Apr 5, 2023 - Politics

Atlanta Democrat Mesha Mainor draws her own party's ire

Rep. Mesha Mainor

Rep. Mesha Mainor was first elected in 2020. Photo: Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In the wake of the 2023 legislative session, an intra-party conflict has accelerated around State Rep. Mesha Mainor, an Atlanta Democrat who regularly takes votes against her party — most recently to support the controversial school voucher bill.

Why it matters: Mainor represents Atlanta's deep-blue 56th state house district stretching from Westview up into Midtown.

What's happening: She was the only Democrat to support the voucher bill that failed on the final day of the session. That's prompted public pushback from some of her Democratic colleagues and even an offer by State Sen. Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs) to donate $1,000 to a possible primary opponent.

What she's saying: In an interview, Mainor told Axios, "I don't think I vote with Republicans. I vote for what my constituency needs. No party has all the answers."

  • She supports vouchers, she said, because her district has the most charter schools in the state: "Parents in my district are fed up."
  • And Mainor insists there are other Democrats who agree, but are afraid to go public. "I'm not the only one. People are afraid of Josh McLaurin putting $1,000 checks on the table."

The other side: In a statement to Axios, McLaurin said: "There are at least as many members who know Rep. Mainor is more a Republican than a Democrat, not just on vouchers but on a range of issues. But they’re also hesitant to make that public."

The big picture: Since taking office in 2021 Mainor has frequently broken ranks with her party. Last year she supported a special needs voucher and a ban on localities from lowering police budgets, and this year voted for a new prosecutorial oversight commission pushed by Republicans.

  • She also stood against the rest of the Fulton County Democratic caucus over its redistricting maps.

Between the lines: Intra-party Democratic fights are rarely public at the Capitol because the caucus generally has to stick together as a minority party to wield influence.

What we're watching: Mainor says she will "never" switch parties, and she intends to run for re-election.

  • She won her 2022 primary by nearly 40 points and ran unopposed in November.

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