September 20, 2016 - Atlanta - Georgia State Capitol, the Gold Dome. Downtown Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia 2018: The other big primary races to watch 

The spotlight Tuesday will be on the battle for Georgia governor – read up on the race here - but a host of other races are just as worthy of your attention. Here’s a few others to keep an eye on:

The Congressional races: Jon Ossoff isn’t making a comeback bid, but other Democrats are lining up to take on Republican Rep. Karen Handel in the 6th District and other incumbents in even more solidly-GOP turf. Four Democrats are competing in the 6th – home of last year’s absurdly expensive special election – and six are racing next-door to represent the Gwinnett-based 7th District. And a battle between a progressive and a socialist is underway in the Athens-based 10th District, where uber-conservative U.S. Rep. Jody Hice awaits the victor. Catch up here. 

Down-ticket statewide contests: Gov. Nathan Deal’s departure – he cannot run for a third term – set off a domino effect that led to simultaneous openings for two other top state offices: lieutenant governor and secretary of state. Add to that mix a retiring insurance commissioner, an untested Public Service Commissioner who was recently appointed to the job and an incumbent superintendent facing a primary challenge from the man he replaced. Republicans and Democrats mustered crowded lineups for each of these seats, which can be stepping-stones – or sometimes catapults – to higher office down the road. Check out more about those races here.

Statehouse seats: Republicans will maintain their hefty advantage in the Legislature no matter what happens in November, but Democrats are looking to erode the GOP hegemony. There are about 20 open seats in the General Assembly, and all but one are currently held by the GOP. Another dozen or so Republican incumbents, largely in the metro Atlanta suburbs, are facing stiff Democratic challenges - some for the first time ever. 

Before they can worry about the general election, though, several office-holders must stave off challenges. Republican Rep. Betty Price, a physician and wife of ex-Health Secretary Tom Price, will duke it out with ex-Roswell Mayor Jere Wood. Another Republican, Matt Gurtler, is facing an opponent supported by GOP leaders exasperated by his frequent “no” votes. So does state Rep. Johnnie Caldwell, a former judge who resigned from the bench following allegations he repeatedly harassed a female attorney. 

On the Democratic side of the ledger, Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson and state Sens. Curt Thompson and Gail Davenport are among the veterans facing primary opponents. Ditto for state Rep. Darrel Ealum and a handful of other House Democratic incumbents.

Here’s a broader view of what’s at stake.

Court of Appeals: In the only contested appellate court race, Ken Hodges and Ken Shigley square off for an open Georgia Court of Appeals race. The contest has become overtly political, with both trumpeting their GOP endorsements. Shigley even drew a reprimand from the commission overseeing judges for saying publicly he is a Republican and his opponent, who ran for Attorney General as a Democrat in 2010, is not. Another head-turner: Shigley admitted at a campaign stop to the “political prosecution” of a black man when he was a young prosecutor assigned to a trial about four decades ago. Click here for a closer look at that contest.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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