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 106
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
My career outside of the legislature is that of a clinical social worker. My life and my platform are dedicated to expanding health coverage, gun safety, protecting voting rights and fighting for equality in all areas. Civil, reproductive and LGBTQ rights are my top priorities since these are the rights that are currently under assault in our state and country. I pride myself on being active in my district and in the capitol. As a result, I’ve made critical relationships on both sides of the aisle. I am generally seen as “playing well in the sandbox” and sought-after for partnerships in bipartisan efforts. My relationships locally and statewide, subject matter expertise, and experience distinguishes my candidacy over other candidates in the race.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
Government should support the safety, well-being, and advancement of the collective society. Local control is essential and prioritized. However, when the collective good, such in the case of health, financial or public safety emergencies, macro-level government policies must be our safety net. My voting history proves my intent to hold local control paramount, with deference to state and federal policy, and law for the collective common good.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
First, expanding Health care. Georgia has not expanded Medicaid under the trifecta of Republican rule. We are losing hospitals, medical providers and health care job. Each year we get closer to the number of votes we need to pass a measure to expand Medicaid. With continued work, I’m confident we will come to an agreement. Secondly, mental health, which is my passion and my career. I have introduced legislation to make meaningful changes in our mental health system. My status being “from the minority party” stifles even the most brilliant bills. As time passes and relationships evolve, I have been able to pass bills on bipartisan efforts. Third, equality. Legislatively, Georgia has attacked equality in nearly every area. They have passed bills to repress the voice of minority voters, weaken workers’ rights, reverse reproductive rights and attack the well-being of trans youth.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
The only way to adequately represent politically diverse groups is to be present in their circles. An effective leader can go to groups that may be outside their comfort zone, respectfully listen and empathize with different views. Admittedly our divide is sharp and deep. A leader should be able to steer constituencies to some form of truth and reconciliation.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
Everton Blair, Jr., the youngest, first black, first openly LGBTQ candidate and, ultimately member and president, of the Gwinnett County School Board, has significantly influenced who I am as a legislator. His bravery to consider running for office when he did was inspirational. His leadership style of planned, measured diplomacy was effective and genuinely made a difference to staff and students in Gwinnett County Schools. He taught me fearlessness, patience and control under challenging situations.
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?
Legislative support can be introduced to ease the burden of housing costs. Innovative programs incentivize builders to build affordable houses and empower new homeowners. A comprehensive housing program would have to incentivize the beginning, middle and end of the process. If the end of the program is not homeownership, incentives should not be realized for builders, contractors, etc.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
Everyone has a personal set of ethics. Generally, those personal ethics conform with societal ethics. Individual legislators agree with a basic set of ethics: murdering someone is wrong; stealing, and physically hurting someone, is bad. It’s what’s in the margin, the gray areas, that separate us. My set of ethics: violations of civil and personal rights, concerns for public safety and health and well-being are where I draw the line for compromise. Everyone in this country benefits from government programs, even if it’s just the police, fire or school system services. The government should always serve a supportive role in advancing goals and ensuring that our citizenry thrives. I will not compromise that support system.
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?
Yes, I believe the elections in 2020 were fair. Anomalies existed, but anomalies existed for every election. Ultimately, I stand by the results.That said, I was a member of a large group of legislators that advocated for hand-marked paper ballots. We were outnumbered, and the majority decided to opt for the much more expensive plan to purchase Dominion voting machines that have been the subject of the “insecurity” of the voting process. I still believe hand-marked paper ballots would make great strides in securing trust with voters and the voting process.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion.
When I started my first legislative session, the heartbeat bill (anti-abortion legislation) was quietly submitted and soon became the biggest fight of the session. We worked long and hard to stop the bill, to no avail. The bill passed one night around midnight, and a mourning session ensued with legislators, volunteers, and protesters — lots of tears, disappointment and feelings of defeat and loss. I will do anything to make sure that does not happen again. This includes future legislation that reverses the harmful policies restricting the reproductive rights of Georgians in recent history.
Are there any programs/legislation you’ve sponsored or created to help people with disabilities?
I have introduced legislation to improve the administration of services for mental health and developmental disabilities. House Bill 514 upgrades the mental health and developmental disabilities diagnostic manual that reflects the most recent version. The mental health manual we refer to in the Georgia code is more than 20 years behind treatment advances made with current research and practice. House Bill (2021) was developed to achieve financial parity for treatment, ultimately achieved in House Bill 1013 (2022). House Bills 239 and 651 restrict audits of mental health providers to the Office of Behavioral Health, stopping the duplication of administrative services, and redirecting those funds to increase services provided to the general public.
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?
We have so many lapses in law and policy in Georgia that money can fix. For example, the problem of foster children without official placements and sleeping in Georgia Division of Family and Children Services offices can be fixed by buying beds in facilities and finding homes willing to take them in. Elementary school teachers are often not even allowed to take breaks during the day; also a problem that can be fixed with adequate funding. Legislators have to understand that people are our most valuable asset. We must be able to invest in the individual for the collective well-being of the citizenry in Georgia. Lifting our fellow neighbors creates a happier, healthier Georgia.
The Legislature often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?
Constitutionally, we must have a consensus on the budget. In my opinion, though, it should be a requirement that all bills are bipartisan. That would promote a more collaborative effort and help close the deep political divide in Georgia.