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Georgia’s early voting a decisive moment in state politics


The governor’s campaign has no plans to let up, staging events across the state to reinforce his conservative credentials. He went so far this week as holding a bill-signing of an income tax cut in Perdue’s hometown at one of his favorite eateries to press his advantage.

The other marquee matchup on the Republican ballot is the GOP race for the Senate, a six-candidate race for the chance to square off against Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in November.

Herschel Walker is the clear front-runner, thanks to his celebrity status in football-obsessed Georgia and support from Trump and other GOP figures. With such hefty leads in polls, Walker is ignoring his rivals, bypassing events and skipping debates to focus entirely on Warnock.

Caption

Herschel Walker, right, is the clear front-runner in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. He has mostly ignored his GOP rivals, bypassing events and skipping debates to focus on a November showdown with Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, left.

Credit: AJC

Herschel Walker, right, is the clear front-runner in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. He has mostly ignored his GOP rivals, bypassing events and skipping debates to focus on a November showdown with Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, left.

Credit: AJC

caption arrowCaption

Herschel Walker, right, is the clear front-runner in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. He has mostly ignored his GOP rivals, bypassing events and skipping debates to focus on a November showdown with Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, left.

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Despite their low visibility, Walker’s Republican opponents insist he can be brought into runoff territory as voters tune into the race — and new attention is focused on the former football star’s violence against women, inflated business claims and confusing statements.

Democrats are dealing with no such drama on the top of their ticket. Unlike the bitter primary battle she faced in 2018, Stacey Abrams didn’t draw an opponent in her second bid for governor. And Warnock faces only a little-known Democratic challenger.

Both are preparing for tough general election matchups clouded by economic uncertainty and President Joe Biden’s sagging approval ratings.

They’re embracing broader policies, such as pushing for Medicaid expansion, in hopes of proving that Democratic victories in the last election — when Biden flipped Georgia and Warnock and Jon Ossoff swept U.S. Senate runoffs — were neither fleeting nor a fluke.

Further down the ballot, Democrats have no such unity, with several unpredictable contests for other statewide offices expected to end in runoffs. Contests for lieutenant governor and secretary of state are particularly competitive.

The once-in-a-decade redistricting process gives Democrats the chance to pick up a handful of state legislative seats while the GOP is expected to maintain control of both chambers. The new political maps were also drawn to help Republicans pick up one U.S. House seat while putting them within reach of a second.

caption arrowCaption

The Republican-led process in drawing new congressional maps has resulted in a showdown between to Democratic U.S. representatives Carolyn Bourdeaux, left, and Lucy McBath in the 7th Congressional District.

The Republican-led process in drawing new congressional maps has resulted in a showdown between to Democratic U.S. representatives Carolyn Bourdeaux, left, and Lucy McBath in the 7th Congressional District.
caption arrowCaption

The Republican-led process in drawing new congressional maps has resulted in a showdown between to Democratic U.S. representatives Carolyn Bourdeaux, left, and Lucy McBath in the 7th Congressional District.

The surefire win involves the suburban seat now held by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, whose Democratic-leaning territory north of Atlanta was transformed into a conservative stronghold by the GOP-controlled Legislature.

The shifting lines prompted McBath to run against U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, a fellow Democrat, in the 7th Congressional District, newly configured as a safely Democratic bastion centered in Gwinnett County.

Some analysts frame their competition as a larger battle of the future of Democrats in the suburbs, with McBath appealing to a more liberal base while Bourdeaux represents a more moderate wing of the party.

Republicans will have a tougher time ousting longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, whose southwest Georgia district was drawn to be slightly more difficult for him to hold.

Other veteran Democrats must also look over their shoulders. U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta is facing challengers from his left flank, and several state legislative races feature moderate candidates running against those with more liberal records.

Meanwhile, Republicans are engaged in a race to the party’s right flank in two open congressional seats: the contest for McBath’s former district along with the safely Republican northeast Georgia seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Jody Hice.

In that contest, ex-Democratic DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones was a late entrant to the race after agreeing to abandon his bid for governor in exchange for Trump’s support. He faces trucking executive Mike Collins and other conservatives who paint him as a liberal carpetbagger.

caption arrowCaption

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, left, is just one of several Georgia candidates who are running with backing from Donald Trump. The GOP primary will be the first test of how much strength the former president still enjoys in the state. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Credit: Evan Vucci

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, left, is just one of several Georgia candidates who are running with backing from Donald Trump. The GOP primary will be the first test of how much strength the former president still enjoys in the state. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Credit: Evan Vucci

caption arrowCaption

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, left, is just one of several Georgia candidates who are running with backing from Donald Trump. The GOP primary will be the first test of how much strength the former president still enjoys in the state. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Credit: Evan Vucci

Credit: Evan Vucci

Trump’s clout will be tested in other statewide races, too.

He backed state Sen. Burt Jones in the Republican race to succeed Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who isn’t seeking a second term. Jones leads state Senate GOP leader Butch Miller in the AJC poll, though most voters are undecided.

The former president has also given his blessing to other candidates running in far tougher primary matchups. Hice is in a tighter than expected race against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for the job overseeing the state’s election system.

And Trump’s vendetta against Kemp has morphed into an all-out effort to punish his closest allies, with two little-known contenders earning the former president’s support against the governor’s closest allies.

Within days of each other, John Gordon announced a challenge against Attorney General Chris Carr and Patrick Witt abandoned a congressional run to target Insurance Commissioner John King.


AJC Republican primary poll

The poll was conducted April 10-22 for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs. It questioned 886 likely Republican primary voters and has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.

If the election to choose a Republican candidate for governor were being held today, for whom would you vote?

Brian Kemp — 53%

David Perdue — 27%

Kandiss Taylor — 4%

Catherine Davis — 1%

Tom Williams — 0%

Undecided — 15%





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