ATLANTA – The two Democrats competing in the runoff for labor commissioner found little to disagree on during their Atlanta Press Club debate on Monday.
William “Will” Boddie, Jr. and Nicole Horn both touted their pro-worker policies and plans to revamp the state Department of Labor, which ran into serious problems delivering unemployment benefits to Georgians during the pandemic.
“I have a plan. I’m going in as the next labor commissioner with a mantra of people, processes, and technology,” said Horn, a businesswoman. She noted that only 4% of phone calls at the Department of Labor are answered.
Horn also said that she would appoint a chief diversity officer at the agency.
Boddie, a lawyer and state representative from East Point, said he would lobby the General Assembly for increased funds so that the agency could hire more workers, modernize technology, and set up a managerial training track to promote from within.
Boddie noted that some Georgians have been waiting on unemployment insurance payments for as long as two years and that there is currently a Southern Poverty Law Center-led lawsuit pending on the issue.
“I would create a task force within the Department of Labor, with staff from all over the department to go through the cases in claims,” said Boddie.
Both candidates said they fought against Georgia’s decision last June to end expanded pandemic unemployment benefits three months earlier than the federal government required.
Horn said she slept outside of the department to protest that decision and that the early cut-off had hurt Georgia’s workers and economy.
Boddie said he was part of a task force at the Georgia House of Representatives that advocated against the decision.
Both candidates also emphasized their pro-family stances.
Boddie said he would push the General Assembly to expand the parental leave it passed for teachers and state employees to all working parents and encourage tax incentives for businesses to provide child care.
Horn said she would push the General Assembly to invest in child care for working parents and collaborate with unions, businesses, and colleges to create more apprenticeship programs in Georgia.
Horn also emphasized her past work with a business that helped universities build programs for adult students so they could get better jobs and her experience as a working mother as qualifications for the commissioner role.
As evidence of his legislative success, Boddie pointed to two bills he co-sponsored in the most recent General Assembly session: HB 1390, which reformed Georgia sexual harassment law for government employees, and HB 1391, which raised pay for Georgia public defenders.
Both candidates also said they would focus on helping formerly incarcerated people reenter the economy and protecting gig workers.
“I will make sure Georgia leads the way in creating unemployment insurance for gig workers,” Horn promised.
“I’m going to open the doors with the Department of Labor,” said Boddie. “I’m going to create a call center so you can have a live human being on the phone when you call.”
In the May primary, Boddie pulled 184,446, or 27.7% of the vote, while Horn earned 167,442, or 25.1%, of the vote.
The runoff will be held on June 21. The winner will face Republican Bruce Thompson in November.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.