Carter Kessler is the Republican candidate for Georgia State House District 118. He brings a post-partisan philosophy and a straightforward demeanor to the race that would appeal to independent voters in the state. In many ways, Carter Kessler looks to change Georgia politics.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Carter moved to Athens, Georgia in 1999 to attend the University of Georgia where he majored in Economics. Drawing from what he describes as a "good upbringing", Kessler says his typical childhood as a Protestant southerner makes him particularly qualified for the job. Noting lessons he learned in his youth, Carter aims to illustrate that he understands and truly relates to the people of Georgia's 118th district.
When asked what he learned early in life that he'll take with him to Atlanta, he replied:
"Tone. Always be pleasant and be polite. Listen and focus on others, more than you talk. Tone is vital. I can utilize this while building coalitions in office to achieve our goals. [Be] Gracious."
It's this cordial and broad approach to politics that gives Carter and his campaign confidence they'll be victorious come November 6. As the number of independent voters continues to rise, candidates with Kessler's approach of principled pragmatism as opposed to partisanship may prove to have the upper hand.
After leaving college, Carter began a career as an entrepreneur by joining his friend in starting a custom sign business with $50,000. Then, in 2007, he created the website, www.listingtank.com. The site was designed for lease procurement and he still owns it today. Kessler commented on his business experience:
I learned the importance of telling people the hard truths. Be honest. Business taught me to have a type of candor that people respond to. The establishment is aware of my commitment to being forthright, and my opponent knows it as well. I’m not interested in being a typical Republican. I want to serve my community, the same way I served my customers.
It was this devotion to integrity and accountability that fostered his involvement in politics to begin with, says Kessler:
I’ve always been interested in politics. I remember being raised a Republican. In 2007, I discovered Congressman Ron Paul and I’ve been immersed in politics since. Through Ron Paul, I’ve become aware how far off course the Republican Party has become. I learned that we can’t depend on the establishment to give up their power; we must be engaged in the political process to protect our liberties and property.
Inspired by the Texas congressman, the Kentucky native wasted no time in joining the cause to reform the Republican party, founding the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at UGA in 2009. He became Georgia's state director for the organization in 2011. This followed a stint as a volunteer for Rand Paul's successful senatorial campaign in 2010. Carter's been active in the Georgia GOP for the past four years, attending monthly meetings in Clarke County, as well as serving as a delegate and one of several grassroots coordinators in Georgia's 10th district for the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign.
I experienced it firsthand, during the Ron Paul 2012 campaign and in general. My generation’s major war is domestic, it’s intellectual. We have to join the fight to bring about limited constitutional government in this country. Principles are more important than party loyalty.
Kessler hopes to persuade voters that his conviction to not merely toe the party line is what gives him a truly unique perspective in this race and differentiates him from his Democratic opponent Spencer Frye. Kessler had this to say about Mr. Frye:
My opponent is simply a partisan. Similar to the establishment Republicans, he’s content with simply reminding voters that he’s a Democrat, rather than addressing the issues our communities are facing. I support sound money, and giving localities the ability to govern themselves.
I believe in local government. I believe true conservatives and classical liberals would agree with that. Freedom comes with responsibility. I resent the authoritarian nanny-state that we live under today. I believe local governments should provide social benefits to the people, but localities have been relegated to simple enforcers for edicts that come down from on high... ...all legislation should be aimed at improving quality of life and enabling upward mobility for everyone. My first goal is do right by my constituents and to protect their freedom to choose their own path and shape their own future.
However, the first-time candidate does not merely confine himself to only discussing Republican hot button issues. Though a staunch advocate for sweeping ethics reform, fiscal responsibility, market-driven job creation, and the Second Amendment, he's also come out strongly on issues that should resonate with voters in a heavily Democratic district. Urging the people of Athens to hold the local justice system accountable, Kessler's pushing to end minimum sentencing and to "stop clogging our jails and prisons with non-violent offenders."
When asked what were the most important issues facing the Athens-Clarke County community, Kessler responded, "As a state representative, I want to be a successful advocate for our district to bring industry and opportunities to the Athens area so as to induce economic prosperity." He stressed the importance of providing sound education for the children of Georgia's 118th district:
Our public schools are in the minds of the people in Athens. I want the state to be held accountable to meet their obligations in providing the best education possible for the people of my district. I want to see our state fund these schools properly and allow local school boards the ability to implement their own policies to better the education of every student. I also champion homeschooling and private schools and will work diligently to prevent bad legislation from hampering these schools.
With the success of his campaign in the Republican primary and positive feedback from local voters, Kessler feels confident his issues-based, non-partisan approach is working. If so, it may be an indicator of a growing tide across the US as voters abandon party lines for more consistent and independent candidates.