Georgia holds a statewide primary election Tuesday with seats for Congress on down to the state Legislature up for grabs. Here are the biggest races to watch come Election Day, as well as how to pick a ballot, confirm your polling location and know when Georgia would hold runoffs in races where no candidate gets a majority:
It’s a crowded race to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal, who cannot run for a third term. There are five leading Republicans and two Democrats in the May 22 primary, and all of them have different messages and policy platforms to try to compete for a sliver of the vote.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle may have the biggest name recognition, thanks to three statewide election victories. He’s trying to win over conservatives with promises to sign a “religious liberty” bill and expand gun rights.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp has adopted a “Georgia First” mantra and is aiming for the same rural vote that powered Donald Trump’s presidential victory in the Peach State. Kemp pledges new crackdowns on illegal immigration and new anti-gang initiatives.
Two other GOP candidates are trying to gain late traction. Executive Clay Tippins is emphasizing his business background — and lack of political experience — while pushing to crack down on sex trafficking and boost elementary school reading.
And state Sen. Michael Williams is trying to outflank his opponents with calls for tougher restrictions on abortion and ending tax breaks for special interests.
The Democratic ticket pits two young attorneys who endured tough childhoods and served in the Legislature together before both decided to aim for the state’s top job.
Former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams has earned heaps of national attention for her bid to become the nation’s first black female governor and her outspoken progressive positions on issues such as gun control and higher education.
Ex-state Rep. Stacey Evans has staked out left-leaning positions, too, but she has focused her campaign largely on reversing cuts to the HOPE scholarship that Abrams brokered with Republican leaders in 2011.
Their biggest divide may be their competing strategies to retake the governor’s office for Democrats for the first time since 2002. Evans is banking on a more conventional Democratic strategy of winning over independent voters and moderates, particularly suburban women, who have fled to the GOP.
Abrams has staked her campaign on energizing 800,000 left-leaning voters, many of whom are minorities, who rarely cast ballots. She says Evans’ approach clings to the same strategy that led the party to defeats in the past four statewide races.
Five hopefuls are running to replace Cagle as lieutenant governor.
Three Republicans and two Democrats will be on primary election ballots, each hoping to secure enough votes to represent his or her political party in November.
Former state Rep. Geoff Duncan of Cumming, former state Sen. Rick Jeffares of Locust Grove and state Sen. David Shafer of Duluth are vying for the Republican nomination.
Duncan is running as an outsider after serving five years in the state House of Representatives. Jeffares served seven years in the Senate, and Shafer served 16, including five as president pro tempore of the chamber.
While the Republican race is made up of men who are either current or former legislators, both Democrats are women making their first foray into public office.
Business executive Sarah Riggs Amico and small business owner Triana Arnold James are seeking the Democratic nomination in Tuesday’s election.
All five candidates said in addition to presiding over the Senate, the lieutenant governor’s office would put them in a position to take a leadership role in shaping the state’s policy discussions.
Secretary of state
The race for secretary of state takes on greater significance this year because Georgia is considering replacing its electronic voting machines with a system with a paper backup. The secretary of state will likely be responsible for overseeing the state’s purchase and implementation of such a system.
A pack of experienced candidates entered the race to succeed Kemp, who is running for governor after serving eight years as secretary of state.
The four Republican candidates are former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, state Rep. Buzz Brockway, state Sen. Josh McKoon and state Rep. Brad Raffensperger.
On the Democratic side, former U.S. Rep. John Barrow faces former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler and RJ Hadley, the chief deputy tax commissioner for Rockdale County.
All the candidates want to replace Georgia’s 16-year-old touchscreen voting machines with a voting system that includes a paper record for recounts and audits.
But they disagree on what voting technology the state should buy. Options include pen-and-paper ballots and touchscreens with paper.
State superintendent of schools
Five men are vying for Georgia’s top education job, and two of them — both of the Republicans — already have experience as state schools superintendent.
Incumbent Richard Woods is defending the seat against John Barge, who left after one term in an unsuccessful 2014 bid to replace Deal as governor. A central plank of Barge’s gubernatorial campaign was more money for schools, something Woods also has pushed for.
Voters concerned about school funding will have a hard time using the issue to differentiate between the candidates: All three Democrats say they want lawmakers and the governor to put more money into education, too. Sid Chapman, a former high school teacher who serves as president of the Georgia Association of Educators, is competing with two Army veterans — Otha Thornton, a former president of the National PTA, and Sam Mosteller, a former head of the Georgia chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Another big issue — school safety — reveals a greater divide: All three Democrats oppose arming teachers, which is allowed under state law. The two Republicans would leave that decision to the school districts, though Barge prefers trained personnel and says he’d recruit retired veterans and police officers to patrol schools.
Three Republicans and two Democrats are battling it out to decide the party’s nominees to become Georgia’s next insurance regulator and fire marshal.
Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, who has served in the office since 2011, is retiring.
