State legislators prepare for May primaries; only a few will have to work for it

The signs for each party displayed at the Capitol during qualifying week. (Credit: Tammy Joyner)

Mar 11, 2024

With the exception of 16 lawmakers who are retiring, most of the 236-member Georgia General Assembly will be running for office in the fall. And all but one member of Congress from the Georgia delegation has qualified to run again. 

Senate and House minority leaders Sen. Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain; and Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, respectively, will not be running again.

Many state legislators will face little to no opposition for their jobs in the general election, although there will be a few races worth watching in the May 21 primary. Primary winners who have challengers will go on to compete in the Nov. 5 General Election.

“When you come in, in the majority, it's a huge difference,” Butler, who arrived in the state Senate in 1999 when the Democrats were the majority in the Legislature, recently told Donna Lowry, host of GPB’s Lawmakers. “It's no fun being in the minority because you can't get things done that you want to get done when you are in the minority. You can work hard at it, but it doesn't mean that you're going to get a bill passed, that you're going to get your study committee, that you're going to get money in the budget.”

Beverly, an optometrist, said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that he’s stepping down to focus on his medical practice, as well as anti-poverty and affordable housing efforts in Macon, to “get back to what you came up here for — and that is really trying to do what’s right by the community.” He said the decision was driven in part by a redrawn district that added parts of Houston County and the likelihood that Democrats will not win a majority in the 180-member House.

While their open seats remain in majority blue districts that are likely to be won by new Democratic candidates who signed up to run for them last week, political analyst Niles Francis told State Affairs the minority leader positions are likely to attract “several ambitious Democrats who will compete for those jobs now,” including Senate Minority Whip Harold Jones of Augusta, Caucus Chair Sen. Elena Parent and House Minority Whip Rep. Sam Park.

Francis noted that with statewide elections in 2026, “the minority leader perch is a great perch to criticize the majority party from. Minority leaders … go out and give press conferences against what the majority party is doing. And that can create some viral clips. Stacey Abrams held one of those positions before she ran for governor.” 

Other interesting races include:

In Congress

  • U.S. Rep. David Scott is facing eight challengers for his 13th Congressional District seat, including Democrat Marcus Flowers, who ran unsuccessfully in 2022 for U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green’s 14th Congressional District seat in one of the costliest congressional races at the time.
  • U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who is running in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District after Republican lawmakers reshaped her current 7th District to favor GOP candidates through a federal court-ordered redistricting process last year. She’s running against two Democrats — state Rep. Mandisha Thomas of South Fulton, and Jerica Richardson, a Cobb County commissioner, and Republican Jeff Criswell, a roadside service provider.

In the House 

  • Incumbent Rep. Mesha Mainor, R-Atlanta, who switched parties last year, is running in a heavily Democratic district. She’ll face opposition from four Democratic challengers: Corwin Monson, a production engineer; Dawn Samad, a chiropractor; William “Leonard” Watkins, CEO of a logistics business; and Adalina Merello, a Peruvian-American community organizer who lists her occupation as waitress.

In the Senate

  • Sen. Shelly Echols is retiring to focus on family priorities, but her husband Drew Echols has qualified for her District 49 seat. Drew Echols, a co-owner of Jaemor Farms, will face Republican opponent Josh Clark, a Hall County business owner and father of six.
  • Sen. Sally Harrell drew opposition for her District 40 seat from Dunwoody resident David Lubin, whose daughter, Rose, was killed in Israel while serving as a police officer shortly after Hamas invaded Israel. Lubin decided to run after Harrell abstained from voting on an antisemitism measure.
  • North Georgia’s Sen. Colton Moore will face Republican challenger Angela Pence, a Chickamauga entrepreneur who was heavily involved in the state Libertarian Party when she ran unsuccessfully as a third-party candidate for U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s 14th Congressional District seat.

    “That Republican primary race will be interesting because Colton Moore has been so ostracized from the Kemp wing of the state GOP,” said Francis, who noted that Moore has cultivated supporters and donors on the hard-right. “So it'll be interesting to see how powerful his network really is.”
  • Candidates wasted no time going after retiring Democratic Sen. Valencia Seay’s District 34 seat, which encompasses primarily Clayton County. The race has eight challengers: seven Democrats and one Republican.
  • Incumbent Sen. Elena Parent will go head to head with veteran lawmaker Nadine Thomas for the newly formed Senate District 44. The new district was created out of what was District 42 during last year’s redistricting session. Thomas served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 1991 to 1993 and became the first Black female to serve in the state Senate (1993 to 2005).

In local courts

  • Embattled Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has two challengers: Atlanta attorney Christian Wise Smith, a Democrat, and Alpharetta attorney Courtney Kramer, a Republican.

Senior investigative reporter Jill Jordan Sieder contributed to this report.

For a complete list of candidates who’ve qualified for the primary election, go here.

Have questions? Contact Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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