7 things to watch on primary election night in Georgia

brian kemp, marjorie taylor greene, herschel walker and brad raffensperger
Primary election day in Georgia is on May 24. (AP Photo/Elijah Nouvelage; AP Photo/Susan Walsh; AP Photo/Ben Gray; AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Primary elections in Georgia take place on Tuesday, May 24. There are no shortage of candidates vying to win a primary race — races that determine who will appear on the ballot in the general election on Nov. 8. If no primary candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in a race, the top two candidates in that race will run against each other in a runoff election on June 21.

Races involving state and local offices could have a significant impact on laws in Georgia. Congressional races could have implications on which party controls the U.S. House and Senate after November. And, the fallout from the 2020 election is still looming in Georgia — casting a shadow on some primary races. Here are seven things to look out for on Tuesday’s election night in Georgia.

WABE 2022 Election Hub

WABE 2022 Election Hub

Get all the latest Georgia election news and information on candidates before you head to the polls with our  2022 Election Hub. And be sure to check back on Election Night as we get the results from each race as it develops.

1. The power of Trump over Georgia’s Republican party

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed 13 candidates in Georgia’s Republican primary. They fall into three categories:

In the first category, Trump is supporting four candidates who are up against incumbents. Governor Brian Kemp is being challenged by former U.S. Senator David Perdue. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is being challenged by Congressman Jody Hice. Attorney General Chris Carr is being challenged by John Gordon. Insurance Commissioner John King is being challenged by Patrick Witt. These races do have other primary challengers, but these are the four Trump-endorsed challengers.

The second category is Republican endorsements in open primaries. In the high-profile race for U.S. Senate, former UGA football star Herschel Walker is riding high with his Trump endorsement. The former President has also endorsed State Senator Burt Jones in the race for lieutenant governor. Finally, Trump endorsed Jake Evans in the race for the new 6th Congressional District and former Democratic State Representative Vernon Jones in the 10th Congressional District.

The third category of Trump endorsements are incumbent Republicans in Congress and they include Georgia’s most extreme conservatives, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is well known for her antagonistic approach to her office and Andrew Clyde, a gun store owner, whose campaign signs brandish an assault rifle.  Both are facing several Republican challengers on Tuesday.

Trump also endorsed three Republican U.S. House members who are running unopposed in their primaries, Congressmen Rick Allen, Buddy Carter and Barry Loudermilk. 

All five congress members are in safe Republican districts in the fall.

Where Trump candidates end up after Tuesday will give us some clues about his influence on Georgia’s GOP. Also, expect a lot of spin from all sides about what Tuesday’s results mean for the former president.

2. Can Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger survive?

The man who’s been getting the most blame for any perceived election fraud in Georgia is incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.  He refused Trump’s request to “find” 11,780 votes and swing the election after Trump lost Georgia in the 2020 general election. 

He’s written a book about his experience and has only gotten lukewarm support from Georgia Republicans. In fact, state lawmakers stripped his power over the state elections board in the controversial election bill they passed last year. Raffensperger has three Republican challengers in Tuesday’s primary, including Trump-endorsed Congressman Jody Hice, who voted against certifying Biden’s wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania on Jan. 6, 2021. Hice also challenged Biden’s win in Georgia, but that failed when no U.S. Senator joined the challenge. Like its Democratic counterpart, this primary could go to a runoff if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote.

3. Election fraud lies

Georgia has seen its share of false allegations of election fraud ever since 2020. Most of them have been tossed out by courts or election boards. False allegations on the local level continue to pop up and we could see new challenges and allegations of voter fraud in some close races. 

Much like Trump’s endorsement, we’ll be watching whether these false claims are still resonating with voters — and the extent to which they influence how people vote and whether they vote at all. If Kemp wins his party’s nomination, does that mean Perdue’s baseless claims about widespread voter fraud fell flat — or does Kemp’s stature as an incumbent governor with a solid, conservative record rise above voters’ beliefs about the 2020 election?

And even if many Republicans are skeptical that the 2020 election was fair and accurate, do they feel the same about the 2022 midterms?

The primaries are also the first statewide elections under Georgia’s 2021 election law, so we’ll be looking into how people feel about the changes.  Absentee voting by mail is likely to drop significantly, but absentee in-person voting is already higher than in 2018.  

4. Will it be Bordeaux or McBath? Or will there be a runoff in the 7th Congressional District?

Republican redistricting has resulted in two current Democratic U.S. Representatives running against each other. Congresswoman Carolyn Bordeaux has represented the 7th congressional district since last year. Congresswoman Lucy McBath switched to the 7th district after Republicans changed the lines of her neighboring 6th district and made it more friendly to Republicans. 

With Democratic State Representative Donna McLeod in the primary, the question is whether Bordeaux or McBath wins outright on Tuesday, or if they could be thrown into a June runoff because of Georgia’s requirement to get more than 50% of the vote to win.

lucy mcbath
Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee onThursday Dec. 12, 2019. Due to redistricting, McBath will challenge another Democratic incumbent, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, in the 2022 primary election. (Alex Edelman/Pool via AP)

5. Is Democratic Rep. David Scott vulnerable?

Longtime Georgia Democratic Congressman David Scott, whose district straddles the Atlanta metro’s south and west sides, has three challengers in the Democratic primary, including former state Senator Vincent Fort. There have been reports of some fellow Democrats in Congress voicing concern about David Scott’s health, but he said they are unfounded. 

6. Will Fair Fight’s endorsement help candidates win?

Fair Fight, the voting rights organization started by Stacey Abrams, has endorsed Democratic candidate Bee Nguyen for Secretary of State. The state representative faces four other candidates including former Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves, former state Senator Floyd Griffin, former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler and Michael Owens.

Fair Fight has also endorsed candidates in competitive legislative races. As some campaigns struggle to compete for attention against a combustible GOP primary and high-profile Democratic campaigns, will Fair Fight’s endorsements make a difference?

Abrams has proven herself perhaps the most important power player in Georgia Democratic politics. How will the organization she started wield its stature now that its founder has stepped aside to run for governor?

7. What surprises are in store?

Despite leading the pack in polls, could Herschel Walker end up in a runoff for the U.S. Senate nomination? Is Marjorie Taylor Green vulnerable enough to end up in a runoff?  

Which incumbent or frontrunner ends up in a surprise runoff? Does a surprise candidate get into a runoff in one of the crowded statewide or congressional primaries? Down the ballot, does an incumbent state legislator fail to win in a newly drawn district?

We’ll be looking for those surprises that pollsters, analysts — and yes, journalists — may not have predicted.

To hear more from WABE’s politics desk on the midterm elections, listen to the Georgia Votes 2022 podcast.