The latest: Duncan upsets Shafer in Lt. Gov. squeaker

Former state Rep. Geoff Duncan and state Sen. David Shafer are in the Republican runoff for lieutenant governor. Screen shot
Former state Rep. Geoff Duncan and state Sen. David Shafer are in the Republican runoff for lieutenant governor. Screen shot

For much of Tuesday evening, a hair seemed to separate state Sen. David Shafer and former Georgia Rep. Geoff Duncan in the GOP lieutenant governor's race.

But as the clock approached midnight, Duncan appeared to have narrowly pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the runoff elections.

Duncan, who served in the state House for five years, ran a campaign as an underdog outsider, often referring to Shafer as "the next in line" to serve as lieutenant governor. And Shafer, a 16-year veteran of the Georgia Senate, nearly won the GOP nomination outright in the May primary.

Duncan will take on Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico, a business executive from Smyrna, in November.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press called the Democratic 6th Congressional District race for Lucy McBath shortly after 11 p.m. The gun control advocate defeated businessman Kevin Abel and will now go head to head with U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, in the general election.

Earlier in the evening, Secretary of State Brian Kemp declared victory in the GOP race for governor after Republican rival Casey Cagle called to concede. Kemp wasted no time pivoting to the general election, sharply criticizing his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams as an "out-of-touch, radical liberal" with unsavory benefactors such as Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi.

Kemp quickly walloped Cagle, who had long been viewed as the race's front-runner before experiencing a monumental series of setbacks. 

Read up on other election results here.

Trump calls Kemp -- 11:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump called Kemp to offer his congratulations and pledge his continued support, the GOP nominee's spokesman said.

Don't be surprised if the president visits Georgia to rally supporters sometime in the next four months.

GSU professor declared winner in 7th District -- 10:55 p.m. 

Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux is in line to win the Democratic nomination for the 7th Congressional District, the AP projected late Tuesday, securing a spot on the November ballot opposite incumbent GOP Congressman Rob Woodall.

The political science professor and former Georgia budget official bested businessman David Kim for the position following a testy runoff battle.

Read more about the congressional contest here.

Military contractor gets superintendent nod -- 10:40 p.m. 

Democrats selected military contractor Otha Thornton to be their party's nominee for Georgia superintendent of schools, our colleague Ty Tagami reports. Thornton handily defeated former Georgia Association of Educators President Sid Chapman.

Thornton, who is black, said Kemp’s gubernatorial nod will likely "drive up the minority vote” in November, which he predicted will help him in his own race.

Most down-ballot races too close to call -- 9:55 p.m. 

The governor's race might have wrapped up early but several of the other contests on the ballot were still too close to call, including both Democratic runoffs in the 6th and 7th congressional districts and the GOP contest for lieutenant governor.

In the Republican secretary of state race, state Rep. Brad Raffensperger defeated Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, setting up a November race against Democrat John Barrow.

Meanwhile, early election results had incumbent DeKalb County Commissioner Gregory Adams far behind his challenger in a race that focused largely on sexual assault allegations.


Abrams warns Kemp is ‘wrong’ for Ga. -- 9:35 p.m. 

The Abrams campaign’s initial reaction to Kemp’s nomination came in the form of a fundraising notice to supporters. The email warned that Republicans “will coalesce around him and pour millions of dollars into his campaign because they know we have the numbers and grassroots support to win in November.”

“If you're not familiar with Republican Brian Kemp, you will be soon. For now, know this: Kemp is wrong for Georgia families,” the email states.


Kemp takes the stage -- 9:15 p.m. 

Kemp was unequivocal about where he’s setting his sights when he spoke to supporters shortly after securing his party’s nomination for governor.

“We have earned a clear, convincing victory,” he said at his election party in Athens. “And we have you to thank for that ... And we are moving on to November."

“Make no mistake,” Kemp added, “There’s a crystal clear contrast as we go forward ... Stacey Abrams wants to raise your taxes, even though she doesn’t pay her own. On the other hand, I want to lower tax rates for hardworking Georgians.”

Kemp also thanked Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for endorsing him in the final days of the contest. “We had the momentum in this race, but those endorsements by the president and the vice president poured gasoline on the fire.”


Cagle calls for GOP unity -- 8:45 p.m. 

Cagle called for Republicans to unite behind Kemp as he spoke to supporters shortly after conceding. He congratulated Kemp and his family for “a wonderful race and a great victory” and said he would give him his “full and undivided support” moving forward.

