Like many people who grew up in the 1980s, businessman Tom Graves says Ronald Reagan was a big influence on him, someone who inspired him and helped foster an interest in politics.
Graves was raised in Bartow County, but for more than a decade he has lived in Ranger, where, over the years, he served as a member of the Gordon County Board of Elections and was active in the Calhoun-Gordon County Chamber of Commerce.
But he says his real involvement in politics started in 2001, when there was a possibility that an abortion clinic might open in Calhoun.
“My wife (Julie) and I became engaged with Georgia Right to Life, and Julie became the founder and president of the Gordon County Right to Life chapter,” he recalled.
The clinic did not open, but Graves says he learned a great deal from the experience.
“I saw how much difference someone could make by getting involved. I had been involved a little bit before that with the local Republican Party, but that really raised my awareness of the need to be engaged with the process,” he said.
In 2002, he made his first run for elected office for the state House of Representatives and was elected to the District 12 seat. That was the year the GOP gained control of the governor’s mansion and the state Senate for the first time since Reconstruction. But the Democrats kept control of the House, and Graves found himself in the minority.
“It taught me to learn the process. In order to be effective, to make any change, you have to be a student of process. I learned how to introduce legislation, how to amend legislation, how to get others to help with legislation, how to work with others. I’ve seen it from both sides,” he said.
Graves was re-elected three more times. He stepped down earlier this year to run in the May 11 special election for Georgia’s 9th District U.S. House of Representatives seat.
Graves says that on the campaign trail one thing he hears constantly from voters is that “Washington isn’t listening.” He says voters are concerned about runaway spending and deficits and higher taxes, as well as the general growth of government.
“The role of the federal government is limited as defined by the Constitution and all else is delegated to the states or the people,” Graves said. “Unfortunately, for decades it has increasingly expanded its role and appetite.”
Graves said he will be a strong voice for North Georgia and the conservative values of its voters if he is elected. He says Congress must eliminate wasteful spending and supports a balanced budget amendment and line item veto to help rein in spending.
Graves, 40, has a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Georgia. He and his wife have three children.
For more information on Tom Graves go to www.gravesforcongress.org.