State Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody) won’t run again, he confirmed on social media. With a Democratic already announced for his seat, fellow elected officials say changing demographics and his recent DUI conviction may have played a role.
Taylor, who represents House District 79 that includes Dunwoody and portions of Doraville and Chamblee, did not respond to repeated requests for comment, but confirmed via social media he was not seeking re-election in 2018. His seat is up for election in November 2018 and a new representative will take office when Taylor steps down in January 2019.
State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) said he expects a Republican candidate and someone who he has worked with in the past will announce possibly as soon as next week to run for Taylor’s seat.
“Life does go on. I’m confident that there will be a Republican nominee I’ve worked with in the past,” he said, declining to name names.
The changing demographics for the northern suburbs that have traditionally been Republican strongholds likely also played a role in Taylor’s decision, Millar said. While Republicans still are still in leadership positions in the General Assembly in this area, there has been a growing tide of non-Republican voters moving into the area.
“We’ve also got changing demographics,” he said, echoing comments he made after he and Taylor were re-elected last year. “I think it’s good when someone can come to that conclusion on their own. I give him credit.”
DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester, who lives in Dunwoody, was asked if she would consider running for Taylor’s seat. While she has not 100 percent ruled it out, she said she does feel an obligation to her constituents after just winning re-election last year to finish her full term.
“I’m committed to doing that job,” she said. “Out of respect for those who have asked I am giving it consideration, but it is not high on my radar.”
She said Taylor’s decision to not seek re-election is probably a wise one, especially after his DUI arrest.
“He’s got some baggage, and that would have been a real Achilles’ heel for him,” she said. “I like him, and I hope he’s dealing with that issue personally and in a productive way.”
Democrat Michael Wilensky, a Dunwoody attorney who announced in July he was running for the House District 79 seat, said he was “surprised” to hear Taylor was not seeking re-election.
“I am grateful for Rep. Taylor’s years of service, both to the city of Dunwoody proper and on our behalf at the state Capitol,” he said.
“His decision not to stand for re-election surprises me, but it will not alter the course of my campaign. The voters of Dunwoody, Doraville and Chamblee are independent thinkers looking for public servants who get results, especially with state funding for MARTA and our region’s continued economic progress on the line,” he said. “I will continue to show that I can deliver on the key issues for the families in this district as the next representative of House District 79.”
Amy Swygert, chair of House District 79 committee for the DeKalb Democrats, who is leading the party’s efforts in this area, said she appreciated Taylor’s moderate stance on many issues, but is looking forward to new leadership.
“I’m a longtime Dunwoody resident, so I very much appreciate Rep. Taylor’s service to Dunwoody. I consider myself a moderate Democrat, so I also appreciated that he often voted on issues in a way that satisfied moderates on both sides of the aisle,” she said. “But I am very excited for new leaders to step forward, especially those that can represent the Dunwoody of the future, rather than the Dunwoody of the past.”
Taylor was first elected to the legislature in 2010. He is currently the chair of the legislature’s MARTOC committee, which has oversight of the MARTA budget. Taylor was instrumental in incorporating Dunwoody as a city and served as one of its first council members before being elected to the General Assembly. For the past several years, he has introduced a bill that attempts to amend the state constitution to allow the city of Dunwoody to create its own school district.
Taylor was arrested last year in Rabun County for DUI while speeding with a carload of teenage foreign exchange students and a gun on his hip. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service, a $1,500 fine and had his license suspended for one year. Despite the DUI controversy, Taylor beat a challenger in the Republican primary election and faced no challenger in the general election.
This year, Taylor entered into a fray in Brookhaven politics when he tried to convince the City Council there to not accept a “comfort women” memorial that is now located in Blackburn Park. The memorial remembers the women, most from Korea, who were sexually trafficked by the Japanese military during World War II while also raising awareness of today’s human trafficking. Taylor, who has worked with the Japanese government, said the memorial was being used to drive a wedge between South Korea and Japan.