X

Updates: Ossoff builds big lead, McCormick wins GOP nod in 7th District

Voters wait in long lines, at times in the rain, at New Beginnings Full Gospel Church on Tuesday, June 9, 2020.  The lines were taking more than 3.5 hours.  This polling location opened at 7 am with only one machine of the four available working and had two of the four working at 4:30 and were not providing provisional ballots.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Voters wait in long lines, at times in the rain, at New Beginnings Full Gospel Church on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. The lines were taking more than 3.5 hours. This polling location opened at 7 am with only one machine of the four available working and had two of the four working at 4:30 and were not providing provisional ballots. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Jon Ossoff staked a commanding lead in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, though it was still unclear if he avoided a runoff. And U.S. Rep. David Scott, a veteran Democratic incumbent, was forced into a runoff against a former state legislator.

Republican Rich McCormick scored an outright victory to win the GOP nomination for a Gwinnett-based House district. Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who narrowly lost the seat last year, is headed to a runoff against state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero or Nabilah Islam.

In Georgia's 9th District, state Rep. Matt Gurtler advanced to a runoff against Athens gun store owner Andrew Clyde. And in the 14th District, business executive Marjorie Taylor Greene was set to face neurosurgeon John Cowan in an August matchup.

>>More: Read about the Democratic Senate primary

The results followed tumultuous day marked by reports of hours-long waits at the polls and technical glitches from workers trying to operate the state's new $104 million voting system.

The mishaps prompted headaches, finger-pointing and threats of lawsuits. And that was before we saw any election results. You can track returns here and catch up on our earlier Election Day coverage here.

Follow our live updates: 

1:45 a.m. Athens gun store owner Andrew Clyde will face Matt Gurtler in a runoff for Georgia's 9th District. 

1:36 a.m. With most DeKalb County precincts now in, Jon Ossoff's window to reach a majority of the vote and avoid a runoff is narrowing. He's around 49% of the vote. 

1:20 a.m. Republican Matt Gurtler advances to a runoff in the race to succeed Rep. Doug Collins in Georgia's 9th District. Gurtler defied his party's leadership in the Georgia House, voting against enough legislation to earn the nickname "Dr. No." 

11:55 p.m. After winning his Democratic primary, U.S. Rep. John Lewis thanked voters for their support but also lamented the Election Day problems that plagued the state.

“Voters suffered through long lines and equipment malfunctions just to exercise their constitutional right to vote," the civil rights icon said in a statement. "Many stood outside for hours in the heat and rain to cast their ballot. This represents an unacceptable failing of Georgia’s entire electoral system that must be corrected before the November election."

11:50 p.m. A few odd notes as results continue to trickle in:

-U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, is nearing runoff territory in the 13th Congressional District, hovering just above 50% of the vote

-State House Minority Leader Bob Trammell of Luthersville, a top Republican target, is locked in a surprisingly tough primary contest against a Democratic challenger

-Georgia Supreme Court Justice Charlie Bethel has a tightening lead over challenger Beth Beskin. A loss would make him the first sitting justice to lose in modern Georgia history.

11:20 p.m. Two incumbent statehouse members are behind in the polls with about two-thirds of the votes in their districts tallied.

Longtime state Sen. Ed Harbison, a Columbus Democrat, is trailing attorney Teddy Reese. Harbison, the longest-serving member of the Georgia Senate, was first elected in 1992. There is no Republican in the race, so whoever wins the primary will be the district's next state senator.

In Brunswick, former state Rep. Buddy DeLoach is leading incumbent state Rep. Jeff Jones in the Republican primary. Jones was elected in 2015. DeLoach served from 1995 to 2005. Again, the primary winner in this race will head to the Statehouse, since no Democrat is running for the seat.

10:55 p.m. U.S. Rep. John Lewis easily won the 5th Congressional District's Democratic primary over political newcomer Barrington Martin II.

Lewis will now face Republican Angela Stanton-King in the November general election.

Stanton-King is a prominent supporter of President Donald Trump.

Lewis, 80, who is recovering from pancreatic cancer, has been making national TV appearances all week to talk about protesting during the Civil Rights Movement and how it compares to current protests over police brutality.

