2 Georgia state House incumbents lose to challengers in primaries

ATLANTA (AP) — Two Georgia state House incumbents have lost to challengers, another incumbent could face a runoff, and some former lawmakers may be on their way back to the Georgia Capitol after party primaries this week.

Republican Lauren Daniel lost a rematch of her 2022 primary to Noelle Kahaian on Tuesday in a district around Locust Grove in suburban Henry County, while Democrat Teri Anulewicz lost to challenger Gabriel Sanchez in a district around Smyrna in suburban Cobb County. Both districts had been significantly altered during a round of court-ordered redistricting last year.

Another result of that redistricting was Republicans pairing Democratic incumbents Becky Evans and Saira Draper in a DeKalb County district. Draper easily beat Evans in that matchup, although Evans had served longer in the House, in part because the redrawn district included more of Draper’s former territory.

And in far southeast Georgia, Republican Steven Sainz could be headed to a runoff against retired Naval officer and airline pilot Glenn Cook in a district that covers Camden County and part of Glynn County.

Sainz said late ballots could still put him over the top but that he’s operating on the assumption that there will be a runoff. “We plan to win,” Sainz wrote in a text.

What to know about the 2024 Election

Of course, it’s unusual for incumbents to face trouble in legislative primaries. In the Senate, all 11 incumbents who faced primaries won, including six Republicans and five Democrats. In the House 13 Republican and 13 Democratic incumbents turned back challengers.

Among incumbents who won were Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat who beat former state Sen. Nadine Thomas in a redrawn district covering parts of DeKalb and Clayton counties; Sen. Sally Harrell, an Atlanta Democrat who turned back a challenge from David Lubin in a DeKalb County district; and Sen. Ben Watson, a Savannah Republican who beat right-wing GOP challenger Beth Majeroni.

Sanchez ran on a platform of guaranteeing housing and health care to all Georgians, describing himself as a democratic socialist. Sanchez said Wednesday that his policy positions are more important than the label, but that this identity places him on the left wing of the Democratic caucus, whereas Anulewicz was in the middle of her party.

“I really have seen just how much the government doesn’t work for regular working people in Georgia, and we are missing voices who are really going to fight for working people,” said Sanchez, who said he also wanted to represent Hispanic voters in southern Cobb County.

He’s also been active in opposing a new Atlanta public safety training center, called “Cop City” by detractors.

Anulewicz said she would seek other ways to keep working for Georgians and her community.

“My service to my community helped make Georgia a more just and humane society, and for that I will always be proud,” Anulewicz said in a statement.

Kahaian may be further to the right than Daniel, who had focused on children’s and family issues as the mother of a young son, Zane, whom she often brought to the Capitol. Kahaian first rose to notice by working to make it easier for parents to challenge school books that they found inappropriate. She’s also been active in Republican efforts to change election laws after the 2020 election.

Daniel said she felt Kahaian had unfairly tried to make her race about national issues, saying low-turnout party primaries may contribute to a polarized legislature.

“I think it’s a mistake to nationalize a local seat like this, because I don’t think that’s how you serve anybody,” Daniel said.

Kahaian did not return a phone call and text seeking comment on Wednesday.

At least two former lawmakers could be returning to the Capitol’s gold dome. Floyd Griffin, formerly a state senator and Milledgeville mayor, won a Democratic primary in House District 149, covering parts of Baldwin, Bibb and Jones counties. He’ll face Republican incumbent Ken Vance in November in a district that was redrawn to give it a Black majority. And Valencia Stovall, a former House member, is going to a Democratic runoff in state Senate District 34, a Black-majority open seat that covers parts of Clayton and Fayette counties.

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