April 24, 2024

Candidate Q&A – Mary Margaret Oliver

Early voting in the May 21 primary election begins on April 29.

This Q&A is part of our coverage of the Decaturish 2024 elections.

Senate and House maps have changed this year due to redistricting. Please check your ballot to determine if your Senate or House district has changed. To see the new maps for state House races, click here. To see the new maps for state Senate races, click here. To view your ballot for the May 21 primary election, visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter page by clicking here.

Early voting in the May 21 primary election begins on April 29.

The answers have not been edited and are published in the order they were received.

House District 84

Mary Margaret Oliver (Incumbent)

Mary Margaret Oliver

Campaign website and social media pages: marymargaretoliver.org, Twitter/X – mmo_mary, Facebook – Mary Margaret Oliver for House District 84, Instagram

What is your occupation? Lawyer and State Representative

What is the neighborhood you call home? Druid Hills

Can you tell us anything about yourself or your life that you think is important for voters to know?

I enjoy learning about issues in depth, and I am good at resolving conflicts.

Why are you running for this position?

I have experience and relationships in the Capitol that are useful in serving my constituents. DeKalb County is home. I graduated from Druid Hills High School, and I care about the people who live here.

If elected, what are your top two or three priorities?

Mental health reform (continue ongoing process initiated by David Ralston), reduction of gun violence (passage of Red-Flag law and expansion of background checks for all gun sales), and expanding Medicaid to serve the 500,000 Georgians who are not insured.

Why are you a better candidate than your opponents?

I have experience, skills, and a commitment to public service demonstrated by several decades of civic and community work.

In your opinion, what is the role of a legislator?

The role of a legislator is listening, understanding in depth the issues that impact constituents, building coalitions to solve problems, and bringing more people into the political process.

Who is the elected official (past or present) you most admire, and why do you admire them?

President Jimmy Carter, whose service and integrity can never be questioned.

What, in your opinion, is the most critical issue facing Georgians right now? What is your proposal for addressing it?

The most critical issue facing Georgians right now is the growing inequality between the haves and have-nots. The benefits of Georgia’s strong economy reach too few people. Solutions must focus on creating more equitable opportunities, particularly in education and health care.

Many of you are running in districts with maps that are dramatically different from the ones used in the last election. What are your strategies to engage and educate these voters about the upcoming election?

It is a privilege to serve any district, and I have had opportunities in past offices to learn how to reach out and engage voters, both newer citizens of DeKalb and longtime citizens. Both deserve to have their voices heard and their influence recognized. It has always been a priority for me to communicate with both new and long-term constituents. Strategies that I have used and will continue to use are town halls, my newsletter and website, social media, and media opportunities through television, radio and print. I am a frequent contributor to WABE’s Politically Georgia.

If elected, how will you work with members of the opposite party to accomplish your goals?

Because of my skills and relationships with those of other party, I have been tapped for leadership in bipartisan efforts such as mental health reform. I am the senior Democrat in every committee where I serve, including Appropriations, Judiciary and Governmental Affairs, and based on that role I have specific obligations to offer bipartisan support or to oppose agendas Democrats oppose. Recognizing that every legislator is unique and has something to offer is key to building relationships and solving problems.

How will you work with the leadership of DeKalb County to accomplish their legislative goals?

I have had multiple opportunities to work with leaders of DeKalb County due to my law career and my past roles as a judge and civic leader in DeKalb County. I have had much success in carrying legislation for the cities I represent, the school districts I represent, and other governmental groups and elected officials.

If you are elected, would you support annexation efforts or creating new cities in DeKalb County and Georgia?

I have drafted and co-sponsored legislation to improve procedures for annexation. I have voted for and against new cities in DeKalb County, and I evaluate each effort based on individual merits and wishes of citizens both inside and outside of the targeted area.

Should the 60% annexation method be revised? If so, in what way? If not, why not?

Yes. Improvements should be made in the 60% process. The 60% method should also include a referendum, and there should be a mandate that pension legacy issues be addressed. Voters should be given more information on service delivery contracts and how tax burdens would be shared.

As local cities and counties grapple with housing affordability and housing diversity, what should the legislature do to support more access to affordable housing?

The General Assembly should provide incentives for greater density and expanded zoning options. Development Authority incentives for multi-use or apartment projects must be offered only contingent upon provision of affordable housing

Do you think Medicaid should be expanded? Why or why not?

Medicaid should be expanded, which will improve access to quality medical care for all Georgians. The current system is inequitable, costly, and injurious to all voters. Additionally, as part of Medicaid expansion, we must increase rate reimbursement for medical providers.

Last year, the General Assembly passed a significant mental health reform bill. Should more be done to improve mental health care facilities and access in Georgia? Why or why not?

As a member of the Behavioral Health Commission for the past three years, we have made specific budget and legislative reform proposals. As a primary sponsor of House Bill 1013 (2022), House Bill 520 (2023), and Senate Bill 533 (2024), I have been centrally involved in the mental health reform process initiated by then Speaker David Ralston. In total, through the leadership of David Ralston and the behavioral health commission, we have appropriated 500 million dollars of money for mental health services. There is a great deal more to be done, specifically in delivering services for mentally ill citizens in crisis, increasing reimbursement rates for providers, and taking multiple actions to increase the workforce needed to face Georgia’s mental health crisis. More details on these proposals can be reviewed in the three years of recommendations made by the Behavioral Health Commission where I continue to serve as Subcommittee Chair of Workforce Development.

The Legislature was looking to address increasing property assessments this year, with a few bills related to floating homestead exemptions introduced. Should the General Assembly address property assessments? If so, how? If not, why not?

I have sponsored local legislation for homestead exemptions and voted for procedural changes in the assessment process. There is no consistency in the way exemptions are granted by the many cities in DeKalb County.

What should the state do with any revenue surplus it receives?

We have statutory requirements for maintaining surpluses at a certain level, and we have always met those obligations. We are in a period now where the surplus is controlled by the Governor. Too much of the lottery surplus is from general revenue, and other authorities or entities should be utilized to serve citizens’ needs, particularly in the areas of education, public safety, and health care.

If elected, do you promise to conduct yourself in an ethical and transparent manner? What will you do to promote ethics and transparency in government?

My record speaks for itself in promoting ethics and transparency in government.