It’s qualifying week in Georgia: Here’s how it will shape 2024 election

A Capitol frenzy will set the stakes in May and November
220307-Atlanta-Democrats wait in line to qualify Monday, Mar. 7, 2022 at the Georgia State Capitol. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

220307-Atlanta-Democrats wait in line to qualify Monday, Mar. 7, 2022 at the Georgia State Capitol. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Hundreds of candidates will gather in the state Capitol this week in a biennial parade to qualify for legislative and congressional races ahead of a 2024 presidential race that will put Georgia in the crosshairs of both national parties.

Over the next five days, ambitious office-seekers will crowd the Statehouse lobby to file paperwork to run for Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats and all 236 spots in the General Assembly for the first time since a court-ordered redo of the state’s political maps.

The event will bring a frenzy to a Gold Dome already crackling with activity at a crucial point of the legislative session — and just days before the state’s March 12 presidential primary brings national attention to Georgia’s battleground status.

President Joe Biden is set to campaign in Atlanta on March 9 to defend his narrow 2020 victory, while it’s still unclear if former President Donald Trump will trek to Georgia, the home of some of his biggest political setbacks.

And it comes as Republicans are consolidating around Trump’s comeback bid as he tries to flip Georgia back even as he faces an election-interference trial at the nearby Fulton County Courthouse.

The qualifying crunch will create a range of awkward scenarios, as potential arch-rivals in May primaries or the November general election bump into each other in the halls of the Capitol as they wait to pay fees and sign documents formally cementing their candidacy. Droves of contenders for local office will also formally qualify.

It will also be the first election since the Republican-led overhaul of congressional maps. The redo followed a judge’s order to create a new majority-Black U.S. House district, but Republicans managed to do so while maintaining their 9-5 majority in the state’s delegation. The reconfiguration has already triggered a chain reaction.

Drawn out of her district for the second time in two years, Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Marietta will run in the newly created 6th District, which shifts from Atlanta’s northern suburbs to encompass parts of four counties on the city’s westside.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., speaks at a press conference on gun safety legislation outside the U.S. Capitol Building on May 18, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/TNS)

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Credit: TNS

First-term Republican U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick will compete in the 7th District, a Gwinnett-based seat now held by McBath that was redrawn to be GOP-friendly territory that reaches from north Fulton County to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

And long-serving Democratic U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta has said he plans to remain in the 13th District, which shifted from southwest Atlanta to a five-county stretch on Atlanta’s Eastside.

The revamp will have a different effect on the Legislature, with Democrats likely to pick up a couple of seats in the Georgia House.

But it will come with a price. Republicans redrew the chamber’s maps to put four pairs of incumbents into the same districts — six Democrats and two Republicans —triggering several to quit their campaigns.

A wave of retirements will leave open other seats. Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler is stepping down after 26 years. Others calling it quits this cycle include state Reps. J. Collins, Penny Houston, Pedro Marin and Clay Pirkle.

Expect surprises, too, as candidates make last-minute decisions with major ramifications. McBath initially planned to run for the Legislature six years ago before stunning insiders by switching to a U.S. House race moments before qualifying.

Here’s more of what to watch:

What will Georgia’s U.S. House races look like?

U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson’s decision to retire left open a deep-red west Georgia seat that’s already attracted several candidates.

Three former GOP state lawmakers — Mike Crane, Mike Dugan and Philip Singleton — are among the best-known contenders. But another formidable candidate could join the mix if Trump adviser Brian Jack enters the race.

Meanwhile, Democratic incumbents must defend against primary challenges.

Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson and second-term state Rep. Mandisha Thomas both announced campaigns to run against McBath. And Marcus Flowers, a military veteran and prodigious fundraiser, is among a handful of Democrats challenging Scott.

Marcus Flowers, who raised more than $16 million in 2022 when he ran against Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene in northwest Georgias 14th Congressional District, has shifted his sights. On Friday, he filed paperwork to run in Mays Democratic primary in the 13th Congressional District against U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta. (Steve Schaefer/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

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Credit: TNS

Will Fani Willis face a challenge?

Fulton County’s top prosecutor is the odds-on favorite to keep her seat no matter who files paperwork to run against her. The county is a Democratic stronghold, and Willis is one of the most recognizable political figures in the state, if not the nation.

But a GOP contender might relish the opportunity to turn the race into a proxy fight over her racketeering case against Trump and his allies. A Democratic challenger could target her criminal justice approach.

What will happen to vulnerable legislative incumbents?

Not long ago, Democrats struggled to muster enough candidates to run in metro Atlanta seats. Now there’s intense competition.

Democrats are hoping to topple Republicans in competitive metro Atlanta districts, including state Reps. Scott Hilton, Jan Jones, and Deborah Silcox. They also will try to unseat state Rep. Meisha Mainor, a Republican aiming to defend her deep-blue Atlanta district after switching parties last year.

Republicans will try to flip a few seats of their own, including the Gwinnett-based seats of state Reps. Farooq Mughal and Jasmine Clarke after they narrowly staved off GOP opponents in 2022.

And there will be several closely-watched legislative primary battles.

Democratic state Reps. Saira Draper and Becky Evans will scrap for an intown Atlanta seat after they were drawn into the same district. And Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Dunwoody, will face the father of a slain Israeli soldier who said Harrell’s decision to abstain from an antisemitism bill sparked his challenge.

Saira Draper (D-Atlanta) speaks in opposition about SB 222 on day 39 of the legislative session at the State Capitol on Monday, March 27, 2023. The bill would prohibit county governments from accepting election donations from organizations. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC