For Andrew Ferguson, the issue of gun violence is personal. He realized “people have way too much access to guns” after a family friend took his own life after a battle with alcohol addiction.
This event influenced Ferguson to address gun violence in his campaign for a U.S. House seat in Georgia’s 10th District.
Ferguson, the son of a Gwinnett County commissioner and a public school teacher, says public service is in his blood.
“Our best public servants don’t run for fame or personal profit. They run because they genuinely want to serve their communities," Ferguson said. "That’s what I want to do."
He cites his dismay at the 2016 presidential election as the reason he got into politics, which led to him working on Chalis Montgomery’s 10th District congressional campaign in 2018. Though Montgomery lost in the Democratic primary, her platform of “bringing jobs, health care, hope to the areas and people that needed it the most,” inspired Ferguson to run for Congress.
Ferguson said his campaign travelled to 17 of 25 counties in District 10 before Georgia’s shelter-in-place order took effect. Since then, his campaign has used phone calls, emails and Zoom video conferences to reach all 25 counties. He stated this desire to hear from people across the district sets him apart from his fellow candidates.
Ferguson criticized current District 10 representative Jody Hice’s inaction in the face of the pandemic, saying the Ferguson campaign has been doing his job when he would not.
“[District 10 citizens] feel like they have no one at the federal level fighting for them or their families,” Ferguson said. “This crisis has further accentuated what happens when we have the wrong people at positions of leadership.”
‘Georgia Can’t Wait’
Ferguson said his slogan, “Georgia Can’t Wait,” is a call to action.
“Our campaign feels a sense of urgency. We don’t think we can wait on health care. We can’t wait on criminal justice reform. We can’t wait on the environment,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said the current pandemic is bringing existing systematic inequalities to light. The Democratic candidate is focused on issues such as health care and education inequality, both of which have been exacerbated by growing financial and health care instability due to COVID-19, he said.
He plans to support a universal health care system, noting that minority communities often don’t get the care they need. In order to fund an expanded Medicare system and other social programs, Ferguson supports a 2% wealth tax on people with incomes of $50 million or more.
Ferguson also aims to address gun violence by ending gun show loopholes, raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21 and expanding background checks. He said these proposals have bipartisan support across the country.
He is against a complete ban on firearms because there are responsible gun owners, citing his stepfather as an example.
The murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd brought the issue of gun violence and police violence to the forefront of national discussion, pointing out that elected leadership is failing to protect the most vulnerable, said Ferguson.
Ferguson also called the criminal justice system “fundamentally racist.” Living in Athens, Ferguson said he began to see the disparity between black and white citizens’ treatment in the criminal justice system.
“In Athens and around the county, you’ve got a COVID-19 crisis that disproportionately affects the black community, and you’ve got a criminal justice system that is steeped in institutional racism,” Ferguson said. “No one is looking out for them at the federal level.”
Ferguson said he supports the Athens protests against police violence, including the Saturday protest organized by the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement.
Ferguson said that every institution is designed for white people at the expense of people of color. In order to change this, he encouraged people to protest and vote for change on the federal level and elevate black voices.
If elected, Ferguson plans to address police violence by ending for-profit prisons, cash bail and qualified immunity for police officers.
North Carolina attorney Ryan Lockamy said he wasn’t surprised at all when Ferguson announced his intentions to run for Congress. Lockamy grew up in Athens and first met Ferguson when both were working at the University of Georgia Golf Course around 1999. Many of their conversations centered around politics and the state of the country.
“He is a really hardworking, focused person,” Lockamy said. “His focus and his intensity and his core value system is really genuine.”
Reaching the right
Ferguson said he realizes that District 10 has been a historically Republican district, and notes that his campaign hopes to cross the aisle.
Ferguson said he does not villainize the Republican party as his late father, mother and stepfather are Republicans. He makes a distinction between Republicans and Republican elected officials, saying that Republican citizens face the same issues as Democrats.
Ferguson calls his campaign a “top-down” campaign, not a “left-right one.” He said that both parties are tired of corporations and “good ole boys” profiting off of their hard work. He said he wants hardworking people writing the laws.
He quotes former President Barack Obama, noting that there is more that unites Republicans and Democrats than divides them.
“Folks on the left and the right want good education for their children. They want affordable health care," Ferguson said. "They want their votes to count."