As Georgia’s primary day revealed on May 20, not many of the races were contested. Fewer still offered more than two candidates for voters to choose from in the primaries.
Much has been made about contentious primary battles between the Tea Party conservatives and establishment moderates in the Republican primaries. Even a congressional battle between a Democratic incumbent (Hank Johnson) and a popular sheriff in the primaries in a DeKalb district got some attention.
But when it came to actual races with choices, there were few on the ballot for Peach State primary voters to pick from, as my research of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office shows.
- The open U.S. Senate seat contest to replace Saxby Chambliss drew several contestants to both party primaries. The same could be said of the State School Superintendent election, where a number jumped into the primary, spurred on by the prospect of winning (it became an open seat once the incumbent, John Barge, ran for governor). The Common Core fight didn’t hurt either.
- Georgia’s gubernatorial contest featured a three-way battle on the Republican side, but not for the Democrats, where State Senator Jason Carter faced no opposition.
- Only eight of 21 statewide primary races (Governor, Senator, Attorney General, Agricultural Commissioner, Labor Commissioner, etc.) were contested, or less than 40 percent.
- It’s a different story for the United States House of Representatives, where half of the 20 Congressional primaries featured more than just the incumbent (or two primary challengers, if there were no incumbents).
- Of the 56 State Senate districts in Georgia, there were 91 primaries. Of these, 20 featured a battle for the top spot in the primary. That’s a little more than 20 percent of the races where there was a race.
- There were only 40 primaries for the state representative elections with at least two candidates. That’s out of at least 180 districts, and perhaps more than 200 party elections.
If you’re keeping score, there should be 112 contested primaries for Georgia’s State Senate. But in 21 cases, the incumbent won’t even face a challenger. The same can be said for those Congressional races: there should have been 28 primary battles, not 20. Some of these races won’t even have a challenger in the Fall 2014 election.
A few races like the Senate, Governor, education leader, and an open congressional seat or two, have some exciting primaries. But that’s about it. For the vast majority of our elections, voters will have little or no choices when deciding on their candidates to represent them.