Recently The Epoch Times reporter Joan Wang interviewed Brad Raffensperger, the Republican candidate for Georgia secretary of state.
The Epoch Times: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Brad Raffensperger: I am Brad Raffensperger, and I am running for secretary of state. I was in the state house for the last four years, and for part of that I was on the city council in Johns Creek for three years. I am a pro business conservative; I have always worked hard to protect taxpayers and small business owners’ lives in the Second Amendment. I have a 100 percent rating from the National Federation of Independent Business, which is a small business organization. I also have a 100 percent rating from the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
So I am running for secretary of state to make sure that we have a lawful process for voting so that only American citizens vote. I also want to make sure that Georgia is a great place to find a job and a great place to build a business.
The secretary of state’s office has three principle duties; it has several others, but the three main duties would be elections, licensing, and corporations.
So, on the administrative side of licensing, I am a licensed engineer and a licensed contractor. So I understand the importance of streamlining the licensing process so you get your license quickly, and when that happens, you can get back to your career, providing for your family, and yourself.
Then, obviously with corporations, as a business owner… what we would like to do is have you able to register your new corporation very quickly and obviously for annual renewals, also do that efficiently, so likewise, you can get back to doing what you want to do, work on your business to continually grow and continue the American success story.
Epoch Times: So you want to see Georgia become a place where everyone can find a job and do what they want to do. Can you give me more details about how you will be able to do that?
Mr. Raffensperger: Well, when I was in the State House, I introduced a bill called House Bill 87. What that would do is allow a business owner to renew their corporation for up to three years: one, two or three years. It does require us to update the software to be able to handle that, and so I will implement that, but those are the types of streamline regulations that I would like to look at.
Last year, I introduced a bill, and I hope the House will bring it back this year. We didn’t have enough time to pass it, but we were going to waive the corporation fee for three years for a Georgia domiciled, honorably discharged veteran. Many people don’t realize that a lot of the veterans weren’t born in Georgia, but when near the end of their service in the military, they could be stationed here in Georgia.
So, if we threw out the welcome mat to veterans, we also give them a small thank you by waiving the fee for three years. Perhaps then, they will form their corporations in Georgia, and they will create jobs for Georgians. So those are the types of ideas that I’ll be looking at.
And I’ll also be talking to business owners all the time to see what else we can do to make Georgia a friendlier place to do business. We are a great place to do business; for the last five for six years we have been the number one state in the entire country to do business. That’s what we want to continue that track record of being very friendly to businesses, particularly the small business owner, and the young aspiring entrepreneur.
So how do we create an environment and help facilitate that? How do we make sure that government stays out of the way of the small business owners. That’s probably the number one thing that we can do because the beginning of all job creation really starts at the small business level.
I believe that when small businesses prosper, all of Georgia will prosper. And big business will do fine too, but it really starts with paying attention to the small business owners because, a lot of times, no one is really looking out for them.
Reporter: Based on your successful business experience here, can you share me the good factors that make Georgia a good place to have business?
Brad: Atlanta is the capital of Georgia, and Georgia is the linchpin of the south. Some people would call it the keystone. People in Pennsylvania might object, because they call themselves the keystone state instead. We sometimes call Georgia the empire state of the south, just like New York calls themselves the Empire State. If you look at the map of the southeast, there’s one state right in the middle of all that growth, all that action, all that excitement… that’s Georgia.
Then you look at the metro region, that is the capital city of Georgia. Georgia leads in so many areas. We are connected with transportation. We have the port, we have the Atlanta Hartsfield airport, then we have great research universities. When you have all of these that come together, and we are geographically centralized in the southeast, that’s why we have led for so many years.
We have always had a conservative, business friendly approach for a long period of time. I think when you throw out the welcome mat, businesses will feel they are welcomed. People go where they are welcomed. When you are not welcomed, people move to the next town.
So I think Georgia is ideally positioned for continued growth, and I think the port of Savannah is just one of our outstanding gems that we have in the state. Because it just helps us import, export, and it really helps to connect Georgia to the entire world just like Atlanta Hartsfield does with the air travel.
Epoch Times: Brad, can you please give me more details about the fair tax?
Mr. Raffensperger: The fair tax is something I support. It is not something secretary of state would have direct influence over, but I do support it. People sometimes wonder, “Well, why do you talk about that if it is not part of your specific job duties?”
I think people always like to know what people are thinking about in their heads, what’s their value system, and what policies do they like. I like the fair tax because it would eliminate the state income tax, and I think that would be a good path for us to head to.
If you look at two of our big competitor states, Tennessee and Florida, then they adjoin Georgia, and we also have taxes. So you have these three vibrant states; they don’t have state income tax, and they seem to make it work there.
Also what you see in Georgia, is that sometimes we lose high networth individuals; particularly as they approach retirement age, they move down to Florida. It is not because they feel Florida is a place they want to go to, it’s just they feel, from a standpoint of their taxation, it makes sense for them (to go there). So we are losing some of those folks, and when they situate themselves down in Florida, then they may start moving their investment dollars also down to Florida.
So the more we can keep people in Georgia, and make it an attractive place… if you look at Tennessee, Nashville is the music capital of the world. It would be great if we were the music capital of the world. Nashville has a big head start, but one of the things that attracts folks there is the capital of music, but also, there is no state income tax there. It is also about making us competitive to our competitor states.
Epoch Times: I know one of your slogans is safer Georgia makes greater Georgia. What are the factors that you think makes Georgia unsafe?
Mr. Raffensperger: I talked about human trafficking when I was on the city council, and a lot of people told us we couldn’t do anything because of what the laws were. We had a list of massage parlors that were acting as a front for prostitution, so I reached out to another council member, and reached out to a city attorney and said, “These citizens have come to me. Let’s go and have breakfast with them.”
That was the first meeting we had several years ago, and over the period of 12 to 14 months we worked with attorneys to create a model ordinance to shut down the list of massage parlors. So what I showed there is I brought people together to really move policy forward.
So as I said, as secretary of state, if there’s people, bad actors that are doing illegal things operating under the corporation umbrella, then I would certainly join efforts with our local attorney general and law enforcement to make sure they can’t operate a corporation in Georgia because what they are doing is against the law. We will revoke their corporate charges.
You also see now, several state representatives are talking about what we can do to stop human trafficking. We are also seeing the efforts at the federal level. So I think all of that is good; people are coming together, working as a team, and I think that’s very very important that we work together to solve serious issues.
Epoch Times: Other than human trafficking, is there any other crime that has caught your attention that you think makes Georgia not safe?
Mr. Raffensperger: I think obviously we have gangs and issues like that. I know the attorney general is really addressing that. That goes more along with the law enforcement, not secretary of state. Secretary of state is elections, licensing, corporations, and we have, obviously, the financial aspect and charities. Those three I first mentioned are the key areas where I will focus. Updating our voting machine will be our main focus in the first half of 2019.
Epoch Times: So, mentioning of changing the voting machine, do you have a time frame by which you will be able to change all the voting machines?
Mr. Raffensperger: The general assembly comes back into session in January. Last year we had 3 bills to look at voting machines. None of those made it across the finish line by day 40, so there’s work to be done.
[Current] Secretary of State Kemp has formed a bipartisan commission called the safe commission to look into election, security, and the voting machines’ technology. They will continue doing their work and their second meeting is coming up shortly in the Augusta area. They will be coming out with recommendations I believe. Those recommendations will form the basis for the legislative action to move it forward. I would hope that the General Assembly will be able to do something next year.
The challenge that you have as the secretary of state is that unless it’s funded, we cannot do it. But I believe that there is a sense in the General Assembly, House and Senate, and also the incoming Governor that we need to update the machines. The machines that we are using right now were put into service in 2002, which was 16 years ago.
If you have a smartphone, when we think about the iPhone now, they are up to their iPhone X and that has been about over 10 years now, so there has been 9 generations of software improvements. The software that we are using right now for voting hasn’t been updated since about 2005.
So if you look at how fast the technology improves, what I have said from day one that we really need to bring together, I think, the key state callers which are the House, the Senate, and the governor, because they have to make the hard vote to fund it. That’s a difficult decision when you spend the taxpayers’ dollars. Also the county election supervisors, because they’ll have to implement the system.
