ATLANTA – For Georgia’s U.S. House candidates, there will be no free rides in 2020.
For the first time since 1994, when Georgia’s Newt Gingrich led a nationwide GOP takeover of Congress, at least one Democrat and one Republican will stand for election in all of the state’s congressional districts.
There will be a lot more than two candidates in some of the 14 districts, with 80 people running statewide. That includes 13 candidates in the 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties in the Atlanta suburbs.
Crowded races statewide will make for a clamorous election season, as candidates compete for the attention of Georgia voters with those running for president, both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats, all of the state’s legislative seats, and other offices. Past the May 19 party primaries, many nominations could also require a July 21 runoff.
Even the race for Southeast Georgia’s 1st Congressional District drew multiple candidates of both parties for the first time in many years. Incumbent Republican Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter, drew two opponents in the May 19 GOP primary: Danny Merritt and Ken Yasger. There will also be three Democrats in the May primary vying for the congressional seat: Joyce Marie Griggs, Lisa Ring and Barbara Seidman.
The 7th, where Rep. Rob Woodall is stepping down, is one of three open seats. In northeast Georgia’s 9th District, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins is instead running for Senate, and in northwest Georgia’s 14th District, Tom Graves is stepping down.
In the 6th District in the northern Atlanta suburbs, Democrat Lucy McBath is seeking to hold what had been a longtime Republican stronghold she wrested away in 2018. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who briefly held the seat after beating Jon Ossoff, faces four other GOP contenders for her party’s nomination, including former NFL player Joe Profit.
Democrat Carolyn Bordeaux lost to Woodall in the 7th District by less than 500 votes in 2018. She’s back, but joined by other five other contenders in her party’s primary, including state Sen. Zahra Karinshak, state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero and progressive activist Nabilah Islam. On the Republican side, the seven candidates include state Sen. Renee Unterman and former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich. Campaigning is already heavy, with attacks among primary contenders and across party lines. It’s been spilling over into the state Senate where Unterman and Karinshak have butted heads.
Nine Republicans are running in both the 9th District and the 14th District, challenging candidates to distinguish themselves. State Rep. Kevin Tanner, for example, is emphasizing his experience as a former chief deputy sheriff and county administrator, as well as his work in the General Assembly. He was endorsed Tuesday by former Gov. Nathan Deal, which could helpful in Gainesville, the 9th District’s most populous county.
“I’m not going to apologize for being conservative,” Tanner told The Associated Press on Friday. “But I can get things done.”
Tanner’s rivals including former U.S. Rep Paul Broun, state Sen. John Wilkinson and state Rep. Matt Gurtler.
The level of political experience in the 14th bumped up during qualifying as former state school Superintendent John Barge and former state Sen. Bill Hembree entered the race.
Three Democrats have qualified in the 9th, even though it’s one of the most Republican districts nationwide. Kevin Van Ausdal is the only Democrat running in the 14th.
And then there’s John Lewis’ race. When the civil rights icon signed his qualifying papers, no one had declared to challenge him for an 18th term, despite a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. But now teacher Barrington Martin is opposing him from the left in the 5th District Democratic primary. And Republican Angela Stanton-King could make waves with her links to President Donald Trump.
Stanton-King is an author and former reality show cast member who campaigns for sentencing reform. She’s been giving interviews to conservative media and political groups supporting Trump. The president pardoned her last month for her part in a stolen car ring, after she served six months of home confinement in 2007. That came at the urging of Alveda King, a niece of Martin Luther King Jr. who is now an anti-abortion activist.
“I totally support the president’s initiatives on criminal justice reform, his initiatives on pro-life,” Stanton-King told The Associated Press. “I support his stance on our military. I support what he’s doing on our economy.”
Facing opposition in their own primary and the general election are four other congressional incumbents, including Republicans Buddy Carter and Austin Scott and Democrats Hank Johnson and David Scott.
Facing only general election opposition are Democrat Sanford Bishop and Republicans Drew Ferguson, Jody Hice, Barry Loudermilk and Rick Allen.