
The department, she noted, administers Pell Grants, with about 400,000 Georgia students currently receiving $1.1 billion for college.
“That would mean the eradication of those opportunities,” Nunn said.
Perdue’s campaign website currently refers to restoring local control of education and, under that heading, to a need to “dismantle unnecessary federal bureaucracy.” But he has in the past spoken of possibly eliminating some cabinet-level agencies, such as the Department of Education, to reduce the national debt.
In a brief interview, Nunn explained some of her positions. The increase in the minimum wage she endorses is a current proposal by Senate Democrats to raise the federal minimum, in phases, from the current $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.
“We’ve seen in places and states that have raised the minimum wage that it has not acted in the way that some people feared in terms of depressing employment,” she said. “Actually some of those states are at the very top of employment rates.”
For immigration reform, Nunn supports “a bipartisan framework that has been put forward by the Senate,” with support from 14 Republican Senators, in addition to Democrats. It calls for adding more than 20,000 security agents on the border.
“At the same time, it gives people a pathway to citizenship that is earned,” she said. “They would go to the back of the line, they would have to pay back-taxes, pass a security check, learn English and pay a fine.”
This bill, she said, has support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Farm Bureau, and “represents the kind of common-sense compromise that we’re missing in Washington these days.”
For funding universal access to pre-K, she mentioned eliminating programs identified as redundant or ineffective by the Government Accountability Office and instead “making the right kinds of investments” and “pay-it-forward efforts.”
“Certainly, early childhood education has proven itself to be one of those kinds of investments,” Nunn said. “One of the sheriffs in Savannah has actually talked about the fact that just an investment in early education saves a huge amount from correction (jail and prison) costs alone.”
Nunn, 47, spent 26 years developing and leading nonprofit organizations. She founded Hands-on Atlanta, which became the Hands-on Network and merged with Points of Light, which was created under an initiative by Republican President George H.W. Bush. Nunn was CEO of Points of Light for seven years.
Nunn and her husband, Ron Martin, have two children.
Asked what she has learned about being a senator from her father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, who served from 1972 through 1996, Michelle Nunn talked about bipartisanship.
“Over 47 years he’s given me a lot of advice. He’s given me a whole lot of advice over the past year in particular,” she said. “I think one of the best pieces of advice that he has given me is that he said, ‘I never passed a single piece of meaningful legislation, anything that really made a difference, that didn’t have Republican support, didn’t have Republicans and Democrats working together.’”
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.