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Democrat Mounts Challenge in Heavily Republican Congressional District

Democratic nominee Devin Pandy.

Devin Pandy, the Democratic candidate running to represent Georgia’s 9th Congressional District, has never held or made a bid for public office until now. After serving in the U.S. Army for more than 20 years, Pandy says he felt a “necessity for great leaders to step up,” prompting him to enter the race, as he “could not sit back any longer and watch as the things me and my comrades fought for were not coming to fruition.”

Athens-Clarke County voters reside in either the 9th or 10th Congressional District, and voters in both districts will choose who will represent them for the next two years come November. In the 9th, Pandy is running against Republican candidate Andrew Clyde, owner of Clyde Armory on Atlanta Highway, for a seat Rep. Doug Collins left to run for Senate. 

In the 10th, Democratic candidate Tabitha Johnson-Green is running against Rep. Jody Hice, a Republican member of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus who has held the seat since 2015 and defeated Johnson-Green in 2018. (Johnson-Green did not respond to Flagpole’s interview requests.)

The 9th District includes part of northern Athens-Clarke County and runs through the Northeast Georgia mountains. The 10th District includes most of Athens-Clarke and the surrounding counties and goes south to the Milledgeville area. Both districts are overwhelmingly Republican. In 2018, Hice won 63% of the vote, while Johnson-Green received only 37%, and Collins defeated Democratic challenger Josh McCall 80% to 20%. 

In order to win, Pandy and Johnson-Green will likely need to look beyond Democratic pockets in their districts, appealing to longtime Republican voters who probably haven’t voted for a Democrat since the 1990s. “When I become Congressman Pandy, I will not only be representing those who voted for me. I will be representing those who did not vote for me as well, and I will represent them just as strongly and as passionately as I do everyone else,” Pandy says. “I prescribe to Democratic values, but I am my own person, have my own ideas, and I genuinely care about people. The only thing that matters to me is they are afforded the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Considering himself a “bipartisan Democrat,” Pandy says he plans to reach across the party aisle, vowing to support a Republican piece of legislation if it helps his district and to oppose a Democratic piece of legislation if it hurts his district. But with the increasing level of political polarization, Pandy says it’s tough convincing voters to look beyond party affiliation and consider how his issue-agenda could benefit them.

“I plead with every voter out there to disregard party affiliation and look at the policy issues and see whose policies will actually benefit you and your family,” Pandy says. “I feel confident in saying that if the comparisons are put side-by-side, take out the party affiliation, and any person who wants a strong nation that is actually taking care of their citizens will see that my policies are set to do just that.”

Both Pandy and Clyde served in the U.S. military. With a variety of different life experiences under his belt, Pandy says he believes his roles in the U.S. Army helped him build character and leadership skills. After serving in the military, Pandy has spent time in 17 countries and worked as an actor, all of which he said helped him “gain an appreciation for humanity” and learn how to empathize with others.

If elected, Pandy plans to tackle climate change, cut tariffs, improve access to affordable health care, help homeless veterans and implement further protections for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like Pandy, Clyde hopes to take care of veterans, and he’s also focused on protecting the Second Amendment, strengthening anti-abortion laws, lowering taxes, abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency and “building the wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border. Unlike Pandy, Clyde has said he doesn’t believe in man-made climate change, because he believes the climate changes every four seasons.

It’s not surprising that one of Clyde’s key priorities is to uphold the Second Amendment, considering he’s the owner of a firearms store. As a gun owner himself, Pandy says he took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1993, and he also supports the Second Amendment. “I believe, like every other amendment and as explicitly stated in the Second Amendment, it must be well regulated. Right now, it is not,” he says. “I don’t want anyone taking my guns. I don’t want to take anyone else’s guns. We must have regulations, just as we have with everything else. You are not authorized to operate a motor vehicle without being licensed. I do not see why we cannot also implement those things for deadly weaponry.”

Another of Clyde’s major issues is the IRS. After the agency seized $940,000 from him in 2013, he worked with then-Congressman Paul Broun on a law, the Clyde-Hirsh-Sowers Act, to reform asset-forfeiture. Clyde now wants to abolish the IRS and replace income taxes with a flat sales tax. Clyde also sued the Athens-Clarke County government seeking to overturn its April shelter-in-place order. A federal judge quickly dismissed the lawsuit, but ACC declared gun stores to be an “essential business” that could stay open.

Advance voting is underway and will continue through Friday, Oct. 30. Voters can also request a mail-in absentee ballot at Election Day is Nov. 3.