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 Senate District 14
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
I have years of experience representing North Fulton voters in our legislature as State Representative for parts of Sandy Springs, Roswell, and Johns Creek. As both an attorney and an elected official, I know the importance of accurately and passionately conveying the preferences of my clients and constituents. When elected officials focus on good representation rather than their own ambitions, they develop the best possible relationship with the community.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
I believe the government can and should be an institution in which people can build public trust. By that, I mean a community can use the government not just to protect individual interests and rights but also to show empathy for their neighbors. State government is closer to the people than the federal government: it legislates on issues that directly impact people’s everyday lives. For example, Georgia could expand Medicaid to offer health coverage to hundreds of thousands of people who are especially vulnerable. We could make smart investments in our public transit systems to reduce gridlock and pollution. There are common-sense steps we could take to curb gun violence. As a State Senator, I will work hard to close the gap between these common-sense solutions that the public already supports and the partisan politics that so often take us in the wrong direction.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
If I am elected to the State Senate, I will focus my attention on the challenges facing working families in our community. That means working to expand Medicaid, making sure that people can afford housing where they want to live and work, fighting to end gun violence in our community, and reforming our criminal legal system to reduce racial disparities and unjust deprivation of liberty. When you defend working people, their livelihoods, and their rights, you strengthen the fabric of society as a whole.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
I welcome conversations with anyone who sees things from a different perspective. I often engage with people who disagree with me because I believe in public debate and a full discussion of our most important issues. I have learned quite a bit from my conservative friends about their concepts of liberty, the economy, and how they believe society should be structured.
At the same time, I believe that good leaders must be unafraid to stand up for what they know to be true. Our country is facing an epidemic of misinformation, some of which is explicitly intended to undermine our democratic institutions. For example, whereas a debate over how to deliver healthcare most effectively is a legitimate debate–and one where I am open to listening to opponents–I will not entertain false controversies or conspiracy theories designed to overturn valid election results or promote violence against political opponents.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
Stephen B. Bright was a professor of mine in law school at Yale. He is a nationally respected defense attorney and advocate who has spent his decades-long career based in Atlanta representing defendants and disadvantaged communities in high-profile cases. He is unapologetic in his advocacy for people whom society traditionally has rejected, which sometimes made him enemies at the Georgia State Capitol. Many Georgians look to scripture as a theoretical guide for how to treat disadvantaged people in society, but Steve has walked the walk by dedicating his entire career to serving the most vulnerable. His early encouragement in my career, along with his example, have inspired me to be vocal in standing up for people even when it isn’t popular.
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?
As a renter of an apartment in Sandy Springs myself, I have seen firsthand the rising costs of living and know how easily the housing crisis can price families out of their long-time communities. As a State Representative, I introduced legislation to restrict local governments from engaging in unchecked development without considering the impacts it would have on housing equity and affordability. In my view, the key to good housing policy is to see it as 1) foundational to a person’s well being in almost every respect and 2) part of a larger public policy puzzle that requires simultaneous action on public transit, work opportunity, and criminal legal reform. It’s not enough to work on any of these policy areas in isolation. We need bold vision for the communities of the future, and we need to invest in all of them at once.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
In a truly representative democracy, all politics includes an element of compromise and nobody gets what they want 100% of the time. But during my years serving as the State Representative for North Fulton, I’ve learned when to settle for a middle ground and when to stand up and fight for what is right even when that position may be unpopular. We have a lot of work to do to address the dysfunction that has taken hold in our hyperpartisan political environment, but I refuse to compromise with policy positions that are based on lies or will bring clear harm to the people of Georgia.
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?
There is no question that the results of the 2018 and 2020 elections were valid, and I will stand by the results of future elections. But the questions raised about the 2018 and 2020 elections were meaningfully different. In 2018, Democrats questioned whether a Secretary of State should preside over his own gubernatorial election, whether voter rolls should be purged due to voter inactivity, or whether absentee ballots should be rejected because of immaterial discrepancies in spelling of names, for example. Those questions aren’t remotely the same as the Republican-led effort in 2020 to satisfy Donald Trump’s hurt ego by entertaining completely baseless suggestions that the votes were improperly counted. I am happy to admit when Democrats are wrong when it’s appropriate to do so, but the false equivalence between 2018 and 2020 suggested by the structure of this question prompt should be rejected.
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?
I will vociferously oppose further restrictions on abortion in the State of Georgia, and I will seek to restore the abortion rights that Georgians once held prior to the Dobbs decision and the extreme 6-week ban that recently went into effect. We are talking about intensely personal decisions that can devastate families, no matter the outcome. The vast majority of Georgians know that government regulation on this issue has gone too far and that decisions about reproductive freedom and contraceptive use must be made by individuals, not the government.
Are there any programs/legislation you’ve sponsored or created to help people with disabilities?
Like many House Democrats, I was a co-sponsor of legislation to expand Medicaid in Georgia, which would make a profound difference for people with disabilities and our healthcare system generally. As a State Senator, I will continue to stand in support of legislation that closes gaps in health equity, affordability, and accessibility.
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?
Georgia has a unique opportunity to use its surplus to shore up basic services that our state agencies are currently falling behind in delivering. For example, for years now, the turnover rate of correctional officers in Juvenile Justice facilities has been over 90%. That’s unconscionable. We have been willing to let children and adults be confined in dangerous spaces where even officers feel unsafe going to work.
But we have options beyond our surplus, too. I have been outspoken in my support for raising the excise tax on cigarettes, which is a pro-public-health measure that would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state. We can’t be ideological in our approach to tax, saying that they’re always good or always bad. Good public policy requires us to look at each potential source of revenue and expense on its own merits.
The Legislature often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?
Each time I introduce a piece of legislation, I want colleagues from both sides of the aisle to be involved in the process and work to support its passage. In fact, I think it is fair to say all of my colleagues want bipartisan support of their legislation. In a perfect world, all legislation would get fair consideration regardless of which party introduced it. But we know that is not the reality of our hyperpartisan environment, and there is not a simple formula to strike the balance between seeking unanimous agreement and standing up for what you believe in the face of disagreement. As a State Senator, I will continue to embody the same character, thoughtfulness, and empathy I have tried to demonstrate for the last four years as North Fulton’s State Representative.