Following general election primary contests in May, Georgia voters returned to the polls July 24 to select party nominees in a slate of primary runoff elections — with the unofficial results surprising many. The winning candidate in each runoff will face an opposing party challenger in November’s general election.
All eight constitutional officers in Georgia will be on the ballot this year; half of those contests required a primary runoff to set the candidates who will face off in November.
In the race to replace the term-limited Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, Stacy Abrams easily won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in May but had to wait until July to find out that Brian Kemp will be her Republican opposition. Current Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and current Secretary of State Brian Kemp met in the Republican runoff after receiving 39.01 percent and 25.55 percent of the vote, respectively, in May.
Overcoming a 13-point deficit from the primary, Kemp was able to defeat Cagle, the once-presumed frontrunner, by more than doubling his votes and garnering an overwhelming 69.45 percent of the runoff vote.
State Sen. David Shafer and former state Rep. Geoff Duncan met in the Republican runoff to decide who would face off against Democrat and political newcomer Sarah Riggs Amico for the state’s second-highest office. Looking to replace Cagle, Shafer nearly avoided a runoff by earning 48.91 percent of the vote, compared to Duncan’s 26.65 percent in May’s three-candidate primary.
With fewer than 1,800 votes separating the candidates, the unofficial results in this race remain too close to call and likely will undergo a recount before the outcome is official. At the present time, it looks as if Duncan pulled off a surprising upset and claimed victory over Shafer, the former Senate president pro tem, by earning 50.16 percent of votes in the Republican runoff. If his lead holds, the former House member will vie for the top spot in the Senate as the state’s lieutenant governor and Senate president.
Secretary of State
A familiar face, five-time U.S. Congressman John Barrow will represent Democrats on the ballot in November. He will compete against Republican Brad Raffensperger, with both men hoping to succeed Brian Kemp as secretary of state.
After garnering 34.96 percent of the vote in the four-candidate primary, two-term state Rep. Brad Raffensperger easily won the Republican nomination by defeating former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle in the two-candidate runoff. Earning 61.76 percent of the votes in the runoff, he will now face Barrow in November.
State School Superintendent
In the only statewide Democratic runoff, Sid Chapman and Otha Thornton Jr. vied for a chance to compete against Republican incumbent Richard Woods in the race for state school superintendent.
Thornton, retired military and past president of the National PTA, defeated Chapman, a former educator and head of the Georgia Association of Educators, with 59.1 percent of votes in the runoff to earn the Democratic nomination.
Georgia General Assembly
Although all 56 state Senate seats will be on the ballot in November, only 23 of those will feature candidates from both major parties. With only 17 party nominations contested in the May primary, the candidates for November were set for each party when none required a runoff.
House of Representatives
Eight of the nominations for Georgia’s 180 House seats required a runoff contest, with only one incumbent among them.
Becoming the fifth Republican House member to fall in the primaries, incumbent Rep. Paulette Rakestraw lost to challenger Joseph Gullett for the Republican nomination in House District 19. He will face Democrat Alison Feliciano in November.
Ginny Erhart defeated Thomas Gray to earn the Republican nomination for House District 36. She will face Democrat Jen Slipakoff in the November contest to replace Erhart’s husband, retiring Republican Rep. Earl Erhart.
In the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Brooks Coleman, Bonnie Rich defeated Kipper Tabb to earn the Republican nomination. She will face off against Democrat Aisha Yaqoob in November.
Paula Hastings defeated Zach Procter to earn the Republican nomination for House District 102. She will face Democrat Gregg Kennard in the race to replace Rep. Buzz Brockway, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican nomination for secretary of state.
Former state Rep. Donna Sheldon defeated Robin Mauck for the Republican nomination in House District 105. In November, she will face Democratic candidate Donna McLeod, who narrowly lost to retiring incumbent Joyce Chandler, a Republican, in 2016.
Democrat El-Mahdi Holly defeated Tarji Leonard in a runoff to earn a spot in November’s House District 111 general election contest against incumbent Republican Rep. Geoff Cauble.
In House District 141, Republican Dale Washburn is the presumed Representative-elect after defeating Gary Bechtel in a runoff. No Democratic or third-party candidates qualified to replace retiring Republican Rep. Alan Peake.
Jessica Walden defeated Gregory Odoms for the Democratic nomination in House District 144. She will face Republican Danny Mathis in November in the race to replace retiring Republican Bubber Epps.
Democrats in House Districts 6 and 7 met in a primary runoff for a chance to compete against incumbent members of Congress in November. In House District 6, gun control activist Lucy McBath and businessman Kevin Abel emerged from a four-candidate primary field to move on to the July runoff. In the runoff, McBath defeated Abel for the Democratic nomination. In November, she will face Republican incumbent Karen Handel, who won the seat in a contentious 2017 special election.
Looking to challenge Republican incumbent Rob Woodall, Democrats Carolyn Bourdeaux and David Kim emerged from a crowded six-candidate primary to compete in the July runoff. Bourdeaux, a university professor, claimed victory in the runoff over Kim, a businessman, and will appear as the Democratic candidate on the ballot in November.