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Georgia candidates line up early for key 2022 elections

By Beau Evans
Staff Writer
Capitol Beat News Service

The first wave of candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for key Georgia elective offices including lieutenant governor and secretary of state amid bitter partisan battles over the state’s new election law.

With roughly 19 months until the November 2022 general election, several Democratic contenders are vying for top seats long held by Republicans, while the state’s incumbent GOP elections chief has already drawn a tough primary challenge after last year’s charged election cycle.

In recent weeks, Democratic state Rep. Erick Allen of Smyrna announced his candidacy against Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who also could draw a hardline GOP primary opponent over his appeal to the state’s moderate Republicans following last year’s election losses.

That’s the case for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican seeking reelection against fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Jody Hice of Greensboro as well as former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle.

A four-term congressman, Hice has lobbed many of same attacks over the party’s 2020 election losses that former President Donald Trump used to pummel Raffensperger, who repeatedly rejected Trump’s claims of voter fraud. Trump has already endorsed Hice.

“Every Georgian, in fact every American, has the right to be outraged by the actions and, simultaneously, the inaction of our secretary of state,” Hice said in his March 22 announcement.

“At the end of the day, I think people will figure out that we did follow the law,” Raffensperger said in a March 30 interview. “We’ll make sure we have fair and honest elections in Georgia.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Brian Kemp has yet to draw an opponent from his own party after absorbing blows from Trump, who lost to current President Joe Biden by a slim margin in the first of what is expected to be many tight statewide elections over the next decade.

But Republicans are already gearing up to mark 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams as GOP public-enemy No. 1 after she helped galvanize Georgia Democrats to historic wins in last year’s presidential and U.S. Senate races.

Abrams is widely expected to run against Kemp again but has not officially declared her candidacy. If she does, Abrams will be on the Democratic ticket with recently elected U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is staring down another brutal campaign in 2022 after winning the final two years of retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term.

Georgia’s controversial election bill that Kemp signed into law last month looks to figure prominently in the upcoming races, with Democrats and Republicans sparring over whether the changes worsen or improve voter access, the role of Trump’s fraud claims and local business boycotts.

“The attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections,” Kemp said last week.

“If the Georgia GOP cared about Georgia’s economy and the working Georgians that keep our state going, they wouldn’t have tried to steal their votes,” said Democratic Party of Georgia spokeswoman Maggie Chambers in response.

Also up for reelection next year is Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican and Trump ally. He has so far drawn a challenge from Democrat Charlie Bailey, an Atlanta attorney and former prosecutor who lost to Carr in 2018.

Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta attorney, has been floated as a possible candidate to run against Carr. She has not said whether she’ll launch a 2022 campaign but told lawmakers during debate on a prosecutor-oversight bill she opposed that it “just may mean we may need a new [attorney general].”

Additionally, Democratic state Rep. William Boddie of East Point announced this week he’ll run against Republican Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, whose office has faced backlash over slow turnaround times for processing unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.