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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Meet 'Dr. Rad,' the first Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia

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  • Courtesy Branko Radulovacki
A Democratic candidate has finally stepped up to run against the field of Republican candidates already campaigning for next year's U.S. Senate race in Georgia. And no, it's not Points of Light CEO Michelle Nunn.

Branko Radulovacki, a metro Atlanta doctor who prefers to be called "Dr. Rad," announced this week that he'll run to replace U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who won't seek another term.

A first-generation immigrant from Yugoslavia, Radulovacki has degrees in Russian, Finance, and Medicine. He's also survived colon cancer, participated in four ultra-marathons, and brought together different religions in the name of mental health. And now he wants to "galvanize strong grassroots interest" on his way to becoming a senator.

Radulovacki thinks he could help clear up the "gridlock" plaguing federal lawmakers with a new perspective toward longstanding problems. He says he won't have any ties to the "machine" that is the Democratic Party of Georgia, which he thinks could allow him to better address the needs of the people, not just those of the party.

"Someone with a different approach to addressing these issues can be more effective than someone anointed by the party," Radulovacki tells CL.

The 50-year-old doctor moved to Georgia in 2000 to work at the Ridgeview Institute, a Smyrna hospital that specializes in addiction and mental-health treatment. In 2007, he says he became a "spiritual born again" Christian - an experience that completely changed his outlook on life. Two years later, he moved his private practice to Vinings, ramped up his advocacy efforts, and founded FaithWorks, a nonprofit organization focused on mental-health issues. He says the organization's efforts included improving conditions in the state's psychiatric facilities.

"I was very encouraged by the reforms accomplished in the mental health community and my effort to galvanize those efforts," says Radulovacki. "It's clear to me that our country is in crisis with our elected leaders ... they're not working effectively to get things done."

Radulovacki says that he feels called toward greater public service to help improve the lives of more people. He supports "good health care for all" and would be in favor of expanding Medicaid in Georgia. He also emphasizes the need for a transparent and "open dialogue" regarding the limits of government surveillance. More importantly, he wants to learn more about his potential constituents' needs.

"I'm not a politician," he says. "I don't have a political platform. Part of my goal is to talk people and hear their concerns to better address those needs."

If Radulovacki wins the Democratic primary - likely against Nunn, who is rumored to become a candidate, - he would face off against one of the many Republican candidates vying for the open seat. At the moment, there are five Republicans officially in the race: U.S. Reps. Paul Broun of Athens; Phil Gingrey of Marietta; and Jack Kingston of Savannah; former Georgia secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel; and MARTA senior network engineer Derrick Grayson.

Regardless of his campaign's outcome, "Dr. Rad" thinks Georgians will need to make a choice whether they want the same kinds of lawmakers in office or some fresh faces capable of making a difference. He thinks he represents the latter.

"The voters will need to do something different to have change be affected," Radulovacki says. "Sending the same folks to Washington won't change the outcome of the legislative process."

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