State races: stage set for Georgia’s May primaries for governor, Congress

Published 9:08 pm Friday, March 9, 2018

By Ben Nadler and R.J. Rico
The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — The list of candidates running for federal, state and local elections in Georgia’s May 22 primary is set, and many of the state’s most prominent political figures face stiff competition within their own party.

According to the list of candidates released by Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office Friday, 13 of Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats are being contested this year, as is the governor’s office, which will be vacated next year by term-limited Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

Also up this year are the positions of lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and all of Georgia’s 180 House seats and 56 Senate seats.

Here is a look at Republicans and Democrats who qualified for the top races:


Civil rights icon and U.S. Rep. John Lewis is the only member of Georgia’s congressional delegation to escape challengers from either major party.

A handful of incumbents won’t face primary challengers, but are set to see opponents in the general election in November. Republicans Earl “Buddy” Carter in District 1, Doug Collins in District 9, Barry Loudermilk in District 11, Tom Graves in District 14 and Democrats Sanford Bishop in District 2 and David Scott in District 13 will be unopposed in their primaries. Challenging those incumbents are Democrats Barbara Seidman and Lisa Ring in District 1; Dave Cooper and Josh McCall in District 9; Flynn Broady in District 11; and Steven Lamar Foster in District 14. Among Republicans opponents, Herman West is running in District 2 and Femi Akinkugbe and David Callahan are competing in District 13.

Republican Rep. Drew Ferguson will face one primary challenger in District 3: Philip Singleton. Democrats Rusty Oliver and Chuck Enderlin also qualified in the district.

In District 4, Rep. Henry “Hank” Johnson will face Juan Parks in the Democratic primary, while former NFL running back Joe Profit will face property manager Melanie Williams in the Republican primary.

GOP Rep. Austin Scott will face two primary challengers in District 8: Vance Dean and Danny Ellyson.

In District 10, Rep. Jody Hice has two challengers in the Republican primary: Joe Hunt and Bradley Griffin. Three Democrats, Chalis Montgomery, Richard Winfield and Tabitha Johnson-Green, have also qualified to run in District 10.

In District 12, GOP Rep. Rick Allen will face Eugene Yu in the primary contest in May. Three Democrats, Francys Johnson, Robert Ingham and Trent Nesmith, have qualified to run in the district.

Two of the most highly watched races are in the sixth and seventh districts, which Democrats hope they can turn blue.

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, who last year won the most expensive House election in U.S. history, is running unopposed in her Republican primary in District 6. On the Democratic side, former newscaster Bobby Kaple and businessman Kevin Abel had declared for the race months ago, but Lucy McBath’s entrance into the fray this week was a surprise. McBath is a prominent gun-control activist whose teenage son was fatally shot in 2012. Consultant Steven Griffin is also running as a Democrat. Jon Ossoff, who was defeated by Handel last year, announced last month that he was not going to run again.

In one of the most crowded fields of any of Georgia’s U.S. House races, incumbent Republican Rob Woodall faces only one primary challenger, Shane Hazel, in District 7. But the Democratic primary is set to contain a packed field of six candidates: consultant Kathleen Allen, professor Carolyn Bourdeaux, financial manager Melissa Davis, publisher David Kim, small business owner Ethan Pham and attorney Steve Reilly.


With seven Republicans in the governor’s race, it is a strong possibility that none will get more than 50 percent of the vote, thereby requiring a July runoff.

One of the front-runners, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, gained a national profile recently after his controversial threat to punish Delta Air Lines for its decision to cut ties with the National Rifle Association. He also seemingly got his way, as Deal signed a sweeping tax overhaul that no longer included the lucrative jet fuel tax exemption that would have saved Delta tens of millions of dollars. As part of his platform, Cagle wants to quickly cut taxes by $100 million, invest in infrastructure and “make Georgia the Silicon Valley of the South.”

One of Cagle’s chief rivals in both fundraising and name recognition is Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The lifelong Athens resident has said he wants to focus on the state’s economy, particularly in rural Georgia. He also says he will crack down on illegal immigration and has proposed creating a database that would track crimes committed by illegal immigrants.

Hunter Hill served in the state Senate for five years representing the Atlanta area before resigning last year to focus on this year’s race. Hill, an Army veteran, wants to trim government spending and eliminate the state income tax. Like his GOP opponents, Hill denounced Delta’s recent decision to sever ties with the NRA, but he also criticized Cagle’s reaction, saying the state government should not be punishing private businesses for such stances.

Clay Tippins of Atlanta has positioned himself as an outsider who would bring his experience as a businessman and former Navy SEAL to the governor’s office. He has emphasized spending on infrastructure, improving childhood literacy rates and ending Atlanta’s status as a sex-trafficking hub.

Perhaps the most outspoken in the field is Sen. Michael Williams, who advocated against the jet fuel tax exemption days before Cagle took his headline-making stand, calling it “crony capitalism.” The Cumming Republican has made his distaste for Cagle clear and in January took the Senate floor to accuse the lieutenant governor of lacking leadership. Like Hill, Williams wants to eliminate the state income tax. He also wants to freeze tuition rates at state colleges and institute term limits for elected state officials.

Two long-shot candidates in the Republican field are restaurant owner Eddie Hayes and Marc Alan Urbach, a former teacher and conservative author who ran for president as a write-in candidate in 2016.

In the Democratic primary, two prominent Staceys — Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans — will face off for the chance to try to take the governor’s mansion, which hasn’t seen a Democrat in charge since 2003.

Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House and a celebrated romance novelist, has made economic mobility and affordable health care cornerstones of her campaign. Abrams, who would be the first African-American woman in the country elected governor, has garnered some major party endorsements including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, as well as from Our Revolution, a political advocacy group backed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Evans has staked her campaign largely on championing and expanding the HOPE Scholarship, a program that helped Evans herself become the first in her family to go to college. A lawyer originally from Ringgold, Georgia, Evans also previously served in the Georgia House, representing the Smyrna area. Evans recently waded into the flap between Cagle and Delta, calling on Georgia’s Attorney General to investigate whether Cagle violated state law in his threat to punish Delta for cutting ties with the NRA.


Three Republicans and two Democrats are running to succeed Cagle as the second-highest elected official in the state and president of the Senate. The Republican primary contains a crowded field of current and former state lawmakers: Sen. David Shafer of Duluth will face former Sen. Rick Jeffares of McDonough and former Rep. Geoff Duncan, who represented Cumming. Shortly after qualifying, Shafer denied allegations of sexual harassment made in a complaint recently filed by a lobbyist.

Among Democrats, who held the office for decades before Cagle took office in 2007, two businesswomen, Sarah Riggs Amico and Triana Arnold James, both of Marietta, will face off.


Four Republicans and three Democrats have qualified in the race to become Georgia’s next secretary of state and oversee the state’s elections process, among other responsibilities.

The Republicans in the race are former Alpharetta mayor David Belle Isle, Rep. Buzz Brockway of Lawrenceville, Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus and Rep. Brad Raffensperger of Johns Creek.

No Democrat has served as secretary of state since 2007. The three in the race are former U.S. Rep. John Barrow of Athens, former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler of Lithonia, and former Rockdale County tax commissioner RJ Hadley of Conyers.


In the race to be the state’s top prosecutor, incumbent Chris Carr is running unopposed in the Republican primary for Attorney General, while Charlie Bailey is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.