By Kristi Reed
The two candidates for the 7th Congressional District may come from different points on the political spectrum, but both share an unmistakable passion for their country and the district. That passion is evidenced by the candidates' choice of descriptors.
When asked to describe himself in one word, incumbent Republican candidate Rob Woodall chose "believer."
"I'm a believer in this community," he said. "I'm a believer in this country. I'm a believer in that fact that tomorrow is going to be better than yesterday in the United States of America. You have to believe in order to make the opportunities a reality and I believe."
His opponent, Democrat Thomas Wight, had an equally fervent response in describing himself as a "patriot."
"I am an American patriot," he said. "I believe this country is extraordinary. I believe that Americans are extraordinary."
This country's history, Wight added, is amazing.
"This country should not have existed. It shouldn't exist," he said. "It should fall apart every four years. The fact that we keep electing -- the fact we keep going to the polls instead of picking up all the guns we have and killing each other every four years -- is just a miracle."
It is his confidence in that election process which prompted him to challenge what he describes as a well-entrenched incumbent.
"Every elected official has a term limit of one unless we keep sending them back," he said.
Wight said it is time voters to stop electing professional politicians and send individuals more representative of their constituents.
"If we are going to change the direction of our country, we have to send somebody from the streets to Washington and say "OK guys, there are solutions. They're not that hard,'" he said. "All we have to do is break out the mold, quit thinking like career politicians, quit protecting your paycheck and start working for the people -- quit giving lip service to working for the people and actually start working on solutions for the problems this country has."
Woodall believes he has done just that.
"I said on day one when I ran for Congress that I thought we needed to restore the belief that the American citizen is the boss and that Washington works for them," he said.
Woodall said he has accomplished a lot and believes his constituents feel they have more access to Congress than they did before he was elected.
"That work is not done," he said. "This is not about politicians, this is absolutely about public service and I want to provide that service so this district has an opportunity to lead in Washington."
His first priority, if re-elected, would be to work with what he is confident will be a Republican-controlled Senate to begin making legislative progress.
"Priority one is going to be beginning to put bills on the president's desk that make a difference for families here at home," he said.
One of those bills, he said, is the Hire More Heroes Act which would waive requirements of the Affordable Care Act for employers who hire veterans already covered by government-provided insurance. Though the bill passed in the House of Representatives with near unanimous support, it has yet to make it through the Senate.
"I want that on the president's desk in January," he said.
Woodall said that bill is one of approximately 200 that have passed the House with overwhelming support, but have not made it to the president's desk -- something he blames on the Democratic-controlled Senate.
While Woodall's first priority would be to get bills enacted, Wight's first priority would be to repeal a piece of legislation -- the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.
"Employment at will is the very antithesis of the free market and it has destroyed the American middle class," Wight said.
According to Wight, the Taft-Hartley Act places all the power in the hands of employers instead of giving employers and employees equal bargaining power.
"Employment then becomes a contract of adhesion," he said. "When you have a contract of adhesion two things happen. One, you have monopolistic, meaning tyrannical, tendencies on the part of the person or entity who has all the power. Second of all, you have that entity doing everything they can to maximize profit and minimize costs. What's the cost they're minimizing? Wages."
Wight believes the repeal of Taft-Hartley would re-energize labor unions, give employees real bargaining power, lead to the reduction of costly workplace regulations and, he added, get the government out of business and allow the market to work efficiently.
Other key issues for Wight include the economy, energy independence and environmental responsibility.
"Protecting the environment is actually easy, cost-effective and it makes a lot of sense when you do it the right way," he said.
Woodall also identified the economy as a top concern for his constituents along with national security and the impact of the Affordable Care Act.
"We don't need to ruin health care for 300 million Americans in order to solve healthcare for 30 [million] and that is on the mind of people that I talk to," he said.
Being a representative who is known for addressing the issues that are important to his constituents is important to Woodall and, if given another chance to serve, he hopes that is how he will be remembered.
"I want people to remember that they were the boss," he said. "I want them to believe that they were the boss. The leadership role in Congress is to be a leader in Washington and a servant back home. This country only works if individual voters believe the government works for them instead of the other way around. I try every day to fulfill that promise for folks here at home. I hope when I leave folks will say I succeeded."
Wight hopes constituents will remember him as a job creator.
"I want to be remembered as the guy who brings manufacturing back, as the guy who made it possible for the American middle class to come back," he added. "I want to be the guy people point out and say "This is the jobs guy'."
The 7th Congressional District includes portions of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.