Text as prepared of Jim Barksdale’s post-primary victory speech as prepared that was delivered at the IBEW Local 613 headquarters in Atlanta on May 26.
Thank you Chairman, and thanks for everyone being here and to everyone across Georgia, from Savannah to Albany to Augusta to Columbus that helped me earn this nomination.
I certainly want to also congratulate Cheryl Copeland on a fantastic run, she like me was unknown before this began. She worked very hard, ran a great campaign, and put up a very good race. I really want to congratulate her, and I look forward to working with her.
Since I’m new on the political scene, I want to tell you a little bit about me, and a little about what kind of Senator you could expect that I would be.
I am a 6th Generation Georgian, my family is from middle Georgia, I’m a product of the Atlanta public school system. I started out cutting grass when I was 8 years old. By the time I was 11, I was delivering the Atlanta Journal Constitution for 2 cents a throw. Before I could drive I was working at a gas station changing oil pans and gasket covers, and pumping gas. I worked all through high school, and saved my money. When I was heading off to college, my father lost a tremendous amount of our money that he had saved for my education, and so my savings from all that work over the high school years was crucial to my being able to go to college.
When I came out of business school, I worked hard again and saved hard. My dream was to start a business and in 1986, I returned to Atlanta and started one from a room in my house.
We’ve become very successful, and are known in the business world across the country as being a firm that has been willing to stand against Wall Street to protect clients. Knowing what it was like when my father lost much of my money for college, I didn’t want my clients to lose their money. And so that’s part of where my message of standing against the crowd comes from. We’ve grown because I learned very importantly and authentically that if you don’t invest in good people, and if you don’t hire good people you can’t grow.
I believe in working hard, I believe in being careful with money, I believe in doing what I need to do, even if it isn’t popular, to protect people, and I believe in investing in people to be able to grow. That’s the kind of Senator I would be.
I’m running because I’ve seen the policies of the country that have been put forward particularly by the Republican Party, have been failing. And frankly, Senator Isakson has supported them.
What’s been happening with incomes? We’ve seen median household incomes in this country, since Senator Isakson went to Washington fall by almost 10%. Why? I think there are two primary factors. First of all, the deregulation of the financial markets, that was supported by Senator Isakson, led the economy right off the cliff. These policies were done at the behest of Wall Street. They thought if they just didn’t have any regulatory chains on them, they would be able to grow. But they took the economy off the cliff! And there’s millions of Americans and Georgians who still have not recovered from the terrible crisis that brought upon us.
As a business person, I’m well aware of the concerns that business people have, that government can impede commerce through meddling, but I have no respect for corporations that rob from the public good for private interests. That happened with financial deregulation, and its happened with our bad foreign trade deals – the second reason I think incomes are down.
Why? Because the bad foreign trade deals have been used as a hammer against fair labor, and against incomes. They’ve been used to off shore jobs and have our workers compete with a dollar an hour labor and this has depressed our wages. If the trickle-down economic policies we’ve been sold were so great for everyone, incomes wouldn’t be falling. You cannot build a healthy economy on declining wages. We need to see that increasing incomes is necessary for business growth. We need to increase jobs and wages to grow.
Secondly, as a conservative person that is tight with money, I’m alarmed with what’s happened to our nation’s debt. When Senator Isakson went to Washington, we were running budget surpluses, and since he’s been there, our debt has risen by more than $12 trillion! Why?
The Great Recession hurt a lot of Georgians and there was a lot to do to encourage a recovery, but trillions of dollars on an unnecessary war of choice in Iraq – that has not left us more safe – was not a conservative or prudent action. I opposed that war.
We need to grow but we don’t need to do what we hear as the remedy of the Republican Party for this debt problem. They don’t want to deal with the wasteful spending. They don’t want to take responsibility for their involvement in taking the economy off the cliff that cost us trillions. They want us to forget about the fact that we were led into a war in Iraq that cost us trillions and made us less safe.
Instead they want us to try to balance the budget, on the backs of seniors by privatizing Social Security and turning Medicare into a voucher program. We can’t do that. My father lost what he saved to send me to college because of what Wall Street sold him. My 94-year-old mother would not be able to deal with losing all of her retirement savings today.
We cannot let our seniors be the victims of what has been happening in Washington. We need policies that are going to lead us to growth.
And let me add this, you cannot claim you are a conservative when you vote for policies that cost Americans trillions, run up our debt, and then run ads crowing about never voting for a tax increase. That is reckless; its irresponsible. I don’t want to increase taxes either, but I’m tired of policies that run up our debt and then try to take it from seniors or people who can’t find jobs.
I’ve seen the importance of investing in people for growth. And what I’ve seen around the country is just the opposite. We need better infrastructure, we need to make sure our rural hospitals are not closing and we need to make sure our education is affordable. We need to end “pay day loan” rates to students. It’s terrible what we’re doing to them as they enter the workforce and start their lives. If we don’t invest in growth, debt run up by economic and war calamities becomes a bigger problem. I want to see policies that lead to growth.
And the last reason I am running is that I have been troubled by the building of new walls of discrimination and hate. We need to be tearing those walls down. We’ve seen that in Republican presidential debates, where immigrants are demonized, Muslims are demonized, and it isn’t American. It’s ugly, and we need to turn that around. We see it beyond just the debates that we saw on TV. I think we see it in Ferguson with Michael Brown, we see it with Tamir Rice, we see it with Eric Garner. These types of fears that we have on our streets are part of the outcome of the increasing level of hate and discrimination in our country. And finally, we see it in the mass incarceration rates, African Americans are five to seven times more likely to be put in jail for the same crimes as white people, and that’s wrong! I believe we also see that same type of hate and discrimination in the constant demonization of our President, the opposition of his policies, and the refusal to carry out the constitutional duty to have a hearing for the supreme court.
It’s up to all of us to bring America back to its highest ideals.
I’m looking forward to traveling all across the State. I’m looking forward to working with the Democrats, I’m looking forward to working with Republicans, and I’m looking forward to working with the independents, because I think we all share the same objectives for an America that matches the temple of our dreams for this country. And we can’t grow if people don’t have hope that that dream is within their grasp, and that’s what this candidacy and this election is about.