Candidate Q&A Senate District 40

Two progressive Democrats, Tamara Johnson-Shealy and Sally Harrell, are currently running for Senate District 40. Republican Fran Millar currently holds this seat. We asked both candidates the same questions. The questions, and their answers are below. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

 

Sally Harrell

Why did you decide to run?

Our democracy is at risk due to gerrymandering. I know from my past experience that I can run a winning campaign even in a difficult swing district. It is critical that Democrats gain a larger voice in redistricting in 2021, or we will continue to have unwinnable congressional districts and a dysfunctional congress. By flipping Senate 40, we prevent the Senate Republicans from having a super majority, which slows down their ability to push a far-right agenda.

 

What experience do you have that is relevant to the office you seek?

From 1999 – 2005, I won three elections to the Georgia House of Representatives in a competitive “swing” district within Senate 40. While serving in the legislature, I influenced and passed legislation in the areas of education, healthcare (including disabilities) and mental health. I have a Master of Social Work from the University of Georgia, and have served as a non-profit executive director. Having recently raised two children, now ages 16 and 18, I have seen first-hand the challenges that local families face, particularly with healthcare expenses, public schools and traffic congestion.

 

What are your top 3 priorities?

My top three priorities are education, healthcare and the environment. Our K-12 public education system needs to be fully funded, restoring cuts made since 2008 and before, and reversing the trend toward sending public dollars to private schools. Pre-school, college and technical schools need to be made affordable. Medicaid needs to be expanded to save our failing healthcare system state-wide. And perhaps most urgently, we need to slow the destruction of our environment by investing in innovative, clean energy solutions, especially in the area of regional traffic planning.

 

What problems/challenges/difficulties do you see in the state? What would you propose to do about them?

Georgia needs new leadership. While our income gap continues to widen, hospitals close or merge, and our teachers attempt to do more with less, our legislature has been wasting time and taxpayer money with debates about “religious liberty,” carrying guns into bars, churches and college campuses, and making life hard for immigrants. The leadership of the Gold Dome needs to join the 21st century – not bring us back to a time where racism, sexism, and other prejudices were the political norm. Our current representatives don’t want to change – so we must change our representatives.

We also need to have an open and honest conversation about how different members of our community are at a disadvantage simply because of their race or religion or lack of money, and we need to work closely with these groups to understand and identify ways we can support their priorities. I see this as a cornerstone to any progressive approach to governance, and I believe that making an extra effort to be inclusive and hear voices that are disenfranchised will benefit all of us in the long run.

 

What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from that?

As public servants, our first duty is to listen to learn. During my earliest days serving in the legislature, I tried hard to listen to the voices of the people. I quickly learned that listening is not easy, as some voices are easier to hear than others. The “loud” voices I heard as a new legislator turned out to be a few voices of a very vocal minority. Eventually, I learned to actively seek the input of the quieter voices, and even figured out how to be a voice for the voiceless. This allowed me to use the legislative process to make a bigger difference for more people.

 

Tamara Johnson-Shealy

Why did you decide to run?

This is my third run for Senate District 40.  I ran for the first time in 2014 and the second time in 2016.  I decided to run during the controversial Lavista Hills/Tucker cityhood initiative.  As a resident of the Northlake/Tucker Community, I witnessed, firsthand the divisive leadership of the current incumbent.  Friends, neighbors and neighborhoods were torn apart and I realized that Senate District 40 and the citizens of Georgia deserved better leadership.

 

What experience do you have that is relevant to the office you seek?

I am well versed in legislation and the legislative process in Georgia and nationwide.  As Senior Advocate of a professional, national organization my role is to bring people together.  In this position, I organize our members around the issues and monitor and fight legislation.  I understand that if policy is to work effectively, it must bring people together and not tear them apart.

 

What are your top 3 priorities?

As a Democrat, my top 3 priorities are healthcare, education and transportation.  Georgia must be intentional with providing healthcare for all.  Georgia must fully fund public education to ensure that every child has an equal opportunity to learn.  Georgia must also make sure that we have viable transportation options that ease congestion and protect the environment.

 

What problems/challenges/difficulties do you see in the state? What would you propose to do about them?

The problem that I see in Georgia is its inability to serve all Georgians equally and fairly.  We have areas in Georgia that are under served and do not have access to resources and opportunities.  I would propose that as policy is initiated, we are intentional in making sure that legislative initiatives work for all Georgians.

 

What mistakes have you made and what have you learned from that?

I am an extremely hard worker.  When I start something, I am focused until it is completed.  I am dedicated and committed to all that I do.  A mistake that I have made is “not stopping and smelling the roses”.  It is still a challenge for me, however, I have learned that I need to slow down and take life’s journey one day at time.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *