Voters across Georgia will decide 21 primary runoff races during balloting Tuesday, including a high-profile Republican Senate contest between U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue. Here are five things to know about Tuesday’s election.
U.S. SENATE RACE GETS TOP BILLING
The retirement of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss set off a scramble to win the Republican nomination for his seat. Senate seats are among the most coveted jobs in politics since senators enjoy the national prominence that comes with setting federal policy and face re-election less frequently than governors or members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue were the top finishers in a crowded Republican primary in May. The winner of Tuesday’s Republican runoff will face Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn and Libertarian Amanda Swafford in November’s general election.
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THREE GEORGIA CONGRESSIONAL SEATS ON RUNOFF BALLOTS
Three Georgia congressmen -- Kingston, Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta -- all vacated their House seats to run for a promotion to the Senate. Republican primaries for each open seat were so crowded that the GOP nominations must be settled by the top two finishers in the Tuesday runoff.
In southeast Georgia’s 1st District, state Sen. Buddy Carter of Pooler faces Bob Johnson, a Savannah surgeon backed by local tea party groups. The winner will be the GOP nominee to succeed Kingston, who held the seat for 22 years.
In northeast Georgia’s 10th District, minister and conservative talk radio host Jody Hice of Monroe has tried to position himself as the ideological successor to Broun, whose fundamentalist Christian views played a big part in how he voted in Congress. Hice faces Mike Collins of Jackson, a trucking company owner who wouldn’t be the first member of his family to serve in the House. His father is former Republican Rep. Mac Collins.
Former Republican congressman Bob Barr of Smyrna, who helped lead the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, is seeking a comeback in Gingrey’s 11th District seat north of Atlanta. He’s had stiff competition from state Sen. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville, a tea party-backed candidate who finished the May 20 primary more than 6,000 votes ahead of Barr.
GOP RUNOFF WINNERS WILL HAVE A BIG ADVANTAGE IN FALL CONGRESSIONAL RACES
Each of the three U.S. House seats on Georgia runoff ballots was drawn to give Republican voters a steep advantage. That means whoever wins those GOP runoffs Tuesday will be strongly favored to become the districts’ next congressmen.
For example, the 1st District being vacated by Kingston is the most competitive of the three seats. Mitt Romney carried it by roughly 55 percent in the 2012 presidential race. That’s good news for whoever wins the Buddy Carter-Bob Johnson showdown in the GOP runoff.
No Democrat is even bothering to run in Gingrey’s 11th District, which Romney carried by about 66 percent in 2012. That means the GOP runoff winner on Tuesday -- whether it’s Bob Barr or Barry Loudermilk -- essentially gets a free pass to Washington in November.
DEMOCRATS HAVEN’T GIVEN UP ON CONGRESSIONAL SEATS
Not all Democrats have thrown in the towel when it comes to Georgia’s three open congressional seats. Democratic runoff voters in southeast Georgia’s 1st District still need to pick a nominee between Amy Tavio, a real estate agent from Savannah suburb Richmond Hill, and UPS supervisor Brian Reece from Savannah. Voters were split evenly -- about one-third per candidate -- between them and another rival Democrat in the May 20 primary.
The GOP runoff winner in Broun’s 10th District will face Democrat Ken Dious of Athens -- the only non-Republican to run for the seat -- in the fall election.
OPEN RACE FOR GEORGIA’S STATE SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT
In another statewide race, voters must pick Republican and Democratic nominees for state school superintendent.
The incumbent, Republican John Barge, decided not seek re-election and instead failed in his attempt to challenge incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal in the Republican primary.
That opened a general race for Georgia’s top education official. Republican Michael Buck, chief academic officer for the state Department of Education, and Richard Woods, a longtime educator in Irwin County, are running in the Republican runoff, while state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan and former Decatur School Board Chairwoman Valarie Wilson are competing in the Democratic contest.