With all eyes on the gubernatorial race between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp, it can be difficult to lower your eyes down the ballot to the many other battles scattered across the state. Every seat in the state House of Representatives and Senate is up for grabs today, and while many legislators are unopposed, here are some of the high profile contests to keep an eye on as returns come in this evening.
Speaking of this evening, look for an election-night wrap-up tomorrow breaking down the night’s biggest contests, with more analysis coming this week.
Georgia House of Representatives:
HD 40: Republican attorney Matt Bentley and Democrat Erick Allen square off in this Vinings-area district to replace Rich Golick, who is retiring from the legislature this year. This traditionally red district has slowly swung towards the middle in recent years, with Golick defeating Allen by 7% in 2016, down from his 20 point victory over Democrat opposition in 2014.
HD 51: House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard (R) has been a fixture under the Gold Dome for nearly 20 years, but the battle to replace him has turned into one of the most hotly contested House races of the cycle. The Sandy Springs/Roswell based district features attorneys Alex Kaufman (R) and Josh McLaurin (D), in a race that turned testy when McLaurin sued the Georgia GOP over mailers that claimed he was under criminal investigation, calling them libelous. The popular Willard had not faced opposition in more than 10 years but the Dems seem to think the seat is vulnerable, though Kaufman and his strong lineup of supporters, including Willard, disagree.
HD 80: This Brookhaven district has already proven to be one of the state’s premier battlegrounds, switching parties multiple times in recent years. Democrat Taylor Bennett narrowly won the open seat in 2015 before Republican Meagan Hanson defeated him by fewer than 200 votes the following year. Now Hanson faces new opposition in the form of Matthew Wilson, who has been endorsed by former President Barack Obama. Expect another razor thin margin in this battleground district.
HD 107: Obama also made an endorsement in this Lawrenceville district, which was left vacant by the retirement of Republican Rep. David Casas after 16 years. While Casas never really faced serious competition the Democrats seem to think the district is shifting left, and for good reason considering Hillary Clinton won it by 12 points in 2016. Democrat Shelly Hutchison will hope to flip the seat today in her race against Republican Janet Mihoci.
HD 117: This Athens-area contest is actually a rematch from last year’s special election, where Democrat Deborah Gonzalez scored an upset win over Republican Houston Gaines in a special election to replace Regina Quick, who was appointed a judge in the 10th Superior Court District by Gov. Nathan Deal. Most expected a Republican successor, but Gonzalez flipped the seat by just under 500 votes. Now with much higher turnout in the midterms Gaines and the GOP will attempt to re-take the seat, which until last year hadn’t even seen Democratic opposition for multiple election cycles.
HD 151: Republican Gerald Greene has led this Randolph County district for 36 years, formerly as a Democrat before switching parties in 2010. The only Republican with a majority-black district, (out of 49 statewide) Greene has seniority in the House, but the Dems claim he is out of touch with the current day demographics. Democrat Joyce Barlow looks to unseat the longtime legislator in the rural and economically depressed district.
Georgia State Senate:
SD 6: Last year’s special election to replace Republican Hunter Hill, who left it to run for governor, was one of the most hotly contested Senate contests in recent memory. Eight candidates from both parties competed for two spots in the runoff in the wealthy Smyrna-Buckhead-Sandy Springs district, and with five GOP candidates cannibalizing one another it was two Democrats, including eventual winner Jen Jordan, who emerged. Now Republican Leah Aldridge is back for revenge, and having consolidated her party behind her will look to win back this battleground district.
SD 40: The race to replace Republican David Shafer, who unsuccessfully ran for lt. governor, has been a fierce one between Matt Reeves (R) and Zahra Karinshak (D) in this diversifying North Fulton/Gwinnett district. While Shafer was popular and generally ran unopposed, the Democrats have now circled the seat as one to target after losing its incumbency advantage.