“I do want to congratulate Secretary Brian Kemp,” said Cagle, who was surrounded by top aides and members of his family. “I called him and I told him I hope the hits weren’t too hard on you and I hope they weren’t too hard on me … and I committed to him my full undivided support to see that he becomes our next Governor of Georgia.”

-Aaron Holmes, Fleming Smith

Anticipation builds among Kemp supporters -- 8:20 p.m. 

Kemp supporters crowded around TV monitors at his watch party in Athens, applauding each update of the returns, which show him building a steadily larger lead over Cagle. A few flashed phone screens with the news that Decision Desk HQ has already called the race for Kemp.


Subdued scene at Cagle party -- 8:10 p.m. 

The mood at Cagle’s watch party in Northeast Atlanta was somber as early election returns showed the governor’s race swinging in opponent Brian Kemp’s favor.

Supporters trickled in as a country singer performed on stage and an aide welcomed guests to the “Casey Cagle Victory Party.” But there was no trace of results inside the ballroom—no TVs or live tickers. Aides lined the room and stood outside glued to their phones as results started to come in online.

-Aaron Holmes

Positive early returns for Brian Kemp -- 7:55 p.m. 

It’s still early, but some initial returns in the GOP gubernatorial runoff are boding well for Kemp. The secretary of state tonight handily won two counties in south Georgia where he secured less than half of the vote in the May primary:

Chatter about a tight LG vote -- 7:40 p.m. 

Presumptuous or not, the buzz here at Kemp’s victory party is more about the undercard than the marquee matchup. Nary a conversation at Kemp’s Athens hotel goes by without a lawmaker or activist asking for predictions on the lieutenant governor’s race.

In that contest, state Sen. David Shafer was long the clear front-runner, with 49 percent of the vote in the May primary. But in the runoff, former state Rep. Geoff Duncan has made a late charge, thanks partly to a wave of negative ads hitting his opponent. Stay tuned.


What the number crunchers are watching – 7:35 p.m. 

There are a few things GOP pollster Mark Rountree is keeping an eye on tonight as election results start to trickle in. The first is how the early vote will impact that outcome of the Republican gubernatorial runoff.

Rountree said the number of GOP voters who cast their ballots early for the runoff surpassed the level from the May primary. With the early vote likely making up a higher percentage of the overall vote, he said that could help Cagle, who lost major momentum last week after President Donald Trump endorsed Kemp.

Rountree, who’s working with the campaign of secretary of state hopeful Brad Raffensperger, said he’s also watching the wealthier suburban counties north of Atlanta where Hunter Hill excelled during the May gubernatorial primary. Cagle will need to do well in counties such as Cobb and Fulton to keep his gubernatorial hopes alive.

Hill, you may remember, endorsed Kemp after a secret recording caught Cagle admitting he backed a "bad public policy" in order to prevent Hill from getting a key endorsement.


Who will take on Barrow this fall? -- 7:25 p.m. 

The Republican runoff for Georgia secretary of state will set up what’s sure to be a hotly contested campaign against well-known Democrat John Barrow, a former U.S. congressman.

State Rep. Brad Raffensperger, the CEO of a specialty contracting and engineering design firm, is competing against David Belle Isle, the former mayor of Alpharetta.

Raffensperger received the most votes – 35 percent – in a four-way Republican primary in May. Belle Isle trailed Raffensperger with 29 percent of the vote.

The primary eliminated state Sen. Josh McKoon and state Rep. Buzz Brockway from contention.

Whoever wins Tuesday night will advance to the Nov. 6 general election against Barrow, who avoided a runoff by winning a three-way Democratic primary in May.

-Mark Niesse

The chainsaw has landed -- 7:10 p.m. 

Kemp's infamous pickup truck has officially arrived at the secretary of state's election night party in Athens. Ditto for his chainsaw.

We can’t help but wonder what will need shredding tonight...

Is it all over for Cagle? – 7:00 p.m. 

“He’s toast.” “He needs the performance of a lifetime.” “No chance.”

That was the assessment of some of Cagle’s allies as voters trickled to the polls.

They were speaking privately to be candid about his chances in Tuesday’s runoff against Kemp, underscoring just how quickly this race changed.

Polls showed Cagle trailing Kemp by single-digits during the final stretch of the race, but many of Cagle’s allies feared President Donald Trump’s endorsement of the secretary of state was a game-changer.

Kemp's internal numbers showed the same trend. Over the weekend, he started acting like a front-runner, looking past Cagle toward the November election.

