Ralston nemesis ousts colleague, but most lawmakers cruise in primary

Georgia state Rep. David Clark is removed from the state House chamber by a Georgia state trooper after refusing to take COVID-19 tests in 2021. On Tuesday, he won his GOP primary race in House District 100. MANDATORY CREDIT: NATHAN POSNER

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Georgia state Rep. David Clark is removed from the state House chamber by a Georgia state trooper after refusing to take COVID-19 tests in 2021. On Tuesday, he won his GOP primary race in House District 100. MANDATORY CREDIT: NATHAN POSNER

Buford state Rep. David Clark has been a pain in House Speaker David Ralston’s backside in recent years, and Tuesday he delivered another blow.

Clark ousted Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, in the Republican primary for the newly drawn House District 100 in Gwinnett, Forsyth and Hall counties. Rich chaired the House Redistricting Committee that drew the district maps.

Most incumbents cruised to easy wins on Tuesday in the new districts, which were drawn last year in such a partisan way that the candidate who wins the primary will likely win in the November general election as well.

A longtime Atlanta lawmaker was forced into a runoff, candidates in a Gwinnett County Senate seat race were less than 100 votes apart and Gov. Brian Kemp’s former chief of staff overwhelmingly won his Republican primary in a GOP district.

Clark has often clashed with Republican leaders in the House and initially did not seek reelection before changing his mind and running. In November he will face Democrat Louisa Shell Jackson, who ran unopposed.

Earlier this year Clark lashed out at GOP legislative leaders after he was denied access to the Georgia House floor following a positive coronavirus test. Clark said at the time that he had several negative tests.

He was booted from the chamber by a state trooper in January 2021 after refusing to comply with the House’s twice-weekly testing requirements. At the time, he called Ralston a “dictator” and vented at the health precautions.

He has a long history of defiance of leadership since he was elected in 2015. He has called for Ralston’s resignation and waged a failed bid for speaker.

Rep. Roger Bruce, D-Atlanta, a member of the House since 2003, failed to win a majority and faces a runoff against Rashaun Kemp, according to an unofficial count by the secretary of state’s office.

Rep. Sheri Gilligan, R-Cumming, a frequent opponent of legislation in her chamber, also appeared to narrowly miss a majority and to be headed for a runoff against Carter Barrett, according to the secretary of state’s count.

State Rep. Shelly Hutchinson of Snellville defeated state Rep. Rebecca Mitchell of Snellville in the Democratic primary in which two lawmakers were drawn into the same district. Hutchinson now faces Republican Preston Wren, who ran unopposed in his primary, in the general election.

Also in Gwinnett County, Democratic activist Nabilah Islam held a 78-vote lead (out of more than 11,000 votes cast) over state Rep. Beth Moore, D-Peachtree Corners, in the race for the open Senate District 7. Islam has embraced the label “Georgia’s AOC” after she won the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. House in 2020.

In the Republican primary for District 7, Josh McKay defeated Bill Sandman to advance to the November general election.

In Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams’ old Atlanta House district, Saira Draper, a former Democratic Party of Georgia staffer, won a spot in the runoff with psychologist, Michelle Schreiner, according to the secretary of state’s count. The candidate endorsed by Abrams’ voting rights group Fair Fight — Bentley Hudgins — came in third in the five-candidate race.

The winner of the Democratic runoff will face Republican Jodi Diodati in the overwhelmingly Democratic district this fall.

Kemp’s former chief of staff Tim Fleming, an ex-Newton County commissioner, easily won his GOP primary for a House seat. In November, Fleming will face Democratic nominee Malcolm Adams, who ran unopposed Tuesday.

Two Republican House members, Reps. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth and Rick Williams, R-Milledgeville, also won primaries for state Senate seats.

Two former state senators, Rick Jeffares and Ed Perry, who was once a South Georgia Democratic lawmaker, both lost comeback GOP primaries.