Georgia State Senators Emerge Unscathed From The 2024 Primaries as Three House Lawmakers Face Defeat

May 25, 2024
6 mins read
Georgia State Senators Emerge Unscathed From The 2024 Primaries as Three House Lawmakers Face Defeat
Sen. Sally Harrell wears a superman cape, which she said was a gift from an advocate, during an event for Georgians with disabilities at the Capitol. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder (2023 file photo)

Unlike in the House, no incumbent Georgia state senators will be involuntarily leaving after Tuesday’s primary election.

Voters reelected two Atlanta Democratic incumbents facing credible challenges, and some Republican senators fought off challengers from their right.

The Senate races lacked the surprise outcomes of two races in the House, where Locust Grove Republican Rep. Lauren Daniel and Smyrna Democratic Rep. Teri Anulewicz lost their reelection bids. Another sitting state lawmaker, Atlanta Democratic Rep. Becky Evans, also lost in the only race featuring two incumbents.

Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick easily fought off a challenger in the Republican primary. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder (2024 file photo)

Harrell defeats Lubin

Atlanta Democratic Sen. Sally Harrell scored a solid win over challenger David Lubin, a general contractor from DeKalb County, in a race that reflected the debate over the definition of antisemitism. Harrell will go on to face Republican challenger Amelia Siamomua, a consultant from Doraville, after earning just over 70% of the vote against Lubin, according to unofficial results.

Lubin’s daughter, 21-year-old Rose, was killed in November while serving in the Israel Defense Force in Jerusalem. Harrell sponsored a Senate resolution honoring the young IDF sergeant, but a bill she did not support inspired Lubin to challenge her.

House Bill 30, now signed into law, defines antisemitism in state code. Lawmakers had been trying to pass such a bill for years, but it failed to move over concerns about free speech, specifically that the bill would tar people criticizing Israel’s government as antisemites. It was fast-tracked this year in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks that left over a thousand Israelis dead.

Harrell condemned the Oct. 7 attacks as well as antisemitic acts in Georgia, including hateful flyers left at homes in her district. But she said she was also moved by increasing Islamophobia and images of the civilian suffering Israeli bombs have caused in Gaza.

She didn’t vote on the bill, which passed the Senate 44-6 before also overwhelmingly passing the House.

Lubin named that abstention as a factor in his decision to run, but he was not able to overcome Harrell at the polls.

Harrell told the Recorder she tried to stay away from mud-slinging.

“I believe that staying positive helped our success,” she said. “We focused on my accomplishments, such as lowering the cost of college tuition, and improving services for people with disabilities. Voters clearly rejected truth-distorting negative messaging.”

Lubin told the Atlanta Jewish Times after the election that he will continue to oppose antisemitism.

Sens. Sally Harrell and Michael “Doc” Rhett, who are both Democrats, look at redistricting maps in December 2023. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

“It was inspiring to see Jews and people of other faiths, across both the religious and political spectrum, come together to support our 40th District community and my advocacy against antisemitism,”  he said. “We must continue to stand against leaders who are not supportive of the Jewish community in America, Israel, and across the world. We have a duty to ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren to protect them. To achieve this, we must put aside our differences and unite for our safety and our survival.”

Harrell said she appreciated the chance the campaign gave her to talk with voters and looks forward to getting to work on some of the issues they raised, including protecting children from online harm and providing training to police officers on interacting with young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I enjoyed getting away from the Capitol and focusing on the election so I could get a pulse on what the people want me to do,” she said. “There’s another election in November, so I’m looking forward to even more listening.”

Harrell is likely to have the advantage in that election. Nearly two thirds of 2020 voters in her district supported President Joe Biden.

Parent fends off Thomas

Another Atlanta Democrat, Sen. Elena Parent, also convincingly fought off a potentially serious challenger, defeating former Sen. Nadine Thomas with nearly 74% of the vote.

Sen. Elena Parent Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

During last year’s redistricting session, GOP lawmakers redrew Parent’s district to be majority Black. Thomas, who served in the 1990s and 2000s as the first African American woman elected to the Georgia Senate, threw her hat in the ring to replace Parent, who is white.

On her Twitter, Thomas referred to her as a “limousine liberal” who “knows she can’t win in this new district without insulting Black voters with her TRICKS & LIES.”

Thomas was referring to emails and robocalls that said she had the backing of Vernon Jones, a controversial figure who served as DeKalb CEO and in the state House as a Democrat before switching parties and becoming a major ally of Republican former president Donald Trump.