Still, Cagle’s die-hards said there was a path to victory. It’s almost entirely reliant on strong early-voting numbers for Cagle, banking on his get-out-the-vote network reaching his likeliest voters before Trump’s decision.

Stick with us as we find out.


Waiting for Brian Kemp -- 6:55 p.m. 

At a hotel ballroom in Athens, a few dozen Kemp supporters mingled shortly before polls closed.

John Padgett, the former chair of the Georgia GOP, was among the early arrivals. So were a handful of House lawmakers.

But one of the biggest crowds gathered around Steven Sainz, a little-known Republican whose name is suddenly in the news. He was the Republican who won a May victory over Jason Spencer, the legislator who yelled racial slurs and exposed himself in a Showtime series.


Setting up the LG race -- 6:50 p.m. 

In the Republican runoff for lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Geoff Duncan and state Sen. David Shafer were awaiting the results from Tuesday’s vote.

Shafer is favored to win after getting nearly half of the vote in the May primary in what was then a three-person race.

A 16-year veteran in the state Senate, Shafer amassed hundreds of endorsements from conservative groups and politicians such as the National Rifle Association and Gov. Nathan Deal.

He had also received nearly three times as much money in campaign contributions than his opponent, pulling in almost $2.5 million by the end of June.

A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll also showed Shafer with a slight lead over Duncan.

Duncan, who served in the state House for five years, hopes his campaign as an underdog political outsider will help propel him to victory.

-Maya T. Prabhu

‘Only get nastier’ – 6:45 p.m. 

The nine-week GOP gubernatorial runoff between Kemp and Cagle was marked by testy and often personal exchanges between the two men and their surrogates. At least some voters are not expecting much to change even once a Republican nominee is selected.

"It probably will only get nastier, because it'll be Republican versus Democrat instead of Republican versus Republican,” said Matt Carlucci, a lawyer who cast his ballot for Kemp in Buckhead this morning. “Lots of money coming in, I guess kind of similar to the (6th District special election in 2017). I'm sure there'll be some nasty commercials which is probably not the best thing.”

Indeed, our colleague James Salzer reported yesterday that a deluge of political ads, mailings and social media messaging is on the way thanks to a slew of outside groups that are expected to spend big in Georgia's fall elections.

“Nothing you can do about it right now I guess,” Carlucci said.

-TH, Becca J.G. Godwin

‘Like your graduation, wedding and funeral’ – 5:55 p.m. 

For one of the two Democrats facing off in the 7th Congressional District runoff, today ends a surreal period of campaigning, fundraising and navigating the world of politics for the first time.

Carolyn Bourdeaux and David Kim were political neophytes when they entered the race to challenge GOP Congressman Rob Woodall last year. Each candidate spent the day visiting local polling locations, making phone calls and casting their own ballots as they waited for results to trickle in.

“It feels like your graduation, your wedding and funeral wrapped up in one,” Kim said. “It’s definitely exciting.”

“You go, girl” is one of the responses Bourdeaux said she got as she made her final rounds on the trail. She said she was encouraged by early voting figures, which showed the majority of Democratic primary voters were women.

“It is not our mothers’ generation anymore,” Bourdeaux said on Tuesday afternoon. “We have achieved equality in many other walks of life and it’s time for us to have some parity.”

Kim said voters are “desiring change.” “They want to see leaders who are really willing to serve, not just be a career professional politician, but really do something for the district,” he said.


Light turnout expected – 5:40 p.m. 

Voter turnout is always low in primary elections, and even lower in primary election runoffs.

While election officials reported light turnout Tuesday, it’s unclear how many voters participated in the heated runoffs governor, Congress and other offices.

If history is any guide, the number will be small.

About 4 percent of Georgia’s active registered voters participated in the 2016 primary runoff, when there were no statewide races on the ballot, according to figures from the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. That election featured a contest for congress, as well as local legislative and judicial races.

Turnout was higher four years ago, when 11 percent of voters turned out. In the 2014 primary runoff, all Georgia voters were able to participate in races for U.S. Senate and state schools superintendent.

In this year’s initial primary election on May 22, about 19 percent of registered voters showed up. There are more than 6.1 million active registered voters in Georgia.

-Mark Niesse

Cagle on being the ‘underdog’ -- 5:25 p.m. 

With little voting time left, Cagle maintained a steadfast optimism about his odds for winning the GOP's gubernatorial nomination.

“You don’t get to pick the hand you’re dealt, you just have to play the cards you have,” Cagle told reporters at the Marriott Century Center in northeast Atlanta Tuesday afternoon. “We have been working nonstop throughout the campaign and certainly up to the finish line.”

