The key Georgia counties to watch as election returns roll in

We told you earlier some of the broad themes to watch tonight, but here’s a closer look at the counties to keep an eye on as election returns roll in.

We told you earlier some of the broad themes to watch tonight, but here’s a closer look at the counties to keep an eye on as election returns roll in.

DeKalb County: It’s the most important Democratic stronghold in the state and the biggest trove of Black voters. There’s also anecdotal evidence from local officials that an expected turnout surge didn’t materialize on Election Day, though that might be because of the crush of early-voters. Democrats will easily carry DeKalb – Stacey Abrams captured 83% of its vote in 2018 – but the party is counting on hitting or surpassing that margin tonight.

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Hall County: Not only is the north Georgia county one of the biggest Republican bastions in the state, it will also help decide the chaotic 20-candidate special election for the U.S. Senate. High turnout in Hall could help U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a native son who is challenging U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the free-for-all race.

Floyd County: Some Republican operatives believe that whichever GOP candidate for U.S. Senate wins the 14th District will win a spot in a January runoff. And Floyd County is at the core of the deeply-conservative district. It’s also where President Donald Trump staged a massive rally Sunday to drive out more turnout, since the area was lagging behind some Democratic-leaning territory in early votes.

A crowd gathers for Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., during a campaign rally at the Infinite Energy Center on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Duluth. (Photo: John Amis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
A crowd gathers for Democratic vice presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., during a campaign rally at the Infinite Energy Center on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Duluth. (Photo: John Amis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

Gwinnett County: Democrats have a magic number they’re targeting in the suburban county: 60%. That’s the vote-share they’re hoping to reach in a county once so solidly Republican that Democrats didn’t bother running in some local races. Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris made a bee-line for Gwinnett over the weekend, and Senate Democratic candidates have staged multiple rallies across the county. If Democrats flirt with that total, Joe Biden could be in for a solid night.

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Forsyth and Cherokee counties: The exurban Atlanta counties is key to Republican efforts to offset Democratic gains in the suburbs. While Trump will win rural Georgia areas by staggering margins, Forsyth and Cherokee are densely-populated counties where huge GOP margins help build Trump and other Republicans a buffer. Forsyth will play a particularly important role, since half the county is in the hotly-competitive 7th Congressional District, which Republicans aim to keep in their fold.

Trump supporters head up Northside Parkway for the I-75 MAGA Drag the Interstate rally Sunday, November 1, 2020. Caravans were scheduled around Georgia and the U.S. on Sunday. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Trump supporters head up Northside Parkway for the I-75 MAGA Drag the Interstate rally Sunday, November 1, 2020. Caravans were scheduled around Georgia and the U.S. on Sunday. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Peach County: The middle Georgia county is one of the state’s few bellwethers. The county’s voters have picked the eventual presidential winner in just about every election since 1992, swinging from Barack Obama to Trump in the past two races. The exception was 2000, when Al Gore captured Peach County by a scant 15 ballots, mirroring the razor-thin national vote.

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