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Gov. Brian Kemp Wins, and So Do Down-Ballot Republicans

Gov. Brian Kemp arrives with his family at the Winterville train depot to cast their votes. Credit: Blake Aued

Georgia’s U.S. Senate race may be headed for a runoff, but Republicans swept all other statewide races and dashed Georgia Democrats’ hopes of building on recent electoral wins to loosen the GOP’s grip on state government.

In addition to sending Gov. Brian Kemp back for another term, voters re-elected Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Attorney General Chris Carr and state School Superintendent Richard Woods for four-year terms. They also gave Kemp-appointed Insurance Commissioner John King his first elected term. Georgians promoted a trio of Republican state senators—Burt Jones, Tyler Harper and Bruce Thompson—to higher office.

Jones overcame concerns about the role he played as a fake elector in the 2020 presidential election to become lieutenant governor. He was one of the two GOP candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump who survived the primary election. Jones won with the narrowest margin with 51.4% of the vote to Democrat Charlie Bailey’s 46.4%, giving him enough to avoid a runoff. In Georgia, the top vote-getter must reach 50% to win without going into overtime.

“Our campaign was successful because we ran a positive, truthful campaign focused on the issues that Georgians truly care about,” Jones said in a statement, referring to economic messaging like a pledge to continue cutting the state’s income tax rate.

Bailey, a former prosecutor who put democracy at the center of his campaign, conceded last Wednesday. “Last night, across the entire country, voters stood up and fought back against attacks on our democracy,” Bailey said in a statement Nov. 9, the day after Election Day. “Although we came up short, the fight to defend our democracy must continue. The survival of our nation depends on it. I will never give up on that fight, and I will never give up on the fight to ensure every Georgian has an equal shot and an equal opportunity.

“Now we must focus all of our efforts on re-electing Senator Warnock to the United States Senate,” Bailey said. Warnock will face Republican Herschel Walker in a Dec. 6 runoff after neither candidate reached 50%. 

State Sen. Jen Jordan, who ran for attorney general and put reproductive rights at the center of her campaign, racked up more votes than any Democrat other than Warnock. She finished with nearly 13,000 more votes than the Democratic nominee for governor, Stacey Abrams, even though Jordan was farther down the ballot. But it wasn’t enough. Carr ended up with 51.9% of the vote. Jordan conceded Wednesday morning, and Carr posted a message on social media shortly afterwards saying he had won another term.

“Over the next four years, I look forward to building on the progress we have made attacking gangs, human trafficking, elder abuse and more,” Carr posted to Facebook.

Jordan—who flipped a Cobb County Senate seat in 2017 and made national news in 2019 for her dissent during the debate on Georgia’s abortion law—hinted of more to come. “Although this chapter has come to an end, the fight for a safer, more equitable Georgia continues,” Jordan said in a statement Wednesday. “We may not have received the results we were hoping for last night, but the work is far from over. It is now more important than ever that we continue to support and elect leaders who will prioritize the health and safety of Georgia families. Leaders who will stand up for women and defend our right to make the most personal decisions about our own bodies. Leaders who will reject partisan political agendas and put people first.”

In the race for agriculture commissioner, Harper will take the reins from Republican Gary Black, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate. Harper beat Democrat Nakita Hemingway by 8 points.

Thompson was elected labor commissioner, succeeding outgoing Commissioner Mark Butler. Thompson beat Democratic state Rep. William Boddie by nearly 7 points.

And Raffensperger, who benefited from Democratic crossover voting in the primary, beat Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen by about 9 points. Raffensperger was one of Trump’s top targets following the 2020 presidential election and had already survived an intense intraparty challenge earlier in the year.

This article originally appeared at the Georgia Recorder.