Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff stopped in at the Jewish War Veterans meeting on the morning of May 21, each speaking about their stances on defense and veterans issues as they continue their way toward the June 20 runoff election for the 6th Congressional District seat.
The meeting was not open to the general public, but members of the media were invited. The candidates also did not appear together. Rather, the format allowed Handel to speak first for about a half-hour and after she left the building Ossoff came in and made his pitch to the group, also speaking for about a half hour.
Each candidate spoke for nearly 20 minutes before they answered questions asked by Robert Max of the Jewish War Vets. Max read the questions from index cards filled out by attendees before the presentations; the questions were also limited to just defense and veterans issues.
Handel, 55, read from a prepared speech and shared some of her personal story as a way to show how she handles battles. She said her sister, who is nine years younger than her, was born with serious health issues and not expected to live. Her sister, however, is alive today, Handel said, thanks to prayers and skilled surgeons and “is one of the most amazing people I know.”
But as a teen, the emotional and financial stress of her sister’s health concerns took a toll on her family, especially her mother, Handel said. The strain eventually “literally broke” her mother, she said.
At 17 and a senior in high school, Handel said she was forced to make tough decisions and rather than pursue high school extracurricular activities she worked two part-time jobs. She also left home, she said, and was completely on her own when she was still shy of her 18th birthday.
“When things went from bad to worse, I left home for good,” Handel said. “And here I was completely on my own. … But I’ve never been a person to give up.”
Handel said she was able to graduate high school with her classmates and started her career as a clerical typist for the AARP.
“The point here is … I never gave up,” she said. “I never gave up. I kept fighting. My perseverance and my tenacity that have been a driving force in my life will drive me on your behalf” if elected to Congress.
Handel cited her past work as chair of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, the chair of the Fulton County Commission and as secretary of state as giving her the experience needed in Congress.
She went after the Affordable Care Act, said it was “collapsing” and praised the House Republican’s recently passed bill to repeal it. She acknowledged the House bill was “not perfect” but part of a process and was better than letting the system collapse. She also promised to work on simplifying the tax code and “job killing regulations.”
When it comes to national defense, Handel said she would vote in favor of the Taylor Force Act, a bill that would stop the U.S. from funding the Palestinian government if it continues to pay salaries and benefits to families of those who kills Americans and Jews in Israel.
She also denounced President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, calling it “unconscionable” and a failure to stand with U.S. ally Israel.
In Ossoff’s comments, he said the country needs “fresh leadership” in Congress because the tone of today’s leadership is “dangerous and divisive.”
Ossoff, 30, noted that both his grandfathers – one in Australia and the other in the U.S. – fought in World War II and their dedication to public service was something he aspired to as well.
“That tradition of service in my family is something I’m proud of and something I seek to live up to in my life,” Ossoff said.
“That commitment to public good … is inspiring … and I think both my grandfathers would be disgusted by the tone in politics today,” he said.
In addressing national defense, Ossoff said it is important to not forget the millions of lives at stake in armed conflict.
“There is a real human consequence here. It is not a game,” he said. “Career politicians forget we are talking about real human lives.”
He called ISIS a “reprehensible organization” and said only its complete destruction is acceptable. Ossoff said he would support air power and limited special operations in defeating ISIS. He also said he would oppose any proposal to increase the deployment of ground troops into the Middle East.
Ossoff expressed his strong support of NATO and called for a complete and transparent investigation into Russian interference in the American election, saying the issue was “above partisanship.”
He also called for redoubling the U.S. commitment to Israel and work to ensure Israel has a military edge against multiple hostile states such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
When asked about his support of Obama’s Iran deal, Ossoff said the purpose of the agreement is to restrict uranium enrichment by Iran.
“The monitoring of compliance should be strict and uncompromising. If Iran violates [the agreement], sanctions should snap back immediately that truly punishes Iran’s economy,” he said.
Handel declined to participate in a Dunwoody Homeowners Association candidate forum on May 21, but a spokesperson for her campaign said she was able to make the Jewish War Vets meeting because it was held at a time that did not conflict with other scheduled events.