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Incumbents challenged in Democratic House primary races

Tuesday's Democratic primary is filled with candidates who have never held office challenging incumbent state representatives.

Some political newcomers are community activists, while others are concerned citizens and business owners. They are running because they think their district isn't getting the representation it needs.

The candidates agree on fighting education cuts and bringing jobs to their struggling districts. Many believe government has an important role in helping people in a tough economy.

Here's a look at the three contested House races in the Democratic primary:

House District 88

Nonprofit executive Simone Joye is challenging eight-year incumbent Billy Mitchell. The seat is mostly in DeKalb, but represents much of Stone Mountain in Gwinnett.

Mitchell is the Democratic deputy whip and passed a bill he authored every session.

Joye spent nearly 20 years in the nonprofit sector, recently starting Young People Matter to provide programs for metropolitan youth.

Both Mitchell and Joye rank job creation as their top issue. Mitchell wants to provide an environment for businesses to improve the community and hire the unemployed.

"If I had the magic wand, we would have the green jobs that provide good living and provide an increase in our tax base," Mitchell said.

Joye said the key to solving job woes is funds.

"We need more federal funds," she said. "You need a champion down at the statehouse to help lobby for more funds."

With no Republican opponent, the primary winner will likely be elected.

House District 95

Freshman legislator Toney Collins must fend off two newcomers in Tuesday's primary to keep his seat.

Elected in 2008, Collins said he influences economic policy by serving on the banking, insurance and interstate commerce committee. He stresses the importance of health care in his campaign.

Andrea "Andre" Cooper, a former police officer, centers his campaign on his community service. A high school mentor, he emphasizes troubled youth and struggling schools.

"People say that I may not be a politician. But I do not want to be a career politician," he said.

Pam Dickerson, who has worked for several campaigns, is running for her first office with a heavy focus on education and protecting teachers. She criticized the incumbent for a lack of visibility in the District. Collins responds that constituents have duties too.

"It's up them to tell me what they want. Rather than a representative coming to them and telling them what I'm going to do," he said.

The winner will face Republican Rodney Upton in November.

House District 96

Hotel manager Brian Mock is trying to unseat Pedro "Pete" Marin, one of the first Hispanics elected to the Georgia Legislature. The district includes much of Norcross.

When Mock moved back to Norcross five years ago, the change shocked him.

"The overall look of the neighborhood has been trashed," he said. "It's sad to see what its turned into today."

Mock said the neighborhood has turned into "a criminal's paradise" with illegal businesses and rising crime. He said he can reverse this with his good relationships with Norcross city officials and Sheriff Butch Conway, who endorsed him. Mock charged his opponent of accomplishing nothing to fight gang activity.

Marin, a four-term incumbent, responded by pointing to a record of supporting anti-gang policies during and before his legislative career. He said his experience, endorsements and financial support are indicators of his strength as a legislator equipped to tackle the economic problems. A Georgia Democratic Party leader, Marin criticized his opponent for not attending party events.

"This is a Democratic primary. People need to see who is the true Democrat," Marin said.

With no Republican opponent, the primary winner will likely be elected.