Metro Atlanta voters select school board members; some races go to runoffs

Forsyth saw two incumbents defeated
A Fulton County resident votes on primary election day at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

A Fulton County resident votes on primary election day at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)

Many metro Atlanta voters selected their next school board representatives during Tuesday’s elections, but some key races are headed to runoffs on June 18. Partisan races in Cobb, Forsyth and Paulding counties will be decided in November.

Election results are not official until they are certified.

This election was without some familiar faces as a handful of long-serving school board members chose not to run for reelection: Cobb’s David Banks, DeKalb’s Joyce Morley and Vickie B. Turner, Fulton’s Katha Stuart and Gwinnett’s Mary Kay Murphy. Each of those board members has served for about a decade or more — Murphy is in her 28th year.

Incumbents fared well for the most part, securing their seats or a spot in a runoff or on a November ballot. However, two Republican board members in Forsyth County were defeated in primaries.

Many races were without drama, like in Cherokee and Clayton counties where incumbents ran unopposed for their seats.

Cobb County

Cobb voters did not see any competitive primaries for school board. Their decision day will be in November, when they select between Republican incumbent Randy Scamihorn and Democrat Vickie H. W. Benson in Post 1, Republican John H. Cristadoro and Democrat Laura Judge in Post 5 and Republican incumbent Brad Wheeler and Democrat Andrew Cole in Post 7.

Post 5 incumbent Banks has served for 16 years.

Leroy “Tre’” Hutchins, the Democrat incumbent who represents Post 3, is not facing an opponent in November.

Candidates are running under a new map in Cobb this year, passed by the Georgia Legislature as a result of ongoing litigation over whether the previous map discriminated against people of color. The Republican-backed map is similar to the one used in the 2022 election.

DeKalb County

DeKalb’s school board, which holds nonpartisan elections, will have three new faces replacing incumbents who did not seek reelection.

Andrew Ziffer will be the new representative of District 1, the seat held by Anna Hill. He defeated Austin McDonald. Deirdre Pierce won reelection in District 3 over Deidra Wright.

The seat in District 5 held by outgoing board member Turner is headed to a runoff between Tiffany Tate Hogan and Donna Priest-Brown. Manus Bernard Caldwell Jr. and Telessa Ammons also ran for the seat.

Awet “Howard” Eyasu was the sole candidate to run for Morley’s District 7 seat.

Forsyth County

Two Republicans in Forsyth will be unseated, both losing their primary matchups.

Trisha Hoyes defeated District 2′s Lindsey Adams. Hoyes will face Democrat Jessica Fleming.

In District 3, Dorian Usherwood won the nomination over incumbent Tom Cleveland. Usherwood will face Democrat Debbie Stair.

District 4 voters didn’t see competitive primaries. Their choice will be between Democrat Claudia Wood and Republican Chris Grimes.

Fulton County

Sara Gillespie defeated Lyndsey Coates and will succeed Stuart in District 1. Incumbent Katie Gregory defeated Mustafa Karadeniz in District 3.

Incumbent Franchesca Warren will serve another term in District 4. She initially faced a challenger, but Stefani Carreras de Beck withdrew from the race.

The races are nonpartisan.

Gwinnett County

The makeup of the school board in Georgia’s largest school district became clearer Tuesday, but it was not finalized.

Gwinnett’s school board races are nonpartisan.

District 1 incumbent Karen Watkins, the board’s vice chair, was the top finisher in her race and is headed to a runoff against Rachel Stone. Leroy Ranel Jr. was third.

District 3 is also headed to a runoff. Steve Gasper received the most votes in a field of five. Shana V. White appeared to narrowly surpass Domonique Cooper for the other runoff spot. Voters also considered Yanin Cortes and Anthony Mulkey.

Tarece Johnson-Morgan will serve a second term on the board, winning a majority in District 5 over Patrina King and Jacquelyn Evenezer-Gold.

Henry County

District 1 incumbent Pam Nutt secured her seat on Tuesday, earning a majority of votes in a field of four candidates. The challengers were Earlene Crump, John H. Dewberry and Cassandra Norsworthy.

In District 3, Jennifer Gardner Carter defeated Larry Bryant.

District 5 incumbent McKenzie McDaniel will hold onto his seat, gaining a majority of votes against Sheri Mimbs and Gewel Richardson.

The races are nonpartisan.

Paulding County

Incumbent Jeff Fuller secured a spot on November’s ballot for his At-Large seat, defeating Shannon Price in the Republican primary. He will face Democrat Sasha Johnson, who surpassed Cynthia Starke-Jones.

The other races in the county were not competitive. District 1 incumbent Theresa Lyons, a Republican, will face Democrat Nina Williams. District 3 incumbent Adam Clayton, a Republican, will face Democrat Antoinette Richards. Republican Deborah Collett is not facing a challenger for her District 4 seat.

Staff writers Cassidy Alexander, Martha Dalton and Leon Stafford contributed to this article.