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Race to fill Mills shoes down to 2 in runoff
Finalists Dunahoo, Banks differ on key issues
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There was a reason James Mills was the dean.

Until he resigned his state House last month to take a post on the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles, Mills was the longest-serving member of Hall County's General Assembly delegation.

In his tenure, Mills was elected to the District 25 seat 10 times.

While there, the Chestnut Mountain Republican was known for his dedication to the Christian faith and his strong stances on issues such as illegal immigration and abortion.

In two days, voters will make their final choice on his successor.

Bobby Banks and Emory Dunahoo Jr. meet in a runoff election Tuesday to finish Mills' term.

Both say they share some of Mills' convictions, but neither claims to be a Mills duplicate.

Dunahoo is Mills' brother-in-law, but maintains they are different people. When asked how they differ, Dunahoo mentions that his tenure as a businessman is longer than Mills.

"James wasn't perfect on everything, but James did a good job," said Dunahoo. "... I know all the time that he fought bills that didn't need to be passed."

Dunahoo, who is married to Mills' sister, Elaine, has received financial support from his brother-in-law and mentions their family ties in campaign speeches. In Saturday's candidate forum in Flowery Branch, Dunahoo said he would like to be placed on the banking committee where Mills served as chairman.

Dunahoo, who also has an interest in the transportation committee, says his interest in the committee has more to do with the attention he thinks needs to be paid to the industry than the fact that his brother-in-law served in the same position, however.”

Banks takes a different approach.

"I think we need new blood in Atlanta — not related blood, but new blood," Banks said.

While Banks said he agrees with Mills on several issues, he has said he doesn't wear his religion on his sleeve and has all but condemned Mills' service record with his constituents.

"He won't return phone calls," Banks said. "... I'll call you back. I will return your phone calls. I will listen to you. I won't avoid you. I won't depend on somebody else to get something done."

Here is a look at a few of Mills' hallmark issues and how his two possible successors would vote:

Illegal immigration:

Mills has authored legislation to require driver's license tests be given only in English.

Both Banks and Dunahoo would support that bill. Both stated that those who wish to live and drive in Georgia should learn American English.

"I welcome people to come here legally and learn our language and keep their language as a second language to talk to their children, talk to their relatives," Dunahoo said. "But we shouldn't have to learn Spanish or Japanese or any other language here."

There is one difference in the two men's views on immigration. Dunahoo has said he is in favor of creating a Georgia-based guest worker program to bring in migrant farmhands; Banks is not.

"I think we need to put Americans back to work," Banks said. "With 10 percent unemployment, we need to hire Americans first."

If Americans do not want jobs that migrant workers fill, Banks said the jobs should be made "attractive where they will work."

Abortion:

In 2009, Mills authored a bill that made Georgia the first state in the union to legalize the adoption of human embryos. In statements to the media, Mills said the bill was meant to recognize embryos in their earliest stages of development as people.

Both Banks and Dunahoo say they would support a statewide ban on abortion.

Banks, who said he did not know his father until after his mother died, said he could be a "poster child against abortion."

He is against abortion even in cases of rape and incest, though he says his stance has raised the ire of his would-be constituents.

"I know it will be tough on the kid growing up, knowing that he's a product of incest or rape, but it's better for him to grow up," Banks said.

Dunahoo says he is "for less government intrusion in our life," but he would support a statewide ban on abortion because he believes abortion "at all levels is wrong."

"If it (were to) come up through government and I had to represent government, I would have to make that decision," said Dunahoo.

Sunday alcohol sales:

Mills was one of 44 House members who voted no on the bill allowing local governments to let voters decide on Sunday packaged alcohol sales. Many did so on Election Day, including Gainesville, Oakwood and Flowery Branch.

Neither Banks nor Dunahoo drink alcohol, they said.

But only Banks would have voted differently than Mills.

"It's not my place to strip you of your constitutional rights just because I don't believe in something," Banks said.

If faced with that vote, Dunahoo said he would have decided that Monday through Saturday is "plenty of time" to purchase packaged alcoholic beverages.

"I probably would have voted ‘no,' but then again, I probably would have met with ... my constituents and said ‘what do you need and why?'" Dunahoo said.

 

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