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The 6 most competitive primaries in Georgia, briefly explained

A lot of candidates are running in primaries for the US Senate and House.

Amanda Northrop/Vox

Some Republicans in Georgia are warning that 2020 is the year the longtime red state could turn blue.

“Here’s the reality: The state of Georgia is in play,” Sen. David Perdue (R) warned Republican activists on a “Women for Trump” call obtained by CNN in late April. “The Democrats have made it that way.” Perdue should know; he’s up for reelection in a Senate race that is looking more competitive by the week.

Perdue isn’t getting primaried, but Tuesday’s elections will decide which Democrat challenges him in the fall. There won’t be any action in Georgia’s other, highly watched Senate special election — that race will go down to the wire with an all-party primary on November 3. But in addition to the Senate race, there are four other interesting US House primaries playing out around the state.

Georgia has long been a Republican stronghold, but Democrats made gains in 2018 by flipping the Sixth Congressional District, which encompasses Atlanta’s northern suburbs, and with Democrat Stacey Abrams coming within 1.4 percent of winning the governor’s race. And Georgia is a desirable target for Democrats in 2020. Not only does it have a strong African American voting bloc and moderate suburban white voters who are trending more Democratic, it also has two Senate races up for grabs this year and a smaller, less expensive media market than states like Florida and Texas.

Democrats will still have to spend and organize heavily to make the state truly competitive in the fall, but they could get a lot of bang for their buck in the process. Georgia polls are scheduled close by 7 pm ET, but could be extended to account for long lines in some precincts. Shortly after, Vox will have live results provided by Decision Desk. Here’s what you need to know about each of the state’s races.

Georgia US Senate race

Who’s the Republican? Sen. David Perdue, a former CEO of companies including Reebok and Dollar General. Perdue is a conservative ally of President Donald Trump and is running unopposed.

Who are the Democrats? Former congressional candidate and media executive Jon Ossoff, former Columbus, Georgia, Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, and 2018 candidate for lieutenant governor Sarah Riggs Amico. Other candidates include civil rights attorney Maya Dillard Smith, Tricia Carpenter McCracken, James Knox, and Marckeith DeJesus. Ossoff has been leading Democratic fundraising and at least one primary poll, but he’ll still have to clear 50 percent of the vote in order to avoid an August 11 runoff.

What are the odds? Cook Political Report rates this race Lean Republican.

What’s the state of play? Out of the two Senate races in Georgia, Perdue’s was initially expected to be easier for Republicans to win. Perdue is a known entity with Georgia Republicans and largely votes in line with Trump’s agenda. But new polling has shown a tightening race with Ossoff as the hypothetical Democrat (a recent poll showed he’s leading the Democratic field).

An early May poll from a Republican firm showed Perdue leading Ossoff by just 2 points, following another Republican poll showing Perdue with a 6-point lead. These polls have caused Cook Political Report to recently move the race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican. The Democratic primary has yet to play out, and Perdue has the upper hand in terms of fundraising. But this is still a race to watch.

Georgia US Senate race special election

Who are the Republicans? Incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins are the top Republicans to watch, but others in the GOP field include Derrick Grayson, Annette Davis Jackson, A. Wayne Johnson, and Kandiss Taylor.

Who are the Democrats? The DSCC has backed Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Another Democratic candidate to watch is Matt Lieberman, the son of former Sen. Joe Lieberman. Other Democratic candidates include Deborah Jackson, Jamesia James, Tamara Johnson-Shealey, Joy Felicia Slade, Ed Tarver, and Richard Dien Winfield.

What are the odds? Cook Political Report rates this race Lean Republican.

What’s the state of play? There’s an extra dash of weirdness in this special Senate election to replace retired Sen. Johnny Isakson (R). Rather than a straightforward Republican-versus-Democrat primary contest on Tuesday, there will instead be an all-party primary on Election Day, November 3. The presence of Doug Collins, a Trump ally in the US House of Representatives, could be a massive thorn in Loeffler’s side. If no one wins a majority in November, the election could go to a January runoff where the top two candidates would compete.

Add to all of this that Loeffler is getting heavy scrutiny for earlier allegations that she dumped millions in stock and subsequently bought stock in a teleworking company after being briefed on the coronavirus in the Senate (Loeffler has said the stock sales were made without her knowledge). Loeffler is extremely wealthy and is so far self-funding her campaign. But with an uncertain economy that’s left millions out of work, that could be a liability as much as an asset. On the Democratic side, Warnock and Lieberman are seen as the top contenders, with Warnock reporting fundraising around $1.5 million in April, just a few months since he entered the race in January.

Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District

Who are the Republicans? Former Rep. Karen Handel, who lost to Lucy McBath in 2018, is back running for her old seat. Other Republicans include Mykel Lynn Barthelemy, Blake Harbin, Joe Profit, and Paulette Smith.

Who is the Democrat? Rep. Lucy McBath, who flipped the district blue in 2018. McBath was a gun control activist before running for Congress; her 17-year-old son was shot and killed in 2012.

What are the odds? Cook Political Report rates the race a toss-up.

What’s the state of play? Handel is considered the Republican frontrunner to face McBath in the November election (McBath is running unopposed). The Sixth Congressional District was Georgia Democrats’ big win in 2018, and it signified how the politics of the suburbs around Atlanta are shifting in Democrats’ favor. Handel is fairly conservative; she’s a prominent anti-abortion advocate in the state and recently endorsed Collins’s Senate bid. McBath, meanwhile, has cut a fairly moderate profile and focused on issues including gun control and veterans’ issues in the House.

Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District

Who are the Republicans? With Rep. Rob Woodall retiring, a large number of Republicans are vying to replace him. Executive Lynne Homrich, state Sen. Renee Unterman, physician and veteran Rich McCormick, and businessman Mark Gonsalves are considered the most competitive. Others in the race include Lisa Babbage, Zachary Kennemore, and Eugene Yu.

Who are the Democrats? Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democratic candidate who came within around 500 votes of beating Woodall in 2018, is running again, but she has some real competition in the primary field. Other Democratic candidates include state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero, former Fulton County Commission chair John Eaves, activist Nabilah Islam, and entrepreneur Rashid Malik.

What are the odds? Cook Political Report rates this race a toss-up.

What’s the state of play? Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall after his razor-thin victory in 2018, Woodall announced he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2020. That leaves this seat in Atlanta’s suburbs open, with a whole host of Democrats and Republicans running. Top candidates in both parties are women, showcasing the growing trend of women running for congressional seats. This election will be another test of Democratic strength in the Atlanta suburbs, which will be a key one for the party to win if it hopes to take back the White House and US Senate. Health care is likely to be a continued issue in this district, especially in a state that did not fully expand Medicaid.

Georgia’s Ninth Congressional District

Who are the Republicans? There’s a large field of nine Republicans for this open seat, including state Sen. John Wilkinson, former US Rep. Paul Broun, and state Reps. Kevin Tanner and Matt Gurtler. Other candidates include Michael Boggus, Andrew Clyde, Maria Strickland, Ethan Underwood, and Kellie Weeks.

Who are the Democrats? Business owner Brooke Siskin, veteran Devin Pandy, and retired minister Dan Wilson.

What are the odds? Cook hasn’t rated this district, but it’s considered safely Republican.

What’s the state of play? This is an open race, after Rep. Doug Collins announced he’d pursue the US Senate seat. The large, northeastern district is considered pretty safely Republican, so the primary battle on the GOP side will be the one to watch. Current state representatives and senators including Wilkinson, Tanner, and Gurtler, as well as Broun — who served in the US Congress from 2007 to 2015 — are likely the most competitive candidates. Many candidates are running on their records of trying to cut government spending and promising to limit the size of government in Washington, per a recent virtual debate hosted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. If there’s no clear winner, the race could go to a runoff election on August 11.

Georgia’s 14th Congressional District

Who are the Republicans? Former Georgia schools superintendent John Barge, state Rep. Kevin Cooke, attorney Clayton Fuller, former state Sen. Bill Hembree, neurosurgeon John Cowan, and businesswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Other candidates include Ben Bullock, Andy Gunther, and Matt Laughridge.

Who is the Democrat? Businessman Kevin Van Ausdal.

What are the odds? Cook hasn’t rated this district, but it’s considered safely Republican.

What’s the state of play? This is another open district with the surprise announcement from incumbent Rep. Tom Graves that he wouldn’t seek reelection in 2020. Much like the Ninth Congressional District, this one in northwestern Georgia is considered pretty conservative, and Democrats probably won’t spend a lot of effort on flipping it. The Republican primary is pretty competitive, with current and former state legislators running, along with businesspeople in the state. A few candidates were initially running for Georgia’s Sixth and Seventh District races but switched to this more Republican-friendly district after Graves announced his retirement. All candidates are fairly Trump-friendly and have promised to side with the president on policy issues; if there’s been a hot-button issue, it’s mostly been the question of candidates moving to the district to run there. Again, if there’s no clear winner, this race could head to a runoff election on August 11.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece referred to Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA), who represents Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, as Randall Woodall.