Sarah Riggs Amico is running to be Georgia's next lieutenant governor as an evangelical Christian that backs LGBTQ equality and strongly opposes anti-gay "religious freedom" bills. But her support for progressive issues doesn't stop there.
“I know that confuses a lot of people to be a pro-labor, pro-choice, pro-marriage equality, pro-gay rights Christian,” Amico (top photo) told Project Q Atlanta while campaigning in South Georgia recently. “I personally think it’s quite consistent with my beliefs.”
The first-time candidate is executive chair of Jack Cooper, a car-hauling company with 3,000 employees nationwide. Her father Mike Riggs is the company’s CEO.
Endorsements by Georgia Equality and Georgia Stonewall Democrats likely helped her in the primary, and one recent high profile endorsement is sure to help her in the general election. Amico, 39, was one of only four Georgia candidates endorsed recently by former President Barack Obama.
Amico, a Democrat, faces Republican former state Rep. Geoff Duncan, who pulled off an upset win against state Sen. David Shafer in a July runoff. The Cumming-based Duncan supports “religious freedom” legislation. He also voted for House Bill 757, an anti-LGBTQ omnibus bill that Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed in 2016.
Amico leaves no questions about where she stands on anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” bills like HB 757 and legislation that would have allowed faith-based adoption agencies receiving public funds to refuse to serve LGBTQ parents and children. That bill passed in the Senate earlier this year before stalling in the House.
“I think it’s inexcusable. This is not who we are as Americans. It’s not who we are as human beings. And candidly, I think it’s a huge black mark on the Georgia state Senate,” Amico said.
Amico said "religious freedom" bills will hurt churches more than the legislation will help.
“The government will recover from the idiocy of any one era or individual, up to and including the president,” she said. “The church is not so resilient. I think we will pay for a generation.
“I would say to my fellow Christians, it’s time for you guys to get up and do the work too. If you don’t like gay marriage, fine — don’t have one. But, civil rights is a thing that we need to be vocal in protecting,” she added.
'Diverse nations and organizations win'
If she were to beat Duncan in November, Amico would preside over a Senate with a Republican majority, even if Democrats are able to pick up several seats this year. In that role, she’ll be able to set the order of debate on legislation.
“When people send me these discriminatory adoption bills, when people send me this RFRA-style nonsense, when people send anything that institutionalizes discrimination in the state my grandparents, parents, children, sisters, nieces and nephews call home, it’ll go to the back of the queue,” Amico said. “And I will do everything in my power to make sure it never sees the light of day past Crossover Day, so it cannot become law.
“On the other hand, if someone wants to put one of those bills making sure we have appropriate inclusive nondiscrimination laws and hate crime laws, if they want to expand opportunity and they want to reinforce civil and human rights, we’ll make sure that goes right to the top,” she added.
Amico said her experience often being the only woman on a management team or in the boardroom led her to diversify the leadership of her company.
“We’re more profitable, we’re more thoughtful, we’re more responsible to our communities, we’re more responsive to our employees, we’re more strategic in our thinking. That is not a coincidence,” she said.
“Even if somebody isn’t sure that [diversity is] a priority for them, most people prioritize economic opportunity and a path to prosperity. Those things are strengthened by being a more diverse and inclusive ecosystem, whether that’s your citizenry, your government or your company. Diverse nations and organizations win,” she added.
When asked where her support for LGBTQ rights originates, she referenced former President Jimmy Carter’s quote about America not being a melting pot but instead a “beautiful mosaic.”
“The whole point was each individual tile, each individual element brings its character, its vibrancy, its best traits to the table to make the country stronger,” she said. “For anybody to believe that the LGBTQ community isn’t a part of that beautiful mosaic at this point in our history, they’ve just missed the point on what it is that makes this country great.”
Both Amico and Duncan are burning through cash. Amico raised about $1 million and had $70,000 left on hand as of the latest campaign finance reports on June 30. Duncan also raised about $1 million and had $60,000 left on hand. The next campaign finance report deadline is Sept. 30.