Dalton’s Democrats might not agree with their mayor when it comes to universal health care, same-sex marriage and a host of other issues — but he’s apparently getting at least some of their votes.
Mayor David Pennington, a Republican running for governor, was the guest speaker at Tuesday night’s Whitfield County Democratic Committee meeting of several dozen people at the Mack Gaston Community Center. Many said later they would likely vote for him over current Gov. Nathan Deal if there are no Democratic candidates, but they also had pointed questions about Pennington’s policies. So far on the Republican side, only Deal and Pennington have announced plans to run for governor.
Pennington is billing himself as a grassroots conservative with a plan to reduce the bureaucracy in Atlanta and return control to the people and their local governments. Many audience members echoed approval when he discussed finding ways to pay to repair roads, reduce government mandates for public education and his belief prison sentences for some offenses are too stiff. They disagreed with him when discussions about the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, arose.
Pennington said health care costs have skyrocketed over the years, but more government intervention is not the answer. For now, he said, the best way to address the issue is create an environment in which Georgians can get decent-paying jobs to pay those high premiums. He said health care costs in the United States have suffered inflation over the years compared, for example, to Germany. Pennington said he had a friend undergo a medical procedure there that cost a fraction of what he would have been billed in the U.S.
Dalton resident Jan Suggs argued that Germany’s health care system is entirely socialized so that everyone is covered. In the U.S. system, she said, health insurance is mostly used by sicker and older people while the younger, healthier ones who could balance out the need for high premiums don’t buy in.
Pennington said there are other issues complicating the matter, such as the fact that Germany doesn’t operate in the “malpractice environment” of the U.S. where doctors often prescribe unneeded medical procedures as a precaution to avoid the possibility of being sued.
After the meeting, Suggs said she’ll still likely vote for Pennington over the current governor if a better Democratic candidate doesn’t surface.
“Mayor Pennington does run a good city,” she said.
Another woman said her property taxes have decreased by $400 during the time Pennington has been in office leading a crusade to lower the tax rate, but city services during the same time have remained excellent. Other Democrats echoed similar praise and said they were pleased he came to speak to them, knowing he would likely not agree with many of their beliefs.
Pennington drew disapproval when an audience member asked him what he would do as governor to promote same-sex marriage equality, and he responded by saying he believed sticking to the country’s Biblical roots was more important.
Audience members quizzed him on a number of other issues.
On potholes, Pennington said he wants to renew Georgia’s focus on maintaining its infrastructure.
On expunging a person’s criminal record after he or she has demonstrated an ability to follow the law for several years, Pennington said he was open to considering it.
On helping to bring unionized jobs to Georgia, Pennington said he doesn’t believe it would make Georgia competitive.
First vice chairwoman Sherie Luffman said that should Pennington be elected, he will represent everyone, not just Republicans, and that played into the group’s decision to ask him to speak at a meeting.
“We as Democrats believe that everybody should have the opportunity to be heard, and we want to hear what everybody has to say,” Luffman said.