District 51 Rep. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, defeated Republican Alex Kaufman in the Nov. 6 general election to replace Republican Wendell Willard, who is retiring.

“What I’m looking forward to most (in 2019) is 2018 was about people who had not been engaged before using their voices in the political sphere,” McLaurin said. “I’m excited to be a representative for a larger proportion of voters than Georgia has seen in a while.

“I’m looking forward to building relationships with constituents and other legislators, both Democratic and Republican. I think people know they deserve legislators who work together and who have everyone’s best interest in mind and aren’t in it just for themselves. A representative for the issues is what I am going to be.”

He said he has big shoes to fill in replacing Willard, who served in the House for 18 years (nine terms).

“It’s with a lot of humility I’m going to occupy his seat,” McLaurin said. “I don’t expect to make waves on Day 1, and I doubt I could. If I’m fortunate, I’ll have the opportunity to earn the trust of other constituents and legislators.”

District 54 Rep. Betsy Holland, D-Atlanta, beat incumbent Republican Beth Beskin in the general election.

“This is an exciting time for Georgia – we’re poised for a new era of economic growth and prosperity, but we must address some of our challenges like healthcare access, education and transit to be successful,” Holland said. “I’m excited to have a seat at the table while we create a roadmap for Georgia’s future that’s inclusive and holds opportunity for everyone.

District 80 Rep. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven, beat incumbent Republican Meagan Hanson in November.

“We have an opportunity right now to enact crucial improvements to the way our government works that is too big to pass up,” Wilson said. “One of the main reasons I ran was my frustration at how we have held up necessary reforms, in particular with our public school and healthcare systems, due to red-versus-blue tribalism. I am looking forward to making some real progress on these and other issues with so many new members and perspectives under the Gold Dome.”

Like McLaurin, Wilson said he plans to reach out to all elected leaders and build bridges and relationship with both Democratic and Republican officials.

All three incoming lawmakers interviewed by the Neighbor are part of a blue wave of Democrats who won seats long held by Republicans. But they will still have to work with a Legislature that has both chambers controlled by the GOP, in addition to having a Republican governor.

“I think the important takeaway about what some are calling the blue wave is it represents new energy in politics,” McLaurin said. “Anytime a group of people is standing up either for the first time or with new motivation to get involved, that’s something everybody should pay attention to. I was in law school in the Northeast (at Yale) during the Tea Party movement in 2010, and I felt the same way about that as I do now, because when things are changing, you need to pay attention.”

Holland agreed.

“This new class of Democrats really represents the diversity of our state – women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ legislators who will represent voices that may not have been raised up under the Gold Dome before now,” she said. “I’m incredibly honored to be among my new colleagues who are smart, passionate and ready to roll up their sleeves to work for Georgia. This incoming class of Democrats is committed to tackling the problems facing Georgia. This blue wave brought us closer to an even party balance in the Legislature; I hope that leads to more collaboration among legislators.

Wilson echoed those sentiments.

“Almost everyone I talked to during the campaign told me they were dissatisfied and disappointed by our elected leaders, that their priorities were no longer aligned with ours,” he said. “Unfortunately, our representatives spent most of their time arguing over red-meat social issues and forgot what we sent them there to do. I think the big shift from this election showed us that folks of all stripes wanted new leaders focused on different priorities, particularly changing the state’s approach to education funding, healthcare access, and transit planning.”

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