10:45 p.m. We won't see metro Atlanta election results for a while, but we are getting a mass of returns from other parts of the state.

We previously mentioned the crowded races in the two open north Georgia congressional seats being vacated by Republican U.S. Reps. Doug Collins and Tom Graves.

Early returns in the 9th District Republican primary show State Rep. Matt Gurtler with a narrow lead over armory CEO Andrew Clyde. Many votes still need to be counted, but a GOP runoff is looking like a virtual certainty given the nine candidates angling to replace Collins. In the district’s Democratic primary, business owner Brooke Siskin has an edge over the other two candidates.

Early returns in the 14th District Republican primary show construction executive Marjorie Taylor Greene with a commanding lead over her eight GOP competitors despite being new to politics and not living in the district. She appears within striking distance of winning her party’s nomination outright, without the need for an August runoff.

9:45 p.m. It's still very early, but initial returns are encouraging for Jon Ossoff's chances to avoid an August runoff in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

The few metro Atlanta precincts trickling in give him huge advantages over his top rivals, Teresa Tomlinson and Sarah Riggs Amico. And he's holding his own in the rural counties where Tomlinson hoped to excel.

9:40 p.m. Two more congressional incumbents have secured their spots on November ballots.

The Associated Press called U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter and Austin Scott the winners in their Republican primaries for the 1st and 8th congressional districts, respectively. Although only a fraction of precincts have reported, both Scott and Carter had healthy leads over two challengers.

Each will face Democratic opponents in November, but they are expected to win because their districts lean conservative.

9:20 p.m. Republicans are pushing back against the not so flattering national headlines Georgia has attracted over the last 12 hours.

Erick Erickson, the conservative WSB radio host, said reporters from national publications were seizing too easily on claims of voter suppression from Democrats.

“The elections in Georgia are run at the county level,” Erickson said in a pair of tweets. “The counties with the issues are Democrat controlled and historically have problems… The GOP has nothing to do with this stuff unless they control the counties involved.”

Erickson’s comments aren’t dissimilar from those issued by the Secretary of State’s office earlier Tuesday. Statewide Voting Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling, said counties were responsible for poor planning and leadership, not the Secretary of State:

“We do have reports of equipment being delivered to the wrong locations and delivered late. We have reports of poll workers not understanding setup or how to operate voting equipment. While these are unfortunate, they are not issues of the equipment but a function of counties engaging in poor planning, limited training, and failures of leadership.”

9:10 p.m. Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger should not attempt to shift blame to counties for the issues voters experienced on primary day. His office has the responsibility to ensure elections are carried out fairly and smoothly statewide, she said during a news conference late Tuesday.

“It is not sufficient to say that the county you live in determines the quality of your democracy,” she said. “ That's why we have the secretary of the entire state -- not just the counties that do it right, not just the counties that have the resources, not just the counties that he likes.”

Abrams was speaking from personal experience. She requested an absentee ballot, but it arrived with the return envelope already sealed and she was unable to get a replacement. Abrams voted in person at a precinct where she waited in line about 45 minutes, which was relatively quick compared to other Fulton County locations.

“All I can think about are the people who did not receive their ballot , who were forced instead into hours-long lines, and not because they failed to do their part but because the Secretary of State’s office failed to properly manage this election,” she said.

With the problems Tuesday, combined with long lines during early voting, Abrams said her Fair Fight Action organization has been collecting voters’ stories and contemplating legal action.

“Unfortunately, in Georgia,” she said, “sometimes conversation and goodwill don’t work, and so litigation becomes a necessary next step.”

9:00 p.m. We told you earlier about the crowded Republican and Democratic primaries in the 7th Congressional District, which are interesting to us given how competitive that stretch suburban turf has become. The two other open U.S. House races we're watching closely are notable for the opposite reason.

The 9th and the 14th districts in north Georgia are traditionally the state's most conservative. In 2016, 78% and 75% of their respective voters picked Donald Trump for president over Hillary Clinton. With Doug Collins stepping down from his 9th District seat to run for U.S. Senate and the 14th's Tom Graves retiring, a bevy of Republicans have scrambled to position themselves as the most ardent conservatives in the region.

State Rep. Matt Gurtler is among the dozen candidates hoping to succeed Collins in the 9th. Gurtler is known for casting the most dissenting votes in the state House, including 40% of the time during his first term. Those stances haven't always been popular, especially with the state House's Republican leadership. Also in the GOP race are state Rep. Kevin Tanner, state Sen. John Wilkinson, attorney Ethan Underwood and former Congressman Paul Broun. Three Democrats are also running for the seat.

The 14th District has been described by local GOP leaders as a "pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-Trump" contest. Nine Republicans are facing off to represent the district, including two who initially announced runs in other congressional districts before pivoting to the 14th. Several of the candidates, including former School Superintendent John Barge, State Rep. Kevin Cooke, and former State Sen. Bill Hembree, have had public office experience. Neurosurgeon John Cowan is seen as a strong contender to make it into a GOP runoff, as is newcomer Marjorie Taylor Green, a Milton businessowner who initially announced a run in the 6th District.

8:15 p.m. We aren't expecting to receive election results until after the last precincts close around 10 p.m., but we can say about a dozen congressional candidates have clinched their party's nominations for the U.S. House. That's because they didn't face any primary opposition today.

Here’s whose name will be on the ballot in November:

Incumbents

  • U.S. Sen. David Perdue, a Republican;
  • U.S. Rep Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, in the 2nd District;
  • U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, in the 3rd District;
  • U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, in the 6th District;
  • U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, in the 10th District;
  • U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, in the 11th District;
  • U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Evans, in the 12th District

Challengers 

  • Republican Johsie Cruz Ezammudeen in the 4th District;
  • Republican Angela Stanton-King in the 5th District;
  • Democrat Lindsay Holliday in the 8th District;
  • Democrat Dana Barrett in the 11th District;
  • Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal in the 14th District

8 p.m. The heated Democratic race for the U.S. Senate was too early to call Tuesday as polls began to close after a day of voting marred by long lines and faulty equipment led to what local officials called a "complete meltdown" of the election system in parts of metro Atlanta.

Going into the jumbled race to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff had the name recognition and other factors that made him the front-runner. There’s a strong possibility, however, that the race won’t be settled until an August runoff that would feature either executive Sarah Riggs Amico or former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

Election results were expected to trickle in more slowly than usual Tuesday, with many precincts struggling with missing or malfunctioning voting machines, part of a $104 million system the state purchased after a 2018 gubernatorial election framed by charges of voter suppression.

Some voters insisted on exercising their right to cast ballots, but others couldn’t wait in hours-long lines and left before they could vote. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was among many Democrats to raise concerns that the problems disenfranchised voters in majority-black areas of the metro region.

“Let’s all work, hope and pray that this not be a preview of November,” she said.

7:55 p.m. This comes as no surprise, but the Associated Press has declared former Vice President Joe Biden the winner of today's Democratic primary in Georgia.

Biden clinched the number of delegates needed to secure his party's nomination for president late last week.

7:50 p.m. You might have noticed we have yet to mention U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler or any of her challengers, including GOP Congressman Doug Collins and Democrat Raphael Warnock. That's because that contest to fill the remaining two years of Johnny Isakson's Senate term wasn't on the ballot today.

That special election will take place on Nov. 3, when Georgians hit the polls for the general election. All of the Senate candidates in that contest, regardless of party, will appear on the same ballot and if no one receives a majority of the vote the top two finishers will meet in a January 2021 runoff.

7 p.m. Most polls have now closed here in Georgia, but scores of others are staying open late to make up for the long lines and equipment malfunctions that slowed voting earlier in the day.

All precincts in Fulton County will remain open until 9 p.m. under an order issued by the county’s Superior Court. The same goes for Muscogee County and some precincts in Chatham County, local news outlets report.

Read more: Voting deadlines extended at many places across the region

Our colleague Tyler Estep put together a handy guide of the metro Atlanta precincts staying open late here.

Those delays mean we likely won’t see election results until much later this evening. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he won’t release any results until all precincts are closed. There’s at least one precinct, in DeKalb County, that will be open past 10 p.m.

6:35 p.m. Moving up the ballot, there are several competitive U.S. House races we're watching tonight.

The most wide open is the 7th Congressional District, a suburban swath of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties that’s been represented by Republican Rob Woodall for 10 years. The 7th was once ruby red but has become increasingly competitive in recent years as Gwinnett has grown more diverse.

