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Who’s running for state House seat District 30 in South Hall? Get to know these 3 candidates
HOUSE30 2022
Three Republicans are running for the open state House 30 seat. The primary is May 24.

The Times is presenting candidates’ positions on local issues in print editions through the end of April ahead of the May 24 primary. Early voting began May 2. For more coverage, visit gainesvilletimes.com/election2022.

Times Talks | Forum with Republican candidates for the state House District 30

Republican candidates for the state House District 30, representing south Hall, join Times Editor Shannon Casas and reporter Jeff Gill for a debate ahead of the May election.

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What to know about this 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. Of the three candidates, Whitney Pimentel and Barry Sanders haven’t run for office before. Derrick McCollum unsuccessfully ran in 2020, before redistricting, for the House 103 seat held by state Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, who has announced he’s running for the 10th District congressional seat.

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 either a Republican or Democrat ballot in the primary.

Meet the candidates

Derrick McCollum
Derrick McCollum 2020
Derrick McCollum

Republican

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

Whitney Pimentel

Republican

HOUSE30 Whitney Pimentel
Whitney Pimentel

Residence: Flowery Branch

Occupation: Speech pathologist

Political experience: None

Family: Married with three children


Barry Sanders

Republican

HOUSE30 Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders

Residence: Buford

Occupation: Business owner renting medical equipment to hospices

Political experience: None

Family: Married with four 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.”

Sanders: “When it comes to curriculum, the legislature should be very in tune with social issues and the curriculum,” he said. He added he is a “huge opponent” of critical race theory. “I do not believe in indoctrination in the classroom.” “I think history should be taught and … we have to know the history as facts before we move any further.” Otherwise, he said he realizes the curriculum is set by the State Board of Education and funding comes from the legislature.

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.”

Sanders: The state needs to address the “Medicaid Gap,” or uninsured people who don’t qualify within Medicaid or Affordable Care Act subsidy income guidelines. “You have folks who don't take higher income jobs because they will lose” Medicaid benefits. “We need to restructure Medicaid. We need to do a phased-out approach so they’re not cut off completely.”

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.” 

Sanders: He is “a big proponent” of repealing the state income tax. “I think to be competitive with our neighbors to the north and to the south, we need to look at this as a phased-in approach over a five-year program.” “This will be a long-term benefit to our economy, and make us far more competitive,” he added.

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.”

Sanders: He acknowledges the GOP has been “fractured.” “Our role needs to be restoring faith in our elections,” he said. “We need to come together as a party. We can’t just arbitrarily dismiss (some people’s) feelings of disenfranchisement and that the game was rigged. If we can get that restoration of faith in our elections, a lot of the divisiveness should go away.”