Running to replace him is Jay Florence, a former deputy commissioner who is Hudgens’ choice. Florence is running as a Republican. Jim Beck, another former Hudgens aide and the president of the Georgia Christian Coalition, is also running as a Republican, as is Tracy Jordan, a pharmacist, Realtor and former Hoschton city councilwoman.
In the Democratic primary, insurance agent Janice Laws faces off against health care advocate Cindy Zeldin.
With auto insurance premiums rising faster in Georgia than in almost any other state, all the candidates are calling for changes in state law to make it easier for the commissioner to stop or slow rate hikes. Zeldin has also proposed holding public hearings on insurance rate increases, while Beck has said the commissioner should consider fighting insurance companies in court if necessary.
In addition, the candidates said they would work with the governor’s office to get waivers to help more Georgians obtain health insurance, or they would support Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
Two Democrats will face off this month for the chance to challenge longtime Republican state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.
Former Georgia State professor Richard Keatley and Fred Quinn, who recently worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, both say they are better suited for the job than Butler.
The Department of Labor provides services to job seekers and employers, including running Georgia’s unemployment insurance program and overseeing child labor issues.
This is Keatley’s second attempt at running for public office. The Ohio native and former French professor ran in last year’s special election in the 6th Congressional District. He finished 16th among 18 candidates, garnering only 229 votes.
Quinn, a Tignall native who now lives in Atlanta, said his interest in the Labor Department began as a student at Paine College when he interned at one of the agency’s career centers.
Both candidates said they believe the state needs to invest in the career centers that are spread across the state, increase the minimum wage and expand educational opportunities.
Butler is running unopposed in the Republican primary.
A bevy of first-time candidates is helping shape metro Atlanta’s two most competitive congressional races this year.
No fewer than seven political newbies have qualified to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, who has not faced serious opposition since he was first elected in 2010 to represent the 7th Congressional District, based in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. Six of those opponents are Democrats, including first-generation Americans David Kim and Ethan Pham. Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux, a Democrat, has bested the field in fundraising. Woodall faces one GOP challenger to his right in this month’s primary, Marine veteran Shane Hazel, although he has easily outdone the challenger in fundraising.
In the 6th Congressional District — the site of the most expensive U.S. House race of all time last year — four first-time Democratic candidates are vying for the chance to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel of Roswell in November.
Among the candidates in the district that covers parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties are Kevin Abel, a South African native and businessman; Steven Griffin, a former policy coordinator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; former newscaster Bobby Kaple; and Lucy McBath, a gun control advocate with a national profile.
The Democratic candidates have vowed to protect Obamacare, enact new gun control laws and rework vast portions of the GOP’s tax overhaul. Handel has quietly spent the past few months fundraising, and she kicked off May with a formidable war chest.
All 14 of Georgia’s U.S. House members are up for re-election this year, including Atlanta-area Reps. Drew Ferguson, Hank Johnson, John Lewis, Barry Loudermilk and David Scott. Despite considerable political enthusiasm on the left this year, national political analysts consider the prospect of a challenger flipping any of Georgia’s seats an uphill climb.
Primary elections for the Georgia General Assembly are more competitive than they’ve been in years.
There are 20 seats without an incumbent on the ballot, and all but one of them are currently occupied by Republicans. Democrats view these open seats as an opportunity to gain ground at the Capitol, where Republicans control nearly two-thirds of seats in the state House and Senate.
There are also more Democratic candidates than in the past. Democrats are running for 121 of 180 House seats, an increase from 82 races contested by Democrats in 2016. In the Senate, Democrats are fielding candidates in 36 of 56 contests.
Several incumbent legislators face tough intraparty primary contests.
Among Republicans, state Rep. Betty Price is opposed by former Roswell Mayor Jere Price for a north Fulton County district. In northeast Georgia, Republican leaders including Deal and House Speaker David Ralston are supporting Mickey Cummings, a farmers market manager who’s trying to unseat state Rep. Matt Gurtler.
On the Democratic side, Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson is fending off a challenge from Sabrina McKenzie, a dancing preacher and former reality TV star, in a race for a Tucker-area district.
Public Service Commission
Two Public Service Commission members are up for re-election this primary season, with three races scheduled for May 22. The races will feature six candidates — five Democrats and two Republicans.
Chuck Eaton, a Republican, has been representing District 3 since 2006 and is running unopposed this primary season. On the Democratic side, the candidates are businesswoman Lindy Miller, former state lawmaker John Noel and Johnny White, an information technology professional.
In the District 5 race, both political parties have contested primaries.
Republican incumbent Tricia Pridemore, who was appointed to the commission by the governor in February, is facing opposition from fellow Republican John Hitchins.
In the Democratic race, former state legislator Doug Stoner is on the ballot against Dawn Randolph, who runs a small business.
Construction of two additional nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle and the need to diversify energy sources in the state continue to dominate campaign circles and debates ahead of the primaries.
Staff writers Greg Bluestein, Tamar Hallerman, Anastaciah Ondieki, James Salzer and Ty Tagami contributed to this article.