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 30 event is 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1. Register online and learn more at gainesvilletimes.com/timestalks.
Before he began to speak, state Rep. Emory Dunahoo put his smartphone down with the screen facing the table.
That was so he could talk for a little while without the constant text or message of some kind getting his attention. That nonstop interaction is something the District 30 Republican legislator has prided himself on as part of his state duties.
“When I make a phone call, I solve problems,” he said during an interview at his Gillsville home. “I help people with insurance, with (Department of Family and Children Services issues). You name any situation — the Department of Labor right now, all the COVID-19 stuff. My job is to wear 50 different hats, but it pays about a penny an hour if I do it right.”
It’s also a job he wants to hold past Jan. 1, when his current two-year term expires. Dunahoo, 63, who has been in office since 2011, faces Democratic challenger Leigh Miller in his bid for re-election on Nov. 3. District 30 covers the southern portion of Gainesville, Flowery Branch, Oakwood and Gillsville.
“I’m running for two more years,” said Dunahoo, who is married and has three grown children and seven grandchildren. “I’ll reevaluate (a future term) after that.”
Dunahoo, nearly a lifelong resident of Hall, was an established businessman when he first sought office in 2010.
Friends initially approached him about running, and he ultimately decided to pursue elected office “because I didn’t need a job, I didn’t need the paycheck,” said Dunahoo, who has worked in operating storage, logistics and real estate businesses.
“Knowing I wasn’t trying to better myself, I felt I could truly work for the needs of my constituents,” he said. “It's been a blessing to help people.”
But fielding calls and dealing with constituent issues hasn’t been the extent of his legislative efforts. Dunahoo’s major push throughout his time in office has been “FairTax” legislation that would convert Georgia’s tax code from a state income tax to a statewide consumption tax system.
On the issues
He believes lawmakers could work in the next legislature to tweak laws concerning certificates of need that hospitals seek to expand services and facilities. “It needs to be where we don’t have the big guys controlling all the little guys around them.” Also, he would like to see more price transparency at doctor’s offices.
He sees a stronger economy ahead, with businesses reopening under guidelines allowed by Gov. Brian Kemp. But keeping the state’s budget balanced will be key. He also would like to see more openness to “FairTax” legislation, replacing state income and sales tax rates “with a broad-based consumption tax.”
COVID-19 pandemic response
He would like to see Kemp’s emphasis on local control regarding the pandemic to continue, rather than have state mandates. “I believe the state always needs to be in the background, let local municipalities always handle themselves.” Otherwise, he opposes mask mandates. “If you don’t feel good, stay home. If you’re scared, stay home.”
Law enforcement issues, reforms
He believes legislators will propose more training for police but that it should be emphasized for new officers and as more of a “refresher” for veteran officers.
The FairTax replaces state income and sales tax rates “with a broad-based consumption tax,” Dunahoo has said.
Dunahoo also has been involved in supporting the “heartbeat bill,” which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women realize they’re expecting. In July, a federal judge permanently blocked the 2019 law, finding that it violates the U.S. Constitution. But Dunahoo was proud of the bill.
“To me, that’s one of the best things we’ve done,” Dunahoo said. “We’re murdering babies every day. No matter what we say, we are.”
In 2018, he successfully sponsored a bill that would create a specialty plate to benefit the Georgia Beekeepers Association, which designed the plate and put up the tens of thousands of dollars needed to fund the initial offering to Georgia drivers.
Looking ahead to a potential future term, Dunahoo said the state’s budget will be a priority.
“I would like to make sure that we would work toward a better system where we would eventually look into something like the FairTax,” he said. “We’re going to keep working toward that.”
Dunahoo said he will keep his stance of never signing a pledge to not raise taxes.
“I can’t predict tomorrow. I can’t tell you I won’t do it until I have the facts laid before me,” he said.
Otherwise, “my No. 1 goal is taking care of my constituents,” Dunahoo said. “That means people who voted for me or who didn’t vote for me.”