- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - The list of candidates running for federal, state and local elections in Georgia’s May 24 primary is set, and many of the state’s prominent officeholders face challenges.

According to the final list of candidates from Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office Friday, Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson faces two primary challengers.

Derrick Grayson, an engineer, got about 1 percent of the vote in 2014’s GOP Senate primary. Mary Kay Bacallao, an education professor at Mercer University who received about 15 percent of the vote in 2014’s state superintendent GOP primary, also qualified.

Four Democrats will battle for their party’s nomination but face a daunting challenge in Isakson. The two-term senator has more than $5 million on hand for his run and won 58 percent of the vote in 2010, his last election.

Isakson has since announced that he has Parkinson’s disease but said the condition wouldn’t affect his run for re-election or performance if he wins in November.

Jim Barksdale, Cheryl Copeland, John F. Coyne III and James Knox filed to run in the Democratic primary. The party is backing businessman and political newcomer Barksdale, who qualified Thursday flanked by top Democrats including Jason Carter, who challenged Gov. Nathan Deal in 2014, and Rep. Stacey Abrams, who leads Democrats in the House.

Barksdale touted his business background as the owner of an Atlanta investment firm in a statement, and Democrats hope that a GOP ticket headlined either by the party’s presidential front-runner Donald Trump will drive voters their way.

Mark Rountree, a GOP consultant in Georgia, doesn’t buy the argument, quipping that Isakson’s is “like the Obi-Wan Kenobi” of Georgia politics.

“Johnny Isakson has been talking about Republican ideas for longer than many Republicans have been born,” Rountree said.

Rep. Calvin Smyre, a Columbus Democrat and the longest serving member of the House, acknowledged that taking on any incumbent is a challenge.

“At the same time, the political winds will be blowing this year,” Smyre said.

Only three members of Georgia’s congressional delegation escaped challengers from either major party: Republicans Earl “Buddy” Carter in District 1 and Jody Hice in District 10 and Democrat David Scott in District 13.

Rep. Doug Collins has four GOP primary challengers in District 9, including former congressman Paul Broun. Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk also has four primary opponents in District 11.

Republicans Tom Price of District 6, Austin Scott of District 8 and Rick Allen of District 12 also have primary challengers. Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland’s retirement from District 3 drew seven Republican candidates and one Democrat.

All 56 state Senate and 180 House seats also will be on the November ballot. Several prominent state lawmakers face primary opponents, including House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, and House Majority Leader Jon Burns, R-Newington. Other members in leadership spots facing primaries include Senate Majority Whip Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, and House Minority Caucus Treasurer Rep. David Wilkerson, D-Austell.

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