Lisa Ring of Richmond Hill and Barbara Seidman of Waycross are vying for the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter for Georgia’s First Congressional District seat.
Democrat voters are deciding which woman will take on the second term Republican in November. The decision will climax Tuesday on election day.
Ring and Seidman faced voters at a recent NAACP forum in Liberty County. Carter did not attend due to other obligations, according to an email to organizers.
In response to questions from moderators, as well as audience members, the political newcomers outlined their stances on everything from guns to health care and economic opportunity before a crowd estimated at more than 200.
Neither mentioned Carter by name during the event.
In response to a question of whether they thought the political system was broken, both women said yes.
"It’s broken and the reason it’s broken is it’s corrupt. We have money in politics. It’s a pay to play system," Ring said. "That’s not how it should be. Everybody should be able to participate in our democracy. We should all have a say. It should not be those companies and those special interests that are willing to pay enough money, and they’re paying for that off the backs of working Americans."
Ring said she won’t take corporate donations, instead relying on individual contributions.
Seidman agreed the system is rigged, but blamed it on the lack of term limits — something she said she wanted to see if elected.
"We shouldn’t let politicians have careers off our backs. We should tell them, ‘if you don’t do the work, you’re fired. If you won’t work for us, you’re fired,’" she said. "That’s the only thing I agree with Donald Trump on."
The candidates offered similar takes on calls to limit the sale of AR-15s, commonly referred to as assault rifles.
Seidman, whose biography said her daughter served in the military and her first husband received the Purple Heart during World War II, said assault rifles have their use protecting American citizens from foreign invasion, but shouldn’t be in the hands of civilians.
"We don’t need assault rifles," she said. "Rifles, guns, fine, but assault weapons, absolutely not."
Ring, whose husband is an Army veteran and whose son is now serving, said she understood where those weapons belonged.
"We need to ban military type assault weapons for civilians," she said. "There is no reason for civilians to have that type of weapon, none at all."
When asked about inequality, Seidman said everyone needs to be treated equally.
"Everybody in the United States of America should be treated equally," she said. "If I’ve got anything to do with it, my big mouth is going to make sure I’m treated right and you’re treated right."
Ring said it’s easy to see inequality, whether it’s based on race or income.
"I plan on standing up for everyone in this district," she said.
Foreign policy also got a turn, with the two candidates asked about diplomacy and military intervention. Seidman took a more hawkish stand, using North Korea as an example.
"If it comes down to where it looks like it’s imminent, we should take them out before they take us out," Seidman said. "I don’t think we should lose one citizen because of another country’s aggression toward us. The more you let them have, the more they take. The United States is not a wimp."
Ring said there’s a need for the U.S. to become part of the world again.
"We need to get back to being able to negotiate," she said. "Use of the military should be a last resort. My son was just deployed to the Middle East. I am not going to send your children to fight in a war that we don’t know when it will end and we don’t know why we are fighting it."
The issue of police brutality against minorities was also raised, with both women saying there’s an issue. Seidman said a nephew was shot by police despite being unarmed, but he survived. She called for more training for police.
"We train our law enforcement for six weeks, that just won’t do it," Seidman said.
Ring said there first needs to be awareness there’s a problem.
"We have to admit it’s a problem to do something about it," she said, adding "It’s at a crisis point. We have to do all we can."
The candidates also were asked how they’d work with Republicans if elected. Ring said she’d found through campaigning that most people are willing to listen, regardless of ideology.
"People will talk if you listen," she said. "That’s the problem we have in Congress. Nobody’s listening. We have to start treating each other like human, beings not just as parties. That won’t get us anywhere."
Seidman said she believes people will listen to her once she gets to Washington.
"I have a real big mouth I can stay on track with what I want and stay on track," Seidman said, adding that she’s already talked to Congressmen from Georgia and told them she’s on the way.
"I told them I’m coming, and they need to work with me. If they want help with my space, they’re going to help with my space. I’m going to get help."
Both candidates were in favor of increasing the minimum wage, with Seidman talking of a "lifestyle wage," which would allow workers to save for retirement.
Ring said higher wages bolstered local economies and helped everyone.
Both women said they are in favor of universal health care for everyone, and support helping veterans and the military throughout the district. They said they support access to birth control and gay rights.
Seidman said her priorities include health care, education and jobs. She spoke of a 4-year-old nephew as one reason she’s running.
"That’s why I’m fighting. When he gets ready to run this country, he’ll need the education to know how and he’ll need to be healthy," she said. "If we don’t support our children and take time with them, they’re not going to be the citizens we want them to be."
Ring said she’s running a grassroots campaign to get people involved.
"It’s time for us to change the way we do politics," she said. "It’s time to get people involved, get them energetic and enthused enough to go out and vote for something and turn the world around."