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 52
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
First, as the incumbent in House District 52, I’m uniquely qualified because I’m the only candidate in this race with prior state legislative experience. Additionally, I have been a land use attorney for almost 25 years. That experience has included lobbying on behalf of individuals, homeowners associations, and developers/builders in front of city and county elected or appointed officials throughout the metro Atlanta area. Being a land use attorney requires knowledge of legislative procedure and significant statutory construction skills that have proved extremely helpful in my committee meetings and when evaluating and drafting state legislation during my first term. It also requires mediation skills to find a solution that benefits the developer and the surrounding community. Those skills helped me when negotiating and passing bipartisan legislation in my first term.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
The constitution reserves to the states certain “police powers” for the public safety, health and welfare of its citizens. Thus, the state Legislature should focus on supporting the health of our citizens, equitably keeping order for the safety of our communities, providing our children a quality public education, and funding infrastructure that will positively impact our economic growth. If reelected, I will advocate for quality, affordable health care (including abortion care) for all citizens which must include fully expanding Medicaid. Healthier communities are the best way to ensure citizens are able to provide for their families and mitigate the growing shortage of healthcare workers. I will prioritize higher teacher salaries, funding for the restoration of unsafe school buildings, and supporting students from cradle to career. With Georgia having the 9th highest rate of gun violence in the country, keeping order must include common sense gun safety laws.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
During the next legislative session, I will spend my time working to make Georgia the best place to live, work and do business. That includes fully expanding Medicaid so the 500,000 working Georgians who can’t afford private insurance will be insured resulting in healthier citizens. Having insurance allows them to stop using emergency rooms as their primary care doctor, and hopefully will help stop further hospital closures in the future. I will work to repeal dangerous and regressive laws that strip our fundamental freedoms and medical privacy as well as risk our thriving economy when employers begin to struggle to retain and attract quality employees. We must address the increase in crime, which includes passing common sense gun safety laws. And our bipartisan work to improve mental health services in the state must continue.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
In my first term, I worked across the aisle on bipartisan legislation, including passing a bipartisan bill that was signed into law on May 13, 2022, that will save taxpayers and local governments money. I will always stand up with my community and our shared values, but I also believe we must find ways to be effective no matter which party is in the majority. If reelected, I will build on my relationships across the aisle and continue to look for common ground legislation that benefits all Georgians.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
Several members of the state legislature helped me navigate my first term and have influenced my view of politics under the Gold Dome. If I have to pick one, it would be Rep. Calvin Smyre, who has had 48 years of service in the Legislature. He always comported himself with dignity and respect for his fellow legislators as well as the principles and traditions of the House. Smyre spent a lifetime standing up for his values and constituents while building relationships and effecting positive change whether his party was in the majority or the minority. He taught me that persuasion is not always loud.
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?
Rising median rent and property values are pricing out legacy residents, those new to the workforce, and working families from neighborhoods close to economic, transportation, and education centers. Coupled with rising consumer prices, metro Atlanta is becoming unaffordable to middle class families. Beyond working with local governments to increase the supply of affordable housing, the state should take action as well. I support property tax abatements for low income seniors who struggle to pay their assessments. Keeping seniors in their homes allows them to build generational wealth and honors those who have paid taxes all their lives. Additionally, I support increasing public transportation options such as light rail and bus rapid transit. In this past legislative session, we dedicated a fund specifically for transportation projects through negligible fees on ridesharing services. Expanding transit options keeps our neighborhoods affordable, equitable, and reduces traffic and commute times.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
First, I think a legislator must understand their constituents’ values. For example, I believe the majority of my constituents want our fundamental right to bodily autonomy and medical privacy restored. They are tired of the “guns everywhere” mentality and want common sense gun safety laws. They tell me they want their kids to have a quality, honest education at safe schools. Thus, I could never support laws that directly hinder accomplishing these goals. But there is a limitless number of issues where I believe legislators on both sides of the aisle could find common ground. Typically, no one gets everything they want so I definitely think incremental steps towards progress is better than going backward or standing still.
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 stand by the results of a free and fair election because respect for our electoral process is the foundation of our democratic republic. After winning in 2020, I was the victim of election deniers who challenged my victory without producing any actual evidence. If there is legitimate evidence of election fraud, there is a statutory mechanism to challenge such a crime based on real evidence. But election deniers who bring false claims without such evidence should be held accountable for wasting taxpayer dollars and harassing fairly elected candidates. While there is no evidence that Georgia’s past elections have ever been corrupted, I have been very vocal about my support for hand-marked paper ballots. every respected cybersecurity expert in the country told us that they are the gold standard for election integrity.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion.
My mission will be to repeal Georgia’s extreme and dangerous abortion ban. The fundamental freedom to decide what is best for our bodies and our futures is tantamount. Invading our medical privacy is government overreach at a level we’ve never seen in America. Prosecuting doctors who have been educated and trained for decades to know what’s best for their patients will result in more women dying, which is inconceivable considering Georgia already has the country’s second highest maternal mortality rate. After November, we’ll be down to only one Level 1 trauma center in the entire metro Atlanta area. Several hospitals have closed over the last four years. Restricting reproductive care and prosecuting doctors will impact the state’s economic growth when employers start struggling to attract talent and fill workforce needs because of our failing healt hcare system and regressive policies.
Are there any programs/legislation you’ve sponsored or created to help people with disabilities?
During the 2021-22 legislative session, I co-sponsored House Bill 875. Had it passed, it would have formed the framework for a peer workforce training program for those with physical disabilities, mental health impairments, and for individuals facing housing insecurity. Although the bill unfortunately stalled last session, I look forward to supporting the reintroduction of this bill during the next session or sponsoring similar legislation that would provide workforce training programs specifically designed for people with disabilities. I also am always open to suggestions from the disability community for other legislation that would be helpful.
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 should be absolutely no reason to raise taxes when we have such a large surplus. I would like to see tax dollars reprioritized to help Georgia become not only the best place to do business, but also the best place to live and work. We must reopen hospitals and significantly expand access to quality health care, including reproductive and mental health care. Public transit infrastructure must be improved to provide better connectivity so our working families can get to work. We need more incentives to increase housing options, making prices and rent more affordable. Our teachers must be paid their worth, dilapidated schools need to be restored, and our children deserve a quality education with the wrap-around services they need to be successful at school and beyond. It’s also time to invest in programs to increase our work force and skilled labor so our small businesses can thrive.
The Legislature often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?
While partisanship and gridlock plague our political system, problems facing all Georgians should be resolved via bipartisan action rather than divisive rhetoric. Most constituents want the government to work for them. I’m committed to addressing my community’s toughest problems which requires building consensus within my party and those across the aisle. That’s why I’m proud to be part of the small group of legislators in the minority party to pass bipartisan legislation. If reelected, I’ll continue to seek common ground. Workforce development is a growing concern for small businesses. State-level immigration reforms through a bipartisan path will increase our trained workforce utilizing new residents and those seeking a pathway to citizenship while also ensuring our state’s security. Offering in-state tuition to resident non-citizens, business licensing reforms, and issuing special work permits to non-citizen workers would immediately increase the much-needed supply of skilled workers in our labor market.