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 39
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
For over 25-years, I enjoyed a legal career with the U.S. Department of Justice. As a former federal attorney and law enforcement officer, as well as a community advocate, I have a unique background that includes real world experiences that have prepared me for this role. I possess an extensive background in constitutional, correctional, and related civil rights issues gained during my career that highlighted the failures within our criminal justice system. I have worked directly with every interested party in the criminal justice system including inmates, defense attorneys, federal prosecutors, families, judges, and correctional staff. I worked on several pieces of legislation, including the Prison Rape Elimination Act, requiring prisons to maintain zero- tolerance policies against sexual assault and rape of prisoners, and the Adam Walsh Act, which allows prisoners who are deemed “sexually dangerous” to remain in prison following the end of their sentence.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
The primary role of government is to serve the interests of the people who elect them. The government should pass laws to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of its citizens. Laws must always find a way to strike a balance, such as when it comes to gun control. For me, laws should be able to both protect the rights of citizens to responsible gun ownership and protect the First Amendment right of people to be safe in their communities, places of worship, school, store, etc., Right now, a person can be standing outside a school with a gun and the police inquire if they have a permit to carry or are legally eligible to own the gun. That’s a problem that leaves us all unsafe, citizens and law enforcement. Government should also enact laws that protect people from corporate greed and misconduct and provide a safety net for our most vulnerable.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
Currently, there are two level one trauma centers in the Atlanta Metro area, Atlanta Medical Center (AMC) and Grady Hospital. AMC has announced its closure, slated for Nov 1. Half of our state’s population will be reduced to accessing one trauma center. Over the past decade as the population in Georgia has grown exponentially, yet hospitals have closed, with rural Georgians suffering the most. Medicaid Expansion would have kept AMC and other hospitals open. Expansion of Medicaid will give over half a million Georgians access to health care and mental health care that they are being blocked from receiving. The next priority is gun safety. The “Constitutional carry law” allows people to carry concealed handguns in public without a permit or background check. Georgia already has the 9th highest rate of gun violence in the U.S., and guns are the leading cause of death among children and teenagers. The law must be repealed and replaced with common-sense gun-control laws.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
During my 25-year legal career with the U.S. Department of Justice, I became adept at working with people with diverse interests. I have always strived to find common grounds and compromise with parties of differing interests, needs and views. It is the job of the legislature to make laws to benefit all Georgians. I have no problem working across the aisle, when possible, to benefit all Georgians.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view state government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
There is no one person who occupies this role. I have been blessed to have my parents, teachers, college and law professors, and people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, education levels, dreams and goals who have influenced me in one form or another. I have learned that if you strip away the rhetoric, most of us want the same things. We want thriving communities, which includes our families being safe; good schools that support educational opportunities and advancement for our children; and positive economic development that allows our communities to thrive. We want our children to learn to be responsible and productive citizens who are happy and learning to contribute to the community. We want quality senior facilities for our parents and grandparents to receive proper care if we are unable to take care of them ourselves. We want to feel respected, accepted, and heard regardless of our race, sex, national origin, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.
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?
Currently, Georgia law prohibits local governments from enacting any type of rent control ordinance or resolutions. Thus, landlords are free to set rent and increase privately owned, single-single family or multiple-unit rental properties. The governor and state legislature are the only ones who can fix this problem by enacting laws to do several things. First, repeal the law, and give local counties and municipalities the authority to enact rent stabilization laws. Second, create laws to address affordable housing and diversify zoning. Third, make it easier for local authorities to enact housing codes and regulations and then enforce those regulations. Right now, many localities have no way to enforce housing regulations and state law prohibits localities from enacting meaningful rent stabilization laws.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
As a legislator, it will be my job to make laws that benefit my community and all Georgians. I believe in compromise and working on shared wins. Most of us realize some wins will have to be incremental, but it should not be generational. I would refuse to compromise in areas that go against my core values and beliefs, violate the tenants of our constitution, or harm our most vulnerable populations. I believe each situation and issue will have to be assessed on its own merits.
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 the 2018 and 2020 elections were secure and that there was little to no election fraud in Georgia. Out of the millions of ballots cast only 35 cases of election-law violations were referred for prosecution in 2021. Regarding election results, I also believe voters have the right to challenge elections by following appropriate challenges with their elections office or in court. However, I don’t believe the state legislature should have the power to interfere in elections because they don’t like the results. Further, I believe some of Georgia’s voting practices and processes unconstitutionally disenfranchise voters of color. One clear example is the current election procedures for Public Service Commissioner (PSC). Currently, commissioners run statewide but must live in one of five districts. This past August, a federal court ruled the current procedure dilutes the African American vote in violation of the Voters Rights Act and must be changed. Thus, Georgians will not see the PSC race on the November ballot.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion.
I don’t believe that any person outside of my husband and physicians should have any input on decisions I make about my body. I will do everything I can to protect the right of a woman to have personal and reproductive autonomy, including when and how to use contraception and whether to terminate a pregnancy.
Are there any programs/legislation you’ve sponsored or created to help people with disabilities?
I support the Elderly and Disabled Persons Protection Act, which was passed in 2021. This law provides for protective services for abused, neglected, or exploited disabled adults and seniors. This law is very important to me because my mother spent time in assisted living and memory care facilities when she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. We ended up moving my mother to three different facilities until we found the right fit. My sisters and I I took turns visiting mom day and night, and we often took her home with us on the weekends. But it is not feasible for most families to make unannounced facility visits anytime of the day or night to check on their loved ones. I strongly believe Georgians must protect our seniors and disabled. The Elderly and Disabled Persons Protect Act is a step in the right direction in protecting seniors.
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 the Georgia State Accounting Office, this year Georgia has a surplus of over $6 billion dollars. The state should use part of this surplus to raise educator’s salaries and recruit teachers at higher pay. The legislature should also address issues raised by educators in the Teacher Burnout Report, which includes fully funding paid parental leave and ensuring all school districts adopt the parental leave program passed in 2021. I would like to see House Bill 10 passed and funded. This bill would create the state’s first “opportunity weight” grant to give schools the necessary resources to educate students in poverty to our state’s high-quality standards. I would like to see some partnerships established in an effort to save some of our hospitals that are closing. I would also like to see Senate Bill 20 funded. This law is designed to encourage opening of banks in areas currently underserved by banks.
The Legislature often votes along party lines. When would you seek bipartisan action and what issues merit such consensus?
Some issues that come to mind include but are limited to legislation supporting and encouraging new small businesses, dealing with climate change, rent control and tenants’ rights, additional support, training, and accountability of police.