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'A deep pool': Georgia's other 2022 races are already heating up

Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Political News

A history-making lineup is taking shape for down-ticket Georgia races that could bring even more energy and attention to marquee contests for governor and the U.S. Senate.

In most election cycles, the expected rematch between Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, combined with U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock's bid for a full six-year term, would overshadow the other contests on the ballot.

But the lower-profile contests won't be afterthoughts next year, not with former President Donald Trump continuing to shape the Georgia GOP and a slate of precedent-setting contenders lining up to run.

No longer must Democrats resort to pleading with long shots to enter the ring, not after the November presidential flip and the party's Senate runoff sweep in January. Now, races that once attracted a single Democratic contender are contested by multiple candidates who have held office before.

The race for secretary of state might be the premier 2022 election in the nation that doesn't involve a governor or Senate candidate, in part because of Trump's vow to exact revenge on Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger for denying his demand to overturn his November defeat.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan's decision to forgo a second term — and avoid pro-Trump backlash of his own — has turned the race for Georgia's No. 2 job into a wide-open affair. And there are competitive contests for lower-profile offices, as Democrats seek to build on upset wins in the 2020 cycle.

 

The party is putting together a slate of contenders who leaders hope could help Abrams and Warnock — rather than just try to ride their coattails. Among them are candidates looking to be the first Black, first woman, first Asian American and first openly gay elected official in their respective offices.

"We now have a bench on the Democratic side where we have a deep pool of talented candidates who can run," said Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist who was an adviser to Joe Biden's state presidential campaign in 2020. "And with the right candidate, and the right messages, we know they can raise the resources to compete."

Republicans have won every state constitutional office contest for more than a decade, though the GOP is on the defensive following Biden's victory in Georgia in November and the Democrats' Senate wins in January.

And even as Republicans ready their own slate of formidable contenders, they're also wrestling with a wedge Trump has driven into the state party over his November defeat that's threatening Kemp's reelection and has complicated the GOP's hunt for a top-tier Senate candidate.

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