By Rebecca Gaunt
Student Trinity Olmstead is challenging one of the longest serving state representatives in the Georgia legislature – Rep. Don Parsons (R-Cobb) – for the House District 44 seat.
Born in Georgia, Olmstead spent most of his childhood and teen years in Kentucky. But when he had the opportunity to return to his birth state, he took it. He enrolled in Kennesaw State University and embraced the booming city as his home, volunteering in political campaigns for presidential, mayoral and city races.
“Making Kennesaw my home was one of the easiest decisions I have made. The growing diversity, the opportunity to succeed, and the home feeling is what has allowed me to love this place. Being able to be involved at KSU, as well as with other organizations in the area, has also been an honor because this is my community,” Olmstead told the Courier in an email.
Why did you decide to run for state legislature? Why now, while still in college?
I decided to run for state representative for one main reason: to help uplift the poor, the working poor and the barely surviving middle class of our community and state. I have spent my entire teenage life volunteering and working to find ways to fight for the common good of this country. I believe now my fight and my best work going forward will be in our state legislature. I believe in raising the minimum wage to a living wage, the protection and expansion of voting rights, expansion of Medicaid, and making college affordable here in Georgia. I believe that my best position to do this in college is because these issues are affecting the youth while our state legislature lacks youth representation. I believe the best way to combat these issues and make a difference is having someone who is in the struggle, like myself, to fight for people in our community and state, to be there and make a difference. Win or lose, I want to pave a way to show that college students can run a campaign and legislate while being in college. It’s a difficult task but it is worth it to fight for the people of this community.
You have prior experience working on campaigns for Priscilla Smith and state Rep. Shea Roberts. How has that experience informed your views on Georgia politics?
During 2020, I worked on both campaigns. Rep. Shea Roberts was able to win her race while Priscilla came up a little short in her run for office. Both campaigns have allowed me to gain experience and learn the pros and cons of running my own political campaign. Both campaigns have allowed me to have an up close and personal look on how politics here in the state work since I only knew from an volunteer standpoint. I believe, with both campaign experiences, that I have the knowledge to not only run a campaign, but also be able to be the next representative here in the 44th district. I believe it doesn’t take electoral history to be able to serve a community; but I do believe that it takes organization and commitment to be a leader, which I am qualified for in both areas.
What did Georgia do well in the handling of COVID-19 and what would you have done differently?
I believe it was terrible. I believe that Gov. Kemp was more concerned in making President Trump happy while the people of Georgia suffered. While our medical professionals and people were suffering, Kemp refused to implement a mask mandate. [His] continued disregard for our school districts is truly disgusting. And he continued to position himself to be unfit for office. Even though I am not running for Governor, as a legislator I would’ve created a bill to have a mask mandate for our state. When comparing to other states that do have a mask mandate and one currently in schools, we see that their positivity case rate is lower than states like Georgia who refused this entire pandemic to implement a mask mandate. This should have not been a political issue and even other Republican governors of different states have implemented mask mandates and followed the science. Kemp wanted to impress the former administration which, as a result, has overwhelmed our hospital system and cost the lives of over 20,000 Georgians.
How can Georgia improve its education system? Do you support school vouchers?
I believe the best way for education to be improved is to continue to fund and strengthen public schools and give necessary resources for them to thrive. As someone who grew up in the public school system and the son of an educator, I believe in public education and I will be a champion for public education in the legislature. When it comes to school vouchers, I support school choice and giving families the option to choose what type of education fits best for their children. I do not support having federal and state government funding private school vouchers. I also do not support for-profit charter schools and I believe that we should hold charter schools accountable.
Where do you stand on environmental issues? Do you believe the local government responded appropriately with regard to the ethylene oxide issues at the Sterigenics facility and Georgia Power coal ash pits along the Chattahoochee River?
I support listening to scientists and pushing to combat climate change. I personally recognize that if we do not start making a difference now when it comes to climate change, and implementing policy, we will lose the Earth that we all so much love. I think the issue is that at the federal level, there is still a continuation of back and forth that isn’t changing anything. I believe we must address this at a local level which if elected, I will make climate one of my main focuses and do everything within my power to help make a difference. I think the issue with coal ash pits was a terrible idea and very dangerous for our already threatening climate change. When elected, I will fight to make sure that we preserve our water sources and continue to fight Georgia Power to make sure that they do everything in their capabilities to prevent climate change from crippling our environment.
Rep. Don Parsons, who currently holds the district 44 House seat, supported SB 202, the controversial voting law that passed in 2021, also known as the Elections Integrity Act. What is your reaction to that bill?
I believe the bill was terrible and another power grab that the Republicans are using to try to keep power in Georgia as Georgia, particularly metro Atlanta, is starting to diversify. However, Republican candidates throughout the last few election cycles have held office and done little or nothing for the people of this fine state. Once Georgia flipped blue in November for President Biden and then in January for Senators Ossoff and Warnock, that frightened the Georgia GOP, particularly my opponent Rep. Parsons, who won his seat by 51% in 2020 and 54% in 2018. Each election, he has continued to have his margin of victory shrunk, which prompted him to support this bill to continue the voter suppression that has been happening in our state for generations, but most recently with the help of then- Secretary of State Kemp and the current Secretary of State Raffensperger. I believe this bill is the Republican’s last line of defense to hold on to Georgia and the Atlanta suburbs as it is starting to diversify and bring in new voters who want to elect people who fully represent them. If elected, I will be a voting rights champion and ensure every citizen of Georgia has the right to vote and not be intimidated or threatened during that process.
What are your views on the Second Amendment?
I support the Second Amendment. I believe that we must also combat gun violence. I support having universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, investing money into programs that help combat violence, and closing all loopholes to illegally purchase firearms. There is no problem with people having the right to own a gun. I do believe there should be gun-sense and the prevention of militarized weapons on the street which is something I will fight for if elected.
What should Georgia do with regard to transportation policy?
We must expand transit. District 44 is centered within Cobb County, which is the third largest county in Georgia and growing. I believe that we should expand MARTA to the Kennesaw/Marietta area due to the fact that our district is one of the fastest growing in the state which means more people need access to reliable transportation to and from work and school. I support climate-friendly means of transportation to cut back pollution and cut back on traffic. This is a main concern because two highways, I-75 and I-575, run in my district and continue to have regular traffic congestion, even with the express lane option.
What is your response to the BLM movement and calls for police reform?
I support the Black Lives Matter movement and I also support reforming the police. I do not support defunding the police because we need police to protect us. I support more officer training, forms of community policing for non-violent crimes, diversity training, and also funding programs to help get more community policing within our communities. I also believe in supporting a statewide use of force standard that all law enforcement will be required to follow. With this mindset, I believe we can end racial bias and police brutality while also keeping all communities safe.
Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) sponsored HB 401, to make it illegal for medical professionals to provide hormone and other treatments to transgendered people under 18. There were also bills proposed to prevent trans youth from participating in school sports. What do you see as the state legislature’s role in these matters?
I believe the state legislature has a crucial role in protecting LGBTQ+ rights. I believe that when it comes to medical professionals providing hormone and other treatments to transgender people under 18, that is up to them, their parents and their doctor. Reason being that, legally, any medical decision under the age of 18 must comply with parental consent to be performed. When it comes to athletics, I believe those in the transgender community have the right to play sports without the criticism or harassment and taunting from officials and peers. I support people to play the sport that identifies with their gender identity and I support schools who allow nonbinary sports so that there is a more equal opportunity for people to play the sport of their choice.
What can Georgia do to improve healthcare? Do you support Medicaid expansion?
The best way to improve healthcare here in Georgia is the expansion of Medicaid/Medicare and also a public option for Georgians to choose from. The top issue that I am running on is the expansion of healthcare and expansion of public, low cost insurance for people that do have access to it. As for the second question, I do support the expansion of Medicaid and that will be top priority for me when elected. Also expanding Medicaid and lowering the age of Medicare. I believe healthcare is a right for all and I will fight to always make that certain.
Disability waiver waitlists are a major issue for the disability community in Georgia. Waitlists have thousands of people competing for a handful of slots and some people wait years to get one. During last year’s budget cuts, activists had to lobby to prevent all new waivers from being cut. What can be done to improve the situation for struggling families?
When fighting to uplift Georgia families, this fight will not be a partisan issue. In no way will there ever be any compromise, from me, to cut disability waivers and to cause harm to people with disabilities. If our state has the money to fund continued recounts and audits of the 2020 Presidential election, that was the most fair election in history, we have money to continue to fund disability service for Georgians who need it. If elected, I will fight hard to make sure there are never any cuts to programs, but ensure that we fund those programs. This should never be a partisan issue when lives are on the line.
What topics are important to you that we haven’t addressed? What are your biggest goals for this office?
The main topics that I am running on and will fight to make a positive difference with are the topics that have been addressed in this interview. I want to make this clear to the voters in the 44th district, I’m not running for me. I’m running for you. I am running to serve you and your needs and to put our community and our state’s families first. Every decision that will be made and every policy championed by me will always be in the interest of putting Georgia families first. I also want to help pave the way for young people, particularly youths of color like myself, to run for office and make a difference within their communities. When figuring out where my best work is going forward, I believe it is in the state legislature. I know this is a start of a new diffusion in local government for young people.
His Facebook page can be found here.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.