The Times is presenting positions from the two candidates in the state House District 30 runoff race ahead of Election Day on June 21. Early voting begins June 13. For more coverage, visit gainesvilletimes.com/election2022.
What to know about this race: Derrick McCollum was the lead vote-getter with 49.8% of the vote, followed by Whitney Pimentel with 32% and Barry Sanders with 18.1%. To win outright, one of the candidates had to draw 50% plus one vote. Sanders has endorsed Pimentel in the Republican race. A 2021 redrawing of district lines moved state Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, out of District 30 into District 31, leaving District 30 as an open seat. The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Kim Floria in the Nov. 8 election.
How to vote: District 30 spans much of South Hall and, because of redistricting, dips into northeast Gwinnett County. Only those in the district vote. Check your districts at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. Voters select the same ballot in the runoff as they did in the primary, either a Republican or Democrat ballot.
Meet the candidates
Residence: Chestnut Mountain
Occupation: Business owner who also buys and leases rental properties
Political experience: Ran in 2020 for the House 103 seat held by state Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville
Family: Married with five children and four grandchildren
Residence: Flowery Branch
Occupation: Speech pathologist
Political experience: None
Family: Married with three children
Candidates on education legislation
The state legislature has focused efforts this year toward giving parents more control over their children’s education. The Parents’ Bill of Rights will require teachers to make lesson plans available on request. Meanwhile, other bills focus on banning the teaching of “divisive concepts” related to race. Opponents say critical race theory, an examination of how societal structures perpetuate White dominance, isn’t being taught in schools and legislation may restrict open discussions about race, civil rights and history.
McCollum: Local control is a conservative principle and “you normally wouldn’t get involved at a state level” in education matters, “but with the left pushing its socialist agenda in trying to switch America over to anti-American sentiment, that’s the reason the legislature has had to step in.” He’s referring specifically to critical race theory, which he calls “a Marxist idea.” Basically, schools “should be teaching English, history, math and things like that.”
Pimentel: She believes the Parents’ Bill of Rights was “a great step in transparency, but I don’t believe it goes far enough.” She added: “We need to ensure that our children are being taught the actual curriculum we’re being told and teachers should stay away from their specific opinions and beliefs.” Legislators “can be very effective down at the Capitol making sure parents stay informed and involved in their children’s educational process.”
Candidates on health care access
Gov. Brian Kemp signed bipartisan legislation to make mental health care more accessible, and it includes incentives for training mental health professionals who work with law enforcement. We asked candidates, what other improvements to health care should legislators be looking at, especially in terms of access and affordability?
McCollum: He said he would like to see more health care providers in Georgia. “I have to go out and buy insurance myself,” and there’s a limited number of providers. “Being capitalists, if we had more options to pick from, I think that would obviously bring costs down.” He said he opposes Medicaid expansion, which he believes is “going to cost taxpayers more money.”
Pimentel: “I think that what really needs to be looked at is the different types of health care,” said. As a speech therapist, she works to “make sure that children with disabilities have access to therapies they need.” She said that Medicaid expansion is a topic “I would have to dive into a little more.” “I’m not hearing a lot of concerns in District 30 regarding health care.”
Candidates on the state budget
The General Assembly cut state income tax this legislative session and will give out more than $1 billion in tax rebates. Lawmakers also approved raises for teachers and many other state employees, buoyed by strong sales tax revenues during the pandemic creating a large budget surplus. Some candidates have advocated repealing the state income tax completely, but they would have to provide a plan to make back the billions in revenue it provides.
McCollum: Balancing the state’s budget “is the main thing legislators have to do.” As a freshman legislator and a conservative, he said he would work to ensure Georgia is “not spending more taxpayer dollars than we have to.” Tax rebates approved this past session “is a huge thing to me. We don’t need the state being a bank and holding all the money.”
Pimentel: The state needs to be “be responsible with the budget” and understand how it impacts local communities. “It’s very common to hear a conservative say they want to lower taxes,” she said. “We want lower taxes and we want less government, so we can’t pass bills that raise taxes and keep government in our business.”
Candidates on the Republican Party
Gov. Brian Kemp is being challenged by multiple Republican candidates, including Trump-backed former U.S. Senator David Perdue. Several down-ballot races have a similar divide between candidates backed by former president Donald Trump and those who are not. Is there a significant divide in the Republican Party, and will Trump’s influence continue to be important in these races?
McCollum: He said he’s not really concerned about “the turmoil, if that’s the case,” within the state GOP or that the Democrats are “all aligned with their candidate.” “It is what it is,” he said, adding that Georgia “is doing well” under Republican leadership. “I’ve really just been focused on my race and trying to do what I can do to help the state move forward.”
Pimentel: She acknowledges division in the GOP, but “coming together as a party and sitting down and having a logical discussion … needs to start happening.” “I think we have gotten so involved in how we feel about certain items or certain people that we’re not taking a step to listen to other people’s opinions. We can agree to disagree.”