Alexander Hernandez is used to working behind the scenes on movie sets, but now that he has stepped into the spotlight by running for Congress, the Dunwoody resident is looking for a Hollywood ending.
It’s the Cinderella story of a working-class, religious son of Mexican immigrants who finds himself in the right place at the right time to bring a new, independent voice to Washington.
“There’s an appetite for an independent. That’s what we’re taking advantage of,” Hernandez said.
Born in Illinois, Hernandez grew up in northern Indiana. His father is retired from a steel mill; his mom owns a beauty salon.
After studying political science, Hernandez switched to film school, earned a degree in Florida, and worked in set decoration in Los Angeles, then in Georgia. He said he was planning to get out of the film industry and try labor organizing and politics when he and wife Adea de Carlo and their two dogs moved to Georgia about a year ago, but fell back into set work until Tom Price was nominated for health and human services secretary, opening the 6th District seat in Congress.
Hernandez and his wife intended to move to Decatur, outside the 6th District, but the home they were going to rent wasn’t acceptable. At the last minute, they found a place in Dunwoody, in the middle of Price’s district.
The couple did a lot of praying about whether Hernandez should enter the race.
“Whatever happens, you’ve just got to put your faith in G-d and go from there,” said Hernandez, who called himself a nondenominational Christian for whom faith is crucial.
He also called himself the only true independent among the 18 candidates — Andre Pollard also is running as an independent — and said independence is more important to 6th District voters than resistance to President Donald Trump. The resistance, Hernandez said, is just composed of disappointed Hillary Clinton voters and hasn’t gotten much traction in the Republican-leaning 6th.
“An independent has a better chance than a Democrat in this district,” Hernandez said.
Without party affiliation, he said, he can apply common sense to issues and do what his constituents want instead of worrying about party loyalty.
For example, Hernandez said a simple rule should be applied to the use of the U.S. military: The president shouldn’t send in the troops, ships, bombers or cruise missiles without a formal declaration of war.
He said he’s not a pacifist, but he doesn’t think the United States should be involved in any of its seven current conflicts. He said he doesn’t know why we would want to get entangled in a complicated situation like the Syrian civil war.
“The best way to help in a humanitarian way is to stop bombing folks, stop getting involved in conflicts,” Hernandez said.
The war-declaration rule would force the president to rally popular support for any military action.
It also would save money on the overextended deployment of U.S. troops, he said. The Pentagon then wouldn’t need the significant budget increase proposed by Trump.
The military has a big enough budget, Hernandez said, even though Americans have lived in perpetual fear since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “We’re the United States of America. What are we afraid of?”
He does not support continuing to give Israel more than $3 billion a year in military aid, which he sees as perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially with Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister.
He said it’s up to the Israelis and Palestinians to decide on the future they want, and the United States, which is not seen as an impartial broker, should stay out of the way.
Back home, Hernandez supports an extensive national program of infrastructure projects to invest in people and take care of such priorities as clean water and bridges that don’t collapse. The projects should exist already, and they should not rely on the crony capitalism of tax credits.
He wants to see audacious goals instead of incrementalism. “We have that ambition, that drive to do great things.”
Hernandez is wary of a health care bubble that could cause a bigger crash than the housing bubble a decade ago. He said any health care reform that relies on private insurance in unsustainable. Instead, he’d like to expand a people-operated Medicare to cover everyone.
Despite the bubble talk, Hernandez is an optimist, like a character out of a Capra film.
“We like that no one’s talking about us,” Hernandez said. “Everyone’s focused on the folks with money. But, frankly, you talk to people on the ground, and they want something different.”