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McCollar, Parrish race for District 156 state representative
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    Voters in the state's 156th District, which encompasses portions of Bulloch, Emanuel and Johnson counties as well as Candler County,  will decide between incumbent Butch Parrish, Republican, and challenger Jonathan McCollar, Democrat.
    McCollar,  a certified Georgia educator who oversees  operations of 10 programs that assist at-risk students seeking graduation, also works as a volunteer coach, community organizer and youth mentor, he said.
    Parrish, who took office in 1985,  is a pharmacist.
    Parrish served three terms on the Swainsboro City Council and two terms as a member of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs; one of those terms as chairman.
    While McCollar is new to the political scene, he said he has seen the effects of pertinent issues and their impacts upon families during his experiences in education.
    Both candidates feel the economy is a major issue for voters.
    Parrish said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the economy will soon recover, but said the housing slump and a still-slowing economy will pose challenges.
    The state has dipped into reserve funds again this year to keep a balanced budget, and Parrish is concerned about financial demands on taxpayers.
    "I'm concerned about how we're going to deal with these shortfalls," he said. But compared to other states, he said "Georgia is better positioned to weather" the economy problems the nation faces.
    McCollar is concerned about the economy as well.
    "This is my first venture as far as politics, but I've been very active in the community for several years," he said. Working with at-risk children, and  with boards of education and other community leaders, he said he deals with political issues daily and " am entrenched with these responsibilities," he said.
    People losing jobs and educational cutbacks top McCollar's list of worries for citizens. He said he feels he is " more in tune with what issues are important to people in the 156th District, and am a better representative of people in this district."
    Parrish said he feels the fact that he is approaching his 24th year in office  — 12 terms — speaks for itself.
    "I feel like my years of experience ... and my record proves" qualification for office, he said.
    Both Parrish and McCollar are concerned about cutbacks in education and elsewhere in the state.
    The economy's effect on people and the subsequent loss of jobs is a major concern. "We're putting everything else to the back burner," Parrish said.
    McCollar said he hears a lot of complaints about counties raising property taxes to compensate for cuts in state funding. If elected he would like to work towards prioritizing the budget and making "education the first thing funded and the last thing cut."
    "Budget issues are going to be important  to us" in the upcoming year, Parrish said.
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