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 40
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
I am seeking a third (two-year) term in the Georgia Senate. Having previously served three terms in the Georgia House, I know how to use the legislative process to the benefit of Georgia citizens. My experience as a social worker and non-profit executive gives me the expertise to lead in the areas of mental health, family support, and education.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
A strong state government ensures that an economy based on maximizing profits does not trample basic human needs. State government, therefore, plays a role in ensuring that there is an adequate human safety net.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
Over 50% of Georgia’s budget is spent on public education, so I focus much of my time and energy on education issues. This includes access to affordable childcare, K-12, technical school and college. In addition, I work on access to healthcare issues, including mental health.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
The legislature is a politically diverse body, so as legislators, we are forced out of our “bubble” more than the average person. I have always enjoyed this challenge and will continue to listen curiously to the debates.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
My biggest influence was a professor who taught my Public Policy class in my Bachelor of Social Work program at Georgia State University. I grew up reading a conservative newspaper that made me think politics was about trying to get out of paying taxes. My public policy class taught me that politics is about helping people. This made a big difference in my interest in politics.
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?
We need to stop handing out tax abatements to developers who would end up building even if they didn’t have the tax abatement. If we give abatements in exchange for the provision of affordable housing, we need to hold the developers accountable long term.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
There’s a saying in politics that if both sides are unhappy then a balanced solution has been reached. However, I will not compromise if it means that someone (or a group) is not being treated fairly and equitably.
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 are many ways in which our elections can be streamlined to reduce confusion so more people can successfully vote. Sadly, Georgia has recently taken steps to make voting more confusing. Our new voting machines now have a paper trail (there was no paper trail in 2018) but to take full advantage of this, we need to require more audits. The 2020 recount was an excellent audit, but we need to audit more races.
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?
As a social worker, I have seen what happens when families don’t have the resources to care for a child. Ideally, every child should come into a family and community that is fully capable of providing all the love and support the child needs. A woman knows whether or not she is in a good place to provide this support, so she is in the best position to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy. I will fight for continued access to abortion services.
Are there any programs/legislation you’ve sponsored or created to help people with disabilities?
The top issue I worked on during the 2022 session was to secure funding for the 7,000 people who are on a waiting list for Medicaid Home & Community Support. The governor proposed funding 100 of these families. Through my advocacy we increased that to over 500 families. In addition, I am currently chairing a Disabilities Study Committee to look at eliminating the waiting list and to address workforce issues for caretakers.
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?
According to Georgia’s constitution, the legislature must pass a balanced budget. In other words, the state cannot deficit spend. So each year the governor estimates revenue. If income comes in over the estimate, it is not really a surplus — it means the estimate was wrong. The state has many needs to address, such as increasing state salaries to competitive levels, expanding Medicaid, supporting our public schools, reducing the waiting list for disabilities services, and hiring more Environmental Protection and Public Health workers. If more money comes in than has been estimated, these ongoing needs should be met.
The Legislature often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?
Though there is much attention paid to controversial issues, more than 80% of what the legislature votes on is bi-partisan.