November 1, 2017

Deborah Gonzalez Is the Best Candidate for Athens

I don’t know the Gaines family, which includes the illustrious, fair-minded Judge Gaines, now deceased, and his grandson Houston, who, in his early 20s, is running for the state House in Georgia.

Because I’m not in their social sphere, I don’t feel, but can imagine, family friends’ sense that they should show their respect by opening their wallets to kickstart the young scion’s political ambitions. And I bet they like the personable young man, a former student body president and member of a fraternity at UGA.

Seems harmless enough, but these good-old-boy support systems are what invisibly underpin racism and other social ills. We often don’t give jobs to the best candidates, but to the families we know best.

On the other hand, Houston’s opponent, Deborah Gonzalez, doesn’t have a name that resonates as well in these here parts. She hasn’t lived a life of privilege. Her dad was in the military—like mine—and risked his life in two tours of duty in Vietnam.

She put herself through college and law school while working full time at a factory making a little more than $3 an hour. She raised two children, sometimes skipping meals to be sure her kids had money for their school projects and other things that help children from working-class families feel like they belong, too. She has lived the challenges faced by so many people in our state who need health care, affordable housing and decent wages.

Houston’s dad wrote to some of the doctors in town, saying: "Houston will be a friend of health care.” But no details were given about his views on urgent health care issues. And to ask would be rather impolite, wouldn’t it?

Houston's website says that he will be a champion for conservative values. Are those the old values, for example, that once sought to conserve our nation’s land for generations or the ugly values that seek to secure social status for generations?

I understand the pressure to pony up for Houston’s campaign. It’s a kind of social cement that helps hold things in place. But once people step into the privacy of the voting booth, I hope they’ll choose the better candidate—for a better Georgia.