Dollar was first elected in 2002 and has rarely faced a serious challenge since he took office. In his first contested general election race since 2010, he defeated Democrat Essence Johnson last year by about 18 percentage points.
Ghazal is likely to be better financed and have support from party leaders as she competes in one of a sweep of suburban seats that Democrats are targeting to try to win control of the Georgia House. The party aims to flip 16 of the House's 180 seats next year to take control of the chamber.
A former Carter Center official, Ghazal worked in Jamaica, Liberia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe over the past two decades monitoring elections and working with foreign diplomats on pro-democracy initiatives.
She’ll be succeeded at the state Democratic Party by Saira Amir Draper, a former Southern Poverty Law Center attorney who served as Ghazal’s deputy. The mother of two teenage girls, Ghazal said she was inspired by her daughters to seek office.
“If not now then when?” she said of her decision to run. “There’s a crisis in confidence, and we have to restore confidence in our system and our government. Those of us who want government to work need to step up now.”