This is one of five profiles of Republican candidates for Georgia governor. In each, the AJT seeks the candidate’s views on issues of particular interest to the Jewish community. See links to the other four profiles, as well as our dual profile of the two women seeking the Democratic nomination, below.
Michael Williams owned 18 barbershops until government regulations such as those under the Affordable Care Act drove him to sell his business.
One result was his move into politics.
The small-business owner, accountant and father of four with wife Virginia said the growth of government regulations spurred him to run and defeat the incumbent for a seat in the Senate by a 2-to-1 margin in 2014. But Williams said he didn’t know the challenges that awaited him.
“I was a bit naïve, and thought I could actually make a difference, but I realized that lobbyists, special interest groups and big corporations controlled our state,” he said.
The insight was one reason Williams became the first public official to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2015. “I knew he wasn’t bought and paid for by those same groups.”
Williams is the only gubernatorial candidate funding his own campaign and using donations only to fill the gaps. He said, “People like our message and want someone that isn’t going to be beholden to special interest groups but can actually support them.”
Among his many frustrations are candidates who say one thing but do another.
“You might not always agree with what I say, but I am consistent and genuine,” he said.
He wants to eliminate the state income tax, which he said he can accomplish by expanding offshore drilling and growing hemp.
Read about the other leading Republicans in the governor’s race:
Williams said he recently attended a blockchain cryptocurrency seminar for investors who find different things to finance in the state. “This is going to have a huge impact on the fintech industry, and, coupled with blockchain, we could become the world leader.”
He said that eliminating the state income tax would enable the state to get rid of waste in the government. “Our budget has gone from $15 billion to over $26 billion in the past eight years, which is a 76 percent increase. Yet we haven’t seen a 76 percent increase in government services, our education or traffic, and it’s because we are wasting money, which I would like to reduce.”
Williams is an adamant supporter of the Second Amendment and held a giveaway for a bump stock in protest of calls after the Las Vegas massacre to ban the devices.
“It’s the Second Amendment that protects all of our rights, not just from foreign invasion, but from our own government,” Williams said. “We can see it in the media and a lot of discussions that the right is being attacked and infringed upon, but people have a right to keep and bear arms, which we do not need to give up.”
Williams is a co-signer of the constitutional carry bill.
The most important factor leading to a child’s success in education is the involvement of a parent, Williams said, which is why he carried House Bill 217 to the Senate floor and supports an increase in the cap on the tax credit for donations funding private school scholarships from $58 million to $100 million.
“We need to empower parents to make the decisions they need,” Williams said. “Whether it is a private or a public school or an educational savings account that can be used to help pay for tutoring, parents need to be in charge.”
Williams also said the state should get rid of the common core curriculum.
He considers himself religious and believes that America’s foundation was built on Judeo-Christian values, which are being attacked by the left and the media, he said.
“I have been the most vocal candidate trying to protect our religious freedoms we have,” he said. “Our Constitution gives us the right to freely exercise our religion not just in our homes, in our churches or in our synagogues, but in the public square. But that is being taken from us.”
Williams co-sponsored religious liberty legislation that passed in 2016 but was vetoed by Gov. Nathan Deal, and he sponsored religious freedom legislation this year.
“We have organizations that are coming from all over into our state which are filing lawsuits and attacking our schools by trying to eliminate our ability to freely exercise our religion, and we have to fight back or else we are at risk of losing it,” he said.
Williams considers all crimes to be hate crimes, and if someone physically harms another or steals property, that culprit should be punished to the highest level of the law. “We should have parities when it comes to breaking the law, but one of the things I’ve noticed is that people try to fragment us and impose identity politics,” Williams said. “Of course I don’t support any form of hate crime, but I don’t want to further fragment our society. We are all Americans. We all need to be seen as Americans and support each other, and if somebody breaks the law, they need to be held accountable to the fullest extent.”
Like the other Republican gubernatorial candidates, Williams supports strengthening the relationship between Israel and Georgia and hopes to build on Deal’s 2014 trade mission to Israel. “I think it’s important to have those direct investments in Georgia and to be able to partner with Israel to create strategic alliances that will help strengthen our economies.”
As a result, Williams supports the 2016 Georgia law that bans the state from doing business with any contractor that boycotts Israel for political reasons. He said, “If countries or entities boycott Israel, then we need to boycott them.”
More on the governor’s race: