Jul 11, 2023 - Politics

Georgia state legislator switches to Republican Party

Rep. Mesha Mainor. Photo: Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A Democratic state representative from Atlanta who has repeatedly voted against her party, including by supporting a failed school voucher bill, is now a Republican.

Driving the news: State Rep. Mesha Mainor announced on Tuesday she will join the GOP, making her the first-ever Black woman to serve as a Republican in the Georgia General Assembly.

Why it matters: Mainor, who was first elected in 2020, represents the deep-blue 56th state house district that stretches from Westview up into Midtown.

Be smart: The switch means these largely Democratic voters will be represented by a Republican for the duration of Mainor's term, which expires in 2024.

Of note: In an interview with Axios in April, Mainor said she would "never" switch parties, and vowed to run for re-election.

What they're saying: Mainor said Tuesday during a press conference at the Capitol that she was a lifelong member of the Democratic Party because it was known as the party that fights for the underserved and "those that have been forgotten."

  • "I wish I could stand here and say that the Democrats at the Capitol are all of those things, but that's just not true," she said, adding that members of the party have "publicly slandered" her.

The other side: The Democratic Party of Georgia said in a statement that Mainor's switch is a "stinging betrayal of her constituents, who elected a Democrat to represent them in the state legislature."

  • "House District 56 deserves a representative who will do the job they were elected to do, including fighting for high-quality public education," the statement reads.

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.

Flashback: Criticism from her fellow Democrats reached a fever pitch earlier this year when she supported a bill that would have provided parents a $6,500 voucher per child to use towards certain private schools' tuition, tutoring fees, therapy or transportation.

  • Afterwards, a Democratic state senator offered $1,000 to anyone willing to challenge Mainor in the primary.

That legislation failed after Republicans from rural parts of the state rallied against it.

  • Mainor previously told Axios that she supported the bill because "parents in my district are fed up."
  • "I vote for what my constituency needs," she said in an interview with Axios following the vote. "No party has all the answers."

Zoom out: A North Carolina state legislator, Tricia Cotham, left the Democratic Party and joined the GOP in April and later sponsored a bill supporting vouchers for private schools.

  • "If you don't do exactly what the Democrats want you to do, they will try to bully you," Cotham said at the time.

What we're watching: The state Democratic Party said it looks forward to electing a "strong Democrat … who will serve the people, not personal political ambitions" in 2024.

  • Mainor has not had any general election opponents before, and won her 2022 primary with 65% of the vote.

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