Finger-pointing in Georgia’s Messy Primary Election

Finger-pointing in Georgia’s Messy Primary Election

Ossoff now gears up for November contest against GOP Senate incumbent, 7th District Dems head to August run off, and 6th to offer 2018 rematch.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

People waited in long lines on Tuesday to vote in Georgia’s primary. ELIJAH NOUVELAGE / GETTY IMAGES
People waited in long lines on Tuesday to vote in Georgia’s primary. ELIJAH NOUVELAGE / GETTY IMAGES

Update as of June 17: In the Democratic primary in the 7th congressional district, the counting of absentee ballots propelled Carolyn Bourdeaux sufficiently past the 50 percent mark that on June 15 she declared victory

Several days later, the state of Georgia is nursing a hangover from Tuesday’s primary election.

Little that transpired June 9 built confidence looking toward the Nov. 3 general election. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s followed its Wednesday “Complete Meltdown” headline with a Thursday front-page editorial headlined “Georgia, we must do better.”

In some places, voters waited more than four hours to cast ballots — on a day when thunderstorms raked the metro area. There were voters angry that they applied for but did not receive an absentee ballot, who then encountered poll workers unsure about procedures. Many regular poll workers, older people concerned about COVID-19, stayed away. Then there were the state’s new, $104 million voting machines, too few in some places and sidelined by technical issues in others.

Headed into the weekend, the recriminations continue, with local officials (notably in Fulton and DeKalb counties) criticizing the state, and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger firing back at those complaining.

Meanwhile, there were headlines emerging from the nearly completed vote counting (as of 5 p.m. Wednesday).

Having won the Democratic primary, Jon Ossoff will face Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue in the Nov. 3 general election.

Jon Ossoff claimed victory in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate and will attempt to become the second Jewish person to win a statewide partisan election as he challenges incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue. The first was believed to be Republican Sam Olens’ 2010 victory to become Georgia’s attorney general.

The 33-year-old Ossoff, an executive of a company that produces documentaries, appeared headed for a runoff against former two-term Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson, but the absentee ballot count pushed him to 51 percent of the more than 948,000 votes cast. It was the reverse of 2017, when he narrowly failed to win the 6th Congressional District seat outright in an all-comers primary and then lost a runoff against Republican Karen Handel.

Ossoff showed electoral strength among Democrats statewide, but unseating Perdue, who is seeking a second six-year term in the Senate, will prove a more formidable challenge. According to their May 20 campaign finance reports, Perdue had cash on hand of $9.37 million, nearly 10 times Ossoff’s roughly $950,000.

Now that the primary is past, more attention will be paid to the Nov. 3 all-comers primary in which 21 candidates are running to fill the final two years of the term of retired Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. The seat currently is held by Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp in December 2019. Her challengers include Republican Rep. Doug Collins, a staunch defender of President Donald J. Trump during impeachment hearings, and a pair of Democrats, Rev. Raphael Warnock, of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, and businessman Matt Lieberman, who is Jewish and the son of former vice president Joe Lieberman.

In the 7th Congressional District – an open seat, as Republican Rep. Rob Woodall did not seek re-election – the Republican candidate will be emergency room Dr. Rich McCormick, whose 55 percent of the vote vanquished a field that included two Jewish candidates, state Sen. Renee Unterman and former Fulton County commissioner John Eaves.

McCormick awaits the winner of an Aug. 11 run off on the Democratic side between Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux and state Rep. Brenda Lopez Romero. Bourdeaux, who lost by a fraction to Woodall in 2018, received 47 percent of the primary vote, while Lopez Romero received 14 percent in a field of six candidates. Activist Nabilah Islam, with 13 percent, was just several hundred votes behind Romero.

In the 6th District, Handel and incumbent Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath will have a rematch of their 2018 contest, in which McBath unseated Handel in a district that had been in Republican hands for 40 years. Handel won 75 percent of the votes cast in a Republican primary field of five candidates.

In the 4th District, incumbent Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson, who is seeking an eighth term in Congress, won his primary by a comfortable margin and moves on to face Republican challenger Johsie Cruz Ezammudeen in the general election.

In the 5th District, 80-year-old incumbent Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who is seeking an 18th term despite receiving treatment for stage four pancreatic cancer, cruised to an easy primary win and will face Republican challenger Angela Stanton-King in November.

In the 11th District, former WGST talk show host Dana Barrett, who is Jewish, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and will challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk in the general election.

At one point, a runoff had appeared likely in the Democratic primary in the 13th District, incumbent Democratic Rep. David Scott won 51 percent of the vote, moving him to a general election contest against Republican Becky Hites, who handily won her primary.

The Jewish Insider news site reported that the Republican Jewish Coalition will not back the top vote getters in the 14th and 9th District primaries, should either advance to the general election. In the 14th that is Marjorie Taylor Greene, who faces Dr. John Cowan in a runoff.

According to the Jewish Insider, “Greene has trafficked in conspiracy theories, including some that incorporate antisemitic tropes, and posed for photos with former neo-Nazi leader Chester Doles, who described her as a ‘friend’ on his social media account.”

In the 9th, the top vote getter is current state Rep. Matt Gurtler, whose runoff opponent will be firearms dealer Andrew Clyde. RNC executive director Matt Brooks told the JI that the group would not back Greene or Gurtler, who also has posed for photos with Doles.

The two Jews in the Georgia General Assembly were Democratic Reps. Michele Henson of the House 86th District and Mike Wilensky, in the House 79th District. Both will face opponents in upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, the ranks of Jews in the Georgia General Assembly numbered two after Unterman yielded her state Senate seat in an unsuccessful bid for the 7th Congressional District Republican nomination.

In the Georgia House 86th District, Democratic Rep. Michele Henson, who is Jewish, is headed to an Aug. 11 runoff against Zulma Lopez. Henson, who has been in the state House since 1991, received 39 percent of the primary vote while Lopez received 29 percent in a field of four candidates in the Stone Mountain-area district.

Mike Wilensky, in the House 79th District will face opponent in upcoming elections.

The other Jewish member of the legislature, incumbent Democrat Rep. Mike Wilensky, from Dunwoody, will face Republican challenger Andrea Johnson in the House 79th District.

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