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 37

How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?

During thirty years as an advocate and nonprofit lobbyist, I worked on behalf of women, children and families. I learned not only about healthcare, education and mental health issues, but about the legislative process and its key players. My two terms as the Representative for House District 37 have only deepened and expanded my knowledge and experience and have helped me to serve the people of the district more effectively.

What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?

Government should provide basic services, such as education and safety, but should not interfere with personal decisions about health care.

If you are elected (or reelected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?

Protection of women’s reproductive freedom, support for public education, ensuring that Georgians have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe, sensible solutions to gun safety and protection of voting rights.

Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?

I have always believed in reaching across the aisle. Georgia legislators do our best work when we try to come together across party lines and find common ground.

Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?

My father, Howard “Red” Atherton, who served as a state legislator in the Georgia Legislature in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He taught me to not be afraid to fight for what I believe in, to believe in myself and to not be afraid to stand up to power when it comes to speaking the truth.

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?

The lack of affordable housing in House District 37 and the rest of Cobb County is a real problem. I need to have a better understanding of possible solutions and resources currently available to tackle this problem. I have work to do on this issue and I am committed to working with advocates and other local leaders in Cobb to try to find answers.

Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?

Politics is indeed all about compromise and it is important to understand and accept this when working on legislation and policy. I find it helpful to make a decision early on about what are details where compromise can be made and what the core pieces are that cannot be abandoned without making the final product meaningless. Small, incremental wins can be very powerful.

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?

I will absolutely stand by 2022 election results as I have always have in the past.

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion.

I am a strong supporter of reproductive rights for Georgia women. I will do what I can to restore the rights and freedoms women had in this state prior to the passage of House Bill 481 in 2019 (which passed by one vote in the House) and the recent Supreme Court decision.

Are there any programs/legislation you’ve sponsored or created to help people with disabilities?

I have worked closely with advocates, families and the Georgia Council on Developmental Disability to expand programs and increase funding for Georgians with disabilities. We need more slots for people to live in the community and more funding for support services. We also need to make public spaces more accessible. There are offices in the state Capitol that are inaccessible to disability advocates because they can only be reach by stairways.

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 needs to spend the state money necessary to expand Medicaid and unlock millions of dollars in federal funding that would make health care more accessible while shoring up hospitals. Also, Georgia funding for local public health departments and for public health in general has never returned to pre-2008 levels when massive cuts were made due to the recession. It’s past time that we restored this funding.

The Legislature often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?

There is bipartisan action on some issues, such as the passage this year of House Bill 1013, a bill that addressed mental health reform. The success of this effort shows what can be done when we set aside partisanship.