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South Hall voters get contested state House race
Incumbent Dunahoo gets 1st challenge from Jones, a Democratic activist
1016STATEMichelle Jones
Michelle Jones

Voters Guide to Nov. 8 election

State House District 30

Republican Emory Dunahoo Jr.

Age: 59

Occupation: Retired small businessman and former owner of logistics and storage company

Political experience: Served in the Georgia General Assembly since 2011


Democrat Michelle Jones

Age: 30

Occupation: Schools, Tools & Office Pro’s family business in Gainesville

Political experience: None


This election season, Democrat Michelle Jones will give incumbent Republican Emory Dunahoo his first challenge in State House District 30, which represents areas of South Hall.

First propelled to office in a 2011 special election, Dunahoo is now running for his third full term, but this is the first time he’s had an opponent from the other side of the political aisle.

“I run on the pretense of not being scared,” he said. “I’m seeking re-election because I ran five years ago on a promise that I would work on changing the tax system in Georgia.”

Dunahoo said he has filed a bill to implement a “Fair Tax” in Georgia and continues to support reductions to the state income tax.

Jones, meanwhile, highlights the re-emergence of the Hall County Democratic Party in the past two years. Party members prodded her to run for office, given her active involvement in the local community.

Jones said her experiences on the campaign trail this summer and fall have only solidified her reasons for running in the first place.

She’s been attending local government meetings, public policy forums and become engaged in community groups like Gainesville United, which seeks to better relations between law enforcement and minorities.

And as a Latina woman, she hopes to give voice to the region’s large immigrant community.

“I never faced a lot of the issues that the immigrant community faces,” Jones said, explaining that while she was born in the United States, she laments the struggles of immigrants. “People I’ve known all my life have had to deal with those things.”

Jones said she disagrees with the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision last year to effectively deny in-state tuition to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young undocumented immigrants to work, study and live in the United States without fear of deportation.

Jones said Hall County will lose a viable and growing workforce because of this ruling. She said she wants to support hard-working middle- and lower-income families by keeping local control of school districts and making college more affordable for young people.

Jones said she has two daughters in middle school who “before you know it they’ll be going to college themselves.”

She also wants to expand Medicaid access to serve low-income families and support the aging health needs of the area’s large elderly population.

Dunahoo said he hopes to continue working on reforming the state’s criminal justice system, which has been a priority of Gov. Nathan Deal, by tightening domestic violence laws and curbing underage drinking.

He also intends to continue supporting changes to the state’s medical marijuana law, including proposals to allow in-state cultivation and distribution.

Dunahoo said he’s never surprised by the number of demands placed on him as a legislator, and the time constraints it presents. Family time is crunched; calls come in while grocery shopping or hunting from a deer stand in Kentucky, and the grandkids wrestle with him during interviews.

But Dunahoo said his mission remains serving his constituents, “not to progressively grow into a higher part of the political world.”

Jones said Dunahoo’s focus has been shifted from Hall County to Republican and state political interests at the expense of local constituents and that he’s “not really getting out and talking to small business owners, community members.”

“There’s a lot of issues that are affecting so many people in the community and it really doesn’t seem as if the current representative is doing anything to address those needs,” Jones added.

Dunahoo, however, said Jones is not ready for the big time.

“I also feel she would be a lamb thrown into a wolf’s den,” he added.

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