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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Election Official Kelly Beltinck, center, and Election Deputy David Torbett unload a truck while setting up Monday for early voting at the Brainerd Youth and Family Development Center. Early voting began Wednesday and continues through Oct. 29.

Local voters have a choice to put new and Democratic faces in two statehouse seats or to keep two first-term Republican incumbents there.

In District 26, which generally represents Hixson, freshman Robin Smith faces a challenge from Joan Farrell, a political newcomer who has worked as a bank examiner, accounting manager, food stamp counselor, teacher and census field representative.

In District 30, which represents East Ridge, East Brainerd, Apison and part of Collegedale, freshman and nurse Esther Helton is opposed by Nigeria-born Joseph Udeaja, who came to the United States as a student about 40 years ago and has become a chemist and clinical pharmacist. He has lived in six states, but chose several years ago to make Chattanooga his permanent home.

Though each of these Democrats are novice office seekers, we recommend them.

They offer fresh and needed ideas that will move us away from the stale policies of Tennessee Republicans who for the past decade have consistently voted against middle class needs like affordable health insurance, common-sense gun laws, and women's rights to control our own bodies.

Though neither Helton nor Smith were in the House when the guns-in-parks bill was passed or when Insure Tennessee was rejected, they both have voted yes to giving Tennessee some of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws.

The Democratic candidates also support raising the minimum wage to a livable wage. And rather than approve vouchers as the GOP has done, they would fully fund education to improve existing public schools.

It's true they would have a lot to learn, but two years ago, so did Smith and Helton.

Vote for Farrell and Udeaja.

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