September 24, 2023

Georgia Democrat Mesha Mainor, at odds with her party, switches to the Republicans

ATLANTA (AP) — An Atlanta state legislator switched to the Republican Party on Tuesday after finding herself at odds with Democrats, including over her support for school vouchers and disciplining prosecutors.

Rep. Mesha Mainor becomes the only black member of the GOP among Georgia’s 236 state legislators, and the first black Republican woman to ever serve in the Georgia General Assembly. Mainor’s defection gives the Republicans a 102-78 lead in the House.

Mainor said Legislative Democrats expelled her from the party for breaking the party’s orthodoxy. every conceivable way.”

“I thought it was okay as a Democrat to disagree with those things. But they told me, ‘You know what, those are values ​​we just don’t have,'” Mainor said, flanked by Republican Party chairman Josh McKoon.

But she had long been on the run as part of a minority faction of Atlanta-area Democrats and for very personal reasons related to a stalking incident where Mainor felt her stalker was getting off too easily.

Tension between Mainor and other Democrats erupted earlier this year after Mainor became the only Democrat to vote for a school voucher bill that failed after a number of House Republicans broke ranks to oppose it. School choice has always had some support among urban black Democrats, but Mainor’s party members responded with disdain, even as Republicans rallied for Mainor’s support. State Senator Josh McLaurin, a Democrat from Atlanta, posted a photo of a $1,000 check online for a primary challenger, writing “All I need is a name.”

First elected in 2020, Mainor represents House District 56, an ultra-Democratic strip of Atlanta, including the Midtown neighborhood and nearby parts of the city’s west side. She had previously said she would not switch sides. On Tuesday, however, she urged other lifelong Democrats to reexamine the party’s values.

“I especially encourage more Black Americans and Black Democrats — you may have this jacket on, but I suggest you look at the lining. Look what’s in it,’ she said.

McKoon welcomed Mainor, saying her move shows that the Republican Party is “where diversity of opinion is welcome, where different ideas, talking together about different policies and solutions is a strength, not a weakness.”

“We may disagree, but still come together on things that matter most to us,” said McKoon, who pledged to support Mainor’s re-election bid.

U.S. Representative Nikema Williams, chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, denounced Mainor’s switch as a “stingy betrayal” to her Democratic voters.

“House District 56 deserves a representative who will do the work they were elected to do, including the fight for quality public education,” Williams said in a statement.

House Speaker Jon Burns, a Republican from Newington, said in a statement that Mainor “joins the party of opportunity.”

Mainor’s decision and some of her legislative actions are also motivated by a much more personal dispute. She sued Fulton County Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr., Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, and the county in federal court in 2022 alleging violations of her civil rights in a case where a former campaign aide stalked her.

Willis alleged that Arrington, who was the man’s attorney, improperly used his position as commissioner to get a favorable plea for the stalker. Mainor also alleged that Willis failed to adequately investigate the crime before offering the plea deal. U.S. District Judge Sarah Geraghty dismissed the case in March, ruling that the alleged actions could not constitute a civil rights violation, even if she accepted all of Mainor’s claims.

The last Georgia legislative Democrat to switch to the Republican Party was Vernon Jones of DeKalb County, who threw himself into the GOP in January 2021 as a supporter of then-President Donald Trump, at the end of Jones’ final term in the state House. Jones dropped a Republican primary challenge to Governor Brian Kemp at Trump’s behest and then lost a Republican primary runoff in Georgia’s 10th district to current U.S. Representative Mike Collins despite Trump’s support.

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