In 2018, the district played host to the closest U.S. House race in the country. Woodall eked out a win by roughly 500 votes over Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, but instead of seeking a rematch this year Woodall opted to retire.

Bourdeaux is making another run at the seat, but she faces several high-profile competitors for the Democratic nomination, including state Sen. Zahra Karinshak and state Rep. Brenda Lopez RomeroThree other Democrats are running too.

The Republican primary is also hotly contested. State Sen. Renee Unterman, a champion of last year's "heartbeat bill" who spent today stopping at voting precincts in Buford and Sugar Hill, and emergency room Dr. Rich McCormick have drawn the most attention. Political newcomer Lynne Homrich, a former Home Depot executive, has plowed hundreds of thousands of her own money into the race, and there are four other Republicans vying for the nomination.

We expect both the Democratic and Republican primaries to go to runoffs given the sheer number of candidates in both races.

6:05 p.m. Our colleague Jim Galloway is up with his latest column. The entire piece is worthy of your time as we wait for polls to close, but here's a taste:

To understand the angry stew that was Georgia on Tuesday – bubbling with frustrated voters, undelivered absentee ballots and pointed fingers – you must consider that, in many ways, this was the day after Nov. 6, 2018.

Yes, the pandemic killed a March dry run for a new generation of touchscreen voting machines — an opportunity to identify and fix logistical bugs. COVID-19 also kept at home an army of elderly poll workers who were to have been trained on those machines.

And indeed, a necessary shift to absentee voting complicated the work of 159 county election offices — and brought tens of thousands of new voters into a primary process that has traditionally catered to hardcore Republican and Democratic activists.

According to Ryan Anderson, who operates the data tabulation website GeorgiaVotes.com, 62% of voters who cast in-person and absentee ballots as of last Friday didn't participate in 2016 primaries.

New voters are often angry voters. They make incumbents nervous.

5:45 p.m. While some Democrats called for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to step down, he found little backup from fellow Republican officials.

House Speaker David Ralston, who has been critical of Raffensperger's expansion of mail-in votes, announced his chamber would conduct an investigation "to go beyond the mutual finger-pointing and get to the truth and the real reasons underlying these frustrations and concerns."
And Gov. Brian Kemp, long accustomed to partisan warfare over elections, maintained a studious silence. Kemp, who was secretary of state during the 2018 election, has declined to comment about the long lines and equipment mishaps that triggered Tuesday's delays.

Among the Democrats calling for Raffensperger’s ouster is Carolyn Bourdeaux. The 7th Congressional District candidate said the state’s top elections official “failed at his most important responsibility: administering safe, fair, and efficient elections” and called for political leaders to create a non-partisan commission to rebuild trust in the state’s voting system.

For his part, Raffensperger launched an investigation into today’s voting situation in Fulton and DeKalb counties, which he called “unacceptable.”

“Obviously, the first time a new voting system is used there is going to be a learning curve, and voting in a pandemic only increased these difficulties,” he said. “But every other county faced these same issues and were significantly better prepared to respond so that voters had every opportunity to vote."

5:30 p.m. The congressional races have gotten the lion's share of the attention, but a slew of downballot contests today will set the stage as Republicans and Democrats battle for control of the General Assembly this fall.

Our colleague Maya T. Prabhu sends along this dispatch:

For years, legislative contests have been decided during the primary election after districts have been drawn in ways that make many of them solidly Republican or solidly Democrat.

But this year, more than half – 120 – of the legislative races are being contested, up from about 100 two-party races in 2018 and a marked jump from 2016, when voters in only about 50 districts had a choice after the May primary.

Members of both parties have set their sights on several House races in the northern Atlanta suburbs, where Democrats have chipped away at Republican strongholds in recent years.

