Ballots are set for statewide, congressional races

The ballots have been established for Georgia’s July 20 primary elections with Friday’s conclusion of qualifying week.

There won’t be any shortage of candidates for statewide and congressional offices this year, and some races are so crowded with qualifiers that runoff elections are all but guaranteed.

Here’s a look at the major races –

U.S. Senator:  Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson will run for a second term against Democratic Labor Commissioner Mike Thurmond, who has minor primary opposition from R. J. Hadley of Rockdale County.

Governor:  It’s Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine against everyone else in the GOP primary for the state’s chief executive officer.  Oxendine is being chased by a pack of former officeholders who resigned to run fulltime against him:  Karen Handel (formerly the secretary of state), Nathan Deal (Congress), and Eric Johnson (state Senate).  Sen. Jeff Chapman, who did not resign from the Senate, is also in the race as is secessionist/stalker Ray McBerry and a Walmart employee from Brunswick named Otis Putnam.

On the Democratic side, three major candidates are fighting for the chance to be in a runoff with former governor Roy Barnes:  Attorney General Thurbert Baker, House Minority Leader DuBose Porter and retired adjutant general David Poythress.  State Rep. Randal Mangham was a late and mystifying entrant into the race, along with a couple of minor candidates who will not be a factor in the primary (Bill Bolton and Carl Camon).

Lieutenant governor:   Despite months of intense rumor-mongering on conservative websites that he would either withdraw from the race or have primary opposition, Republican incumbent Casey Cagle has no GOP challenger.  Carol Porter, the wife of gubernatorial candidate DuBose Porter, is the only serious candidate in the Democratic primary, although she will have opposition from Patricia McCracken.  Augusta Chronicle columnist Sylvia Cooper writes that McCracken “hasn’t voted in Richmond County since the 2000 Democratic presidential primary . . . Not only has she not voted, she wasn’t even registered until April 19.”

Secretary of State:  Republican incumbent Brian Kemp, who was just appointed to the job by the governor four months ago, has spirited primary opposition from former Sandy Springs councilman Doug MacGinnitie, whose disclosure reports indicate he is pumping a lot of personal funds into the race.  On the Democratic side, state Sen. Gail Buckner and state Rep. Georganna Sinkfield are running, as is attorney Gary Horlacher, public relations consultant Michael Mills and Decatur resident Angela Moore.

Attorney General:  State Sen. Preston Smith was a surprise entry into a Republican primary that initially appeared to involve only former Cobb County commissioner Sam Olens and former federal prosecutor Max Wood.  The Democratic primary remains a two-man race with Rep. Rob Teilhet of Smyrna and former district attorney Ken Hodges of Albany.

State School Superintendent:  Republican incumbent Kathy Cox has served two controversial terms as superintendent and had her Fayette County home up for foreclosure recently after filing for personal bankruptcy, but she is nevertheless running for a third term.  Her primary opponents are educators John Barge of Rome and Richard Woods of Tifton.   Former Atlanta school board chairman Joe Martin is making his third try in the Democratic primary against educators Beth Farokhi of Marietta and Brian Westlake of Decatur.

Insurance Commissioner:  The Republican primary for this office has drawn one of the most crowded fields in any state election.  The nine candidates include Sens. Seth Harp and Ralph Hudgens, Rep. Tom Knox, attorneys Maria Sheffield and Rick Collum, businessman Gerry Purcell, and insurance agents John Mamalakis, Stephen Northington, and Dennis Cain.  By contrast, former legislator Mary Squires is the only Democrat who qualified for the office.

Agriculture Commissioner:  Republican Gary Black, who lost to longtime incumbent Tommy Irvin in 2006, has essentially been running for ag commissioner ever since.  He has primary opposition from Darwin Carter, an Alma agribusinessman.  State Sen. J. B. Powell of Richmond County qualified late as a Democrat for this race.

Labor Commissioner:  There will be competitive primaries in both parties to pick a successor to Mike Thurmond.  State Reps. Mark Butler of Carrollton and Melvin Everson of Snellville are the GOP hopefuls, while former House Speaker Terry Coleman and Darryl Hicks, who ran a losing race for secretary of state in 2006, are the Democratic qualifiers.

