A third party candidate never has it easy in what are essentially two-party elections in this country. But in a year most notable for voter outrage and anti-incumbent sentiments, Monds stands a chance to capture an unprecedented amount of support as the Libertarian candidate. We caught up with him by phone last week to talk about why he thinks he can make big improvements to state government.
What do you see as the most important issues facing Georgians right now?
John Monds: It's definitely the economy - the economy and jobs. That's number one on folks' minds all across Georgia.
It takes a lot of time, money and effort to run for governor. Why did you feel like it was important to throw your hat in the ring?
John Monds: I wasn't willing to wait on someone else to take the lead and share a vision about turning this state around. We're on the wrong track. I was willing to take a leap of faith and jump out there. I'm still smiling and the campaign is going well.
The third party is the perennial underdog, but with voter dissatisfaction so high and the Tea Party gaining steam, do you think that this could be a unique opportunity for somebody like yourself?
John Monds: Absolutely. All across Georgia voters have been voicing their displeasure with the lack of leadership that's been going on. Once again, getting back to those things that work, limiting government in people's lives, letting them keep the money they've earned and respecting their individual rights, those are things that people are looking for so the message has been doing well all across the state. I think we're gonna surprise a lot of people with how we perform in this election.
As I was going through some of the issues you discuss on your website, two things caught my attention: Reducing nonviolent drug offenses and allowing Sunday alcohol sales. Although they are obviously controversial to some voters, could they also play a role in both generating revenue and helping balance the budget?
John Monds: We shouldn't have a tax system that punishes people who produce, and that's what we have with income tax. It affects small business owners and that's the economic engine that runs things. That's why I talk about eliminating income tax and going to a broader based consumption tax, we need to get rid of some of those exemptions.
Once you stimulate the economy and get it growing, that's gonna drive revenue up. You have to look at the revenue side and making us more competitive with our regional neighbors, but you also have to look at the spending side, getting rid of wasteful programs and projects.
I've been advocating for zero-based budgeting and reviewing what government does, and what it doesn't live up to and all the promises. We need to look at those areas of inefficiency and do something different.
With consumption based taxes, in discussions about whether or not to add sales tax to food purchases, I've read that such a practice would put an undue burden on lower income families. If you were to do away with income tax and create a consumption-based tax, would that burden lower income families or would it balance out because of the elimination of income tax?
John Monds: I think it would balance out. How you do that is those on the lower income scale need more opportunities. They need higher paying jobs instead of subsidized living.
If you change how you do business in the state, you allow businesses to grow, and you put Georgians in a competitive environment with other states around the country. We want to pull everybody up. The system that we have now is really geared to special interests and pay to play. We need to get rid of crony capitalism and get back to the free market. I think if we do all these things Georgia will thrive, even those on the lower economic levels.
De-regulation and the free market are thrown around as pro-consumer in political rhetoric, but often in reality they end up benefiting big businesses and those who can manipulate the system. Where is the line between enough regulation to ensure that things work properly and enough freedom to ensure that businesses are able to do what they need to do?
John Monds: If the private sector can do things, they ought to have an opportunity to do so and prove it works. When you talk about a constitutionally limited government, we should do those things that government is supposed to do and hopefully do them well. Then, we need to get them out of what they shouldn't be doing, and that's some of the mistakes we've made on the national level and the state level.
The government oversteps its authority and tries to do everything for everybody, often it doesn't do anything well. That's what we're stuck with right now.
How does that play out with environmental oversight? The Savannah River is important for industry as well as natural habitat, but there are a lot of companies dumping waste into it. On the other side, you've got government agencies watching over that as much as they can given their limited resources. Where does that fall in the spectrum of what government should and shouldn't be doing?
John Monds: That's an area that government probably has a proper role. If companies are dumping, government's role should be to hold them accountable. Because of special interests and various lobbying by big business with cozy relationships, a lot of times these corporations are not held accountable.
When you talk about limited government, setting standards, looking out for fraud and waste and negligence, those are proper roles for government, but that doesn't mean they should be everywhere. I agree with that example. That is probably a good place for government to be.
It's been interesting to see the Tea Party come into its own as a political force. Some attention has been paid to claims of racism, particularly after comments made by former President Jimmy Carter. You're out there at a lot of Tea Party events around the state - what has your experience been? Are accusations of racism by Tea Partiers a construct of mainstream media?
John Monds: I think there are a lot of misconceptions by the media. I've enjoyed being at the Tea Parties and I've enjoyed having citizens and residents of Georgia engaged in the political process. My message stays the same. It doesn't matter what group I go in front of, whether they're on the right side of the spectrum or the left side.
The Tea Parties have given me a very warm reception. I'm excited about all the support I've been getting.
What's your plan going into the home stretch? Got any tricks up your sleeve or are you just gonna keep pounding the pavement and hope for the best?
John Monds: We're doing as many events as possible. We're going all the way to November 2nd. We're talking to anybody who wants to hear from us. We've got a couple of big televised debates coming up and that's really going make a difference - going up against the other candidates and having people see talk on the issues.
I'm pretty excited. It's been going well and we'll see what happens. cs