Thomas denied having Jones’ endorsement and fired back with an email to supporters and a Twitter post accusing Parent of employing “MAGA tactics to Suppress Black Voters Rights,” which included an image of Parent pasted in front of a scene out of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

No Republican qualified to run in the district, which sets Parent up for another term. She was first elected in 2014.

Echols keeps it in the family

Hall County Republican Drew Echols will keep the family name in the Senate. He is set to take over for his wife, Sen. Shelly Echols, who is not seeking re-election.

Echols defeated Josh Clark, a former state representative and businessman, with 52.75% of the vote in a race that included accusations of fraud and home invasion.

Sen. Shelly Echols. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

It started when Echols was seen on camera entering a Flowery Branch home owned by Clark that he rents out on Airbnb. Clark called the incident Watergate 2.0.

“I am disappointed that my opponent would stoop to this kind of low,” Clark said in a statement. “We are currently investigating this matter and will report it to the proper authorities once we have more information.”

Airbnb’s policy states that renters should authorize invitees with hosts.

Echols told WDUN a friend rented the home and invited him in. He said he briefly entered to check if there was food in the refrigerator or pantry in order to confirm his suspicions that Clark does not live at the address. Echols accused Clark of illegally receiving two homestead exemptions including one at the Flowery Branch home.

Speaking to the Recorder on Thursday, Echols had only kind words for his former adversary, but he said his ties to the community helped him pull off a win.

“If you write your name down on a piece of paper to qualify to run as a Republican here in Hall County, you’ve got to be a conservative fighter,” he said. “To my opposition’s credit, he’s a conservative fighter. There’s no question about that. But here in Hall County, these folks were looking for somebody that was grounded here and has been here all their life and knows the issues that are important to this community and the state, and when I say that, I’m not necessarily talking about the red meat issues. I’m talking about all the issues.”

Echols said the first issue he wants to tackle once he’s sworn in is helping small business owners.

“I know what it’s like to be the last person to get paid, and I want to take some common sense small business practices to Atlanta,” he said. “I want to look at legislation from the lens of a small business owner. Does this help the small business community? Is this good for small business owners in the state of Georgia? That’s just going to be my priority. I very much appreciate our large corporate economy, but also I know the backbone of this state, and my intention is that’s how I’m going to vote.”

Replacing high-ranking Democrats

Sen. Shelly Echols is the only Republican incumbent not running again, but Democratic senators are losing three long-serving lawmakers to retirement. All three of those Atlanta-area races are set to go to a June 18 runoff.

Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler is heading back home to her Stone Mountain district after 26 years in the Legislature, with her replacement as leader likely to be selected after the November election and before lawmakers return to Atlanta for the 2025 session.

Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

But five Democrats signed up to take over representing her district, and DeKalb County attorney Randal Mangham and Gwinnett County registered nurse Iris Knight-Hamilton are set for a rematch after no candidate scored above 50%. Mangham got 5,307 votes, or 31.22%, Knight-Hamilton got 3,835 votes, or 22.56%.

The winner is set to face Republican Mary Williams Benefield, the sole Republican candidate.

Sen. Valencia Seay’s south metro district could pass to another member of the Valencia caucus.

State Rep. Valencia Stovall was the favorite in a seven-person race with 6,187 votes worth 46.4%, not good enough for an outright win. A former state representative, Stovall left office to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 as an independent.

Instead, Stovall will face Kenya Wicks, a retired U.S. Army Major who boasts the endorsement of Georgia’s first elected Valencia senator, Sen. Valencia Seay. Wicks finished in second place with 2,025 votes or about 15.2%.

The winner will face Republican Andrew Honeycutt, a university administrator from Fayette County.

There’s a closer race in Sen. Horacena Tate’s district, which stretches from Sandy Springs in north Fulton down to Chattahoochee Hills in the south of the county.

Nonprofit executive RaShaun Kemp has the lead with 4,370 votes, or just over 24% in the six-way race, but real estate broker Ralph Long III is not far behind with 4,109 votes, just below 23%.

All three districts favor a Democrat – each one gave Biden more than 75% of their ballots in 2020 –  but the winner of Tate’s district will have even better odds. No Republican qualified to run in that race.

The post Georgia senators emerge unscathed from the 2024 primaries as three House lawmakers face defeat appeared first on Georgia Recorder.

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