Here are some races the AJC is keeping an eye on Tuesday:

  • House Minority Leader Bob Trammell is facing entrepreneur Frederick Manley in the Democratic primary for House District 123. The winner of the Democratic primary will face either David Jenkins, who is retired from the U.S. Army, and Gene King, an entrepreneur and inventor, who are facing each other in the Republican primary. Trammell is one of the Legislature's few remaining rural Democrats and Republicans in Georgia and nationally have zeroed in on the Luthersville-based district as a chance for the party to gain a seat.
  • Senate District 45, where state Sen. Renee Unterman will vacate her seat at the end of her term while running for U.S. Congress, has three Republicans and three Democrats in the race. Unterman, who has represented the district for 18 years, won the Gwinnett County seat in 2018 with 58% of the vote, but new names in the diverse district could change things.
  • Physician Michelle Au and businessman Josh Uddin are competing in Tuesday's Democratic primary for District 48, a Gwinnett County-based district currently represented by state Sen. Zahra Karinshak. Karinshak, who is vacating office to run for U.S. Congress, flipped the seat from Republican to Democrat when she was elected in 2018. The winner in Tuesday's primary will face Republican attorney Matt Reeves, who ran against Karinshak and lost 54.6% to 46.4%.

4:55 p.m. National Democratic figures are beginning to take note of Georgia's voting problems today.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign described the situation on the ground as "completely unacceptable," while Hillary Clinton thanked voters for their determination and linked to a hotline created by Stacey Abrams' voting rights group.

Georgia’s close gubernatorial race in 2018 won national attention and made Abrams a Democratic darling. Now it’s clear that Abrams’ messaging about voter suppression has remained top of mind for many in her party.

Abrams herself tweeted Tuesday that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger "owns this disaster."

The day's events have also caught the attention of less partisan figures on social media. Dan Rather, the author and legendary evening news anchor, called it a "dire wakeup call for November."

And NBA star LeBron James retweeted a link to a national news story about the differences between metro Atlanta's majority-black and white precincts to highlight structural racism in the voting system.

4:30 p.m. COVID-19 has put an end to many campaign trail traditions – or at least forced operatives to drastically reimagine them.

That includes election night watch parties, a hallmark of political campaigns that are traditionally held in hotel ballrooms or other sprawling venues and filled to the gills with balloons, backslappers and patriotic decor.

Each of the top Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate are planning a “virtual” election night shindig, as are many of the down-ticket contenders.

Most Republicans, too, are forgoing the usual celebratory bash and instead holding online events or smaller gatherings at their homes or local restaurants. An exception is Dr. Rich McCormick, a candidate for Georgia’s 7th District who is holding a party at a Gwinnett dinner club.

And then there are the two long-shot Democratic candidates for Georgia’s 9th District, a deeply-conservative territory in northeast Georgia.

The duo – Brooke Siskin and Devin Pandy – have decided to gather at a drive-in movie theatre in Tiger to watch the results on the big screen from their cars to ensure everyone remains socially distant. Republicans Paul Broun and Matt Gurtler, meanwhile, are also hosting in-person events.

Original post

We thought we’d seen it all during previous election days in Georgia, but today’s primary is like nothing we’ve ever experienced.

The pandemic has upended lots of carefully laid plans, from the rollout of the state's new $104 million voting system to the campaign strategies of candidates up and down the ballot.

The coronavirus has made bread-and-butter campaign activities like door knocking, rallies and in-person fundraisers virtually impossible, and forced candidates to get creative about how to get through to distracted voters.

It’s also prompted Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to embark on scaled-up vote-by-mail effort.

More than 1.2 million Georgians had voted before polls opened at 7 this morning, but it wasn't enough to prevent hours-long waits for people who opted to vote in-person. Social distancing measures and problems setting up the state's new voting computers, which use touchscreens attached to printers that create paper ballots, have prompted plenty of headaches, political finger-pointing and threats of lawsuits.

And then there's the shocking body cam video of an African American man gasping for breath under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis last month. George Floyd's death has inspired thousands of Georgians to take to the streets to protests racial injustices and dramatically changed public opinion about the way law enforcement treats people of color.

How those factors impact today’s vote remains to be seen. Follow along with us tonight as we keep tabs on it all.

Polls close at 7 p.m., but we aren’t expecting to see full elections results for hours - or even days. That’s because Raffensperger said he won’t be releasing election results until the last precinct closes, and many are expected to be held open late to make up for long lines and technical delays.

In the meantime, you can read our preview for today's election here, check out our voter guide and track local voting issues as they unfold.

About the Authors

ajc.com

ajc.com

ajc.com

ajc.com