Cobb County residents take part in the primary election voting at Noonday Baptist Church in Marietta on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. REANN HUBER / REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM
Photo: Reann Huber
Photo: Reann Huber

Dozens of seats in Georgia General Assembly in play after primaries

Dozens of seats in the Georgia General Assembly are up for grabs this year after Tuesday’s primary election, as eight incumbent legislators were ousted and 20 open seats created opportunities for newcomers.

Many races will be decided in November’s general election, when the winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries will face each other.

Four Republicans and four Democrats were unseated by rivals from their own parties in the primary.

Among Republicans, state Reps. Jason Spencer, Johnnie Caldwell, John Deffenbaugh and Dan Gasaway were defeated.

Spencer had worked to pass a bill that would have allowed adult survivors of child sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits. The bill didn’t pass this year.

Caldwell, the chairman of the House Reapportionment Committee, is a former judge who resigned from the bench following allegations he repeatedly harassed a female attorney.

The Democratic incumbents who lost were Reps. Howard Mosby, Coach Williams and Darrel Ealum, along with Sen. Curt Thompson.

Mosby, the chairman of the DeKalb County delegation to the state House, was ousted by Becky Evans, an aide to Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent.

Thompson lost to Sheikh Rhaman, who grew up in Bangladesh and moved to the United States in 1981.

All of the state’s 180 House districts and 56 Senate seats are up for election this year. In races where no candidate wins a majority, runoff elections will be held July 24. The winners of the Republican and Democratic primary elections will advance to the Nov. 6 general election.

There were 20 open seats in play in Tuesday’s primary election. All but one of them are currently held by Republicans who are retiring or running for higher office.

Democrats see those races as an opening to make gains in the Georgia General Assembly, where Republicans control almost two-thirds of seats in the House and Senate.

Several legislators faced significant primary challengers trying to boot them from office.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson squeaked by Sabrina McKenzie, a minister who teaches liturgical dance. Henson, a Democrat from Stone Mountain, won re-election by about 100 votes.

In Roswell, Republican Rep. Betty Price defeated by former Roswell Mayor Jere Wood. Price is a retired physician whose husband is Tom Price, former U.S. health secretary in the Trump administration. Wood questioned Price’s temperament after she made fun of Democratic women and asked whether HIV patients should be quarantined. Price has said her comments regarding an HIV quarantine were taken out of context.

In a north Georgia race, Republican Rep. Matt Gurtler, the “Mr. No” of the Georgia General Assembly, retained his seat despite making some powerful enemies: Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston. Gurtler voted against bills more than anyone else, about 40 percent of the time. He defeated Mickey Cummings, a farmers market manager.

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