Editor's note: This article has been revised to reflect the following correction, which appears in Tuesday's print edition. This year's general election is Nov. 4. Because of a reporter's error, the date was incorrect in a front-page article Sunday about Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn's visit to Statesboro. The Statesboro Herald regrets the error.
When Sam Nunn ran for U.S. Senate in 1972, he wasn’t well-known across Georgia.
“We’ve been having a lot of fun. My dad’s been telling me a lot of 1972 campaign stories,” Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, daughter of the former senator, told a gathering of Democrats Saturday afternoon at the Honey Bowen Building. “… He had less than 2 percent name recognition when he ran.”
Nunn visited the campaign volunteer training session hosted by the Bulloch County Democratic Party after earlier stopping by a similar session in Macon.
She doesn’t face the problem her father did in his first run for Senate — or, as one person at the session put it, “that advantage” of anonymity.
Nunn told the gathering that she is focusing on three issues in her campaign: improving the continually sluggish economy, cutting long-term federal debt and investing in early childhood education.
One issue that inevitably comes up, however, is the beleaguered Affordable Care Act – also known as “Obamacare.” In an interview after she spoke to the campaign session, Nunn said she was one of the first to advocate that Republicans and Democrats come together to fix problems that have cropped up in the implementation of the sweeping health-care law.
“We have to fix the problems, have to work together to fix the problems, and we also have to build upon the things that are working,” she said. “I have talked to so many people who said they’re so glad that they now have the capacity to be covered even if they had pre-existing conditions, that they have the capacity to cover their son or daughter who may be up to age 26. And so, how do we work together, how do we roll up our sleeves to make sure that we get as many people covered as possible and that we provide them quality and ensure that we have the cost constraints to make ACA work, but most importantly, to make our health-care system work.”
Nunn said she disagrees with Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision not to accept extra federal money to allow more low-income people to be covered through Medicaid. Deal has said he is dubious about the federal government’s ability to keep its promise of paying 100 percent of the cost for the expansion for the first three years, and 90 percent thereafter. That decision means 409,350 people who otherwise would be eligible for Medicaid will not get it, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“We need to take it out of the political arena,” Nunn said. “I think that turning down Medicaid expansion is a real mistake for Georgia, and it’s going to cost 400,000-plus Georgians the opportunity to be covered on health insurance.”
Nunn is a former CEO of the Points of Light Foundation, with which an organization she helped create, Hands On Network, merged in 2007. Points of Light was founded by President George H.W. Bush.
Nunn said that for several decades, her focus has been mobilizing volunteers for community service, from which Hands On Network – which started as Hands On Atlanta – and later the merger with Points of Light stemmed.
“The things that I learned through that experience were just the capacity for people to work together and to cross all sorts of lines to get things done, to solve problems, to apply creativity and entrepreneurship, to getting material things done in communities across our nation,” she said. “That’s what I bring to this Senate race, to this election. I feel like we need more people who are focused on solving problems, being pragmatic, coming together, creating common ground to actually make a difference in people’s lives.”
Nunn faces four opponents on the Democratic ballot, but she has far outdistanced them in polling and fundraising. Polls also show she is at least tied with the other potential Republican nominees in a general election.
The Republican ballot is crowded, with the most prominent candidates being U.S. Reps. Paul Broun of Athens, Phil Gingrey of Marietta and Jack Kingston of Savannah, along with former Secretary of State Karen Handel and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue.
The primary is May 20, and the general election is Nov. 4.
Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.