Madeline Ryan Smith, who has chosen to run as a Democrat for the upcoming Georgia House District 158 election, says the three main planks for her platform are education, healthcare and access for people for people with disabilities.
Smith, 24, who is legally blind due to Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic eye disease that causes vision loss over time, is a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, having obtained a Bachelor’s in psychology, with two minors in Gerontology and Child/Family Development. She is still a student at GS and is scheduled to graduate in May with an MA in Social Science.
Her interest in politics was piqued by her foray into higher education.
“It came with my graduate program,” she said. “I came to Georgia Southern in 2016 as a psychology student and I stayed here, ended up being a graduate student because of (COVID), which allowed me to stay in Statesboro. And it just worked out the way that I studied a lot of political science in my graduate program and got really involved with the community here.”
She said her interest in politics started at a young age, but more recent events spurred her into action.
“I’ve always been interested in politics and have always been looking at what’s going on in the world, but the 2016 election threw me into being a political activist,” she said.
“With 2020 and Joe Biden getting elected, Georgia’s political climate is changing a lot, and I really wanted to be a part of that.
“My interest in politics really comes from the fact that we can study what the data says, and what political scientists say and what social scientists say, and I think we’re having a lot of trouble mending the bridge between the scientists and the politicians in our government,” she said.
“I think we need the right people in our government to be able to combat what we’re seeing on a larger political field right now.”
Smith said she worked closely with Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar during his re-election campaign last year and said that helped form her resolve.
“I’ve seen a lot of things going on in and around Statesboro that I think need to be fixed, and I’m motivated enough to do it,” she said.
She said that public transportation and infrastructure are important to her.
“I’m actually blind, visually impaired, and I have a guide dog, so disabilities are really important to me,” she said. “In the past year, I founded the Students with Disabilities Advocacy Group at Georgia Southern and I’ve been vice president of the Young Democrats at Georgia Southern for the past year, so we’ve done a lot of stuff on our university’s campus with accessibility for people with disabilities and awareness.”
She also believes she brings a sense of moderation, regardless of her party affiliation.
“For a Democrat, I think I have pretty conservative ideas,” Smith said. “I think I’m very moderate in my political views and I will be able to listen and compromise and understand all sides of the spectrum.”
Smith said her upbringing also taught her much about navigating the sometimes turbulent waters of politics.
“I also grew up in a very split household, both religiously and politically. My mother was raised Catholic and Republican, and my father was raised Baptist, became agnostic and is very Democrat,” she said.
“They’ve been married 35 years and if they can get along with their differences politically and religiously, anybody can.”
Smith said that being brought up in the area also gives her some insight into some of the unique facets of the area.
“This whole area of the state is very special to me,” she said. “My dad’s family has been here probably since the Civil War.”
Georgia House of Representatives District 158 is currently represented by Larry “Butch” Parrish (R), who has indicated he will run for re-election.
District 158 includes the counties of Bulloch, Candler, Emanuel and Jenkins and represents a population of 56,451 people, according to the 2020 Census.