Public Service Commission:  This race opened up near the end of qualifying with the surprise decision by Bobby Baker not to seek a fourth term.  The GOP primary filled up quickly with state Sen. John Douglas, Rep. Jeff May, former Columbia County legislator Joey Brush and political consultant Tim Echols.  Keith Moffett, an aide to Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, is the lone Democratic qualifier.

U.S. House races

District 2:  Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop has drawn several Republican challengers who think they can exploit his vote for healthcare reform to win this rural district in southwest Georgia.  GOP qualifiers include state Rep. Mike Keown, Lee Ferrell, and Rick Allen.

District 4:  In his try for a third term in the U.S. House, Rep. Hank Johnson has serious opposition in the Democratic primary from Vernon Jones and DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes.  

Johnson, who disclosed that he has hepatitis, raised some eyebrows in a recent congressional committee hearing when he expressed concern that the island of Guam “will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.”  A video clip of that comment has become widely viewed on the internet.  Four Republicans have qualified for this race – Victor Armendariz, Liz Carter, Larry Gause and Cory Ruth – but the GOP nominee will be a huge underdog in this Democratic district.

District 7:  There are eight Republican candidates in the race to succeed John Linder, with state Rep. Clay Cox (R-Lilburn) establishing himself as the early frontrunner.  Chuck Efstration, Jef Fincher, Ronnie Grist, Jody Hice, Tom Kirby, Tom Parrott, and Linder’s chief of staff, Rob Woodall, are also running in the GOP primary.  Military veteran Doug Heckman, who lost to Linder two years ago, is running again in the Democratic primary.

District 8:  Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall of Macon appeared to be headed for easy reelection to a fifth term until state Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) got into the race on the last day of qualifying.  Scott, who has spent the past year campaigning for governor, dropped down to this race where he will be the favorite in the GOP primary against Ken DeLoach and Diane Vann.  Marshall, a Blue Dog Democrat who voted against healthcare reform and children’s healthcare insurance, is more conservative than Scott on some issues.  Marshall also starts with a fundraising advantage over the other candidates.

District 9:  This GOP primary is almost as crowded as the 7th District race, with seven candidates qualifying for the right to replace Nathan Deal.  One of the hopefuls will actually enter the July 20 primary as an “incumbent” because of the special election being held May 11 to finish out Deal’s last seven months in the House.  Former legislators Tom Graves, Lee Hawkins and Bill Stephens are in the mix, as is state Rep. Bobby Reese (R-Sugar Hill), Chris Cates, Bert Loftman and Steve Tarvin.  Graves has already picked up an endorsement from the Dalton Daily Citizen, one of the largest newspapers in the district.

District 12:   Rep. John Barrow, another Blue Dog Democrat who voted against healthcare reform after receiving large campaign contributions from healthcare interests, is being opposed in the primary once again by former state senator Regina Thomas of Savannah (she was clobbered by Barrow in 2008).   Four Republicans have qualified in this East Georgia district that went for Barack Obama in the presidential election:   Michael Horner, Ray McKinney, Jeanne Seaver and Carl Smith.  Barrow has a big lead in money raising as the primary election campaigns get underway.

District 13:  Incumbent Rep. David Scott of Atlanta has eight people lined up to try to keep him from winning a fifth term in the U.S. House.  Scott will face Mike Murphy and Michael Frisbee in the Democratic primary.  The Republican primary has attracted Deborah Honeycutt (who has twice lost to Scott by more than a two-to-one margin), Mike Crane, Hank Dudek, Chip Flanegan, Dave Orr and Rupert Parchment.

Republican Reps. Jack Kingston of Savannah, Paul Broun of Athens, and Lynn Westmoreland of Sharpsburg have token Democratic opposition in heavily GOP districts.  Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta is expected to defeat whichever candidate wins the Republican nomination in the 5th District.  Republican Reps. Tom Price and Phil Gingrey are unopposed.

© 2010 by The Georgia Report

Tags: politics