Then, obviously some folks that have been really digging into the technology. These people are really well versed and well studied on this. We will bring these five people together, and the citizens who are really watching what happens because I believe everyone wants voters’ security. They want to know their vote counts. They want to make sure that everyone’s vote counts once. They don’t want all the machines to mess up, and they want to make sure that it counts and counts correctly.
It’s very important to get it done, so my goal is to start to rolling that out for the 2019 municipal local elections that we will have. It will really be a benefit for us, because the number of votes you have then is a lower level. So in a way, I don’t want to say it’s a trial run, but obviously it won’t be as strenuous on the system as for 2020. It’s a great way to get ready for the 2020 primaries, and also the 2020 presidential election. We really need to get it done next year for the 2019 municipal elections.
Epoch Times: I know another one of your emphases is for “only US citizens can vote.” To me it’s a common sense, but why do you need to fight for that?
Mr. Raffensperger: Well, if you look at some of the trends that you’re seeing from the local Democrats, already in San Francisco, they are allowing non-citizens to vote in the local school board elections. They think that’s a good thing; I don’t think that’s a good thing. I don’t think that non-citizens, illegal aliens, people on work visas, I don’t think any of those folks should be voting in American elections.
So if you open up the door and allow non-citizens to vote in the city election, then how do you really police that, and how do you manage that? Those people now have a voter card, and they show up for the state election, or for the federal election, so it’s a very dangerous path.
Liberal Democrats, I think they are just trying to play games with the system and game the system to win elections. But it’s been American citizens’. It is one of the privileges that we have as Americans. I don’t believe we should ever sell American citizenship short.
I get that everyone is proud of their country, and they need to be. It’s good for their people. When you come to America, become an American, I feel you need to, (I do, and I hope you do too) think America is the best country in the whole world.
Because it’s the best country in the whole wide world, I think there are two things we should never devalue: our currency and our citizenship. It’s very precious, and we are a great beacon to the whole world. People break the doors down to come into our country; no one’s breaking the doors down to leave. So we need to protect it and make sure we have systems in place so that only Americans can vote.
Epoch Times: Could you talk about what type of role freedom plays in U.S. society?
Mr. Raffensperger: Free markets have always worked. Sometimes it has booms and busts. The booms are good while the busts are not so much fun. But when free people have free markets and free decisions, then they really have self-responsibility and self-determination. At the end of the day, they will have more freedom within their life. It is something that has always been shown to really lift everyone up.
America has the highest standard of living; we are one of the leaders in the world, and there’s other countries that have done great also, that have that free market system. If you look at Japan, the Asian Tigers, Taiwan, Singapore, look at how Vietnam is coming out of all the years’ communist oppression, and now they’re embracing portions of the free market, and it’s starting to move them forward. So wherever people embrace free market principles, their people are blessed with prosperity. To me, it just makes sense.
Epoch Times: There’s trade negotiation between President Trump and China, do you think that will influence Georgia’s economy a lot, either from the agriculture or from the small business side?
Mr. Raffensperger: I think we just need to wait and see. President Trump has shown himself to be a very gifted negotiator. We just heard today he has struck a deal with the Mexican government with the New American-Mexico trade pact. I hope at the end of day, when President Trump says to reduce tariffs on both sides, it will be a good thing.
If you look at all the other nations, America has the lowest tariffs. Other countries have been erecting barriers. It’s time that we have open trade with everyone, it’s fair, and we have the same level playing field between each other. I’m hopeful that at the end of the day, that President Trump will have success there also. He likes to win and he wants America to win. I think it’s great to have an American President who wants Americans to win.
Epoch Times: Everyone wants to win; how we can win is what everyone has been pursuing.
Mr. Raffensperger: As it relates to the fair trade, we really want to win with a level playing field. We don’t want to push anyone back. We are saying your tariff is 5 percent, then we will have 5 percent; we have 0, you should have 0.
So to me, I think it seems to be a very friendly and fair way to approach trade. You can’t throw 20 percent tariffs on our product and expect us to have 3 percent on your product. That’s unilateral disarmament. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. That’s what President Trump said.
I think people are starting to understand. He’s been fighting hard, and he is going to get some good deals. It’s going to be good for America. Already the economy is doing very well, and Georgia’s position is very well. That’s a good thing.