Georgia Republicans fight to defend majorities in state House, Senate

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, the Senate's leader, and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, worked hard this campaign season to protect the Republican majorities in the chambers they lead. Democrats were hoping to flip 16 seats in the House to take control of the chamber ahead of next year's redistricting. AJC file photo
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, the Senate's leader, and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, worked hard this campaign season to protect the Republican majorities in the chambers they lead. Democrats were hoping to flip 16 seats in the House to take control of the chamber ahead of next year's redistricting. AJC file photo

Georgia House and Senate leaders were hoping to use the power of their Republican majorities and a huge money advantage to stave off a challenge to their Statehouse dominance Tuesday, and they appeared to succeed.

They were also trying to win back at least a few of the 13 seats they lost in 2018. And they apparently knocked off House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville, who faced an opponent who received nearly $1 million worth of help from a Washington-based Republican political action committee.

Trammell was trailing during most of the counting Tuesday night against Republican David Jenkins.

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Democrats were trying to pick up at least 16 seats — an extremely tall order — to retake the Georgia House for the first time since 2005.

While Democrats predicted they’d pick up seats in the Senate as well, the GOP majority in that chamber looked safe heading into Tuesday.

In early vote counting Tuesday, some GOP incumbents in Cobb, north Fulton and Gwinnett counties were either behind or in close races, including House Ways and Means Chairman Brett Harrell of Snellville, Senate Education Chairman P.K. Martin of Lawrenceville and Sen. John Albers of Alpharetta.

This year’s battle was Round 2 of the fight the two parties began in 2018, when Democrats seemed resurgent, narrowly losing the governor’s race and flipping 11 House seats and two Senate seats. The Democratic gains were largest in Atlanta’s suburbs, which have turned from solidly Republican to competitive or, depending on the location, dominated by Democrats.

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This year’s races were particularly important because the majority party next year will control the redrawing of district lines based on results from the 2020 census. How they’re drawn could cement GOP control throughout the 2020s or give Democrats hope of eventually regaining the House and Senate.

Republicans have responded to the Democratic threat by aggressively fundraising — collecting big checks from lobbyists, business associations and companies with interests in shaping legislation and benefiting from state spending.

The Georgia House Republican Trust raised about $5 million for its races, and Senate committees added millions more for that chamber’s contests. The Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee put more than $2 million into state contests, including about $1 million to defeat Trammell.

The state GOP also outraised the Democratic Party by about a 3-to-1 margin. About half of the Democratic Party’s spending came from the political arm of Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group Stacey Abrams founded after she lost the 2018 governor’s race.

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