GEORGIA’s District 1 has been a Republican stronghold since the mid-1990s, when Jack Kingston was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter took the helm in 2015, touting the party line and sticking fast to a platform of seeking to make abortion illegal, put prayer back in schools and deny the science of climate change.
After running unopposed in 2016, he’s up for reelection in November of 2018. One of the first to challenge him is Lisa Ring of Richmond Hill.
A former political canvasser and campaign worker who served for a time as a corrections officer, Ring chairs the Bryan County Democratic Committee, serves as Vice Chair of the Georgia Democratic Rural Council and was a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the DNC in 2016.
Ring’s husband serves in the National Guard, and her son—one of their four children—is scheduled to leave for the Army “any day now.”
We spoke with her to discuss grassroots change, a living wage and how flipping a district isn’t always about money.
Why this election and why now?
Lisa Ring: I've watched how things have developed over the years—particularly in the last year—and people are looking for answers. They're looking for action. And we're all tired of the political posturing and partisan politics that have affected our daily lives.
Legislation is being passed that negatively affects us because we’re not paying attention. We’re being distracted by the less important issues, the tweets.
We’re missing a whole lot. The most important issue has been healthcare, and fortunately that’s been getting a lot of attention lately. That’s the number one issue to me and the number one issue in this district. Everyone is afraid they’re going to lose their healthcare and there’s going to be no alternative.
But what isn’t being highlighted are budget cuts that we’re facing for 2018 that amount to close to $105 million in this district. One of those cuts is the Federal Impact Tax, which makes up for the military bases where people don’t pay property taxes but schools still need to be funded. We’re talking about losing $23 million in that alone. Just in Liberty Country, that’s $10 million of funding for their schools. We’re going to lose important social programs and education. And we need to talk about that.
Did Buddy Carter vote for those cuts?
He did, proudly. If you follow him on social media, you’ll see that everything the current administration is proposing, my opponent proudly supports. He not only votes for it, he advocates for it and says how great it is for the district. And it’s just not true.
How has being a military spouse and wife influenced your platform?
The myth out there is that military families are well taken care of, when it actuality there are many, particularly younger and new families, that need to get food assistance because they aren’t making much money at all. All of these increases in military spending we’re hearing about? None of that translates to service people.
There’s a huge problem with veterans not receiving benefits, we have a problem with homeless veterans, veterans whose claims that aren’t heard for years. We have veterans who have returned who are disabled, but their claims are denied for disability.
There are so many veterans’ issues, and they are big part of our population in the First District. If you count military families, we have over 200,000 military-related constituents. It’s a community I believe has been neglected.
We just saw Jon Ossoff challenge a historically Republican district, but he wasn’t able to “flip the 6th” in spite of receiving over $23 million in campaign contributions. What did you and your team learn from that?
What I learned is something I already knew—that money is not always the deciding factor in an election. My approach in this campaign is going to be the exact opposite. What I need to do is reach out to people directly, especially in rural areas and urban areas where others aren’t paying attention.
The Ossoff campaign did that, but then people were canvassed over and over again, to the point that they were just sick of hearing about it. I don’t want to do that. I want to talk about real issues with people who thank me for coming to their area because nobody ever does.
I think the difference is connecting with people, not making it about the candidates but about the issues and what’s relevant to people’s lives.
You’ve been a local leader in the Democratic party. How do you propose to bridge the divisions within the party?
Yes, there’s been an ongoing divide in the party between people who don’t want change and people who want to force change. That has been difficult to bridge and I have not always been successful.
Here where I live, we started the Bryan County Democratic Committee about a year and half ago. When we were working to do that, I said to myself, we are not going to let this county be destroyed by what’s going on in the party nationally.
So we focused on issues and we focused on growing. We didn’t have the discussions about Hillary versus Bernie and all that because it wasn’t relevant to what we doing. I’ve found that most people agree that it’s not relevant anymore. What we have to do is find what we can agree on when it comes to issues and what we can work or and believe in. We’ve got to grow our strength from the grassroots level to get those things accomplished.
Do you still stand with the tenets of the Sanders campaign?
The progressive issues? Yes, that is my platform. Keith Ellison and Nina Tuner are pushing these issues at the national level, and they are issues I stand behind: Medicare for all, and at least a $15/hour minimum wage. A living wage is most important because when we invest in people, we are investing in the economy. Everybody wins.
And people agree—not just Democrats but independents, even a few Republicans. There’s starting to see that party isn’t as important as what we can accomplish on the issues.
How do activism and politics relate?
They are two separate things, but they need each other. We need the politicians in Washington voting for the legislation that the activists are rallying for. You have to have someone with a voice out there unifying the people, and then you need the legislators to enact that voice.
Are you prepared to step from one role to the other?
It’s a learning process. What we need are people who can look with the eyes of the average person and not as a career politician and see what our needs are. How I do that is by listening to what people have to say and learning from those with experience. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m stepping into a role where I think I can have a huge impact.
What’s the timeline from here?
We have 16 months until the election, and we’re taking one step at a time. We’re really working on gaining momentum, getting my name out there. I’ve been going to events every day in every area—today I’m driving to Ware County.
We hope to gain support over the next few months until the point of qualifying, and then we’ll know whether there will be a primary. Once I make it through that, then it’s about concentrating on the race against Buddy Carter, and that will be full force. I hope to get into some debates—if he’ll participate.