The responses to these questions were edited for length and clarity. Each candidate was allotted 150 words for each answer and some answers were trimmed in order to abide by that length requirement. Other edits were made to make sure readers can fully follow and understand the candidate responses.
Campaigning for: State Senate District 40
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
I was born and raised in rural Georgia. Ten years ago, I moved to metro Atlanta to pursue a career in teaching. As an educator, I worked with a diverse range of students and parents to achieve student success. I now teach financial literacy, job readiness, and self advocacy to students with learning challenges across the state. These experiences give me a unique understanding of the needs of students and educators in Georgia.
To be successful with creating and reviewing legislation, the State Senator from SD 40 must be able to balance all people types. My rural upbringing, urban adult life, and profession as an educator meets these qualities – qualifying my candidacy for State Senate. I am the best candidate to represent SD 40.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
I believe a limited government allows individual freedom with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Government should protect children, elderly, and exceptional people with challenges. These beliefs will influence how I approach reviewing and sponsoring legislation.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
Lack of representation and presence in the community, education, safety, and the economy are points of concern for constituents of SD 40.
Representation and community presence will be easy – my family and I are ready and excited to heavily commit to the SD 40 community. To help improve education, I will support legislation that encourages student success and teacher-parent partnerships. With keeping our community safe, we must strengthen partnerships between law enforcement and citizens. Our national economic uncertainty is top of mind for constituents as they do their grocery shopping and fill up their gas tanks; I will work to keep Georgia’s taxes low and bring economic development to SD 40.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
I disagree with the initial statement. Most Georgians are politically exhausted and care about the economy, public safety, and education for future generations. Georgia has always been divided not by politics but by community needs. Rural Georgia has different needs than metropolitan Georgia. Politics have been getting in the way of effectively serving hard working Georgians all over the state. Given the opportunity to be a true representative of SD 40 I plan on looking at community needs and priorities, and serving Georgians not political agendas.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
Many would think my biggest influence on political views would be a big-name politician – it actually would be my parents and in-laws. My dad left the family farm in south Georgia to work at a sawmill for 30 years. My mom started working in local doctors offices and upon retiring had managed several family practices in the Phoebe Putney Health System. My in-laws are hard-working self-employed Georgians; my father-in-law worked as a handyman when he first moved to Atlanta and now is a consistent top-producer at Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Perimeter. My mother-in-law raised four successful children and is an active member of the school and church communities. Through them, I witnessed conservative values in action by the show of respect, empathy, understanding, discernment, listening, and operating ethically with transparency. Their actions have influenced my political and government views.
Georgia has a lot to offer current and potential residents, but many parts of the state are becoming increasingly unaffordable. Please explain your proposed approach to address housing affordability through legislation and executive actions?
This is an emerging problem in Georgia that requires multiple solutions. As someone that is raising a family in one of these increasingly unaffordable areas of Metro Atlanta and is also a local Realtor, I’ve seen high density living arrangements constructed. More needs to be done around housing options – one solution could be decreased government building regulations and reduced/limited fees to help expedite the lack of supply of housing. We could also allow zoning flexibility to allow more property rights to homeowners. Finally, we could offer some type of property tax grant and allow temporary relief for homeowners considering selling their home because of increased housing costs.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
I would prefer not to use the term “win”. Government is not a game or a competition on who can score the most points – we are affecting people’s lives and livelihoods. Great solutions should not be discounted by political party membership; I want to represent all the people of SD 40 and focus on their needs, regardless of political ideology. That’s not compromise, that’s being a good representative.
There were politicians who questioned the outcomes of Georgia elections in 2018 and 2020. Do you think Georgia’s elections are secure and will you stand by the results?
Any concerns and obscurities with Georgia’s election system were addressed in Senate Bill 202. Our state legislature committed itself to easy voter access while increasing the difficulty of foul-play. I believe Georgia’s elections are secure and will stand by the results of my race, but I will always hear legitimate concerns of any actions or processes related to the governance of our state.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion. If elected, how will you use your authority in the state Senate to influence abortion access or enforcement of abortion restrictions?
Many people in District 40 are surprised to learn of the number of exceptions within the current law. Some believe six weeks is too early, while others believe that late term abortions should be regulated.
Before having our first child, my wife had a ectopic pregnancy and a miscarriage. I feel that there is a stigma surrounding miscarriages and infertility. As a state, we need to do more to decrease the cost of adoption while removing barriers for foster care. We also need to have compassion for individuals who choose abortion by provoding the option of mental health support. There is nothing more heartbreaking than losing your child.
Are there any programs/legislation you’ve sponsored or created to help people with disabilities?
I have not had the opportunity to sponsor legislation; however, I have been an activist and continue to impact the disability community through contract teaching.
At a young age I was diagnosed with dyslexia and have had to navigate the system with the help of family, nonprofit, and government support. In 2019 Governor Brian Kemp appointed me to the Georgia State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) – which helps to develop plans and make recommendations to assist individuals with disabilities achieve employment and independence. I have been very involved with SRC and currently serve as the Legislative Chair.
In addition to SRC, I serve as a contract teacher for High School High Tech (HSHT). I travel the state teaching students with disabilities classes on financial literacy, job readiness, self-advocacy, and social media etiquette. These skills are imperative for preparing these students for life after high school, regardless of the professional path they choose. I have been the keynote for many HSHT events and have shared my story of overcoming adversity with thousands of students, parents, and teachers.
Georgia closed out its budget year with a “likely record surplus, billions of dollars in federal aid and a growing economy.” Georgia spends more than half of this money on education and health care. What would you want to see in the budget in terms of spending or taxes?
I will always strive to be an excellent steward of Georgians’ money. To me, the most immediate needs of financial support would be focused on school safety and literacy gaps caused by prolonged school closure as a result of the pandemic.
The Legislature often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?
Bipartisan action is paramount at all times. While members of the General Assembly are each selected to represent their respective communities, the consensus we build within the legislature will affect our state as a whole. While we each must be mindful as extensions of our Senate Districts, we must also weigh statewide implications of legislation and related actions.