Qualifying for November’s elections (and, if needed May’s primaries) starts Monday. And Okoye said Democratic candidates will be “competing very vigorously” for all of the open seats.
Those seats include:
Gwinnett County, long a conservative stronghold, voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, the first time it had supported a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976. With the exception of Coleman's district, which is roughly 58 percent white, each of the now incumbent-free districts has a majority-minority population.
Of the 25 legislative seats that represent parts of Gwinnett County, 10 are currently held by Democrats. Most of the constituents in all but four of those districts, however, are in more traditionally Democratic Dekalb County.
Flipping the seats that are losing Republican incumbents this fall — which are all predominantly, or exclusively, in Gwinnett — would be a significant milestone for Democrats.
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Brockway said he thinks the wave of vacated Gwinnett seats is more coincidence than any kind of statement on the county’s current political leanings. He conceded that there likely will be battles for the seats in the districts currently represented by Chandler and Casas, but said he expects his seat and those of Coleman and Shafer to remain in the hands of Republicans.
Republicans Paula Hastings and Zach Procter both intend to run for Brockway's seat.
“I’m not ready to say this is a Democratic county yet, or purple yet,” Brockway said.
At least three Democratic candidates have already made their intentions known for other incumbent-free Gwinnett seats.
Donna McLeod, who lost her most recent District 105 race against Chandler by just more than 200 votes, has said she intends to run again. Shelly Hutchinson, a social worker and adjunct professor, plans to run for Casas' House 107 seat.
And in Shafer's senate district, Democrat Zahra Karinshak — an attorney and military veteran — has already brought in a hefty fund-raising haul.
Gwinnett GOP Chairman Mike Seigle, meanwhile, sent a letter to supporters last month that served as both a solicitation for candidates and a rallying cry.
Seigle suggested that a handful of Gwinnett’s incumbent Democratic legislators — Reps. Brenda Lopez, Pedro Marin, Dewey McClain and Sam Park — may be the vulnerable ones come November. He called Lopez, Marin and Park underfunded. And he tied McClain, a former Atlanta Falcon, to the national anthem protests of current NFL players.
In other Gwinnett County news:
An attorney for one says his client wants a separate trial.