Battle for Georgia General Assembly centers on a few swing districts

Democrats seek modest gains into GOP’s solid advantage
House members throw up paper at the conclusion of the legislative session in the House Chamber on Sine Die, the last day of the General Assembly at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

House members throw up paper at the conclusion of the legislative session in the House Chamber on Sine Die, the last day of the General Assembly at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, March 29, 2023. (Natrice Miller/

Looking to make inroads into Georgia’s Republican majority, Democrats say they’re poised to flip a handful of General Assembly seats in this year’s elections.

But Republicans aren’t giving an inch, and they’re targeting legislators in left-leaning districts where Gov. Brian Kemp came close to winning two years ago.

Primary election runoffs last week finalized each party’s candidates — and set the battlegrounds where races will be fought in November.

Most seats have already been decided.

More than half of Georgia’s 236 legislative seats will be uncontested in the general election, and Republicans’ advantage remains secure after the redistricting last year left few competitive areas across the state. The Republican-led redrawing of district lines protected the seats of most incumbents.

Just a few swing districts remain up for grabs in the House, where Republicans hold a 102-78 lead, and the Senate, where the GOP has a 33-23 edge.

House Minority Caucus Whip Sam Park said he’s optimistic that Democrats could improve to at least 80 seats, and possibly more if challengers can unseat suburban incumbents.

“The electorate continues to change in favor of Democrats. It’s becoming younger, more diverse and concentrated in the suburbs, where we have a lot of these competitive districts,” said Park, a Democrat from Lawrenceville. “Suburban voters — whether they’re independents, moderate Republican or Republican women — do not think (Donald) Trump represents them. We can make a difference here.”

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

House Majority Caucus Vice Chairman Houston Gaines said he’s confident that Republicans can not only keep their current numbers, but grow them.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

“Georgia is a red state,” said Gaines, a Republican from Athens. “Voters appreciate the work of the governor and the General Assembly, the Republican-led accomplishments of cutting taxes, providing greater educational opportunities and protecting public safety.”

During redistricting, Republican legislators redrew the state’s political maps to comply with a court order requiring more majority-Black districts — five in the House and two in the Senate. Black voters in Georgia overwhelmingly support Democrats, but the GOP created districts in a way to minimize their potential losses.

Gaines said Republicans need to counter an expected influx of national campaign funding for Democrats with investments of their own. Georgia’s Future, a GOP non-profit accepting unlimited contributions from lobbyists and business insiders and backed by House Speaker Jon Burns, plans to be heavily involved in state legislative races.

Here’s a look at General Assembly races to watch:

  • Since state Rep. Mesha Mainor switched parties to become a Republican last year, Democrats have been seeking to regain the heavily liberal west Atlanta district she represents, where over 90% of voters supported Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Mainor faces Democrat Bryce Berry, a seventh-grade teacher.
  • State Rep. Ken Vance, a Republican from Milledgeville, found himself in a redrawn district that now favors Democrats. He’s opposed by Democrat Floyd Griffin, a former Milledgeville mayor and state senator.
  • One of Georgia’s Republicans who voted to award the state’s 14 electoral votes to Trump in 2020, state Sen. Shawn Still, is being challenged by Democrat Ashwin Ramaswami, a lawyer from Johns Creek, in a district where 52% of voters backed Trump.
  • Democrats in two politically divided Gwinnett County districts are trying to fend off newcomers. Democratic state Rep. Jasmine Clark of Lilburn faces Republican Elvia Davila, and Democratic Rep. Farooq Mughal of Dacula is opposed by Republican Sandy Donatucci. Both districts slightly favored Biden in 2020 and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in 2022.
  • Several House Republican incumbents in northern Atlanta’s growing suburbs are being challenged by Democratic rivals, including state Reps. Deborah Silcox of Sandy Springs, Sharon Cooper of Marietta and Scott Hilton of Peachtree Corners. They’ll face Democrats Susie Greenberg, Eric Castater and Laura Murvartian.

Elections for all 180 state representatives and 56 state senators will be on the ballot for two-year terms in November.

This article has been updated to correct the vote share for presidential candidates in the 2020 election in Senate District 48, where Republican state Sen. Shawn Still faces Democrat Ashwin Ramaswami in this year’s general election. Republican Donald Trump won 52% of the vote in SD 48.

Georgia General Assembly races

  • Republicans hold solid majorities in the General Assembly, controlling 102 of 180 state House seats and 33 of 56 state Senate seats.
  • Democrats say they can pick up seats in this fall’s elections, especially the heavily Democratic west Atlanta district held by state Rep. Mesha Mainor, who switched parties last year.
  • Most districts are already decided after the primaries. Ninety state House candidates lack an opponent in November, and 34 state Senate seats are uncontested.