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Georgia Democratic state Representative Mesha Mainor announced Tuesday, July 11, that she “made the decision to leave the Democrat Party” to join the GOP.

Earlier this year, Mainor was the only Democrat to vote for a school choice bill that ultimately died in the Georgia House after passing the Senate along party lines. Her party leadership wasn’t happy.

“When I decided to stand up on behalf of disadvantaged children in support of school choice, my Democrat colleagues didn’t stand by me,” Mainor told Fox News digital. Much worse than not standing with her, the party establishment made her a target, with some even promising a blank check to whomever would primary her.

WATCHDOG GROUP TARGETS DEMOCRAT OPPOSITION TO SCHOOL CHOICE AS AKIN TO SEGREGATION: ‘GEORGE WALLACE DEMOCRATS’

“For far too long, the Democrat Party has gotten away with using and abusing the Black community,” Mainor said. Her story is just the latest example.

Mesha Mainor headshot

In a Twitter video, Representative Mesha Mainor accused Democrats of turning against her for being a strong school-choice advocate. 
(Mesha Mainor)

On school choice, the Democratic Party is badly out of touch with its members, especially the Black community whose interests it claims to support. A new June 2023 poll from RealClear Opinion Research found that 71% of Americans support school choice, up 7 points from April 2020. That support for education freedom includes 66% support among Democrats and 73% support among Black voters. 

Although school choice support is strong across ideological lines, Democrats by and large take their cues from the teachers unions, who are more focused on maintaining power than empowering parents. 

Mainor took a big political risk on Tuesday. Holding her deep blue district near Atlanta will be an uphill battle if she chooses to run for the same office as a Republican. This fact shows true courage on Mainor’s part. 

As Georgia House Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones said Tuesday, “Representative Mainor has demonstrated a courage of her convictions that I admire. She has fought to give choice to Georgia families trapped in failing public schools, and we welcome her to our team to continue fighting for educational opportunities for all of Georgia’s children.” 

Mainor said Tuesday that “this wasn’t a political decision for me. It was a MORAL one. I will never apologize for being a black woman with a mind of my own.” 

Mainor isn’t the first Democrat to switch parties over school choice support this year. North Carolina Rep. Tricia Cotham flipped parties this April, giving House Republicans precisely the number of votes needed to override a veto from their anti-school-choice Democrat Governor Roy Cooper.

Democratic Governors Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois both signaled support for private school choice programs right before the midterm elections. However, Pritzker did nothing to save the Illinois scholarship program for low-income families that was killed by Democrats this year, and Shapiro ultimately caved to the teachers unions shortly after going on Fox News to voice his support for school choice. 

These Democratic defections haven’t led to a full-throated bipartisan push for school choice among elected officials, yet. The political tides are turning and the willingness of lawmakers like Mainor and Cotham to stand with families is putting pressure on other politicians. 

Although school choice support is strong across ideological lines, Democrats by and large take their cues from the teachers unions, who are more focused on maintaining power than empowering parents. 

As Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman famously said, “the way you solve things is by making it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing.” Sooner or later, it won’t just be champions like Mainor taking enormous risks – but opposing politicians in both parties realizing the risks in continuing the status quo. 

That time has come for school choice. Families have woken up after seeing the failures of teachers-union-induced remote learning. Parents are now paying attention and holding politicians accountable. 

Both political parties can gain voters – and even sitting legislators – on the popular issue of parental rights in education. The Democratic Party needs to adjust to the times and listen to their constituents, not just those in the teachers union, if they want to win in the long run. 

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