- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia political candidates began qualifying Monday for May 24 primaries for federal, state and local offices, including incumbent U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and at least one Democrat seeking to challenge the two-term Republican.

Political hopefuls lined up inside the Georgia Capitol to file their paperwork with state political parties.

Isakson, elected in 2004, has amassed $5.5 million for his re-election campaign. He won 58 percent of the vote in 2010, his last election. He 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. Derrick Grayson, a minister and network engineer who unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 2014, also qualified as a Republican candidate.

Until Monday, no Democrat had declared plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat. James Knox, whose campaign website identifies him as an Air Force retiree working in information technology, qualified Monday morning.

More Democratic hopefuls are expected before qualifying ends Friday at noon.

After bruising losses in the 2014 Senate and gubernatorial races, Democrats hope they can beat expectations in a presidential year fueled by higher turnout among loyal supporters of the party.

Contested GOP primaries developed in several of Georgia’s 14 congressional districts.

Rep. Rick Allen, a Republican who in 2014 defeated incumbent Democrat John Barrow, drew a challenge in the 12th District from Eugene Yu, who also ran in 2014. Republican Rep. Doug Collins will face school administrator Roger Fitzpatrick in the 9th District. Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk also has a challenger in the 11th District: conservative radio host Hayden Collins.

Several Republicans have announced plans to run for west-central Georgia’s 3rd District being vacated by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. State Sen. Mike Crane of Newnan and dentist Drew Ferguson filed as Republican candidates on Monday.

All 56 state Senate and 180 House seats also will be on the November ballot.

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