A Georgia State professor and former state Senate budget director recently announced that she plans to run for the Seventh Congressional District seat in the upcoming 2018 election, challenging four-term U.S. Congressman Rob Woodall.
Carolyn Bourdeaux, professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies (AYSPS) and first time candidate, said that several aspects have motivated her to run for office, but two acutely pressing ones are the health care reformation and President Donald Trump.
“I worked in a non-partisan role for a long time, and when I came to Georgia, I really tried to make a point of just focusing on best policy,” Bourdeaux said. “But what has happened are kind of two streams — one of them is what is going on with health care, and I have long been concerned about the state of Georgia not expanding Medicaid.”
Motivation to run
She has done behind-the-scenes research on this issue, finding that Georgia, on an annual basis, is leaving $2.2 billion on the table unused, sending it back to the federal government.
According to Bourdeaux, that $2.2 billion is what Georgia would receive if the state expanded Medicaid, which would then flow into the healthcare system and the rural healthcare system, in which eight rural hospitals have closed since 2010.
“That means over 500,000 people in Georgia do not have access to insurance. In the seventh district, that’s 30,000 people. I just have a hard time understanding why that’s happening,” Bourdeaux said.
Upon the unfolding of the Affordable Care Act, Bourdeaux has watched what she believes is an effort to implement the Affordable Care Act “even as the Republicans and Congress are trying to hack the legs out from under the reform.”
In Bourdeaux’s opinion, Republicans and Congress have taken a number of steps to make the reform “falter and stumble,” including the failure to expand Medicaid to a number of different states, litigating against the reform and failing to fund portions of the reform that would help with the costs of insurance premiums.
“Now that the reform is failing, they’re like, ‘Oh, the Affordable Care Act is now failing; we’re going to run and fix it.’ They’re not going to fix it; they’re going to repeal it or replace it or whatever rhetoric we have here,” Bourdeaux said.
According to Bourdeaux, the reform would mean that in the seventh congressional district it would not be that 30,000 people don’t have access to health insurance, but rather 67,000 people wouldn’t have access to health insurance – meaning that Georgia collectively leaves 980,000 citizens without access to health insurance.
“You see stuff like this, and it’s very hard to just keep sitting in your office and putting out policy briefs – I’ve written a couple op-eds about Medicaid – and not stand up and say, ‘Wait a minute. This is a real problem,’” Bourdeaux said. “The reason it’s so important is because I can give you these numbers, but each of these numbers is attached to a story.”
After visiting doctors at the Gwinnett Medical Center (GMC) to discuss issues they see and how they affect their patients, Bourdeaux comes away with stories she says are “terrible.”
Bourdeaux tells of a man with rheumatoid arthritis who came in because he was a laborer that couldn’t lift boxes anymore.
“He was going to employer after employer asking for jobs, but they could take one look at him and see he couldn’t even wrap his hands around a pencil,” Bourdeaux said. “The deal is with rheumatoid arthritis, if they had treated it maybe five years earlier with an anti-inflammatory drug, he would be fine, he’d still be working. But now his joints are destroyed, and all they can do is relieve his pain.”
Stories like this make Bourdeaux unable to “understand why policy makers would not care about those people.”
“I just can’t sit still and watch that anymore,” Bourdeaux said.
Bourdeaux’s background and Ph.D. in public administration has led her to believe the health care reform can be done “in a way that is both more compassionate and more fiscally responsible.” She has called the situation a “shocking case of policy malpractice.”
“It’s like watching someone about to step out into traffic, what I’m watching from a policy perspective. You see somebody and it doesn’t matter that they’re a stranger, you reach out to stop them from stepping out into traffic,” Bourdeaux said. “With this policy, it’s like a catastrophe that’s slowly unfolding and one just has to say ‘Stop! Don’t do that.’”
Another matter urging Bourdeaux to run for office is her belief of a need for a strong voice to speak against President Trump and what is going on with his administration, including the issues of ethics and conflict of interest.
Bourdeaux believes sometimes the public focuses on more trivial matters, while the U.S. has a president that is negotiating 38 patents pending on behalf of the American people with the Chinese government.
“Is he representing the 38 patents, or is he representing us? It is such a classic conflict of interest problem; it is really hard for me to see why folks aren’t calling this out more,” Bourdeaux said.
Appeal to the younger generation
Regarding Bourdeaux’s stance on higher education policies, making college education affordable for all students is a priority for her, in that she wants to expand grants and loans currently offered from the school that help students reach the finish line to graduate. She plans to connect to student voters simply by talking to them.
“I hope that, through my campaign, I can also bring on young folks and use the campaign as a way to bring on the next generation of leaders as well,” Bourdeaux said.
Bourdeaux founded the Center for State and Local Finance, a collaborative effort between AYSPS faculty to contribute research on issues affecting the future of state and local finance and to educate the next generation of leaders in public financial management.
“One of the things I love about the Andrew Young School is it allows you to teach students to do research but also be very active in the community. It’s something that it very much encourages,” Bourdeaux said. “I founded the Center for State and Local Finance as a way to further encourage that relationship.”
There are parts of Woodall’s plans she thinks aren’t beneficial to the public, including his support of certain health care proposals that raise costs for people with cancer, diabetes and pre-existing conditions. Her own parents are struggling with skyrocketing medication costs because of her father’s illness.
“We are not going forward that way. We are going backward, and the system is getting worse,” Bourdeaux said.
Regarding how she feels running against Woodall, who’s held the district seat consecutively for four years, Bourdeaux said it’s “hard” but thinks in the past there has not been this kind of momentum within politics. She has already been endorsed by U.S. Representative Hank Johnson and Andrew Young, the namesake of the AYSPS.
“In the past, the democratic candidates were not able to raise a lot of money. They were not able to really field a true opposition,” Bourdeaux said. “It is my intent to have a real campaign and real opposition.”