Incumbents, young newcomers do well in primary election

Jaclyn Dixon Ford, left, Noelle Kahaian and Bryce Berry. (Credit: Campaigns)

May 22, 2024
Key Points
  • Primary turnout lower than usual.
  • Incumbents largely prevailed, few surprises.
  • All eyes turn to the June runoff and November race.

Incumbents prevailed across the board in Tuesday’s primary with a few exceptions.

Most incumbents who faced challengers were handily winning as of late Tuesday night with the exception of a few races that appear to be headed to the June 18 runoff. 

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Andrew Pinson retained his seat on the nine-member court Tuesday, handily defeating former congressman John Barrow who ran on reproductive rights, a stance that drew the ire of Georgia’s legal community. 

Pinson won 55% to Barrow’s 45% with 90% of precincts having reported. Pinson spent $1.7 million to Barrow’s $1.36 million in the campaign. The Georgia Supreme Court race was one of the most watched contests in this primary.

In another closely watched race, Fulton County’s Democratic District attorney Fani Willis cruised to victory against challenger Christian Wise Smith, a former Fulton County prosecutor.  She now faces 30-year-old Republican Courtney Kramer in the Nov. 5 general election.

Here’s a look at some other key races across the state:

House races

House District 42 (Smyrna): Incumbent Rep. Teri Anulewicz lost to challenger Gabriel Sanchez, a self-proclaimed progressive, community advocate and former legislative aide to Rep. Park Cannon.

House District 56 (Atlanta): In a crowded Democratic primary where candidates lined up to take on Republican Rep. Mesha Mainor, Bryce Berry secured 54% of the votes. The 22-year-old seventh grade math teacher will face Mainor in November.

House District 81 (Locust Grove): Republican Incumbent Lauren Daniel was defeated by challenger Noelle Kahaian, a conservative who wants to eliminate income taxes, secure the border and defend election integrity. 

House District 90 (South DeKalb): This new south DeKalb County district pitted Democratic incumbents Rep. Becky Evans and Rep. Saira Draper. Draper easily defeated Evans with 64% of the votes.

House District  170 (Nashville): Business owner Jaclyn Dixon Ford, who serves on the board of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, heads to the Capitol in January after beating her opponent Donny Roberson to fill the seat vacated by Republican incumbent Penny Houston, who is retiring. 

House District 180 (Coastal Georgia,including Camden County and parts of Glynn and Jekyll Island): Republican incumbent Rep. Steven Sainz, who championed the sex offender bill called Miranda’s Law, is headed to the June 18 runoff against challenger Glenn Cook, a retired Naval aviator and Delta Air Lines captain. The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Defonsio Daniels, a former marine and federal police officer, in November.

Senate races

Senate District 1 (Savannah): Savannah incumbent Sen. Ben Watson handily defeated education activist Beth Majeroni in what was a contentious race. It was Watson’s first contested race since 2010. He won with 62% of the vote.

Senate District 44 (Central/North DeKalb): Incumbent Democrat Elena Parent beat back an attempted comeback by Nadine Thomas, a nurse and the first Black woman elected to the Senate. Parent won with 74% of the vote in a district that became over 50% Black after last December’s redistricting. Parent had the backing of several prominent Black elected officials, including U.S. Senate Raphael Warnock, Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler and Democratic kingmaker Stacey Abrams.

Senate District 49 (Gainesville): Drew Echols, husband of Republican Sen. Shelley Echols, won with nearly 53% of the vote and will presumably replace his wife in the Senate in January.  Drew Echols is a fifth generation farmer whose family owns Jaemor farms.

Senate District 53 (Northwest Georgia): Controversy didn’t keep Sen. Colton Moore from prevailing against challenger Angela Pence. Moore, who won with 70% of the vote, faces Democrat Bart Bryant, an electrician, in November. 

Senate District 55 (Stone Mountain): The race for retiring Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler’s seat heads to a runoff between Randal Mangham and Iris Knight-Hamilton.

Go to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website for comprehensive, up-to-the-minute results.

State Affairs’ Nava Rawls contributed to this report.

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

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