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 82

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

My years of legislative service have allowed me to understand the legislative process and develop key relationships with members of both parties, some of whom have given me assignments on key committees and commissions. I am the only Democratic Committee Chair in the entire Georgia House. My legal career has offered me insights into those areas where Georgians’ needs can be met through legislation and funding. My two careers of politics and law have increased my advocacy skills and deepened my understanding of advocacy.

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

Georgia plays a key role in ensuring that adequate funding for education, social services, and health care is provided for all Georgians. My job as state representative is to identify those needs, make certain that the laws will address those needs, and then ensure that the state budget includes adequate funding to provide for those needs. Government always plays a role for business interests and the economy of the State, but human needs must be foremost.

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

My top three priorities are:

1. Expansion of Medicaid, specifically to protect the 600,000 Georgians added to healthcare rolls during the pandemic public health emergency. Whenever the pandemic public health emergency ends, these newly enrolled Medicaid recipients will possibly lose their benefits. Furthermore, 20 states have received Medicaid funding for mobile crisis units. Georgia desperately needs to benefit from this and more Medicaid funding.

2. Continue the work begun with the passage of HB 1013 Mental Health Parity Act to see all parts of that bill implemented. At present, we are preparing new legislation for the January 2023 session. I am Chair of the Behavioral Health Reform & Innovation Workforce & System Development Subcommittee and am working on specific issues for further reform.

3. Continue to work for the reform of development authorities in Georgia which has begun with the passage of HB 923 in 2022.

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

Through committee and commission assignments, I work with key members of both parties to craft legislation that benefits both District 82 constituents and all Georgians. Being in the minority party often makes this difficult, but perseverance and building long-term relationships can accomplish much. I am the only Democrat to chair a committee in the House, which shows my ability to work across party lines.

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

There have been many people who have influenced both for good and bad. Jimmy Carter has consistently maintained the highest values in public service. He has set a high bar for every Georgia politician. The people who hum with evil also influence me and teach me how to keep them from doing more harm to vulnerable people.

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?

I have worked with the City of Decatur in various ways to enhance housing affordability and tax exemptions, and local legislation can preserve affordability in some cases. I have also worked for similar measures for homeless populations through HB 1013 and am seeking more options for affordable housing on a permanent basis. “Housing first” must be implemented.

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

Compromise is the hardest task in politics, and it is always painful to walk away from a potentially successful negotiation. Compromise is appropriate when dealing with legislation that improves the lives of all Georgians. Compromise is difficult but necessary, and it requires discipline and patience.

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 believe that Georgia’s elections are secure, and I stand by the results of the 2018 and 2020 elections. Both elections were subject to great scrutiny which proved the integrity of the election results.

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

The General Assembly should not pass any more restrictive abortion laws that would make the current situation worse. At this time, the possibility of any laws improving access to abortion in the Georgia General Assembly seems unlikely. We must not allow further harm.

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

I serve on the Human Services Appropriations subcommittee, and every budget cycle we increase the number of available waivers for developmentally disabled Georgians. Enhancing vocational rehabilitation and passing legislation prohibiting discrimination against disabled Georgians are long term goals.

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?

There are multiple statutory “rainy day” funds, and we have always overfunded them. The reserve funds are now the largest they have ever been in my long political career, along with unprecedented tax surpluses. The Appropriations Committee must balance rebate to taxpayers with a plan for strengthening human services, particularly education and health care. Gov. Kemp has distributed surplus funds without a strategic plan for future programmatic growth. And in doing so has had no bipartisan review nor public discussion of any kind. The governor is not putting forth coordinated policies that evidence better health care and education services for all Georgians.

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

Much of the legislation i have sponsored in the past, including mental health, criminal justice reform, juvenile justice issues, adoptions and social service needs, has had bipartisan support because the issues addressed affect all Georgians. No major reform can succeed without a bipartisan process.