On Wednesday, March 16, Rue’Nette Melton, a Democratic candidate for State Senate 13, spoke to the Macon Examiner about why she is running for office. Melton, a Tifton native, wants to bring a progressive voice from rural South Georgia to the General Assembly which has been controlled by Republicans since 2003.
State Senate 13 is a nine-county district which includes all of Tift, Turner, Lee, Crisp, Worth, Dodge and Dooly counties along with parts of Wilcox and Sumter counties. The largest cities in State Senate 13 are Tifton, Cordele, Sylvester, Leesburg, Unadilla, Vienna, and Eastman.
Melton says her father, Doc Melton, Sr., has had the greatest influence on her political and social view. Melton,Sr. was the first black man to run for public office in Tift County in 1966. Ms. Melton further explains, “if my father had the courage, faith and determination to stand up and be counted by voting in that turbulent era — the 1960’s– I can do no less. Though denied, purged, manipulated and scarred, the vote remains the most powerful weapon to political change.:
One of the issues Melton believes is important is access to health care for all Georgians, especially rural Georgians.
“I decided to run for State Senate because the current Senator and the Republican delegation have blocked Medicaid Expansion and want to dismantle the Affordable Care Act which has allowed millions of Americans access to health care.” Melton further explained, “although the ACA is not perfect; it has been proven to be a good first start and can be improved. The idea that any American would deny another one basic health care is horrible.”
Georgia is one of nearly two dozen states with Republican governors –including Georgia’s Nathan Deal– that have refused to expand Medicaid altogether, despite the federal subsidy that goes with it. In Georgia, that leaves 650,000 of the state’s working poor who are making below $11,500 a year in a situation without any subsidy to help them buy insurance on the exchange.
Another issue which is important to Melton, a former elementary school teacher for two decades, is improving public education. However, she is opposed to a constitutional amendment which would give the Governor the power to take over failing schools.
“I am opposed to Governor Deal’s proposed amendment to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance.I agree with the school of thought that this approval of this amendment would create an entirely new school system in Georgia, nearly all its students minority, poor and living in inner cities.”
The deceptively named “Opportunity School District” amendment would give the Governor the legal authority to take control over the local schools and negate centuries of local control. A more intelligent and reasoned approach would be to focus that money and energy towards supporting better educational instruction and facilities, teacher salaries and parent engagement and community involvement. Everybody plays a part in this. We are living in a whole new world. What worked in the past will not guide us toward the future we need to make American education work for all.”
And a third issue Melton is passionate about is protecting voting rights. Melton promises to fight conservative efforts to further reduce early voting here in the state of Georgia. In 2010, Georgia had 45 days, but after Republican Nathan Deal got into office, the number of days were reduced to 21. In 2015, there were efforts to reduce early voting days to twelve, but early remained at 21 days.
Melton is a believer in the Voting Rights Act.
“I am a proud recipient of all the benefits gained with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. My father, Doc Melton, Sr. boldly registered to vote and ran for public office in 1966. The environment was racially tense. My father was the leading advocate for Voting Rights in Tifton. I am proud to continue his legacy. I believe voting should be extended and easily accessible for all. I am against any effort to suppress voting rights.”
Last year, there were efforts in Tift County to consolidate polling places in Tift from twelve to one. Opposition to these abrupt changes stated that voting be more accessible instead of more restrictive. Forcing approximately 20,000 registered voters to cast a ballot at the UGA-Tifton Campus Conference Center as the designated precinct is unnecessary and would lead to a new set of problems.
The primary election is scheduled for May 24 and the general election is November 8.