Primary day in Georgia is upon us and after months of campaign ads, robocalls, debates and political stunts, it is up to voters to decide who will get each party’s nod for the November election. Here is a look at some of the key races throughout the state and what voters can expect to see as the results start to roll in Tuesday night.
Remember, when you arrive at the polling location, you will need to choose either a republican or democratic ballot. You only get to vote for the candidates from the party you choose.
The Dems: For democrats, the Battle of The Staceys is about each candidate’s record and where each stands on issues like the HOPE scholarship. Stacey Evans has worked hard to make her background and the impact the scholarship had on her life a central issue in the campaign. Stacey Abrams has focused the attention on her record and her ability to build consensus with republicans, who will likely control the state legislature, even if a democrat wins the governor’s race. There has to be a winner, but expect this one to be close.
The GOP: On the republican side, the primary for governor is essentially a race for second place. With five candidates in the field, a runoff is all but certain. Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle is the front-runner and most pundits expect him to receive the most votes on Tuesday, but he isn’t expected to get the 50 percent plus-one required to avoid a runoff.
That race for second place can get tricky. The GOP candidates have all been positioning themselves as Georgia’s version of Donald Trump. A look at their campaign ads and recent debate performances shows a race to be the least politically correct and the most gun-friendly. In the republican race, second amendment rights and illegal immigration are the top concerns. Expect Secretary of State Brian Kemp or Hunter Hill to head to a runoff against Cagle.
On the republican side, David Shafer is the current front-runner. Fellow republicans Rick Jeffares and Geoff Duncan will likely be battling for second, but with only three in the field, Shafer could avoid a runoff.
On the democratic side, it isn’t as clear-cut. Sarah Riggs Amico and Triana Arnold James are both running, but the democrats running for lieutenant governor have not garnered as much attention as the democrats running in the governor’s race.
SECRETARY OF STATE
The GOP: There are four contenders on the republican side for Secretary of State. They are Brad Raffensperger of Johns Creek, Buzz Brockway of Lawrenceville, former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, and Josh McKoon of Columbus. McKoon and Belle Isle have been campaigning hard and could make the unavoidable runoff.
The Dems: With three people running on the democratic side, expect a runoff for this race, too. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, John Barrow and Rakeim “RJ” Hadley are running.
COMMISSIONER OF INSURANCE
THE GOP: Georgia’s current insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens is retiring. Jay Florence most recently served as the Deputy Insurance Commissioner and is hoping to be Hudgens’ heir-apparent. He faces fellow republicans Jim Beck and Tracy Jordan.
One of the top issues in the GOP race for insurance commissioner is which candidate is most in the pocket of insurance companies. Jim Beck and Jay Florence have both accused each other of being pro-insurance. Beck has also served as deputy insurance commissioner and is a 30-year veteran of the insurance industry. Jordan is a licensed Pharmacist. All three candidates say they are on the side of consumers and will hold insurance companies accountable.
Expect a runoff here. Most Georgians don’t follow the insurance commissioners post, so these candidates aren’t going to have the same exposure as the governor’s race or the local races.
The Dems: There will be a winner in the democratic race for insurance commissioner, since only two democrats are running for the post. Janice Laws and Cindy Zeldin are running. Zeldin is a health care advocate and is the executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future. Laws is an insurance agency owner with 16 years of experience in the industry. Like their republican counterparts, both democratic candidates say they will fight for the consumer and not be too cozy with the insurance companies.
The GOP: In a surprise twist, former School Superintendent John Barge decided to run against republican incumbent Richard Woods. Barge left the superintendent post to run for governor four years ago, but wants back in. This may be a case where the “I” next to Woods name doesn’t help him. Barge has a large following statewide, a large campaign war chest and has name recognition from his run for governor and his prior term as superintendent. However, Barge’s stunt of running against an incumbent didn’t work in his run against Nathan Deal in 2014.
One of the hot-button issues in this race is whether or not to arm teachers. Like many candidates for governor, both Barge and Woods support allowing local school districts to decide what to do on that issue.
The Dems: For democratic primary voters, it is fairly difficult to differentiate between the three candidates running for school superintendent. Otha E. Thornton Jr., Sam Mostellar and Sid Chapman all say they support more funding for Georgia’s public schools and oppose arming teachers. Chapman is president of the Georgia Association of Educators, which could move him to the front of the line in a runoff.
LOCAL RACES OF NOTE
The following races are not statewide, so you will only get to vote for these candidates if you live in their district, however, some races are being closely watched statewide either because of their political significance or the story behind them. Here are some of the more notable local races.
U.S. Congressional District 6: The sixth district received national attention last year when democrat John Ossoff ran against Karen Handel in an effort to “flip the sixth.” While Ossoff didn’t succeed in turning the district blue, he did get more votes than expected, so democrats think they have a chance against Handel in November.
Handel doesn’t face a primary challenger, but there are four democrats running in the democratic primary. Democrats Bobby Kaple, Lucy McBath, Kevin Abel and Steven Knight Griffin are all running. Expect a runoff between Kaple and McBath.
District 7 State Representative: House Speaker David Ralston faces a primary challenger in Margaret Williamson. If Williamson were to win, this would change the power structure under the gold dome and leave republicans looking for a new speaker next year. This race is significant in its implications, but expect Ralston to win by a large margin.
District 36 State Representative: When State Rep. Earl Ehrhart announced he would not seek re-election, his wife, Ginny announced she would run for the seat. She faces Rob Harrell and Thomas Gray. While Ehrhart isn’t technically an incumbent, she comes to the election with the incumbents popularity and reputation. Expect a clean win from Ehrhart with no need for a runoff.
District 48 State Representative: Incumbent republican Betty Price, wife of ousted Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, faces a powerful primary challenge in former Roswell Mayor Jere Wood. Price has found herself in hot water over comments she made about HIV patients and for voting against a bill in committee because she was “just causing trouble.” Wood was removed from office as mayor for about a day before appealing the decision and blames Price for his ouster. The seat itself isn’t any more influential than any other house seat, but the political drama behind this one is garnering attention. The outcome of this one depends on whether Roswell residents are tired of the Price family or their former mayor of 20 years. Expect either a landslide or a razor thin race either way.
District 87 State Representative: Incumbent democrat Earnest “Coach” Williams faces a primary challenge from Viola Davis, who was a member of the Unhappy Taxpayer and Voter Movement and has been a big player in DeKalb for years. However, don’t expect a seat change in this one.