3 things to watch in Georgia’s runoff elections – WABE

Georgia’s June runoffs could have been a lot more wild. 

But two of the most-watched primary matchups were settled in May. Candidates avoid a runoff if they take home at least 50% of the vote.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp handily defeated his challenger, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue. And GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger managed to narrowly avoid a runoff in a race against Congressman Jody Hice.

Still, Tuesday’s elections feature a few important storylines that will help illustrate the trajectory of both parties in Georgia. 

1. Another test of Trump’s hold on the GOP

The top of the Republican ticket is already set — with no statewide races in a runoff.

But several GOP congressional nominations are still undecided, including in the 6th and 10th Congressional Districts, where former President Trump has made endorsements.

While Kemp and Raffensperger’s victories in May dispelled notions that Trump’s sway among Georgia Republicans is supreme, these two House races will provide more clues about the weight of his endorsement.

The 6th District stretches from the suburban Atlanta communities of Roswell and Alpharetta north into Forsyth County. 

Jake Evans, a former chair of the State Ethics Commission who is endorsed by Trump, is facing Rich McCormick, an emergency doctor and former Marine helicopter pilot.

The district is currently represented by Democrat Lucy McBath, but redistricting made it solidly Republican, and McBath is now running next door in the 7th District. 

In the 10th Congressional District, Rep. Mike Collins is facing a challenge from Vernon Jones, the one-time Democratic DeKalb County Commissioner. Trump has endorsed Jones. 

At a Walton County GOP meeting, Monroe resident Bernard Whalen told WABE’s Rahul Bali that he’s not swayed by Trump’s endorsement.

“I like everything he’s done,” Whalen said. “His policies were great. The country was in a whole lot better shape… but I’m not a particular fan, and whoever ends up as the Republican candidate, that’s who I’ll vote for.”

2. How much sway does Stacey Abrams have with her party?

Unlike the Republicans, Democrats have several outstanding statewide races — lieutenant governor, secretary of state, labor commissioner and insurance commissioner. 

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor, has made endorsements in the first three of those races — basically a statement of who she’d prefer to be in her “cabinet” should she become governor.  

For Democrats, Tuesday’s runoffs will be not only another gauge of enthusiasm in an election that tends to be lower turnout but also a test of whether Abrams’ endorsements helped candidates down-ballot with less statewide name recognition break through with voters.

Cyn Armistead of Sandy Springs, who cast their ballot early at the Roswell Library last week, told WABE’s Rahul Bali she voted in three of the four Democratic statewide primary runoffs.

“It was based on who Stacey Abrams endorsed because I think she is the best candidate for governor and I’d like her to have people she can work with in office,” Armistead said.

In the race for lieutenant governor, Abrams has endorsed attorney Charlie Bailey, who is running against Kwanza Hall, a former Atlanta city councilman. 

For secretary of state, former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler is running against state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who’s endorsed by Abrams.

Entrepreneur Nicole Horn is facing Abrams-backed state Rep. William Boddie.

Abrams has stayed out of the race for insurance commissioner, which features Janice Laws Robinson and Raphael Backer, both of whom work in the insurance business.

3. Amid the runoffs, a busy day in Georgia politics

The national spotlight will be on Georgia Tuesday — but not because of the runoffs.

As voters weigh in on the current midterm elections, the Congressional panel investigating the January 6th insurrection will hear testimony from Raffensperger, and his deputy, Gabriel Sterling, about the 2020 election.

The hearing will focus on efforts by former President Trump to pressure state officials to help overturn the results of the 2020 election. The committee has been laying out a case on live television this month that Trump and his allies knew he had lost the election but pushed false claims about widespread fraud anyway. 

In January 2021, Trump made a now-infamous call to Raffensperger, and he asked the secretary to quote “find” 11,780 votes for him. Raffensperger refused. 

Since then, he’s spoken publicly about the call. But he’s also testified in front of the Fulton County special grand jury investigating Trump. And unlike Tuesday’s hearing — which will be broadcast live — that grand jury testimony was closed. 

Sitting on a lawn chair in the shade at a Juneteenth celebration outside Atlanta, voter LeVenita Burnett says she will be watching but isn’t sure whether the message will break through with people who still believe the 2020 election was stolen.

“I think the people already really know what happened, from what we’ve read and heard and seen, so whether it will make people change who want to avoid the truth? Hopefully. Other than that, I’m not sure what good it’s gonna do, especially if they don’t hold people accountable,” she says.

Also, on Tuesday — Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is slated to testify in Atlanta before the special grand jury. 

So buckle up for a busy day in Georgia — and check out WABE’s election hub, as well as the rest of our coverage online and on the radio. 

WABE Politics Reporter Rahul Bali contributed reporting.

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