“I’m confident that we are going to win and I wouldn’t be standing here if that wasn’t the case.”

Once a frontrunner in the GOP gubernatorial primary, Cagle is now a clear underdog after President Donald Trump endorses his opponent last week.

“It’s kind of nice to be deemed as an underdog because I’ve been an underdog all my life. Being kicked around is something I fully understand,” Cagle said.

While he said he supports the president, Cagle said he believes Kemp might be indebted to serve the president’s interests due to the endorsement, adding that Cagle’s own campaign was in contact with White House staff “virtually every week of the campaign” before the surprise endorsement.

“I do think there was counsel that was given [between Kemp and the White House],” Cagle said. “I don’t know what all deals were made, that will come out in due time.”

Cagle said his campaign expects he’ll perform the most strongly in northeast and southwest Georgia, and will be closely watching counties in Atlanta and middle Georgia as results pour in tonight.

-Aaron Holmes

Voters speak up – 4:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump was on Lauren Jones' mind as she walked into Mableton’s Lindley Middle School to cast her ballot for Kemp.

Jones voted for Trump in 2016 and said his endorsement of the current secretary of state is what pushed her toward Kemp.

"People are so demented about being against Trump," she said. Jones also cited Kemp's views on gun rights and immigration, as well as what she said were Cagle's negative advertisements.

At the same polling place, 75-year-old Coleman Goodwin cast his ballot for Cagle. He said he voted for the Gainesville Republican because he had more experience than Kemp and a better chance of winning in the fall.

“I don’t want to let the bad guys in,” he said, referring to Democrats.

He said he feels the national Democratic leadership’s tone will only energize GOP voters more.

“All this rhetoric, hate rhetoric, from the bad guys is going to back fire,” Goodwin said.

At McKendree United Methodist Church in Lawrenceville, Dawn Kemp was excited to cast a Democratic ballot.

"I want to try to get as many Democrats in office as possible," she said.

One of those Democrats is David Kim, who is vying to take on U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall in the 7th Congressional District this November.

Kemp was particularly enthusiastic about Kim's positions on health care and raising the federal minimum wage.

"I'm looking at retirement and I have to ask, am I going to be able to maintain my standard of living?" she said.

-Ben Brasch, Amanda Coyne

Cagle’s Hail Mary? -- 4:35 p.m. 

Facing an uphill battle in today’s GOP runoff, Cagle let fly with a curious tweet.

“As governor, I’ll make sure @juliojones_11 reports to training camp!” he wrote, linking to a story about the star Falcons wide receiver’s decision not to report to training camp.

The snickering was immediate on social media and elsewhere. One Democratic strategist even wondered, half-seriously, whether Cagle has conceded (he has not.)


Mechanical problems in Cobb -- 4:15 p.m. 

Dead batteries in voting devices forced several voters in Cobb County to use paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines early Tuesday morning.

The problem affected nine voters at Austell Precinct 1A and Blackwell Elementary School before batteries were recharged, said Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler.

Votes were recorded on emergency provisional ballots, and no voters were turned away, she said.

Election workers didn’t turn off voter check-in devices, called the ExpressPoll system, after preparing them on Saturday, Eveler said. The ExpressPoll system contains voter registration information and creates voter access cards for touchscreen voting machines.

The ExpressPoll devices were recharged and operating normally by 7:30 a.m. in Austell and 7:45 a.m. at Blackwell Elementary, Eveler said.

-Mark Niesse 

Original post – 4:00 p.m. 

Georgia voters are currently determining which candidates will compete in the Nov. 6 general election. The candidates on the ballot today were forced to campaign for nine additional weeks after they were unable to secure more than 50 percent of the vote in the May 22nd party primaries.

Campaigns are banking on their party faithful showing up at the polls. Despite that, turnout is expected to be very low since today’s elections come at the height of summer vacation season.

The marquee contest is the GOP gubernatorial runoff between Cagle and Kemp.

Cagle entered the race the undisputed front-runner but has seen his fortunes change following the release of a damaging secret recording coupled with President Donald Trump's surprise endorsement of his rival.

Kemp, meanwhile, has begun casting his sights on the general election, where the winner of the GOP contest will take on Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams.

Here are some other factors to watch up and down the ballot today.

As we wait for the polls to close, check out the AJC’s voting guides for some of today’s key races: 

ExploreGeorgia Runoffs 2018: What you need to know
ExploreWhich races are heading to runoffs?
ExploreTrump, turnout and townies: What to watch in Georgia’s runoff elections

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