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State House District 29 preview: Pat Calmes wants to address these issues in state legislature
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Democrat Pat Calmes is running to represent District 29 in the Georgia House of Representatives. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Times will be publishing candidate information over the next few weeks for contested races, which can be found at gainesvilletimes.com/election2020. The Times is also offering virtual forums for select races: state House District 29 and 30 and U.S. House District 9. The District 29 event is 5:30 p.m. Oct. 5. Register online and learn more at gainesvilletimes.com/timestalks.


Pat Calmes said she is running for the District 29 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives with the next generation in mind. 

“I have the need now to make the world a better place, or Georgia a better place, for my grandchildren,” she said. “I’ve raised five of my grandchildren, had a hand in raising eight grandchildren, and I want some of the issues settled in Hall County for them for the future.” 

Calmes, a Democrat, is running against incumbent Matt Dubnik Nov. 3. The district includes parts of Gainesville, Oakwood and North Hall.  

Some issues Calmes said she would prioritize in the legislature include affordable health care, education and income inequality.  

She said she supports Medicaid expansion and is concerned by the area’s high uninsured population and the struggles of rural hospitals in Georgia. Those issues put a strain on hospitals like Northeast Georgia Medical Center that serve a wider region, she said. 

Pat Calmes 

Age: 77 

Occupation: Retired state employee, former adoption case worker and parole officer 

Experience: First run for office 

Residence: Gainesville 

Calmes said she would also like to see additional resources to address mental health and substance abuse treatment, especially for adolescents. Many who go to prison did not have to end up there, she said, and incarceration is not only costly to the state but can make it difficult for people to find stability when they’re released. She is a retired parole officer and before that, she was a caseworker for the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services. 

She said her law enforcement career has also given her perspective on the weight of the job and how law enforcement should interact with their communities.  

“I want all of the communities here in Hall County to feel safe, and I believe that if one of the communities does not feel safe, none of them are safe,” she said. “… Law enforcement has to have accountability. If they shoot someone, that person is not just wounded and they have died, and it’s a bad shoot, they need to be held accountable. That’s what I was taught.” 

She said her career also showed her the seriousness of carrying a weapon, she said. 

“Having the training I’ve had, I’m aware of how easily accidents can happen with a weapon,” she said. “… They can get into the hands of people who are not trained, and they can get into the hands of children.” 

Calmes said she is worried about violence in schools and would want to look at gun law reforms if elected.  

“Our founders, the ones who wrote our Constitution and gave people the right to carry arms, I think they would be appalled to know that assault weapons had been used in schools to kill children, innocent children, and teachers, people just trying to do their jobs and children needing to learn,” she said.  

On the issues

Health care   

She supports Medicaid expansion and wants to see more support for those dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues. She said she also “can’t imagine a future without insurance that has preexisting conditions,” especially as people may have long-term health effects of COVID-19.  

Budget, economy   

Health care and education should be budget priorities, and she said she supports a cigarette tax as a possible revenue source. Too many budget cuts, particularly in health and human services, can strip state agencies of their effectiveness, she said. Legislators “need to be honest with the people about what is really needed for the state,” she said. 

COVID-19 pandemic response   

“The state leadership and nation’s leadership have not taken a serious opinion about the COVID virus and haven’t stuck with the science,” Calmes said. “… We have to wear masks, we have to social distance, we have to quarantine if we’re around someone who has COVID.” 

Law enforcement issues, reforms  

Law enforcement has to have accountability. If they shoot someone, that person is not just wounded and they have died, and it’s a bad shoot, they need to be held accountable. That’s what I was taught.” She is a retired parole officer. 

While Georgia and the country have seen demonstrations and conversations about police reform this year, communities have also been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“The state leadership and nation’s leadership have not taken a serious opinion about the COVID virus and haven’t stuck with the science,” Calmes said. “… We have to wear masks, we have to social distance, we have to quarantine if we’re around someone who has COVID. It’s a disease we’ve learned is extremely dangerous and people who survive COVID may have lifelong problems.” 

She said she was also concerned by state budget cuts that left Hall County Schools with $20 million less in state funding. In addition to making education a budget priority, she said she would like the state to invest in day care. Choices about child care have become even more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. 

“There’s no day care for them, unless they have family members that they can call upon to help, grandparents and aunts or uncles,” she said. “Frequently, the case is they don’t have family support.” 

And Calmes said she would like to see a “living wage” passed in Georgia. 

“I think the middle class is dissolving, not only in Georgia but all over the country,” she said. “… The middle class carries the (tax) burden, and they’re being squashed.” 

When legislators have to streamline the budget, legislators “need to be honest with the people about what is really needed for the state.” Reserve funds could be used to fund priorities such as health care and education, she said. She is also supportive of a cigarette tax.  

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