Charles Lutin is a 68-year-old political novice, a self-described “moderate … traditional” Republican, a retired doctor and Air Force flight surgeon, who says his Jewish identity motivates his campaign against congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia’s 14th district.
In an email informing the AJT of his candidacy, Lutin wrote that Greene has a “well-deserved reputation as an antisemite” and “Part of my motivation, to be frank, is that I am Jewish myself and cannot abide the thought of MTG serving indefinitely and representing our state in such an intolerable fashion.”
Lutin is one of three Republicans — along with four Democrats and a Libertarian — who have filed with the Federal Election Commission to challenge Greene, whose rhetoric and behavior during her first year in office have made her a controversial figure.
“She is feared but not respected. Most of the people who voted for her don’t like her,” Lutin said in an interview. “She does have her supporters. I would say that the support is fairly thin and fairly ephemeral.”
Lutin sees an opportunity. “I think a dose of sanity will appeal to both sides of the aisle, to the traditional Republicans as well as the independents and left-leaning voters in that district,” he said. “A Democrat is not going to win in that district, but a Republican opponent can.”
As for his inexperience, “Well, I perhaps see possibilities that professionals, you might say, would not see,” Lutin said. “Maybe the possibilities I see are not real or appear to be real or are extremely difficult to accomplish.”
Lutin admires such Republicans as John McCain, Ronald Reagan, and Dwight Eisenhower. Greene, meanwhile, “is stuck to [former President] Donald Trump like flypaper,” he said. “I’m not a Trumpist. You can call me an anti-Trumpist.”
The 14th is considered one of the most conservative districts in the county. Greene was elected in November 2020, winning nearly 75 percent of the vote against a Democrat who withdrew from the race three weeks before election day. Trump received 75 percent of the 14th district vote in defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 73.4 percent in his 2020 loss to Joe Biden.
Lutin is a political newcomer — as Greene was in 2020 — and like Greene, he is moving into the 14th from elsewhere in the Atlanta area. Greene moved from Alpharetta to Rome in 2019 to run in the 14th, after initially planning to seek the Republican nomination in the 6th district.
Lutin, who plans a December move to Rome from the Druid Hills area of Atlanta, said, “I’m making my name and face known up there, gradually.”
Lutin grew up in Nashville and was a bar mitzvah at Congregation Ohabai Sholom, known locally as The Temple. He currently is a member of Temple Sinai and commander of Jewish War Veterans Post 112. “I’ve joined a Jewish congregation wherever I was” during his medical and military career, he said.
The Jewish population of the 14th district is small, maybe a few hundred, which creates a bit of a quandary for Lutin. In a recent campaign newsletter, he wrote: “I have wrestled with the question of what (if anything) to say about my religion during this campaign. An early question that comes up in conversation with new friends is, ‘Where do you attend church?’ And I answer: ‘I am a member of Temple Sinai in Atlanta, and I also attend services at Rodeph Shalom in Rome.’ And that seems to satisfy. I do not perceive antisemitism in the district, although there are without doubt a few ‘Proud Boys’ people here and there in the district. MTG, on the other hand, is a genuine anti-Semite.
To speak frankly, it is part of my motivation to run. I have a lot of Jewish friends in the Atlanta region now, and I have not met one Jew here who can stomach MTG. Whatever else might be the biases of the people in the district, antisemitism does not seem to be one of them. So, I will just be who I am and let the chips fall wherever they may fall.”
Lutin, who received his medical training at Duke University, worked for 35 years as an emergency room physician and, as Lt. Col. Lutin, served in the U.S. Air Force as a flight surgeon from 2007-11. In addition to postings at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, he deployed to Iraq (Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad Air Base) from July 2009 to December 2009 and to Afghanistan (Shindand Air Base) from December 2009 to February 2010.
Candidate Lutin is committed to competing through the primary set for May 24, 2020. “My is-sue priorities are term limits for congressmen, strong ethics guidelines and enforcement for elected officials, and reorganization of the Veterans Administration, particularly the Veterans Administration health care,” he said. Asked about issues often invoked to rally the GOP base, he said, “There’s enough Republicans running on those, quote, cultural issues and I want to stake my territory else-where.”
Lutin estimated that he will need $2 million to $3 million to run an effective campaign. “I absolutely am going to have to raise well over 90 percent of it,” he said. “I’m a realist and if the campaign is going nowhere, I’m not going to continue to throw bad money after good. But I think this is an important enough story and will arouse interest around the country.”
As of Sept. 30, Greene reported $3.25 million cash on hand, three times more than any announced challenger.
Lutin’s children — a daughter who lives in North Carolina and a son who attends Georgia Tech — “think their dad has gone off on a tangent,” he chuckled.
Examples of Lutin’s less-than-absolutist positions can be found on his campaign website.
On the 2nd Amendment: “The right to bear arms is crucial in a free society, but that right is not unlimited. No one is proposing to take guns away from citizens, but weapons of war are not properly used by private citizens.”
On education: “I am not in favor of free tuition at colleges, but I do favor a graduation bonus to graduates of accredited institutions, to be applied to reduction of Federal loan balances as applicable.”
On immigration: “No country is secure without security at its borders. At the same time, we need immigrant labor, and we must take a humane approach to adults who crossed the border as children with their parents. I favor securing the border, and comprehensive Immigration Reform to allow applicants for asylum to be fully evaluated and admitted in reasonable circumstances.”
In an interview, Lutin discussed topics related to his professional experience:
Health care: The U.S. system “is very expensive and it’s very fragmented,” with per-person costs double those in comparable countries. “I think there is a solution but it would be extremely difficult politically to get it enacted. I think there needs to be a public option for everybody; not a single-payer, but a public option.” The problem with the Affordable Care Act is that “it depends on the insurance companies to administer that model of care.”
Afghanistan: “I think we certainly had to go into Afghanistan to get rid of Al Qaeda and to push the Taliban out of power, but we went in with the wrong concept. The winning concept and strategy was to mount a punitive expedition to whack the Taliban and corner Al Qaeda and then get out. We should have been in and out of there in about six months.”
Iraq: “We never should have been there. We never should have gone into Iraq. We got stuck there because of a lie and we stayed there because we couldn’t figure out how to let go of the tar baby.”
Disclaimer: Atlanta Jewish Times does not participate in endorsement of any political campaigns.