The responses to these questions were edited for length and clarity by the Georgia Decides team. 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 House District 54
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
For more than years, I’ve worked in the corporate sector facilitating partnerships between public, nonprofit and private entities to address community problems. My business background gives me a unique perspective on workforce development, job creation, worker protections and the role of our universities and technical schools in preparing the future workforce. My board service and professional interactions with nonprofit organizations and schools has given me experience working to address challenges facing our communities, including working with Communities in Schools, the Atlanta Community ToolBank, ToolBank USA and Fugees Family as a member of the board of directors. I’m the spouse of a small business owner, so I see firsthand the opportunities and difficulties facing our small businesses. And I’m a public school parent, so I am deeply invested in the success of our public schools.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
Our government exists to provide the supports that allow all Georgians opportunity, freedom and justice. At its core, the government is responsible for providing basic services, including infrastructure, public safety, education, health care support and a safety net in times of hardship. I would argue that the government also has a responsibility to protect its citizens, especially those historically facing discrimination or disenfranchisement, and to uphold human rights. The government also has an opportunity to invest in programs that support economic growth, improved quality of life, or improved access to resources.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
Georgia is facing a health care crisis, with too few health care workers, hospital closures, an underinsured population and a rapidly growing need for geriatric care. I wholeheartedly support expanding Medicaid and working to provide programs that will attract and support health care works in our state. Likewise, Georgia is facing a teacher shortage and a funding shortfall in our schools. I support teacher raises, reduced standardized testing, an overhaul of the state’s school funding model, and affordable secondary education options, both at our universities and our technical colleges. Finally, Georgia must address its gun violence epidemic and enact safety measures to protect our citizens from the proliferation of firearms in our communities.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
When I talk with constituents, I find that even those I disagree with politically often want similar things that I do. We want an economically prosperous state, a highly-employed population and a well-educated future workforce. We want people to be able to see a doctor when they are sick, and we want people to feel safe in their communities. We want families to have a roof over their heads, and we want basic necessities to be accessible and affordable. The difficult work of the General Assembly is coming together to agree on ways to achieve these goals, which often means a great deal of listening, patience and compromise on both sides.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
I heard current events being discussed at the kitchen table from an early age with two parents who were interested in improving our community and serving others. From my father, I learned the concept of a three-legged stool and the idea that a society must provide for education, housing and health care. You cannot take away one leg of that stool lest the whole thing collapse. From my mother, I learned the importance of speaking up for those who do not have a voice, often those with less income or people of color or marginalized women. She taught me the importance of looking at every piece of legislation and thinking of its broader consequences, especially for those people who wouldn’t have the resources to speak up for themselves at the Capitol.
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?
Thanks to our current surplus, the state has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address some of the many systemic problems contributing to unaffordable housing. That funding can be used to expand the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and distribute additional funds needed for rental assistance, homelessness relief, homelessness prevention and housing assistance. The state also has an opportunity to empower municipalities to develop more affordable housing and increase their affordable housing inventory. Affordable housing can also be supported by measures preventing spikes in property taxes that often prevent older Georgians from being able to remain in their lifelong homes when home values around them begin to grow exponentially.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
Many compromises come down to numbers — how many years you raise the minimum wage, at what income bracket you change a tax code, what percentage of tuition a scholarship will cover and the like. Those incremental numbers can and should be debated and be the subject of compromise. I cannot, however, compromise in the area of basic human rights. I will not support legislation that treats one human being differently than another or takes away the basic human rights of a fellow Georgian. Regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, LGBTQ+ status, religion or income, all of us deserve protection and opportunity.
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?
While I will argue that Georgia would benefit from hand-marked, paper ballots rather than our current voting machines, I certainly believe that our elections in Georgia are secure. I will stand by the results of the 2022 elections.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion.
I do not believe our government should limit a woman’s ability to make reproductive health care decisions. Those decisions should be made between a woman and her medical provider. I will work to protect Georgians’ rights to make their own reproductive health care decisions.
Are there any programs/legislation you’ve sponsored or created to help people with disabilities?
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?
After years of spending cuts and an overly cautious budgeting process in the face of the pandemic, Georgia has severely under-financed some of its most important agencies and programs. While education already consumes a large share of the budget, our schools continue to be comparatively underfunded. I support continued raises not just for teachers but for other support staff, including school counselors, media specialists and bus drivers. Funding is also needed for updated technology and classroom supplies. Many of the agencies that serve Georgians need updated technology and worker pay raises, including the Department of Labor and the Department of Public Health. Georgia is also one of only three states in the nation that does not fund a needs-based scholarship for students. The state is currently facing some critical labor shortages while students are struggling to find ways to afford university or technical school.
The Legislature often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?
The vast majority of the work we do in the Legislature requires us to work together across party lines, whether that’s regarding immigration, housing, health care, education, public safety, infrastructure, tax code or any of the many other areas we touch with bills each year. We work best when we approach every issue from the perspective of how we can help make the lives of Georgians better. We should seek to listen, learn and compromise from there.