House members vote to re-elect David Ralston as speaker of the Georgia House on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, as lawmakers returned to Atlanta for a new 40-day session. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Wins for Democrats and women make a small dent in Georgia Legislature’s majorities

Though Democrats and women made gains in the Georgia General Assembly after Tuesday’s runoffs, they remain significant minorities at the Capitol.

The Georgia House and Senate will remain dominated by Republicans and men during the 2018 legislative session, even after Democrats and women flipped three seats each.

As a result of this year’s special elections, the state’s legislative bodies will be less than two-thirds Republican and almost three-quarters men when the annual lawmaking session begins Jan. 8.

Three women were elected this year to seats in the Georgia General Assembly previously held by men. From left: Jen Jordan, a Democrat; Kay Kirkpatrick, a Republican; and Nikema Williams, a Democrat.

Democrats broke Republicans’ two-thirds supermajority in the state Senate with Jen Jordan’s win in Tuesday’s runoff against Jana Howard, also a Democrat. A party with a supermajority can pass proposed constitutional amendments without any votes from the minority party. Jordan will replace former Sen. Hunter Hill, R-Atlanta, who resigned to run for governor. 

The Senate will have 37 Republicans and 19 Democrats for next year’s legislative session — a 66 percent to 34 percent split.

Democrats also picked up two seats in the House during last month’s elections. Democrat Deborah Gonzalez replaces former Rep. Regina Quick, R-Athens, who was appointed to a judgeship, and Democrat Jonathan Wallace will take over for former Rep. Chuck Williams, R-Watkinsville, who was appointed to lead the Georgia Forestry Commission.

When the House convenes in January, it will be run by a 64 percent Republican majority, with 116 Republican and 64 Democratic representatives.

Women are even more outnumbered than Democrats.

While women make up 51 percent of Georgia’s population, they’re only 27 percent of the state Legislature.

Voters increased the number of women in the state Senate to 12 of the chamber’s 56 members; the House remained unchanged with 51 women of 180 members.

Three more women will be in the Senate since last legislative session: Nikema Williams, a Democrat who won a runoff Tuesday for Sen. Vincent Fort’s former Atlanta seat after he ran for mayor; Kay Kirkpatrick, a Republican who won election in May for Sen. Judson Hill’s former Marietta seat; and Jordan.

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