By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press
In addition to closely watched primary races for governor, Georgia voters Tuesday found plenty of contests further down the ballot that ultimately will shape the fall general elections.
Open seats for lieutenant governor and secretary of state resulted in competitive primary races for both Republicans and Democrats — and the GOP contests won’t be settled until a runoff is held July 24. Meanwhile, Georgia’s GOP state school superintendent overcame a primary challenge by an old political foe.
Five Georgia congressmen also defended their seats against primary challengers from their own parties. But they’ll be back on the ballot with fresh opponents in the fall general election.
Here’s a look at how key down-ballot races played out in Georgia:
A number of Republicans and Democrats ran for open statewide seats being vacated by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp so they could run for governor.
The open race for lieutenant governor advanced to a runoff between Republican state Sen. David Shafer of Duluth and former GOP state Rep. Geoff Duncan of Cumming. Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico, a Marietta businesswoman, defeated Triana Arnold James of Marietta.
Primary races for secretary of state drew four GOP contenders and ended with former Alpharetta mayor David Belle Isle and state Rep. Brad Raffensperger of Johns Creek headed to a July runoff. Former U.S. Rep. John Barrow of Athens won the Democratic nomination by defeating two primary rivals — former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler of Lithonia and former Rockdale County tax commissioner R.J. Hadley of Conyers.
Republican Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens opted against seeking re-election, leaving another vacancy to fill. Jim Beck of Carrollton, Hudgens’ former chief of staff and a lobbyist, defeated two fellow Republicans in the GOP primary. Jay Florence of Norcross, Hudgens’ former top deputy, lost the GOP race despite being endorsed by his former boss. Atlanta insurance agent Janice Laws won the Democratic primary.
SCHOOL CHIEF SHOWDOWN
State School Superintendent Richard Woods successfully defended his job in a Republican primary race against the man who gave up the office four years ago.
John Barge stepped aside as Georgia’s school chief in 2014 to unsuccessfully challenge Gov. Nathan Deal’s re-election. Barge ran a failed attempt Tuesday to win back his old office after serving as the local school superintendent in coastal McIntosh County.
Ahead of the fall election battle for control of the U.S. House, four of Georgia’s incumbent Republican congressmen had to defeat challengers from within the GOP. One of the state’s Democratic House members had opposition as well.
Seeking his first re-election in west Georgia’s 3rd District, freshman Rep. Drew Ferguson of West Point defeated fellow Republican Philip Singleton of Sharpsburg, a former Army helicopter pilot. Rep. Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville beat Marine Corps veteran Shane Hazel of Cumming in the GOP primary for the 7th District in metro Atlanta.
In eastern Georgia’s 10th District, Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Monroe easily fended off two GOP businessmen — former Army Ranger Bradley Griffin of Newborn and Joe Hunt of Watkinsville, a vice president for the fast-food chain Zaxby’s.
Rep. Rick Allen of Augusta overcame fellow Republican Eugene Yu of Evans in eastern Georgia’s 12th District. Yu is a former military police officer and sheriff’s deputy who made his third unsuccessful attempt for the seat.
Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia defeated Juan Parks in metro Atlanta’s 4th District. Parks of Lithonia was a Marine Corps veteran who now works as a JROTC high school instructor.
A gun control advocate will face a metro Atlanta businessman in a Democratic primary to see who gets to Georgia’s newest member of Congress in the fall.
Lucy McBath and Kevin Abel were the top two finishers Tuesday in a four-way Democratic primary race for rights to take on Republican Rep. Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
McBath is a gun control activist from Marietta whose teenage son was fatally shot in Florida in 2012. Abel is a Sandy Springs businessman.
Karen Handel won the most expensive U.S. House race in history not quite a year ago. Her chief opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, proved a surprise threat in a 2017 special election for a district long considered safe for the GOP. But Ossoff passed on a rematch this year, when Handle must seek re-election.
Handel of Roswell ran unopposed in the GOP primary.
The newest member of the state commission that regulates Georgia utilities won a primary challenge by a fellow Republican.
Tricia Pridemore of Marietta was appointed by the governor to fill a vacant seat on the Public Service Commission in February. She defeated GOP opponent John Hitchins III for the District 5 PSC.
The district covers portions of western Georgia, but all PSC members are elected statewide.