This time last year, no one in Athens had heard of Tabitha Johnson-Green
Now, the Washington County resident is the Democratic candidate for Congress against U.S. Rep. Jody Hice. She defeated two seemingly better-funded and better-organized candidates, Chalis Montgomery and Richard Winfield, in the May primary. Will she be able to flip the longtime red district on Nov. 6?
It’s a long shot. In the 2016 presidential election, the 10th District went for President Trump by a margin of 25 percentage points; in comparison, Trump won the state by 5 points. The latest figures released by the Federal Election Commission, from June 30, show the Hice campaign having raised nearly 60 times as much money as Johnson-Green. Hice had $438,297 in total contributions, whereas Johnson-Green had $7,675.
Johnson-Green says she remains optimistic going into November, though her opponent seems to be confident that he will win a third term and is focusing on campaigning for Brian Kemp for governor. At a College Republicans meeting on Aug. 22, Hice said Republican candidates are “all in this together” going into the November elections. “We’re running a campaign… We’re going to do the best we can, not only for ourselves but also to help Brian Kemp win and other [GOP candidates] on the ticket. If they do well, I do well. If I do well, they do well.”
Johnson-Green says a lot has changed since her shoestring primary campaign, such as “beefing up” the campaign and eliciting more support from volunteers who are invested in turning the district and the state blue. She says support from younger generations is growing, leading her campaign to form the Johnson-Green Millennial Team. As of now, the team is small, with roughly 10 members, two of whom are Johnson-Green’s son and daughter.
Johnson-Green says reforming health care and fighting for universal health care will be the first items on her agenda once elected. “As it stands now in the 10th District, a lot of our rural hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open, and they’re closing at an alarming rate,” she says.
Health care isn’t just political to Johnson-Green—it’s personal. In 2013, her husband had a seizure at home, she says, and was flown to a hospital in Augusta. There, they learned he had a tumor the size of a grapefruit on his brain. He lost his ability to walk, but later made a full recovery.
“During that time, it not only affected us emotionally, but financially as well. We had over $500,000 in medical bills,” Johnson-Green says. “No American deserves to be bankrupt [through] no fault of their own. That’s why I am a strong supporter of universal health care and Medicare for all.”
Johnson-Green says she entered politics for the same reason she decided to become a nurse over 20 years ago: to help people on a larger scale.
Aside from being a registered nurse, Johnson-Green has owned Green Team Non-Emergency Medical Transport, based out of Washington County, since 2016. She says her experience in the health-care industry has prepared her to run and work towards bipartisan support on bills she hopes to advocate for in Congress. “I pride myself on being able to work well with others to reach common goals… that benefit the common good,” she says.
She says she’ll work towards reforming health care through “bipartisan support [and] forming committees to help bring about this change of universal health care and Medicare for all. And we need to look at discretionary spending, too.”
On education reform, Johnson-Green says her goal is to work towards free tuition for public colleges and universities. “We can all have access to a better quality of life. I think having a more educated population can help remedy some of the problems that face our nation, such as unemployment, poverty and gun violence,” she says.
Another issue she hopes to address is gun safety. “Gun ownership is a massive responsibility, and steps should be taken to ensure the safety of our communities,” she says, such as barring those with a history of mental illness or domestic violence from owning guns and implementing a nationwide database. “In my opinion, the Tennessee Waffle House shooting would have never occurred if the state of Illinois communicated with the state of Tennessee that the gun owner’s license was revoked,” she says.
Johnson-Green also favors banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, in addition to supporting mandatory background checks on all firearm purchases or transfers, according to her campaign website.
Other issues Johnson-Green hopes to tackle if elected include ending mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline, immigration, climate change, electoral reform, discrimination and supporting seniors. “There needs to be a change, a positive change—someone who can stand up [for] the needs of the people,” Johnson-Green says.
What About the 9th?
While most of Athens is represented by Hice, a sliver of northern Clarke County is in Rep. Doug Collins’ 9th District. The Gainesville Republican is as conservative as Hice on most issues, but has shown more willingness to work across the aisle—for example, by co-sponsoring a criminal justice reform bill with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).
His opponent is Josh McCall, a Bernie Sanders-style progressive who supports Medicare for all, guaranteed employment and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. McCall, 36, is a teacher and has never run for office before. He faces an even tougher road than Johnson-Green. The 9th District is considered one of the most conservative in the country and generally votes over 75 percent Republican. [Blake Aued]