Bob Gray acknowledges that it sounds hokey, but in running for Congress from the 6th District, he’s on a mission from G-d.
That mission is to save the American dream amid protests, violence and the effects of illegal immigration, all of which have swung the nation’s pendulum too far left, he said. “It’s not a country I recognize anymore.”
Gray, a longtime executive in the technology field, doesn’t have divine visions. But a few years ago the book “Halftime” by Bob Buford led him to ponder his purpose and his legacy. He worked on a personal mission statement that led him to the conclusion that G-d wanted him to step onto the field of political battle.
He won a seat on the Johns Creek City Council in July 2014, knowing that it was the start of a journey but not knowing where the path led. “I didn’t know this opportunity would present itself, but you have to recognize when G-d opens and closes doors and try to step through.”
The timing is right for the Maine native, who grew up in Buffalo, because his oldest daughter graduated from the University of Georgia last year, and his three other children are in college and, as he put it, “transitioning off the payroll.”
As required by state law, the Republican resigned from the City Council in February to join 17 others on the April 18 ballot in the special election for Tom Price’s former House seat.
As much as any other candidate, Gray has aligned himself closely with President Donald Trump. That’s not to say Gray wants to go to Washington just to support Trump; instead, he expects the interests of the district to sync with the policies of the president.
He said Trump made 22 promises in his speech to a joint session of Congress, and Gray agreed with all of them. Part of the reason, he said, is that both are businessmen. People in business are interested in results, whereas the lawyers who often become career politicians are interested in the debate.
That bickering in Washington creates a climate in which, “once you put the jersey on, immediately the other side doesn’t want to talk to you,” Gray said. “We’ve got to get past that.”
Gray said Trump is the kind of disruptor Washington needs to make the dramatic changes that will produce a budget surplus to pay down the inconceivably large debt by growing the economy and cutting in areas such as welfare and the Education Department.
Gray has a vision for the next era of the U.S. economy, driven by innovation in such areas as artificial intelligence, data analytics, robotics and the Internet of Things. The productivity gains will be impressive, he said, but they will require a workforce with different skills. That means changing education now to get ahead of the disruptions.
We need to emphasize options beyond four-year colleges after high school, he said, citing an eight-week coding boot camp that all but guarantees a job starting at $50,000 a year or more. Gray also advocates school choice and would be happy to see the Education Department abolished, with the money going to states and local school districts.
In health care, the problem is that costs are too high, Gray said. He wants to apply free-market principles to increase competition and thus expand choices, lower prices and increase quality.
Part of the solution, he said, is for people to recognize that health insurance, like auto insurance, should be used to mitigate the risk of something bad happening. It shouldn’t apply to standard maintenance (oil changes and tune-ups for cars, checkups and standard screenings for people).
Gray said he would have unhappily voted for the failed Republican legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act because, as Ronald Reagan said, 80 percent of something is better than 100 percent of nothing. But Gray blames House Speaker Paul Ryan for failing to do his job with the initial bill.
Perhaps proving that Gray is an optimist, he said he is confident Congress will resolve health care before he takes office, allowing him to focus instead on economic issues. He wants to cute corporate income taxes from 35 percent to as close to zero as possible and replace the individual income tax with a national consumption (or sales) tax. He also proposes deregulation of the health care, financial services and energy industries to spur job growth, but in an environmentally responsible way.
“The last thing I want to see is a spoiled environment,” said Gray, who called himself an outdoorsman who likes to hunt, hike and ski.
He and his wife, high school sweetheart Susanne, had a special outdoor experience in Israel in the late 1990s: They baptized each other in the Jordan River during a tour of the country.
“The U.S. and Israel are rock-solid global partners,” Gray said. “Together we stand against terrorism and more traditional enemies.”