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 56

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

As an incumbent fortunate enough to pass multiple pieces of legislation during my first two-year term in office, I used my health care experience to navigate difficult conversations across the aisle to pass bipartisan legislation. I worked in public health with former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Helene Gayle at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with the late congressman John Lewis in his Washington, D.C., office. As a former quality-rated early learning center provider, I became well-versed in reading and interpreting laws, rules, and regulations for Georgia’s most precious population — children. Additionally, my doctoral work gives me the ability to research and interpret legislation to make the best decisions for the communities I represent.

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

The United States and Georgia’s government infrastructure is a democracy. Ultimately, voters control the government by deciding who runs the government on their behalf. If people vote for candidates that truly have voters’ best interests in minds, our communities will prosper. Since our government is established to protect us while granting us a liberty and the pursuit of happiness, leaders must remember everyone’s ideal of happiness is not the same. Therefore, protecting while respecting personal freedoms is crucial. Public safety isn’t an ideal, it’s a requirement the government owes us as citizens. If the government cannot keep us safe, we have nothing. Therefore, I vote for and write legislation that grants people their personal freedoms of choice while ensuring communities are equipped to keep all people safe.

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

We live in a digital age, but Georgia is teaching children based on a 1920s philosophy created to educate people to work in factories after the Civil War. During America’s industrial revolution, wealthy factory owners needed employees to mass produce cars and other products. I advocate for paying teachers more, using innovative curriculums to prepare students for work environments, giving teachers more freedom to teach, improving school security to prevent violence, providing free professional development to educators, and creating 21st century workforce development opportunities for families regardless if they have a high school or college diploma. My other priorities are creating legislation that helps the many higher education institutions and college students that reside in my district. And, as a licensed and practicing physical therapist for more than 20 years, the needs of seniors, persons with disabilities, and workers injured on their job are whom I think of with every decision and vote I make.

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

I’ve proven myself to be bipartisan and able to work across the aisle to get things done for the communities I represent. I don’t tend to go after the media-gravitating issues that are hyper-politicized. Although I’m pro-choice and would love universal health care beyond a Medicaid expansion, my constituents aren’t calling me about these issues. They call me about police response times, rental assistance, issues with parole and pardons, the Biden infrastructure and Justice 40 money, injustices within the criminal justice system, the lack of equity in crimes against women and children, homelessness, prescription drug prices and the lack of opportunities for children walking the streets in the middle of the day. The topics of bills I sponsored, passed, and/or had a legislative hearing for in the House and/or Senate include incorporating public school career readiness curriculums, safety on HBCU campuses in wake of bomb threats, preventing childhood lead toxicity and recognizing victims of gun violence.

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

I grew up in the impoverished part of the district I represent. I went to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where I worked for the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, followed by the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Global Health division. After college, I worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a physical therapist, I’ve worked at Children’s Hospital, Emory Healthcare and as a home health physical therapist serving thousands of families over more than 20 years in homes and assisted living facilities for seniors. In all, my personal experiences and the trials and tribulations of people I interact with on a daily basis influence my policy. I’ve learned that no one is always right, compromise starts with active listening, and humane policies begins with believing everyone is important regardless of what they look like or believe.

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 proposed HB 664 (2021) to address affordable housing, small business development, and to ease the backlog of shipping containers in our ports. Currently, our laws do not allow builders to use shipping containers that aren’t practically new which prevents Georgia from becoming more sustainable and affordable. I was given the opportunity to present the legislation with my Savannah colleagues and officials from the Savannah Port, but it didn’t receive a second hearing due to a influential lobbying group that didn’t want the bill to pass.

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

There are some things that I can’t negotiate on, like public safety. But, I’ve learned I may not get everything I want for Georgians, but something is better than nothing. For example, I put verbiage for victim rights on a Republican-sponsored bill as a Democrat because it doesn’t matter who’s name is on it if it saves a life. Likewise, I stood with the Democratic Party in unity for voting rights.

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 absolutely stand by the results that President Joe Biden is the winner of the 2020 presidential election. The losers are those that are choosing to destroy their Republican Party in an effort to appease a small percentage of Republicans. Politics is tricky because the loudest voices appear to be the majority, while those that use their words on the ballot are the majority and ultimately have the loudest voice. These voters do their research to make informed decisions about who they give their vote. As a Democrat that doesn’t follow the status-quo because it’s “what we always do” or “what everyone else is doing” I respect Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan for sticking to his principles and standing in his conviction against a few of his colleagues. This is a tough spot to be in, but voters appreciate leaders that place citizens first.

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

Georgia passed its heartbeat bill prior to me being elected. It is in the courts pending a judicial review.

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

I helped to pass two pieces of legislation regarding the Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy Practice Acts. Physical therapists and occupational therapists work with children and adults every day that have a disability from a workplace injury, acute or chronic medical conditions, developmental delays, exposure to environmental toxins, accidents, surgeries, and negligence.

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 supported the teachers pay raises and the Georgia refund bonuses, but this is only a temporary fix to skyrocketing retail prices, increasing rents, interest rates, childcare, and health care costs. Wages aren’t livable and we are losing jobs intended for people to technology and automation. There is also a disproportionate amount of Black parents in prison for crimes that should be misdemeanors creating single-parent households that live below the poverty level. I want to shift unnecessary prison funding to returning citizen workforce development and soft skills training. Since Georgia was built with slavery as it’s main commerce, creating generational wealth for slave owners was the norm. Therefore, if we truly want Georgia to be equitable, we must recognize and admit that 400 years of enslaving African Americans has duly impacted Georgia’s economy, crime, qualified workforces, and the ability for some Black families to break away from generational slave handicaps.

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

I seek bipartisan action daily because no one party gets it right all of the time. Democrats generally support helping the underserved, but the status-quo way of achieving our goals is outdated at times. In these Instances, it’s important to reach across the aisle to solve our communities’ needs regardless of which party has the best strategy. For example, HB 1133 returned a federal WOIA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act) program back to the technical college system from the Georgia Department of Labor. I received a lot of ridicule from colleagues, some of the Georgia labor union leaders, and the Atlanta NAACP. Yet the technical schools most equipped to implement these federal programs for underserved students and non-profits that partner with these technical schools to serve underserved children all applauded my vote.