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Mesha Mainor Makes the Case for Year-Round Organizing!

On Tuesday, State Representative Mesha Mainor announced that she was leaving the Democratic party and joining the Republican party. Mainor’s House District 56 stretches from Westview to Midtown Atlanta, making it one of the bluer districts in the state. Democrats will flip the seat back next year, as evidenced by the fact no statewide Democrat fell below 80% in this district in 2022.

Meanwhile, this switch now makes the State House 102-78 in favor of Republicans. Mainor cited backlash she got from now former fellow Democrats in regards to her vote for the student voucher bill, which Democrats narrowly defeated last session, among the reasons for her decision to switch parties.

Republicans have already vowed to bring the bill back next session, which begs the question: why do so many Republicans, including Mesha Mainor, feel so comfortable voting for a school voucher bill that would only further gut public education in Georgia? These are the same public schools funded by a 1985 formula.Since its inception, the state’s population has roughly doubled, and costs for expenses like transportation, technology and counselors have radically changed in the intervening decades.” It is no surprise that Georgia’s public education system was ranked in the bottom 20 just last year in terms of quality, safety, and spending.

So, again, why do so many Republicans feel emboldened to gut funding for public education, an issue that is near and dear to so many parents, grandparents, and educators across the state? It’s because of the 40-day legislative calendar.

Hiding In Plain Sight

Georgia is one of forty states with a part-time legislature, and their 40-day calendar is one of the shortest sessions in the country. Fine if your lawmakers do a good job. Not so great if they don’t. By election time in November, it’s been 7 months since the lawmakers who have the most direct impact on your daily life have even been in their offices. At that point, you’re being bombarded with TV and social media ads for more high-profile races like Senate, Governor, and President. They’re the ones who really affect your life, the ads say.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers who decide school funding, reproductive rights, gun laws, healthcare access, and so much more, are hiding in plain sight. Right on your ballot.

No wonder so many folks don’t know what the State Legislature does. Along with the flood of ads, and the gerrymandered maps the 40-day legislative calendar lets the Republican majority get away with murder. That’s not just a problem for Georgia Democrats. It’s a problem for Georgians. A problem that year-round organizing solves.

Connecting The Dots

People need to be reminded – at regular intervals – of who’s responsible for what. Your kid’s school is underfunded? State Legislature. Your rural hospital closed? State Legislature. Your landlord jacked up the rent, or some out of state corporation has swooped in and bought up hundreds of thousands of single-family homes – just to turn a profit? State Legislature.

People need to know who’s responsible for these things – but just as important – they need to know Democrats have solutions – but sometimes can’t even get a hearing, let alone a vote, as evidenced by the lack of traction on affordable housing.

Year-round organizers are needed to do that messaging. Not just the 40 days the legislature is in session or the 40 days before an election. A constant drum beat in community after community throughout the state is necessary for people to understand who is working on their behalf and who needs to be shown the door.

Give Georgia 80 year-round organizers like Michigan has and you’ll see a more informed electorate at the ballot box. We’ll either elect more Democrats or get more responsive Republicans. Who knows, maybe both?

Whatever the outcome, the choice is clear, fund year-round organizing, or we are looking at another 20 years of disastrous Republican control at the state level.

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