Georgia Rep. Mainor switches to GOP after school voucher vote

She says Democrats attacked her over bucking the party line on key votes
State Rep. Mesha Mainor announced Tuesday that she is leaving the Democratic Party to become a Republican. Her move gives Republicans a 102-78 majority in the House. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
State Rep. Mesha Mainor announced Tuesday that she is leaving the Democratic Party to become a Republican. Her move gives Republicans a 102-78 majority in the House. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Georgia state Rep. Mesha Mainor switched political parties Tuesday, joining Republicans after saying she faced “harassment and intimidation” from Democrats since she broke with the party on votes for private school vouchers and prosecutor oversight.

Mainor, who represents a Westside Atlanta district where over 89% of voters backed Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, said she changed parties because Democrats don’t reflect her core values.

She is the only Black Republican member of the Legislature and is believed to be the first Black woman to serve as a Republican in the Georgia General Assembly in state history. Her move gives Republicans a 102-78 majority in the House.

“Members of the Democrat Party have publicly slandered me in every way imaginable,” Mainor said during a press conference at the Georgia Capitol. “If it’s not your values to support kids in schools where only 3% can read, I don’t have the same values.”

Democrats were unsparing in their criticism of Mainor, who was already likely to face a stiff primary opponent.

State Rep. David Wilkerson, a Democrat from Powder Springs, said he’s baffled by the decision, knowing that Mainor represents a heavily Democratic district. She’ll be a top target for Democrats in next year’s election.

”I’ve watched politics for a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody switch when they’re in such a heavily Democratic area — and they’re running for reelection,” Wilkerson said.

State Sen. Josh McLaurin, a Sandy Springs Democrat who had previously posted a picture of a $1,000 check to anyone who challenged Mainor in next year’s Democratic primary, offered a blunter reaction.

”This was an inevitable result of her narcissism, and many of us saw it coming,” McLaurin said. “Good riddance.”

Republicans, meanwhile, were exultant. House Speaker Jon Burns said Mainor is joining the “party of opportunity, the one that has brought prosperity across our state by creating the No. 1 business climate in the nation.”

And Georgia GOP Chair Josh McKoon, who stood beside Mainor at her Capitol press conference, said the switch crystallizes a Republican stance “for empowering parents to be advocates for giving their children the best education possible.”

“Her decision to join the Republican Party doesn’t reflect a change in her approach to being a state legislator, but rather reflects the reality that the Georgia Republican Party is a place where diversity of opinion is welcomed, where different ideas that lead to innovative public policy solutions are celebrated and not condemned,” McKoon said.

Mainor broke with her party on several major votes, including when she was the only Democrat to support a failed bill that would have allowed $6,500 private school vouchers.

She also backed bills to create a state board to investigate district attorneys, ban COVID-19 vaccination requirements, prevent local governments from passing budgets that “defund” the police and remove bipartisan appointments to a local elections board in South Georgia.

Mainor had previously said she wouldn’t switch parties, saying instead that she wanted to pull skeptical Democrats to join her position on education and public safety issues. Mainor was elected to the House in 2000.

Top Democrats, meanwhile, worried she would stoke deeper divisions within the caucus if she remained in the party — and that she would become a GOP media darling by soaking up attention from conservative outlets each time she joined Republicans on a key vote.

State Rep. Ruwa Romman, D-Duluth, said she’s glad Mainor chose the “path of truth” rather than masquerade as a Democrat.

“I hope she’ll give voters an opportunity to decide if a Republican is who they want to represent them and resign to allow for a special election,” Romman said.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/

Mainor’s switch to the GOP evoked memories of the last significant defection in the Georgia House.

That took place in April 2020 when then-state Rep. Vernon Jones, a former chief executive of DeKalb County, endorsed Donald Trump’s reelection bid and was quickly disowned by fellow Democrats.

To some Republicans, though, he became an instant sensation, even crowd-surfing at Trump rallies. Jones soon reached the limits of the newfound fandom, as longtime Republicans never forgot his lengthy liberal voting record and history of misconduct.

Jones formally switched parties on Jan. 6, 2021 — the same day as the pro-Trump attack on the U.S. Capitol — and later ran a failed campaign for an open U.S. House seat after abandoning a primary challenge against Gov. Brian Kemp.

About the Authors