Buckle up, Georgians and get ready for a wild ride between now and May 22. The candidates for the May 22 primary election are locked in now that candidate qualifying is officially over, and this campaign season is sure to be one of the more intriguing elections in statewide politics. Several races already have dramatic back-stories, and an unusually high number of incumbents are facing challengers both in the primaries and the general election in November.
Here are a few of the key stories you’ll want to follow in this election:
The Big Story: A Pink Wave Is Hitting Georgia
Nationally, more women are qualifying for and being elected to high office and leadership positions. Many of these are democrats who are responding to a combination of disappointment with the Trump administration and the high profile #MeToo movement, but Republican women are also becoming more prominent in politics. Georgia is no exception to this trend. When you go to the polls May 22, you’re going to see a lot more women on the ballot than usual, and we’re not just talking about local state reps., two women have qualified at the top of the ballot — for the Governor’s race.
Democrats are Challenging Georgia’s Red State Identity
Democrats are running in 121 out of 180 of Georgia’s state house seats. By comparison, in 2016, democrats ran for 82 house seats. That’s not all. Democrats are also running for every statewide office and for every Georgia U.S. Congressional District except district 8.
This doesn’t mean Georgia is actually going to turn blue. Several of the republican incumbents are deeply entrenched and won’t be going anywhere for a while, but democrats are showing up and fielding candidates in areas they haven’t previously. Some of this is spurred by an initiative by Eric Holder’s National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is seeking to gain more democratic control and influence in red states nationwide. Georgia is a big target for the committee, and last week’s qualified candidates are showing the strength of that movement.
The Days of the Unchallenged Candidate May Be Ending
One of the biggest gripes Georgia voters have — other than incredibly low turnout — is that there are often no alternatives to their elected officials. The trend in Georgia for years has been candidates running for office unopposed. Voters who are unhappy with their local representatives can only turn to write-in candidates for recourse, and that is akin to wasting a vote.
Those days may be coming to an end. Republicans and democrats alike are facing primary challenges this year. Statewide, it looks like the electorate isn’t giving anyone a free pass and whether the challenges are successful or not, the people raising their voices in large numbers will likely facilitate some form of change in Georgia. Protest votes and protest campaigns, even when unsuccessful speak volumes. Regardless of where you line up on the political spectrum, this election is an exciting moment in Georgia politics.
Now, it is entirely possible that this will be a one-off, the incumbents will all be swept back into office, and two years from now, everyone is running unopposed again, but for right now there are some new voices and ideas coming from both parties.
Who Qualified?: For information on who qualified in key races, click here.