For the third election in a row, the ballot choices are the same for residents of Georgia House District 116.
Republican Joanne Murray Dixon, a retired beautician and farmer from Girard, Ga., is challenging incumbent Alberta Anderson, D-Waynesboro.
Ms. Anderson, a former Waynesboro city councilwoman, won the seat during a 1995 special election to fill the unexpired term of Bettieanne Childers Hart. Ms. Anderson earned a 61 percent victory over Mrs. Dixon in 1996.
Since the two women first met on the ballot, the boundaries of District 116 have changed.
The district now includes all of Burke County, Blythe, the Jamestown community in south Augusta and most of Fort Gordon.
"I don't like the way things are going," said Mrs. Dixon, 62, whose husband and grandchildren convinced her to run a third time. "I just think it's time for change."
As a recent past president of the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs, Mrs. Dixon developed programs to encourage patriotism in children.
She said she believes that Americans owe some service to their country.
"It's a privilege to live in this country, and it's our responsibility to maintain this freedom," said Mrs. Dixon, whose husband is a Burke County Commissioner. "We get so much out of this free country, but we fail to give something back."
Mrs. Dixon is running on a platform that includes initiatives to make schools safer, reduce classroom size, bring more highways and industrial development to the rural district and pave more roads in Burke County.
She also supports an audit of state government, an idea championed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Guy Millner.
Reducing classroom sizes to 18 or 20 students in high school and 15 or 16 students at the elementary and middle school levels would help make schools safer, she said.
"I just think that in a smaller class, teachers could get to know the children who might have these (violent) tendencies," she said.
Mrs. Dixon also said she is not against installing metal detectors at more schools, if it will keep them safe, she said.
"Students cannot learn if they are afraid, and teachers can't teach if they're afraid," Mrs. Dixon said.
Ms. Anderson agrees with her opponent that classes should be smaller, but she said three years in the state legislature have taught her wholesale changes aren't fiscally feasible.
"We know we can't reduce sizes in all the grades," said Ms. Anderson, who is the public relations director at Boggs Rural Life Center, a conference and retreat facility. "It's too expensive."
Ms. Anderson, 44, would like to develop a pilot program where first-, second- and third-grade classes at 20 schools are trimmed to about 12 to 15 students.
It will be expensive to hire new teachers for those schools, she admitted.
"But it's not as costly as them going to the Youth Development Center, because that's costly," she said.
Just back from a five-day tour of farms throughout the south, Ms. Anderson said she is committed to making life better for Georgia's farmers.
She wants to invest more money in university agricultural extension services and education programs that will teach farmers to diversify, instead of relying on a single row crop.
"We're losing farmers every year in big numbers," Ms. Anderson said.
To stop that trend, she supports investing in high school agricultural programs and providing scholarship incentives to Georgia students who study agriculture and return to their communities to help farmers.
Occupation: Retired beautician and farmer
Education: Graduated from Sardis High School and attended Bolen's Business School in Augusta
Political experience: This is her third time running for the Georgia House District 116 seat. During President Bush's administration, she served on the Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service, a governing body for farmers.
Family: Husband, Jimmy; three children, Rick, Bobby and Joni Ferguson; five grandchildren.
Occupation: Public relations director at Boggs Rural Life Center
Education: Graduated from Waynesboro High School and attended Seattle University and Savannah State University
Political experience: Elected to the Georgia House in 1995; served on the Waynesboro City Council from 1994 to September 1995
Amy Joyner can be reached at (706) 823-3339 or ajoyner@augusta
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