ATLANTA — All but one of the Republicans holding statewide office is facing a challenger this year, most from Democrats but a few from Republicans, illustrating how competitive Georgia elections are becoming.
“I’m a little impressed that Democrats were able to field so many names,” said Steve Anthony, a Georgia State University professor who once was the executive director of the Georgia Democratic Party.
The party’s current chairman, DuBose Porter, said recruiting candidates got easier once Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter announced their intentions to run. Nunn, the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, is running for his former job, and Carter, the grandson of the state’s only president, is running for governor.
“No one imagined you’d have the momentum and excitement we’ve got in the slate of candidates running,” Porter said.
A third Democratic family supplied an unexpected candidate Friday, on the final day of qualifying, when Chris Irvin signed up to run for his grandfather Tommy Irvin’s post as agriculture commissioner, which is now held by Gary Black.
Irvin told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “DuBose called me the day before yesterday, and I was in my tool belt, working on a 100-year-old building.”
Winning the elections will still be a tall order for Democrats, according to observers. Most believe population trends still favor the GOP for now, which is why some Republicans are getting challenged in their own party.
“If the Democrats don’t win a race but their worst-performing candidate garners 40 percent or better, I’d say the Democrats will have done well this year,” Anthony said.
As expected, Gov. Nathan Deal and Public Service Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald each wound up with two Republicans and a Democrat challenging them.
Libertarians usually come up with candidates for statewide races. They and independents will qualify in the summer.
Two statewide officials, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, won’t know who they’ll face in the general election until Democratic voters choose between a pair of contenders.
The two open statewide positions, U.S. Senate and state superintendent of schools, each attracted a platoon of hopefuls. The GOP primary will feature seven seeking the Senate nomination and nine for the superintendent. The Democratic primary will include four for the Senate and six for superintendent.
Runoffs are almost inevitable with so many candidates and no clear favorite. The exception is that Michelle Nunn enjoys a huge fundraising advantage and extensive name recognition in the Democratic Senate primary. On the GOP side, the latest public poll showed a five-way tie.
Three open seats for the U.S. House also have no shortage of aspirants. The 1st has six Republicans and three Democrats, while the 10th has seven Republicans and a single Democrat.
Although the seat for the 12th isn’t empty, Augusta Democrat John Barrow is the congressman with the most Republicans, five, breathing down his neck.
Winning crowded primaries comes down to organization, according to campaign operatives, especially getting supporters to turn out. The new primary date of May 20 is two months earlier than in the past, requiring campaigns to push harder for turnout on an unfamiliar date.
Advance voting starts even sooner, April 28.
The bulging ballot also means there’ll be competition for campaign contributions. Typically, incumbents get the biggest share. The federal races will draw donations from national political-action committees, but down-ballot candidates in state races will have to run lean operations this year.