A metro Atlanta congressman faces a one-on-one battle for re-election against a former sheriff who’s a fellow Democrat, while primary races to fill three open U.S. House seats in Georgia have turned into sprawling contests between 19 total Republicans.
As voters elect party nominees in Georgia’s 14 congressional districts Tuesday, there are several standout races to watch. In eastern Georgia, five Republicans are fighting to be the GOP’s chosen candidate to challenge the last white Democratic congressman in the Deep South - a race the national Republican Party badly wants to win in November. Of course, any of the crowded primary races on the ballot could require a runoff July 22.
Here’s a look at Georgia’s key primary races for Congress.
4TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia will lose his job Tuesday unless he can overcome a challenge by one of his district’s veteran lawmen. After 13 years as DeKalb County sheriff, Tom Brown turned in his badge in February and signed up to oppose Johnson.
“You should always bring some type of bacon home,” Brown said. “Everyone thinks he’s a nice guy. But it appears he’s not engaged.”
Johnson insists his constituents have benefited from $250 million in federal aid since he took office in 2007. He said he faced a much tougher Democratic primary fight in 2010, when he was challenged by two senior DeKalb County officials. Johnson trounced them both by winning 55 percent of the vote.
“I believe my opponent is suffering from a misplaced sense of vanity,” Johnson said.
President Barack Obama has endorsed Johnson. Brown said that as a sheriff seeking re-election in 2008 and 2012, “I got more votes in DeKalb County than Barack Obama did.” Brown ran unopposed both times.
12TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Democratic Rep. John Barrow of Augusta defied the odds and won his last campaign after his 12th District seat was redrawn to favor Republicans. Two years later, five GOP candidates are running for a shot at ending Barrow’s decade-long tenure in Congress.
Augusta construction company owner Rick W. Allen is seeking redemption after he was the runner-up in the eastern Georgia district’s jammed 2012 Republican primary. Former congressional aide John Stone of Augusta also wants a rematch. He faced Barrow in 2008, when the district still leaned slightly Democratic, and lost by 32 percentage points.
Two latecomers joined the race this year - State Rep. Delvis Dutton of Glennville and Eugene Yu of Evans, who bailed on a longshot Senate campaign to seek Barrow’s seat. Yu loaned himself more than $736,000 to run for the two offices combined. Also running is nurse Dianne Vann of Macon, whose home lies about 50 miles outside the district.
Allen raised the most money for the race, with $816,000 in total funds that includes $320,000 of his own money. His campaign has said its internal polling puts Allen within striking distance of winning the primary without a runoff.
That could prove tough. Yu has advertised aggressively with TV spots that play up his background as a Korean-American immigrant. Stone’s call to replace Speaker John Boehner and other House GOP leaders helped him win the endorsement of tea party groups in the district. Dutton is competing for those same voters with tough-talking ads in which he declares: “I’m running against Congress.”
Whoever wins will find Barrow with $1.9 million in the bank to defend his seat.
1ST, 10TH and 11TH CONGRESSTIONAL DISTRICTS
Three of Georgia’s Republican congressmen gave up safe re-election campaigns to run for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss. There’s no shortage of Republican candidates hoping to fill those open House seats.
A total of 19 GOP contenders are running to replace Reps. Jack Kingston of Savannah, Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta. Only four Democrats signed up for the primaries, which isn’t surprising. Each of the vacant House districts was drawn to give Republicans a formidable edge.
In the GOP primary for Kingston’s 1st District seat in southeast Georgia, three candidates have raised more than $600,000 apiece - state Sen. Buddy Carter of Pooler, former Newt Gingrich aide John McCallum of St. Simons Island and physician Bob Johnson of Savannah. Rounding out the six-way Republican race are state Rep. Jeff Chapman of Brunswick, former federal agriculture official Darwin Carter of Alma and Blackshear physician Earl Martin.
Three Democrats are also running in Kingston’s old district - real estate agent Amy Tavio of Richmond Hill, UPS supervisor Brian Reece of Savannah and former Savannah police officer Marc Smith.
Republican voters in Broun’s 10th District seat in northeast Georgia have seven Republican candidates to choose from.
Pastor and conservative radio host Jody Hice of Monroe has pitched himself as an ideological successor to Broun. Trucking company owner Mike Collins of Jackson is the son of former U.S. Rep. Mac Collins. Donna Sheldon of Dacula is a former state legislator.
The GOP field also includes former Army officer Stephen Simpson of Milledgeville, Athens attorney Garry Gerrard, Marine Corps reservist Mitchell Swan of Athens and retired businessman Brian Slowinski of White Plains. The Republican nominee will face Democrat Ken Dious of Athens this fall.
Gingrey’s exit sparked a six-way Republican primary for the 11th District northwest of Atlanta. Former GOP Rep. Bob Barr of Smyrna, known for his leading role in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, is seeking a Washington comeback. Two Republican state lawmakers - Rep. Ed Lindsey of Atlanta and Sen. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville - want promotions to Congress. Tricia Pridemore of Marietta is a longtime Republican activist. Kennesaw businessman Allan Levene and retired Army officer Larry Mrozinski of Woodstock are also running. No Democrats are seeking the seat.