Georgia House rethinks plan for primaries in Senate election

Published: Jan. 31, 2020 at 6:09 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
By: The Associated Press January 31, 2020

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s rules might not be changing after all for a special U.S. Senate election featuring appointed incumbent Kelly Loeffler, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and others.

Current law holds that all candidates, Republican and Democrat, would run against each other on the November ballot, with a January runoff if no one wins a majority.

House Bill 757 would change Georgia law to require primary elections to determine each party’s nominees ahead of the special election. On Thursday, the House Rules Committee decided the bill needs more work. House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, told WSB radio later Thursday that the bill would likely not affect this year’s race.

“This special election was not to be singled out,” Ralston said. “I think jungle primaries are bad policy. We’re just trying to change the policy moving forward.”

The measure could have helped Collins, a Ralston ally, by forcing Loeffler into a May primary and shortening her time to build a record to run on. Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler, has threatened to veto the measure.

Many Democrats also favor a primary. It could allow Warnock to consolidate the support of Democratic voters and cut the chance of a lower-turnout January runoff in which Democrats might be at a disadvantage.

Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Shaw Blackmon, a Republican from Bonaire, said after Thursday’s vote that lawmakers would like to look at including primaries for legislative special elections, which aren’t currently covered, as well as to get input from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Blackmon said he wasn’t sure when or if the bill might re-emerge.