ATLANTA — A 19-year-old Georgia woman has fought her way onto the ballot, and, if elected, could become one of the youngest elected officials in the United States.
Mary-Pat Hector, a sophomore at Atlanta’s Spelman College, is seeking a city council seat in the newly incorporated city of Stonecrest, a suburb east of Atlanta that is home to about 50,000 residents.
Another candidate in the race challenged her eligibility to run, arguing that she should be barred due to a state law requiring that all elected officials be at least 21 years of age. But Hector, who serves as national youth director for the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, protested, arguing that if she is old enough to vote she should be old enough to hold political office.
The DeKalb County Board of Registrations and Elections on Thursday ruled that Hector can run because the city’s charter held no such age restriction. That ruling apparently makes her the youngest woman to run for elected office in Georgia.
Stonecrest will hold its first election on March 21. Area residents voted in 2016 to incorporate. Up for grabs are the positions of mayor and five city council seats. Three people are running for mayor and 17 for the council.
Upon receiving official approval to run for the seat, Hector said she began receiving messages from young people around the country, from Boston to Chicago, who were inspired by her example, vowing to run for office themselves.
“The fact that young people all over the country saw me running, and new they could run, too, that was the most meaningful part of it,” Hector said.
Hector’s dilemma was not unnoticed by the members of the Georgia General Assembly. Senate Bill 110, filed on February 1, seeks to lower the age to run for office in Georgia from 21 to 18. The bill is in committee.
“The reason why they decided to introduce the bill was because of what was happening in my race.” Hector said.
Hector started her life in activism at age 9, writing a play about child abuse. Later, she gained national attention from President Barack Obama and Usher’s New Look for organizing anti-gun violence campaigns after bullets took the lives of several of her classmates.
Topping her website’s “Platform for Progress” is a plank that “Promotes safe neighborhoods in the City of Stonecrest and work to decrease forms of violence impacting the citizens of her district, Post 4.