I have a special affinity for underdogs. Maybe that’s because I have been one myself. So my interest was piqued when I heard that a political novice from Baxley (pop. 4,400) by the name of Dr. Kandiss Taylor is running for the United States Senate seat vacated by Johnny Isakson.
Taylor, who has a Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision from Regent University in Virginia, is student services coordinator for the Appling County Board of Education and a former third grade teacher. She is married to an educator and is the mother of three children.
Giving that she will be competing with Gov. Brian Kemp’s appointee, gazillionaire Kelly Loeffler, as well as Georgia Congressman Doug Collins, Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, the Rev. Ralph Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church; Ed Lieberman, son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, and former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver, among others, I would say Dr. Kandiss Taylor definitely qualifies as an underdog.
So, why is she doing it? “I have always had a great interest in government,” she said, “I thought about maybe running for a state office, but I could not afford to do that because I have to work full time.” Georgia legislators earn just a tad over $17,000 annually, not counting free meals from lizard-loafered lobbyists.
Dr. Taylor said a seminal moment occurred when Dr. Ben Carson, a one-time presidential candidate and currently Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Trump Administration, spoke at Regent University. “He urged us to get involved, not to sit around and take for granted that someone else will do the job for us,” she remembers. “To me, it was like a calling.”
This past summer, she found herself in Washington with her family. While at the Capitol, she turned to her husband, Ryan, and said, “I want to be a U.S. senator.” His advice? “Do it.” Thus, when word came that senior Sen. Johnny Isakson was retiring for health reasons, a campaign was born.
“I looked at the major candidates,” she says. “Gov. Kemp’s appointee, Kelly Loeffler, is from Illinois, not Georgia, and owns the stock exchange. She is not one of us.” (Actually, it is her husband who owns it, but you get her point.)
As for Doug Collins, Taylor says, “He is from Gainesville and a lot of powerful politicians come from there. I am a South Georgia girl. I represent the average Georgian. I am not wealthy. I live on a budget. I pay taxes and don’t look for loopholes. Most of all, there are not a lot of young working-class Republicans running for office. I want to change that.”
Dr. Taylor is having difficulty finding out who the real enemy is. “I have voted Republican all my life,” she says, “and, yet, I am not a part of the ‘establishment.’ I am an outsider. I find it hard to get my calls returned and questions answered by the powers-that-be. “When I was in Atlanta qualifying for the race, Fox5 TV showed interest in talking to me about the idea of an outsider running for the Senate but then they suddenly backed out.” She wonders if someone got to the station and put the kibosh on the interview.
As with everything on earth these days, the coronavirus has had an impact on campaigning. “I am using social media at this point,” she says, “and plan to be able to get around the state later and meet my fellow Georgians. They will see then who I am.” She hopes to gain the support of her fellow educators around the state. “I can’t think of anyone better than a middle-class educator raised in Georgia to represent our state,” she asserts.
Her campaign platform is true-red Republican: Pro 2nd Amendment (“I have my pistol with me at all times, unless I am at school.”) Pro-Trump. Pro-life and a major emphasis on helping Georgia’s farmers. “Georgia’s farmers don’t want bailouts. They want to be paid a fair price for their commodity. Cotton prices are so low, the farmers can barely afford to grow it. Seed prices are significantly higher than in other states.” When I reminded her that Secretary of Agriculture George E. Perdue is a Georgian, she shot back, “And what has he done for our farmers?” Good question.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her just how long her long-shot chances are. But Kandiss Taylor wouldn’t believe me, anyway. This is one underdog eager to race the political thoroughbreds.