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2022 Midterms

Primary Day Rundown: Three Key Races and Issues to Watch

There’s a lot to keep an eye on tonight in pivotal votes across the metro area and state.

Key races across the state could be decided over the next 24 hours. (Ariel Skelley/Getty Images)

Primary Day 2022 has finally arrived.

The political fates of Democratic and Republican contenders vying for their party’s nomination in key races across the state could be decided over the next 24 hours.

The eyes of the nation are on Georgia today because the newly established battleground state could tip the balance of power in Washington, D.C., during the general midterm election battle in November.

It also will give political observers a clearer understanding of a number of key issues, including the effects of the state’s new election integrity laws and the lasting king-maker power of former President Donald Trump’s endorsements.

Early voting numbers surged to record highs ahead of Primary Day this month. Black voters, who make up about a third of the state’s population, are expected to play a huge role in the final outcome of many races.

Here’s a breakdown of the races and issues for Black voters to keep an eye on as the election-night drama unfolds:

Georgia Secretary of State

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks at the Law Enforcement Appreciation Cookout held in Glennville, Ga., on April 14. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images)

Why this race matters to Black voters

Polls show protecting voting rights remains a top concern for Black voters in Georgia. Republicans at the state level have enacted multiple election-related laws over the last year and a half in response to false claims of widespread voter fraud taking place during the 2020 election.

Whoever wins the secretary of state race in November will be in charge of administering elections at the state level for the next four years.

Democratic Primary candidates

Several people of color, including Black political and business leaders, have launched bids for the Democratic nomination.

Michael Owens — Owens is a Marine Corps veteran with a cybersecurity background who works as an information security officer at Equifax. He previously served as the chairman of Cobb County’s Democratic Party and has campaigned in support of protecting voting rights, in part, by shoring up cybersecurity to prevent “foreign interference in Georgia’s elections.”

He also wants to make the secretary of state’s office “friendlier to minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Bee Nguyen — She became the first Vietnamese American elected to the Georgia General Assembly following a December 2017 special election, taking over the House seat of Stacey Abrams, who went on to run for governor. Nguyen, who represents Atlanta in the state House, is the projected front-runner in a crowded, competitive field of Democratic candidates, according to a recent 11Alive poll, though 60% of people surveyed in late April said they were undecided.

She has campaigned on protecting voting rights through voter education, reducing misinformation and investing in training for the state’s 159 election boards.

Dee Hawkins-Haigler — The business leader, minister and former state House representative from the 91st District is one of several Black Democratic candidates running on a platform of protecting voting rights. She has stressed the importance of securing the vote and increasing voter participation.

Floyd L. Griffin — The former state senator and mayor of Milledgeville, his hometown, has campaigned on fighting back against SB 202, stressing the need to “ensure free, fair, accessible, and secure elections for all of Georgia.”

John Eaves — The former Fulton County Commissioner began his political career as a volunteer coordinator for his uncle Reginald Eaves, Atlanta’s first Black public safety commissioner.

Republican Primary candidates

Brad Raffensperger – The incumbent secretary of state has resisted attempts from Trump and his supporters to influence Georgia’s voting process during the 2020 election. But Raffensperger also has supported SB 202 and SB 441, which voting rights advocates have argued were designed to make it harder for Black people to vote.

Jody Hice – Hice is the Trump loyalist and sitting U.S. representative from Georgia’s 10th District who announced his bid to unseat Raffensperger in March 2021 and almost immediately was endorsed by Trump in response.

He tried to overturn the 2020 election while echoing Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud, and has campaigned in support of aggressively cracking down on alleged voter fraud.

T.J. Hudson – The former probate and magistrate judge is the only candidate with direct experience supporting local elections staff and boards.

David Belle Isle – The ex-attorney-turned City Council member served as mayor of Alpharetta from 2012 to 2018.

7th U.S. Congressional District Democratic Primary

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-6th, is challenging U.S. 7th District incumbent Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux for the Democratic nomination in the 7th District. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images)

Why this race matters to Black voters

The 7th District is more than 23% Black as of Dec. 30. Its Democratic primary electorate is about 55% Black, according to private data firm research cited earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath’s campaign. 

Whoever wins the 7th District Democratic primary will likely be favored to defeat one of five GOP competitors in what has become a left-leaning, majority-minority political battleground since Republicans redrew the electoral map late last year.

It’s expected to be one of the most competitive U.S. congressional races for Democrats this primary season.

The candidates

The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, is facing a formidable challenger in 6th District representative McBath, who is Black. 

The 61-year-old McBath is a progressive and a breast cancer survivor who became an anti-gun violence crusader after her son, Jordan Davis, was fatally shot by an armed vigilante in 2012.

State Rep. Donna McLeod is the other candidate in the race and the only one of the three candidates who lives in the district, a point she’s emphasized during debates and on the campaign trail.

McBath lives in Marietta and has represented the state’s 6th District since upsetting Republican Karen Handel in 2018.

McBath opted to run against Bourdeaux, who lives in Suwanee, in Bourdeaux’s largely Gwinnett County-based 7th District territory after state Republican lawmakers redrew McBath’s current district late last year to favor GOP contenders.

Bourdeaux is viewed as the more moderate candidate in the race, even though she and McBath have voted the same way in Congress 99% of the time.

Click here for a full breakdown.

U.S. Senate Republican Primary

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks at a rally on May 23 in Athens, Georgia. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Why this race matters to Black voters

While the candidates’ state party leaders have stood in opposition on many key issues affecting Black residents, such as election laws and Medicaid expansion, the GOP U.S. Senate field has three Black candidates: Herschel Walker, Kelvin King, and Jonathan McColumn.

If one of them wins, they face a likely general election matchup against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. It would be the first time in state history that two Black candidates compete for a U.S. Senate seat, and only the second time that’s happened in U.S. history.

Walker, a college and pro football star who won the Heisman Trophy while playing for the University of Georgia in 1982, has been polling far ahead of the field in this race after securing an endorsement from longtime friend Trump late last year.